Skip to comments."On This Rock I Will Build My Church" (Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20)
Posted on 08/22/2020 8:06:37 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
On This Rock I Will Build My Church (Matthew 16:13-20)
Everyone is interested in building the church, growing the church. Uh, let me rephrase that. Everyone who is already in the church, who is active and involved in the church, is interested in building and growing the church. People on the outside, as well as those with only a loose connection to the church--they dont give a rip. They couldnt care less. But those of us at least who are here regularly in church, we care about the church being built up and growing. Nobody wants to see the church fail or decline or decrease in numbers.
However, thats whats been happening. The church, at least in America, is in decline. The numbers have been decreasing. And for a long time. Actually, going back to about 1965, thats when the numbers started to decline. Thats the year after the Baby Boom ended, when Americans stopped having kids at the same rate as they did from 1946 through 1964. But especially in the last ten years or so, the drop has been dramatic. There has been a plunge, a plummeting downward, in church membership and church attendance. And Im not talking about just this congregation or just in small towns. No, its been pretty much across the board, all across America. Church numbers are down. And now this Covid thing is not helping, either. It has only aggravated the situation, the decline in attendance.
And the culture has changed, too. America has become increasingly secularized. Religion is no longer respected. There is even widespread antipathy toward Christianity, outright hostility. The culture has changed, and we are definitely swimming against the tide.
Now in view of the situation, how do we in the church react? Well, some people go into panic mode. Well have to shut the doors! Some people try to come up with ideas of what we can do to reverse the decline. After all, there are some churches, arent there, that seem to be doing alright. Maybe we need to be like them. Put screens up on the walls. Ditch the hymnals. Start up a praise band. Thatll draw in the young people! Oh, and weve got to add more programs, Moms Day Out, that sort of thing. What can we do to build the church?
And with the change in style, there inevitably comes a change in substance. What gets emphasized or de-emphasized is what I mean. In the content of the sermons: Is the message about Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins, or is it a how-to talk about how to have a better self-image? In the content of the worship service: Is the music more about the praise bands performance or the peoples participation? And is there any substance to what is being sung? Is the emphasis on what God does in Word and Sacrament or on what we do? Thus there can be a change in what people think church is about. The priorities get shifted. And the gospel gets lost in the shuffle. Is this any way to build the church? Oh, you might get a few more people in the door--although even that is questionable now--but are you really building a strong Christian faith in peoples hearts? Or are they just coming to get entertained and to go to your weekly yoga class?
What gets lost in the shuffle here is Jesus. Its almost as though you could build a church without him. I mean, the Jesus we find in the pages of the New Testament. That one, not Jesus the Life Coach. Not Jesus the smiling inoffensive buddy whos cheering you on in all your various pursuits.
What does Jesus say about our attempts to build the church without him? Without him at the center? He tells us in our text today, the reading from Matthew 16. There Jesus says, I will build my church. Whoa! Jesus seems to claim a little ownership in this process. He calls it my church. This is Jesus church--its his, it belongs to him. Its Jesus church, it doesnt belong to us, to do with it as we will. Jesus gets to decide what kind of church his church is going to be. So maybe we ought to try to find out what Jesus would have his church emphasize and teach and do and be like. Maybe our ideas about how to build the church need to be shaped and revised and refined by his. This is his church, after all.
On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Jesus says that he will build it, and he will do it his way--the on this rock way. And when the church is built by Jesus, in his way, with the strength that he gives it, then the gates of hell shall not be able to prevail against his church. Oh, the church may not always look all that impressive and successful and victorious, but then neither did our Lord when he was hanging on the cross. But when Jesus builds his church, in his way, it is strong, even when it is weak.
On this rock I will build my church. So, what is this rock that Jesus will build his church on? Well, lets back up a bit. In our text, Jesus has taken his disciples aside, after they had been with him a while and seen him in ministry. And they had seen how people react to him. So Jesus asks them for a field report: Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they reply with an assortment of answers, all of which pay some lip-service to Jesus, but all of which stop short of saying enough. And so it is in our day. People may acknowledge Jesus as some sort of influencer, as an advocate for spirituality--he was a good example, he was a great teacher--but they still will stop short of saying enough. And frankly, many would say, just leave me alone, because I dont want to be bothered with this religion business.
