The Confession; The Rock; The Church
During the earthly sojourn of Jesus Christ there was much confusion and controversy about His identity. The question came up over and over, who is He? (Jno. 7:40-44).
He was aware of this, and He was especially concerned that His disciples knew who He was. The time came for that teaching. He had gone with His disciples to the area of Caesarea Philippi. It was here that He asked them two questions. The first had to do with what impressions the public had: "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Then the Lord asked His disciples to speak for themselves, and Peter spoke up ...
"And Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." - Matt. 16:16-18.
There are three vital things here to be studied and distinguished: THE CONFESSION, THE ROCK, AND THE CHURCH.
Peter's Confession: "You are the Christ, the Son of God."
A variety of opinions prevailed among the people of that day about who the Son of Man was. By divine revelation Peter knew the truth, and he spoke it on this occasion without fear: "You are the Christ, the Son of God." Would you agree, this confession is important? Certainly. In fact, we know that the person who refuses to acknowledge this truth is refusing to be saved! Jesus said "if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins," (Jno. 8:24). And He said through John, "whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," (1 Jno. 5:1). Likewise, "whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in Him, and He in God," (1 Jno. 4:15). This confession is the proposition that lies at the very foundation of the gospel plan; it is a truth that must be confessed and believed. It is important.
If this confession is important, wouldn't you agree, anything the Bible connects to it is also important? Or to state this another way: If this confession is important,
that which is built on it is also important! The church is built on this truth Peter expressed. Jesus, the Head of the church, said: "...on this rock I will build My
Should we think of "this rock" as the man, Simon Peter? In favor of this view, the name Peter means "rock," and the Roman Catholic edition of the New Testament has this footnote: "This rock was Peter."
This argument is made for one purpose: TO GIVE CREDIBILITY TO THE IDEA THAT PETER WAS THE FIRST POPE IN ROME. Of course, that idea can be rejected on the basis of any number of scriptural facts. But in regard to our text, consider these points:
(1) While the word "Peter" in the Greek is PETROS, which means small rock, the word "rock" as that which the church is built on is PETRA, which means a massive stone.
(2) Further, while PETROS (Peter) is masculine, PETRA is feminine in gender. These observations alone indicate, the Lord was talking about two distinct things. And, in the King James, the Lord referred to Peter as "thou," but He referred to the rock as "this."
"This rock" that the church is built on isn't Peter, it is the confession Peter made. You see, the church wasn't built on Peter, it was built on the truth about the divine
Person, Jesus Christ. Peter expressed the truth, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heven."
"And I also say to you that you are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Agreeing with this, the statement written by Paul in 1 Cor. 3:11, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus christ." Likewise, in Ephesians 2:20 - "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone."
"I Will Build My Church!"
This statement identifies Jesus as the builder and owner of the church; it is a simple matter of grammar and wording: "I will build MY church." In the shedding of His
blood, His resurrection from the dead, ascension to God's right hand, and in the preaching He commissioned the apostles to do - HE BUILT HIS CHURCH. Those who come to Him in obedient response to the gospel become a part of His church, His body. They belong to Him.
Another point of grammar, when the Lord said, "I will," that indicates present intention to do something in the future! He was telling His chosen men, Here is what I
intend to do. He hadn't built the church yet, but He would in the future: "I will" became reality (see Acts chapter two)
It should be observed, the word "church" in this statement is singular. He said, "I will build My church." He didn't promise to set up a vast conglomeration of denominational bodies; he didn't say, "I will build my churches." There is one church! "The body" in Ephesians 1:22,23 is singular. "There is one body," (Eph. 4:4), and "...by one spirit we were all baptized into one body," (1 Cor. 12:12,13).
The text puts before us these facts about Christ and His church.
1. Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
2. God revealed this to Peter, not "flesh and blood."
3. Jesus told these men, He would build His church on this confession, and "the gates of Hades" would not prevent it.
What a privilege to be a part of Christ's body; to be baptized into this realm of fellowship with God and cooperation with His children to do His work.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 1.11; November, 1994