“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philipi, he asked the disciples saying, “Who do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said “Some say that you are John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. And he said, “But who do you say that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto you that you art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13 – 20)
“Now when they heard this they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, “men and brethren what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort them saying, “save yourselves form this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his words were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:37 – 41)
When the first conversation that I have just presented from Matthew 16 took place, Jesus was nearly through with his Galilean ministry, and about six months from his death. He had not told men who he was while going through Galilee, but had taught in the synagogues and streets, healing all manner of disease and casting out demons. The record of those deeds was the evidence to identify him through. So, by that he had left men to form their own opinions as to who he was.
When a full presentation had been made to the disciples and the people, and a multitude of examples of his power had been put forth, and when he had gone throughout the regions and preached the Kingdom of heaven — he then asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?”
They had all heard the opinions, theories and speculations – Some say you are John the Baptist raised from the dead (Herod thought this); some say you are Elijah, Jeremiah, or some other of the prophets.
Note that nobody thought he was just a commoner. For me it would be a lot harder to believe that he was John, Elias, and Jeremiah, raised from the dead than that he was the Messiah and the Son of God; yet noting this, certainly no one believed that he was just an ordinary man as all evidence ran contrary to that.
He asked the question: “But who do you say that I am?” He wanted the disciples judgment on it, based upon what they had witnessed. Peter spoke to answer what had been asked to all – and he surely gave the answer the rest would give. He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus blessed Peter for the confession – this confession which we all are to make (not the confession, although good and necessary, that confesses Jesus as ones savior, he is after all the only savior and the only one making that claim – but the confession which identifies him out loud and publicly as the Son of God) – for the voice of God had been speaking as publicly as was possible through both the words and deeds of Jesus.
Jesus then used a metaphor to put a picture into the minds of the apostles. Hes says that he is about to build a church, and not just any church, but his church: the only church then in conception and in the picture (none of the churches built since carry that note of creation as they are built according to the instructions and desires of men, and were not so much as an evil thought then). And he likens his church to a strong city with Peter as the gatekeeper having been handed by Christ the keys for the grand opening.
This only church is to be built on a rock: a foundation that cannot be undermined. But, here there is also the symbol of another city: Hades. It was understood by those there as the abode of the dead and is painted as sinister and warring with the first city – the church of Christ . But this second city shall not prevail.
He then states: “And upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.”
Please note: the builder of this first and only church of any consequence is Christ. The holder and keeper of the keys: Peter — is the fellow that will be standing at the door when it is to be opened up for business.
But, some in time and today have said that Peter is the foundation, the rock spoken of in Matthew 16 and elsewhere. To get him there you have to move him from the gate down to the foundation, and then he would be both foundation and gatekeeper. And if that is true, then why pray tell do you need Christ in the picture at all? We could go and worship Peter and those who might presume to be standing with him, but such a thought does injury to the true work of this greatest of apostles and injury to the truth of the Gospel and to Christ. And such thoughts will not stand before the judgment bar of God, and they are totally foreign to the word of God.
Here are two general thoughts in explanation as to what is the rock Christ spoke of here – either the rock is referring to the confession of Peter or the rock is referring to Christ. (In support of this second notion in scripture you might take the time to look at some of the following before continuing – Deuteronomy. 32:4, 15, 18 – 1 Samuel 22:3, 32, 47, 23:2 – 2 Samuel 22:2, Psalms 18:2, 28:1, 46, 31:3, 42:9, 71:3; and there are several others of like note.)
As to the word “rock:” the same word as used in Matthew 16 is found also in Matthew 7:24 where Christ says – “a man built his house upon a rock.” And so it is reasonable to conclude that this rock is not inconsequential or unsubstantial. It is not a small pea rock and it is not a shard. It is firm and sure, and not some light feature to be washed away in the eroding tides of time.
What is also sure (whichever way you view this) is that the power of Hades (or for that matter, even of Hell itself) cannot prevail against this Rock. And so readers, that makes me think that the rock identified here is Christ.
Considering all of that, this is the picture and lesson that is drawn. The facts are laid before us and we can leave opinion aside and set ourselves to understanding what is drawn here for us.
When this was concluded a restriction was placed upon the disciples: that they should tell no man that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God until he should be raised from the dead.