So Jesus gets some answers about what people think about him. But then he asks the disciples a follow-up question: But you--who do you say that I am? And Peter, usually the first to speak up, gives the gold-star answer: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Yes, Peter, thats right! Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. He is the great Deliverer and King promised by God centuries earlier. Indeed, he is the Son of the living God. Jesus is the one-of-a-kind Son of God, come down from heaven. Peter confesses rightly who Jesus is: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Yes, Peter, you got it! And you got it from God himself, by divine revelation. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
So this then is the rock on which Jesus will build his church. Not Peter himself, per se. No. But the rock is what Peter just said about who Jesus is. This rock is the apostolic confession of Christ. It is the New Testament message of Jesus, who he is and what he has done. It is the person and work of Christ, as proclaimed and taught by the apostles. This is the rock on which Christ builds his church. And there is no other.
Now even Peter, at this point, did not fully grasp or comprehend what being the Christ, being the divine Deliverer, would involve for Jesus. He was still thinking Glory King at this point. Crucified Savior was not on his radar screen. Peter didnt get that part yet. For in the verses right after our text, Jesus tells the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and be killed. At which Peter again pipes up, but this time he does not get the gold star. Peter rebukes his master: No way, Jesus! This is not what we had in mind for you! So Jesus has to rebuke him: Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. Mans way of fashioning the sort of Jesus we want, mans way of building the sort of church we want--our ways are not Gods ways. Gods way will involve suffering and lowliness and a dying Savior.
For that is what it takes for Jesus to do the job he came to do. He must go to the cross. There was no other way for God to save this world of sinners--for God to save you--other than for the Son of the living God to be the dying Savior. Jesus is the Christ precisely in his being crucified. He died for you, my friends. He died in your place to take the judgment you deserve for your sins. For those sins were killing you. Literally. Eternally. And Gods love is such that he would not have the sinner die. Instead, Christ died for you. He washed away your sins by his holy precious blood. He conquered hell by his death on the cross, stripping the devil of his claim against you. Jesus destroyed death by his death, and the proof of it was shown on Easter morning when Christ rose from the dead. You, baptized believer in Christ--you share in his resurrection and his life.
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is the rock on which Christ will build his church. This message, this gospel, this good news. This forgiveness of sins, won by Christ on the cross. This is the key that looses the chains of your sins, which were wrapped around your shoulders. This is the key that opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers. This is the key for you. This gospel: Christ Jesus delivering you from death and hell and bringing you into his kingdom of light and life. This is what the church is all about.
On this rock I will build my church. This is Jesus church, not ours. He will build it, and build it his way. It wont be our programs or our personality. It wont be our people-pleasing appeals to the flesh. No, Jesus will build his church his way: On this rock, the rock that is the apostolic confession of Christ. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Christ who died on the cross for you. The Christ who rose from the dead to lead you to eternal life. This rock is pure gospel. It is Christ-centered and cross-focused. On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered 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 tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say the Son of Man is? 14They replied, Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. 15But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am? 16Simon Peter answered, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17Jesus replied, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And 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. 19I 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. (Matthew 16)
Jesus has been with the disciples for around three years by this point, and there are only about six months left until His crucifixion. He really needs to get them on His plan but how? Hes not even sure they know who He is, and nothing will ever make sense until this has been established. Hes not sure they are ready, but time has run out. You can almost feel the tension as He asks the question of the ages: But what about you? Who do you say I am? It is likely that the disciples have been discussing this among themselves and have reached a conclusion: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Long-time Christians have a hard time understanding why this is such a big deal. How could they not know this by now? we ask. But remember, even though the many factions among the Jews disagreed on many points, the one thing they all agreed on was that there was only one God. And they had seen that Jesus prayed to God. So who was this man? He had not told them. But they knew! In spite of everything in their previous understanding, they knew! You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I would say that Jesus was ecstatic! Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And it is upon the rock that Jesus will build His church, and the gates of Hades (death) will not prevail against it.
