The Church's Foundation


And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 16:17-19 KJV

Much misunderstanding has come from the statements that Jesus made to Peter after his confession as to who Jesus was. Jesus talked about this rock being the foundation that His church would be built on. He said that He would give Peter the keys to the kingdom of God, and that whatever he bound on earth, would be bound in heaven, and whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven.

But what we need to understand is that Jesus wasn't saying that Peter was the rock upon which He would build His church. If the church had been built on Peter, it certainly wouldn't have survived. A few verses later, Jesus was calling him "Satan". Peter would eventually deny even knowing Jesus.

Rather, Jesus would build His church on the confession of who He is. He was using a play on words, involving Peter's name. The name Peter comes from the Greek word for "rock". But the word for Peter is petros, which means little "rock", while the word Jesus used for "rock" when He said, "upon this rock I will build My church" is the word petra, which means "a great rock". Peter's confession was the great rock upon which the church would be built.

And the keys to the kingdom that Jesus referred to are not some kind of special place that Peter would have in letting people into heaven. The gospel is the key to the kingdom . The declaration of who Jesus is and what He did is what opens the door to heaven, allowing others to make that same declaration that will set them free.

As we introduce people to Jesus and they trust in Him, they are bound to Him on earth and will be bound to Him in heaven. As they are loosed from their sins here on earth, so also will they be loosed forever in heaven, freed from the bondage of sin. It is interesting that Peter was one of the first disciples to preach the gospel and that he was also the first one to introduce the Gentiles to the gospel. But in doing so he exercised the same privilege that is ours as we take the confession of who Jesus is and share it with the lost and dying world.

- Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa
The Word for Today Bible - Copyright © 2005

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