Water for the Thirsty
Weekly Devotional

Water for the Thirsty

The Foundation Of The Church

Weekly Devotional

‘As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God’. (Psalm 42:1)
‘…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”…’ (John 7:37)

31st July 2011

Matthew 16:18–19 records Jesus as saying,

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

This is one of the passages of Scripture that has generated much discussion and debate over the years. Many have interpreted these verses as Jesus saying that Peter is the rock upon which He would build His church. But let’s some of the terms Jesus uses:

  1. Peter, in the Greek, Petros, means a single stone;
  2. Rock, in the Greek, Petra, means the solid, immovable bed-rock, a great mass like a cliff; and
  3. Church, in the Greek, ecclesia, means those “called out,” the fellowship of believers.

So Jesus’ language to Peter might be rendered, “You are a stone, and upon this rock I will build my church.” He doesn’t say, “You are a stone, and upon you I will build…” nor does He say “You are a rock, and upon this rock I will build...”

He changes the word in the Greek from Petros (Peter, a stone) to Petra, a rock, or ledge of rock, a solid bed-rock.

In fact, Peter himself points out that, every Christian is a stone:

“you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5).

In Matthew’s account Jesus declares that Peter is one these living stones, made such by his confession of faith, and ready to be built into the church, the spiritual house, formed of living stones, and built upon the rock.

So is every believer in Jesus.

So what we have in these verses is:

  1. A Builder > Jesus;
  2. A spiritual house to be built, composed of lively stones > The church;
  3. A foundation for that spiritual house > The rock;
  4. The gates of an unfriendly city or power which shall seek its destruction, Hades > The unseen abode of the dead, the grave;
  5. A door-keeper of the church, with his keys > Peter.

Peter's place in the figure is not that of the foundation, but that of the key-holder.

But what did Jesus mean by the rock? What, or more correctly, who is the foundation of the church?

Paul gives us the answer in 1 Corinthians 3:11:

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

This excludes Peter or any human being as the foundation of the church.

Jesus is often called a stone: “the stone that the builders rejected,” “the chief corner stone,” “the spiritual rock which is Christ.”

Belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God is the very foundation of the spiritual life and of the church. This is Peter's grand confession just a few verses earlier:

“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

Peter placed his faith in the Spiritual Rock who will found His church, and we are assured that the gates of hades shall overcome this Rock.

From the gates of the city always marched its armies, thus the powers of hades are represented by its gates. (Hades being the abode of the dead that holds the departed within its gates). Just after these words the Lord talks of his death, or entering hades. Six months later the Sanhedrim sent Him to death for making the same confession Peter had just made. (Matthew 26:64–67)

They expected to demonstrate that this confession of His divinity was false by sending Him to hades, which they supposed would hold Him and overcome Him. Jesus was sent there from the cross, but the gates of hades did not prevail, for they could not hold him.

The living Saviour, rising triumphant from the tomb, was the unanswerable argument that His own and Peter's confession was a rock that could never be moved.

Have a good week trusting in the Rock of your salvation.

Pastor Barry

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