But what is this rock that Jesus will build upon? Jesus; Peter; the confession of faith; belief in Jesus? There are very good arguments for each of these, but for me, the rock upon which the church will be built is none other than revelation. This ability for a man to know the will of God through revelation is the foundation of a true existence with God. This is the beginning of the re-establishment of the God-man relationship which existed before the sin of Adam this is who man was created to be. And the church will be build upon this new beginning, with the keys to bind and loose.
This term, the keys to bind and loose was part of the Jewish culture and was used to recognize those who had completed their courses of study in law. On completing the course of Law a Key (as a Diploma) was received by the Jewish student who had passed his examinations for the high position of Doctor of Law. The key handed to the student had the words receive authority to bind and to loose inscribed on the key. Having mastered the Law, the Doctor of Law could now say what was lawful and what was unlawful. The scribes in the day of Jesus looked upon Keys as their insignia of their office to be interpreters of the moral law.
But there is more. In the original text the tense used to describe this if future perfect. Thus, it is really saying, Whatever has already been bound in heaven you can now see through revelation and bind in the church, and whatever has already been loosed in heaven you can see through revelation and loose in the church.
Now that is a church built upon the rock of revelation!
Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Indeed: The verse at issue, v.18, cannot be divorced from that which preceded it, in which the identity of Jesus Christ is the main subject. In the next verse (17) that is what Jesus refers to in telling blessed Peter that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” and in v. 18 that truth is what the “this rock” refers to, with a distinction being made between the person of Peter and this rock. This is the only interpretation that is confirmed, as it must be, in the rest of the New Testament. For in contrast to Peter, that the LORD Jesus is the Rock (“petra”) or "stone" (“lithos,” and which denotes a large rock in Mk. 16:4) upon which the church is built is one of the most abundantly confirmed doctrines in the Bible (petra: Rm. 9:33; 1Cor. 10:4; 1Pet. 2:8; cf. Lk. 6:48; 1Cor. 3:11; lithos: Mat. 21:42; Mk.12:10-11; Lk. 20:17-18; Act. 4:11; Rm. 9:33; Eph. 2:20; cf. Dt. 32:4, Is. 28:16) including by Peter himself. (1Pt. 2:4-8) Rome's current catechism attempts to have Peter himself as the rock as well, but also affirms: “On the rock of this faith confessed by St Peter, Christ build his Church,” (pt. 1, sec. 2, cp. 2, para. 424) which understanding some of the ancients concur with.
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:9-11)
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:20)
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. (1 Peter 2:5-6)
But soon some Catholics may show up vainly protesting that Peter is the Rock and that "church" only formally means their org.
I’m writing from my phone please excuse any typo’s.
Using sentence and paragraph diagramming it becomes obvious that what was revealed to Peter was the subject. The Church was to be built on revelation, that revelation being the knowledge that Jesus was indeed The Christ. If churches would simply help people come to this revelation they wouldn’t need the rock bands and women’s night out activities. They would grow because of knowledge.
For a time we try faith but then we receive revelation (knowledge).
Once you receive knowledge Hell cannot prevail against it. Revelation is a gift God gives us in this life to help us attain glory in the next.
Christians who have received revelation say “death” when given the choice of Islam or death, because they know.
Revelation is the rock The Church was to be built upon. The writer got this article right.
All this being said is not to diminish the importance of Peter, he was certainly the first among equals, he settled disputes and was the highest authority on earth after the crucifixion.
Jesus is The Christ!
John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.
Doesn't matter how large the congregation is. It's whether we are doing the Master's will.
TONS of profound TRUTH in this thread so far! Praise God!
YES, the Lord Jesus IS BUILDING His church! As Wayne Jacobsen said, “Could it be that what Jesus meant when He said ‘My church’ is something completely different from what we think of?”
The church He is building has Him, and Him crucified as its foundation, and He and He alone is its CENTER, and He and He alone is its HEAD!
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