Posts Tagged ‘church’

Photo: Alex Bruda

Photo: Alex Bruda

Which Rock is at the Foundation of your Faith?

(Reflections on Matthew 16:13-18)

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered 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 tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat 16:13-18).

Issue of Jesus’ Identity

In this passage we see Jesus asking for feedback from His disciples on what people were saying concerning His identity. Then, Jesus gets more personal on this issue of His identity and He asks them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Jesus’ Identity, the Foundation for His Church

Jesus tells Peter that this revelation of His identity was not from his own thinking or any other human, but that it was from God. Jesus then contrasts the namePeter” which means rock with the revelation that Peter had just had of Him being “the Christ, the Son of the living God” by referring to it as “this rock” on which He would build His church (ecclesia).

Context, Context, Context!!!

Reading from vs. 13 onwards, it is clear that Jesus is referring to His identity as “the Christ, the son of the living God” as “the rock” on which He would build His church (or ecclesia to be more accurate). Clearly, from the context of the discussion, the issue here was not about instating Peter as the foundation on which Jesus would build His church as many have been led to mistakenly believe, but rather in recognizing Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, the foundation on which He would build His ecclesia.

Catholics argue that Peter is being referred to by Jesus as the rock on which He would build His church, however, I am persuaded that the context here and throughout the Bible shows otherwise. While some Protestants have claimed that Peter means little rock or something smaller and that it couldn’t be Peter that Jesus is referring to, Catholics counter that with studies that and show that Peter or Cephas (his name in Aramaic, see John 1:42) also means rock (see Catholic Studies: Peter the Rock). Yet, whatever the case, the context shows that Jesus is merely playing on the meaning of Peter’s name to contrast or compare it with this huge foundational truth that he had just received, that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”.

The Bible and History

Jesus then goes on to say, “…, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The “it” being the church built on the revelation that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Clearly all this was a task for Jesus and not for Peter. (Peter, along with many others would be witnesses to this foundational truth about Jesus, but he was not the foundation).

John’s gospel corroborates this truth in Matthews gospel when he states his reason for writing with, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:21).

History has also testified to this being the truth, because every person who has believed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” testifies that he has been made a part of Jesus’ church.

Who is your foundation?

Have you believed that the man Jesus, who came as a baby and lived as a man like us, and whose ministry showed Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, died as a substitute for you because of your sins so that you may be pardoned? And, that He rose again from the dead and ascended to be seated with God with all authority, and willingly gives eternal life to anyone who will believe and receive Him?

Here is the text we looked at again. I have added the implied meaning of the text in brackets:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood (you or any other human source) has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter (a rock), and on this rock (the rock of my revealed identity as the Christ, the Son of the living God) I will build my church (ecclesia), and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (the ecclesia, those built together on the revelation of My identity as the Christ, the Son of the living God).”

Rob

Photo by Alex Bruda

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