Six days later while in the mountains, Jesus face shined as the sun and his raiment was as white as light. Peter, James, and John, are then found in the presence of Jesus and also Moses and Elijah. The lesson is firmed up: that Jesus was not Moses, that he was not Elijah. He was not the Law, and he was not the Prophets either. He is the Son of God, and therefore is greater than Moses (as Moses said that he would be), greater than Elijah, and greater than all the rest of the prophets. Then I think that Moses and the prophets are thenceforth to be laid aside, Christ being the only authority of consequence from that time onward. This is stated clearly enough.
Again they were told not to tell of the vision. They were to keep it a secret. Could you? To do so they must have been better at keeping charges than most of the people we know today. They did not know he was soon to die, or soon to be risen from the dead, nor did they know of the length of time to pass that they must keep the charge of silence; even though he had prophesied that he would be taken by the chief priests and elders and slain, and that he would rise the third day.
Eventually they witnessed the truth and the fulfillment of his prophesies. This was followed by his charge that “All authority has been given unto me both in heaven and on earth, go you therefore and teach all nations baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo I am with you always even unto the ends of the world. Amen.”
These words were said to the same 12 men who when he was taken forsook him and fled. They were further told that they were not to go yet off in some random fashion, but were to wait in Jerusalem until they were empowered. Then their silence was to be broken forever – “Go you into the entire world and teach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that does not believe shall be condemned.”
So they tarried in Jerusalem just as they were instructed.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the place where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues of fire, and they sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave utterance.”
The time was right. The Spirit moved them to speak. And Peter standing up with the eleven laid hold of those keys that Christ had given to him holding them aloft, and standing up as the gatekeeper he delivered his first sermon, and with that unlocked forever that door to eternity.
He appealed to the prophets. He appealed to the Psalms. He then made his announcement of verse 36. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus, whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ.”
This was the exercise of opening the Kingdom of heaven to the people. This is the first sermon of God’s Kingdom after the sacrifice of atonement, the blood redemption.
I have a question for you readers – What was the effect of it – what was the effect of this first sermon? Here the answer is found in what we listed in the second scripture given at the outset of this.
The answer to that is that a good portion of the multitude was both visibly shaken and moved in their hearts. They stood charged guilty as being accomplices to murder. They stated: “Men and brethren what shall we do?” To put it in our own words it would sound something like this: “What should we do to be rid of the penalty of sins, the guilt for the crime and the stain of sin?” The answer Peter gave was – “Repent (every one of you) and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
This they could do, and with the assurance that — “the promise is unto you and to your children, and to those who are afar off as many as the Lord your God shall call.”
“And with many other words did he testify and exhort them saying, save yourselves form this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his words were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Therefore with this the first church was established (and it is still the only church that matters). Peter had opened the gate. What he and the rest said had the sanction of heaven and of the throne of God. So the record states.
What can we now conclude of this occasion and the response of those who heard these things? We can make a simple list: 1.) They believed what Peter said, 2.) They were told that they had to repent – to turn away from what they were doing as contrary to God, and to set upon a new path, 3.) They were told that they had to be baptized – and it is quite specific: he stated every one must be baptized. 4.) They were told that no one seeking admission would be turned away that it was “for those who are afar off” – that means me. That means you too, and that means that everyone can come. And finally 5.) They were told that they would then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Now the record doesn’t say that each would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but he stated that they would receive the GIFT (singular) of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit came directly from God and in the scriptures there are only two listed occurrences of it having been granted. But the gift (singular) of the Spirit is salvation itself (1 Corinthians 12:13; Titus 3:5 -6 and elsewhere) and it is given in earthen vessels – by men, and the gifts (plural) of the Spirit came through prayer and the laying on of the hands of the apostles. (For this you might spend some time in additional reading and study in Romans 5:15 – 17, Ephesians 2:18 , and 2:8, and Romans 6:23.)
Is there any doubt that these received just what was promised? That they received the remission of sins, the gift of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that if we do the same things that we likewise shall also receive remission of sins, the gift of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit?
Notice that Peter said, “Save yourselves.” This is an implied individual responsibility, and the action is applied on an individual basis. There should be no scoffing at the idea that you must do something to be pleasing to God. If you have not done these things in order then you should not delay.
Are there preachers today who tell you to save yourself? If they teach to you the plain and unvarnished word of God then they will tell you just that; and you would do well to meditate on what is stated and to do what needs doing. Now we cant forgive or pardon ourselves, only redemption in Christ can accomplish that.
Seize hold of the favor that God extends.