On This Rock I Will Build My Church

He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
Matthew 16:15-18

What is this rock upon which Jesus says He will build His church? Historically there are a few answers offered to this question. Many find textual support for the claim that the Apostle Peter is the rock, the simple reading points in this direction, as does the play upon the name, Petros, Greek for little rock. Admittedly, at first blush this does look promising.

But a closer examination of the verse will reveal that this can not be the case. However, if you are of the opinion that the rock is Peter, keep reading then make up your own mind.

Jesus first asks His disciples who people say they think He is, since for a while now He has been shaking the region with His preaching and miracles causing an immense stir from the very top of society to its lowest rungs. Then he asks them who do they believe Him to be. Peter is the first to respond, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus tells him, “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you.” But Peter is flesh and blood. Jesus contrasts the weakness of flesh and blood as an entity that has no power to reveal such profound things of the spirit, that can’t pierce the veil revealing the things of God. And Peter, as well as the rest of the disciples, being flesh and blood, would not make a very solid rock on which to base the foundation of the church.

Along this line, look a few verses later to verse 22. Peter takes Jesus aside and tries to convince Him that He should not go up to Jerusalem. Jesus had just told them that the rulers were waiting for Him to capture Him, mistreat and kill Him, and that He’d be raised after three days. But Peter thought this should be avoided, as any normal human being would. However, Jesus had to rebuke Peter because he was not looking at the Plan from God’s perspective but from his own, from man’s. Again, Peter is not displaying the characteristics that would lend credence to being a foundation for the church.

And of course there was the issue of Jesus prophesying later to Peter that he would deny Him three times (Matt. 26:33-35) and though he vehemently denied he’d ever do such a thing, it certainly came to pass.

So it makes little sense that the rock that Jesus states He would use as the foundation for an important thing as His church would be such an imperfect flesh and blood human being. And by saying these things about Peter I really do not diminish his role in the history of the church, since our Lord did give him a primary place as every one knows. He preached the first sermon at Pentecost which ushered the Holy Spirit upon the thousands of listeners in Jerusalem, he brought the gospel to the gentiles, he was an important part of the church in Jerusalem.

But was Peter the rock Jesus refers to? No, that had to be something entirely different. Since it isn’t flesh and blood, let’s look at the next phrase in Jesus statement. “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ not because of anything that reason, or man, or rationality was able to bring to his understanding. It was that “My Father who is in heaven” revealed this to Peter. Does this sound like divine revelation? If it does I hope that doesn’t scare you. Because that is exactly what it means to be Born Again. And you know what Jesus says about being born again, right? There are only two places in the Bible where the term “born again” is used, two times in John 3 and two times in 1 Peter 1. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. Being born again is of utmost importance to the believer and thus to the church.

Now this sounds more like a foundation on which Jesus can build His church. God revealing the Son to whomever He will (At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Matt. 11:25, 27)

So this then is the rock, the unshakable foundation, none other than God Himself revealing everything He needs us to know about Himself, His Son, and salvation, that gives His church the stability to weather any storm. And the church is being assailed by many storms these days and more storms are coming. But our Lord have promised to protect and defend her, and her victory in Christ is already assured. Just read the last chapter of the book of Revelation.

Just as is written in 2 Samuel 22 47:2 “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; And exalted be God, the rock of my salvation.”

Finally it is interesting that Peter is quite adamant that the rock of our salvation, the very cornerstone of our faith, is none other than our great God and Savior, the very one as defined by the Old Testament Scripture. See Peter’s description in his first epistle, the second chapter, verses 4-9. He knew exactly what Jesus was referring to in this statement when Peter reflected on this after Pentecost and the Holy Spirit brought all things to his memory and gave him insight. As he tells his readers, For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 1 Peter 2:6

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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