Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21
Who Do Men Say That the Son of Man Is, Continued
There is so much in this passage that I cannot stop with just one devotion. Yesterday, we confessed with Peter and the rest of the disciples that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, knowing better than Peter what those words mean since we have the benefit of living on this side of the cross. Today, we must discuss the rest of the passage, at least as it is reported in Matthew’s gospel. Incidentally, it is intriguing that the gospel written by John Mark, who according to well-attested tradition was Peter’s assistant (thus indicating that much of Mark’s gospel probably came from Peter’s own mouth), does not record that part of the passage which we cover today.
First, Jesus informs Simon Peter how blessed he is to know that he is the Christ, because this is not something that Simon Peter figured out on his own but was revealed to him by “my Father who is in heaven.” And this is true for anyone who professes saving faith in Christ – such a profession comes from the conviction that one has in one’s heart that Jesus is the Christ, a conviction which is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Second, in what is a contested passage, Jesus tells Simon Peter that he is Petros (stone) and on this petra (rock), Christ will build his Church. There is certainly a relationship between the two Greek words, but that the Apostle Peter is somehow the “rock” upon which Christ built his Church certainly does not accord with the rest of Scripture in which Christ himself is called the “cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). It makes more sense that the “rock” is the confession that Peter made about Jesus; that is, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” certainly the profession of faith upon which the Church of Jesus Christ is built.
Finally, and so comforting, Jesus promises that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church. This Church is so powerful, she even has the power, in fidelity to God’s word, to pronounce forgiveness over someone or withhold it. Fidelity to God’s word means that the Church can say nothing that does not agree with Scripture. Specifically, a church body cannot withhold forgiveness from a member of that body who truly repents and asks forgiveness. At the same time, a church body cannot proclaim forgiveness over someone who has not repented; that is, the church, universal or local, has no authority to call that which the Bible calls a sin not a sin, nor to call that which the Bible calls not a sin a sin, changes in the surrounding culture, notwithstanding. This requires church discipline, sorely missing in our day. It is a dreadful power, but one we cannot forgo but at the risk of souls.