13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But you, who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it. 19 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.” 20 Then he commanded the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.Matthew 16:13-20
A century ago, Albert Einstein taught us: everything is relative. The way you see the world depends on your point of view and your point of view depends on the context. Use our worship setting for example. What is cold for you might be mild for me. What is a good hymn for me, might be a lousy hymn for you. When everything is relative there’s no black and white, there’s only the perspective you have as you look at things. Everything can change in a snap when you provide context. That’s why people say you never know the full story to make a fair judgment so you shouldn’t judge at all.
Today we hear lots of people saying everything is relative. If a young couple lives together before they get married, is it immoral or not? The implication is that since it feels right for the couple, that you don’t have a right to call it immoral. Does our church teach the truth about God or is it just our interpretation? Again, the implication is that you can’t figure out which church is holding to the truth and which ones are mixing in some error because you can’t read the Bible to discover God’s truth for yourself.
This attitude is becoming more popular in our society and makes a lot of Christians nervous about standing up for what is right according to God’s Word, and almost afraid to say, “This is most certainly true!” But, God doesn’t want us to be nervous, afraid or ashamed of the truth of God’s Word because it is HIS truth. Today let’s watch Jesus interact with his disciples in Matthew 16. Because of what Jesus says you and I can honestly and boldly say:
Our Church Is Built On The Rock!
We have a Confession as solid as a Rock
Jesus and his disciples have traveled to a northern town of Caesarea Philippi. Here Jesus asks them some important questions: 13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Their perspective was right. Most people considered Jesus to be a bold preacher, taking on the powerful and sticking up for the little guy. He was like the OT preacher Elijah who stood up against the corrupt and perverted King Ahab and Jezebel. Or like Jeremiah who spoke the truth of God’s Word without regard for the consequences. But, then Jesus digs a little deeper: 15 He said to them, “But you, who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Wow! In one quick sentence Peter shares the central truth of the Bible! Jesus is the promised Messiah in the flesh. He is true man promised to Adam and Eve to be their Redeemer. He is the Son of God with the power to pay for the sins of the whole world! Jesus is the foundation upon which God’s plan of salvation rests. Jesus explains….
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it. Jesus teaches us the truth of God’s Word by using a play on words. Peter’s name in Greek is “Petros.” It’s a masculine noun. After identifying Peter as a rock or bolder (loose rock), Jesus went on to say that he would build his house on this “petra.” In Greek, a petra is a rocky cliff or ledge, the kind of rock that Jesus said the wise man build his house upon (Matt 27:60). The word petra is a feminine noun, not referring to Peter, but to the confession he just made! The Church is built on the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Peter based his whole hope for heaven on this truth. This is not relative, but truth. There is no other way to heaven. That is our Confession That Is As Solid As A Rock!
We Have Keys As Solid As A Rock
Standing on the truth of God’s word Peter made a wonderful confession. Others might hear his confession and wonder if it is all that important to have such a Rock Solid confession, especially today when so many think it’s all relative. Let me use this story to make the point:
There was an old Chinese farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
So, is everything relative? Many would say having the right perspective on life matters a ton. But, even then you can’t totally control the outcome. So, is everything in life relative, or is there an absolute truth upon which we can build our life? The key to this questions was confessed by Peter. Peter confessed Jesus as the Savior and the Rock of the Church. This was not only a solid rock to stand on in life, but a key, a solid tool and weapon against Satan!
Students of the Bible know lots about Peter. We might even wonder how he could come up with his confession. Jesus says, “17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you,” Jesus evens mentions Peter’s father, Jonah, knowing Peter was born in sin like the rest of us, having inherited it from his father. We all know Peter has his weak spots, his doubts and his denial. However, Jesus makes it clear where his confession of faith came from: “but my Father who is in heaven……” God came in with his mercy and grace to knock down Peter’s stone cold heart and then to restore him. Jesus is the key that unlocked heaven for Peter and put his faith into words confessed by Peter as solid as a Rock!
When we think about keys we think about that little piece of metal we wiggle around in the lock to either open or lock a door. Jesus gave keys to Peter that were still part of Jesus’ response to Peter’s confession: “19 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.” The key that unlocks heaven to sinners is the gospel key. Later Jesus not only gave this gospel key to Peter, but to all the disciples in the upper room after he had risen from the dead. Jesus gave his keys to his church on earth to forgive the sins of penitent sinners but to refuse forgiveness to the impenitent as long as they do not repent.
Now, think of this. Shortly after Jesus said he was going to build his church on himself and give the keys to his disciples, we hear them asking Jesus this, “At that time the disciples approached Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt 18:1). Why would they have asked that question if they already had heard Jesus saying that he would guild his church on Peter and his successors? If that were the case, they would have known that Peter clearly was the greatest!
The Church is built on Christ Alone! In 1 Corinthians 3:11 Paul wrote, “11 In fact, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that has been laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Then Jesus gave the Keys of his Church to his people. Do you see the implications of the Rock Solid Keys Jesus gave to Peter, the disciples and to his church? One Key breaks down sinful pride and self-righteousness to expose a sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. The other key covers the sinner with Jesus’ righteousness and breaks open the doors of heaven! These are the keys that worked on Peter’s heart and produced his confession of Jesus. These Rock Solid Keys have worked on your heart, too!
The Rock Solid Keys that Jesus gives to his church are not relative. They are not optional. They work with power, because they come from God and are his power on human hearts. If the Bible says it’s wrong, then it’s wrong. Don’t let anyone make you nervous or make you think you’re being intolerant if you say that people who don’t believe in Jesus are damned and those who trust in Jesus are saved. It’s what the Bible says. They are rock solid keys to heaven and hell. They are keys to the Rock Solid Church of Jesus Christ. This isn’t relative, this is the truth. Jesus came to save you. Jesus loves you. Jesus wants you to be with him in heaven. This is most certainly true! Amen!