Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The True Church

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. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-19)

The disciples answered Jesus' question with the common view - that Jesus was one of the great prophets come back to life. This belief may have stemmed from Deuteronomy 18:18, where God said He would raise up a prophet from among the people. Peter, however, confessed Jesus as divine and as the promised and long-awaited Messiah.

The Spirit of grace revealed to Peter the true identity of the Lord Jesus. Son of the living God refers to Jesus’ deity. What did Jesus mean when He said to Peter, “…for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,…” People do not come to faith in Jesus Christ by scrutiny or searching, but by the Father’s revelation of the Son to them (see John 6:65). Several factors point to this conclusion: (1) He was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18–20); (2) He was called Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23); (3) The title in Greek is emphatic: “the Son of the God, the living One”; and (4) Later passages describe Christ as God (see John 20:27–29).

In Matthew 16:18, when Jesus said to Peter, "...on this rock I will build my church..." was Jesus indicating that His church would be built upon Peter or was Jesus referring to Himself as the Rock that His church would be built upon. There are some who might believe that Peter was the Rock that Jesus was referring to, but when we look at other scriptures we see that when the word "Rock" was used to describe a person, it was always used to refer to God and Jesus, not to a mere sinful human being. (See Deuteronomy 32:4, 32:15, 32:18, 1 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 22:2, 22:32, 22:47, 23:3, Psalm 18:2, 18:31, 18:46, 28:1, 31:2, 31:3, 42:9, 62:2, 62:7, 71:3, 78:35, 89:26, 92:15, 94:22, 95:1, 144:1, Isaiah 8:14, 17:10, 44:8, Habakkuk 1:12, Matthew 7:24-25, Luke 6:48, 1 Corinthians 10:4).

I would like to point out to you that even back in the first century the religious leaders misunderstood Jesus when He said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). Of course we all are aware that Jesus was referring to Himself as being the "temple". And today, there are those religious leaders that misunderstand what Jesus is telling Peter about His church. When Jesus said to Peter, "...on this rock I will build my church..." Jesus was referring to Himself as being the "rock".

Obviously the disciples did not at this point understand the doctrine of the New Testament church with its equality of Jew and Gentile (see Eph. 2:11–3:7). They simply understood it to be the Lord’s followers. However, later on Peter reminds Christians that they are the church built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6). All believers are joined into this church by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, the same faith that Peter expressed here (see also Ephesians 2:20, 21). Jesus praised Peter for his confession of faith. It is faith like Peter's that is the foundation of Christ's kingdom.

Word Focus: Peter - (Gk. petros) (16:18; John 1:42) Strong’s G4074; rock (Gk. petra) (16:18; Rom. 9:33; 1 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 2:8) G4073: As Peter and rock are one word in the language spoken by Jesus (Aramaic), the wordplay in this verse can be duplicated only in languages that also have one word for both. In Greek, the word for Peter is petros (meaning “stone”); the word for rock is petra. Some commentators have indicated that, though the two words are nearly synonymous, Jesus intended a distinction—Peter is but a fragment of the whole, while Christ Himself is the entire rock. Thus it could be said that the church would be built on Christ, the Rock. Be that as it may, at least it can be said that the context allows that the rock upon which the church is built is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Son of God.

What was Jesus saying to His disciples when He said, "the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."? Jesus may have been saying simply that death would not vanquish the church. One day, by the power of Christ’s resurrection, the church and all the redeemed will be resurrected. Others suggest that the phrase means that the forces of evil will not be able to conquer the people of God.

In Matthew 16:19, the meaning of this verse has been a subject of debate for centuries. Some say the keys represent the authority to carry out church discipline, legislation, and administration (Matthew 18:15-18); while others say the keys give the authority to announce the forgiveness of sins (John 20:23). Still others say the keys may be the opportunity to bring people to the kingdom of heaven by presenting them with the message of salvation found in God's Word (Acts 15:7-9).

“You” in this passage is singular when Jesus said to Peter, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…” The keys of the kingdom may refer to Peter’s opening the kingdom to various groups of people (Jews in Acts 2; 3; Samaritans in Acts 8:14–17; Gentiles in Acts 10). The keys would open doors to lost people. However, this term may have further significance. The keys seem to be explained by the binding and loosing discussed in the last part of the verse. In rabbinical literature, binding and loosing refers to what was permitted or not permitted. So this passage may refer to judgments that Peter would make about what would be permitted or forbidden in the church, the body of believers.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day thought they held the keys of the kingdom, and they tried to shut some people out. We cannot decide to open or close the kingdom of heaven for others, but God uses us to help others find the way inside. To all who believe in Christ and obey His words, the kingdom doors are swung wide open. We believer's in Christ Jesus are His true church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against us.

It is my prayer today Lord that lost souls will come to you by faith in Your Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Rock of our salvation and the Head of Your Church. Lord I pray that this message gets out to all of those hurting souls out there in the world that have no hope or love in their lives - may this be the day of their salvation. I pray this all in Jesus' Holy name. Amen.

References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.


One Heart said...

Bravo!!! May this truth be revealed to all who read this. May their spiritual eyes be opened.

Like the new background and colors--very peaceful.

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and very blessed Thanksgiving.

dfish said...

As you so aptly point out, That rock is Christ, as Paul tells us in I Corinthians 10:4. Recognizing this is critical to understanding the passage. Thanks again for a great post.

GOD thinker said...

Excellent study!!! This has been misuderstood and confusing to many for too long. Your teaching on the subject is excellent!!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your readers!!!

Zimbabwe said...

All religions and cults say, that only they are truth. Atheists say, that only atheists are right. Who is right in reality? Not religion, materialism, philosophy. Only Jesus Christ, God, Who is live - He is Truth. God bless You Lloyd.

Kevin Waring said...

Wonderful post. I must read again for further clarification.

Gorges Smythe said...

Excellent post! Have a happy Thankgiving.

Right Is Right said...

Thanks for the invite and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Mrs. A said...

This was such an encouraging post Lloyd! :)

Clint said...

Thank you, Lloyd. Great way to start my day. Hope you have a wonderful T-day and weekend.

Ian Curtis said...

I suppose if we just asked: is the foundation of Christianity Christ or Peter? Even the devout Roman Catholic (I would hope!) would not answer Peter.
Wishing you a happy thanksgiving, brother. I'm taking some time off "blogland" to focus more on quiet time with my Lord. God bless your holiday, and your ministry; I hope your fishing catches many men! Ian.

RCUBEs said...

So grateful to be taken in by the living Cornerstone. Happy Thanksgiving to you bro. Lloyd. God bless you and protect you and your family.

RCUBEs said...

Came back to pray for the Lord's comfort and strength to cover you and your family as you miss those close to your heart as you celebrate this holiday. And other holidays to come. Like your mom.

sarah said...

Thank you for this post.
I will add you to my follower list, very good blog!
God bless you!