JESUS IS THE ROCK NOT PETER
Psalms 18:2 - The LORD [is] my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;
my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of
my salvation, [and] my high tower.
Psalms 127:1 - (A Song of degrees for Solomon.) Except the LORD build
the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the
city, the watchman waketh [but] in vain.
2 Samuel 22:32 - For who [is] God, save the LORD? and who [is] a rock,
save our God?
1 Samuel 2:2 - [There is] none holy as the LORD: for [there is] none
beside thee: neither [is there] any rock like our God.
Question: "What is the rock in Matthew 16:18?"
Answer: The debate rages over whether “the rock” on which Christ will
build His church is Peter, or Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the
Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). In all honesty,
there is no way for us to be 100% sure which view is correct. The
grammatical construction allows for either view. The first view is that
Jesus was declaring that Peter would be the “rock” on which He would
build His church. Jesus appears to be using a play on words. “You are
Peter (petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build my church.” Since
Peter’s name means rock, and Jesus is going to build His church on a
rock – it appears that Christ is linking the two together. God used
Peter greatly in the foundation of the church. It was Peter who first
proclaimed the Gospel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-47). Peter was
also the first to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-48). In a
sense, Peter was the rock “foundation” of the church.
The other popular interpretation of the rock is that Jesus was referring
not to Peter, but to Peter’s confession of faith in verse 16: “You are
the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus had never explicitly
taught Peter and the other disciples the fullness of His identity, and
He recognized that God had sovereignly opened Peter’s eyes and revealed
to him who Jesus really was. His confession of Christ as Messiah poured
forth from him, a heartfelt declaration of Peter’s personal faith in
Jesus. It is this personal faith in Christ which is the hallmark of the
true Christian. Those who have placed their faith in Christ, as Peter
did, are the church. Peter expresses this in 1 Peter 2:4 when he
addressed the believers who had been dispersed around the ancient world:
“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen
by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a
spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
At this point, Jesus declares that God had revealed this truth to Peter.
The word for “Peter,” Petros, means a small stone (John 1:42). Jesus
used a play on words here with petra (“on this rock”) which means a
foundation boulder, as in Matthew 7:24, 25 when He described the rock
upon which the wise man builds his house. Peter himself uses the same
imagery in his first epistle: the church is built of numerous small
petros “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) who, like Peter, confess that Jesus
is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and those confessions of faith
are the bedrock of the church.
In addition, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Christ is
both the foundation (Acts 4:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 3:11) and the head
(Ephesians 5:23) of the church. It is a mistake to think that here He is
giving either of those roles to Peter. There is a sense in which the
apostles played a foundational role in the building of the church
(Ephesians 2:20), but the role of primacy is reserved for Christ alone,
not assigned to Peter. So, Jesus’ words here are best interpreted as a
simple play on words in that a boulder-like truth came from the mouth of
one who was called a small stone. And Christ Himself is called the
“chief cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:6, 7). The chief cornerstone of any
building was that upon which the building was anchored. If Christ
declared Himself to be the cornerstone, how could Peter be the rock upon
which the church was built? It is more likely that the believers, of
which Peter is one, are the stones which make up the church, anchored
upon the Cornerstone, “and he who believes on Him will by no means be
put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).
The Roman Catholic Church uses the argument that Peter is the rock to
which Jesus referred as evidence that it is the one true church. As we
have seen, Peter's being the rock is not the only valid interpretation
of this verse. Even if Peter is the rock in Matthew 16:18, this is
meaningless in giving the Roman Catholic Church any authority. Scripture
nowhere records Peter being in Rome. Scripture nowhere describes Peter
as being supreme over the other apostles. The New Testament does not
describe Peter as being the “all authoritative leader” of the early
Christian church. Peter was not the first pope, and Peter did not start
the Roman Catholic Church. The origin of the Catholic Church is not in
the teachings of Peter or any other apostle. If Peter truly was the
founder of the Roman Catholic Church, it would be in full agreement with
what Peter taught (Acts chapter 2, 1 Peter, 2 Peter).
Could you please make a charitable