In today's study from Matthew 16:13-20, we take a look at Peter's Confession to determine exactly what was being said and which interpretation is the correct one.
The Great Confession
vv.13-16 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Here Peter confesses Jesus as Messiah in response to the Lord's question. Notice that Jesus was not really concerned with what others thought but what they thought.
The Correct Answer
vv.17-20 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." Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
In response to Peter's confession, our Lord tells him that that knowledge did not come from flesh and blood, but from God the Father. Of course, this has generated much controversy as to what it actually means.
Notice, "upon this rock, I will build my church." Either the Lord was a. gesturing to himself as the rock, or b. he was referring to Peter's actual confession or, c. he is referring to Peter himself. We do know that Christ is indeed referred to as the rock (Isa 28:16; 1Pe 2:8). Also, Paul said in 1Co 10:4 that they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ.
I think that it would be a little absurd to say that a literal rock followed them in the wilderness. Instead, it means that God provided for them while on their journey. Literally, in Exo 17:6 during their first year and again in Num 20 during their last year. Paul is saying that Christ is the provider of life just as that rock from beginning to end.
Now others will say that Jesus is referring to Peter's actual confession. After all, to be a part of the Kingdom Church and even the church of our day, one must believe that he is indeed the Christ.
Still other's will say, no Jesus was referring to Peter and upon him, Christ would build his church as a reference to Pentecost. We shirk from that interpretation because of how the Roman Catholics have twisted it, but I believe that it has merit for sure.
Notice, "I will build my church." The church belongs to our Lord and not us.
Notice, "and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." This is a promise that no matter how dark it gets, the church will always survive.
Notice, "and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." This is not to say that everyone gets in has to come through Peter but that Peter would be used to open the doors to the kingdom to both the Jews on the Day of Pentecost (Act 2:38-39) and the Gentiles (Cornelius) in Act 10:34-44.
Notice, "and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven." In other words, Jesus was giving Peter and the other apostles the ability to set boundaries authoritatively for the church, e.g., the Jerusalem Council (Act 15:22); Paul when speaking on marriage in 1Co 7:10; 1Co 7:12.
Notice, "Then charged his disciples that they should tell no man." Again, Jesus doesn't want to rush the cross because he has things to do before then.