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.” 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. Matthew 16:15-18
The church was first mentioned in the verses above, spoken to men with an Old Testament perception of who God’s separate people were. The very word was a new concept, and a major shift from the belief that only Israel was God’s chosen people. Jesus’ announcement is of particular interest to us, because the first mention of a matter – the very first words of any subject in the Bible – contain the foundation of the whole matter. “The first time a word occurs in the Bible is the key to understand its meaning in every other place.” (Dr. F.E. Marsh) For this reason we must study the passage above in order to understand what the Lord revealed to us there.
It is also no wonder that a passage of such great importance is also the foundation of a very popular heresy, but because truth matters, it is our duty to search out the true meaning of Jesus’ words.
It is widely known that the church is not a building, but the company of those called out of the darkness of sin and bondage, into the light and life that the gospel offers. Even so, we still think of the church as a building, a denomination, an institutional entity, a movement, etc. This kind of wrong thinking limits the church, both in its global mission and in the true character intended for it by the Lord.
A superficial reading of the text above may leave one with the perception that Jesus said Peter would be the rock on which He would build the church, something that millions of people believe. Nothing can be further from the truth. Peter, translated from Petros, means a stone or rock, something that you can hold in your hand, and certainly not fit for use as a foundation for any form of building. The rock that Jesus spoke about, is translated from petra – not the same original word used for Peter’s name. Petra is a rock, a ledge or shelf of rock, a rocky peak or ridge. (An Intermediate Greek – English Lexicon) Jesus spoke of two different kinds of rock in that sentence – and it is no trivial matter. Peter is not the rock on which the church is built!
What is that rock then? It is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. A revelation is a personal experience with the living Christ; a perception of the heart, as opposed to mental knowledge. These are two very different matters.
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. Matthew 16:17
…no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3
Revelation is an authentic work of the Holy Spirit, not imparted knowledge by a teacher, a book, or some other media. When you have knowledge of something, you can always change your mind when that knowledge is expanded. A revelation, on the other hand, is a personal experience. Once it happened, it becomes a part of your history – one that continues to impact your life. You cannot reason an experience out of existence, but you can change your mind about anything.
The church that Jesus mentioned consists of a company of people that experienced Him in an encoun-ter with the Holy Spirit. This is a church that cannot fail, not even if the counsel of hell comes against it. These are people that, even on their darkest day when they have no answers to their questions, still know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is a fellowship of believers whose lives are built on a foundation that cannot be shaken.
Movements come and go, and the church has seen many fads and trends, faced many enemies over the centuries, and emphasized various aspects of our faith, yet the one truth that will remain for ever is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is the corner stone of the Christian faith, as Paul also said:
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 1 John 4:15
We live in an ever-changing world that so easily shakes the faith of some. Yet, in all of this, we have some unchanging truths that we can hold onto. The first is that the living Christ never changes (Hebrews 13:5); He still does what He did when He walked the earth. Not only that; He also promised to never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
Secondly, His Word never changes.
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89
The victorious Christian knows this, and builds his life on it. Moreover, he draws strength from a church that believes, preaches, and practices these truths. Since Jesus is the Word made flesh, you cannot separate Him from it.
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24,25
From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2
As our world descends deeper into chaos by the day, let us plant our feet on the Rock that cannot be moved. Our future is secure when we stand on a firm foundation.
Looking for personal or group study material? We now have our teaching on Identity available here as a pdf download. As a born again, new creation in Christ you received a new identity; you are no longer the same person with the inclination to sin. You have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and you have been graced with treasures from God to live victoriously in this life and a secure. Begin to live up to your new identity in Christ – 27 pages.