The Foundation of the New Testament Church

Consider the text of Scripture found in Matthew 16:13-20 (ESV) along with the accompanying commentary.

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 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. 18 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. 19 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.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

“It would be impossible to know the exaltation of Jesus’ spirit when Peter confessed, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ This was the moment Jesus had been waiting for. All his patient teaching and living before the disciples had been pointing toward this–that they might confess him as Saviour and Lord. He could not simply declare his Messiahship and command them to believe it. Faith does not work that way.”

“Only when the Heavenly Father was able to lead the disciples to the point where they recognized Jesus and confessed him, had the purpose of Jesus been achieved. That is why Jesus responded with an exultant blessing upon Simon. At the same time, he attributed this confession to the power of the Father, who had revealed it to Simon.”

” ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church’ (Matt. 16:18). How the religious controversies have raged around these words! If Jesus spoke Aramaic, we can only guess what words he may have used. But in this Greek rendering of his words, which more and more critical scholars are accepting as essentially authentic, some things are abundantly clear. When Jesus says, ‘You are Petros‘ (a stone), he leaves out the definite article and uses the general word for a building stone. In other words, Peter is one of the stones that will be built into this living building of the church, exactly as Peter himself says in his epistle (1 Peter 2:5).”

“Then Jesus shifts person, from the second person (Peter) to whom he is speaking, to the third. ‘Upon this ledge of rock [petra] I will build my church.’ It is absolutely clear that this cannot refer to Simon Peter because Jesus changes from addressing Peter and refers to something else; he shifts from a stone (petros) to a ledge-rock foundation (petra). He also shifts the function, from a stone which rests on the foundation, to the foundation itself. The only real question remaining is the identification of the phrase ‘this petra‘ (this foundation-stone). Because of the word ‘this,’ it cannot refer to Peter (who is called thou in the same sentence, the person addressed). But ‘this’ must have an antecedent in the immediate context. Going back to the immediately preceding sentence, we find Jesus saying that his Father revealed something to Simon. What is this something which the Heavenly Father has revealed? It is the fact that Jesus is the Christ. This is the foundation of the church.”

“Perhaps the most conclusive proof of this interpretation is the fact that Peter himself understood it this way (1 Peter 2:4-8). Christ was the stone which the builders rejected, but which God made the chief cornerstone, the very stone upon which the entire building would depend.”

“When Jesus added that the gates of Hades would not prevail against his church, he was saying that the very powers of death would not be able to withstand the attack of the church. By her message and her redemptive mission in the world, she would set them free unto eternal life. This is what Jesus means by giving to Peter, and to all who believe, the ‘keys to the kingdom’–that is, the message of Christ the Saviour, by which the doorway is opened to true believers.”

“In the final sentence, Jesus literally says, ‘Whatever you bind on earth is what has already been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is what has already been loosed in heaven.’ This means that what the church is carrying out on earth is the purpose of God which has already been determined in heaven. The church is doing the work of heaven on the earth, according to God’s plan.”

[taken from Wayne Ward’s, The Drama of Redemption, (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1966), 113-114.]

Jesus Christ is not only the Savior of the world, he is the foundation of the church. These truths are revealed to us in the Word of God by the Holy Spirit of God. Because the church is built on the foundation of Christ, the powers of evil cannot “withstand the attack of the church.” In other words, the best defense is a good offense. The time is overdue for the New Testament church, founded by Jesus Christ, to be on the attack against the evil forces in this world. The victory has already been assured by our Commander-in-Chief. The only thing lacking at this point is surrendered soldiers.

The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is his new creation by water and the Word
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride
With his own blood he bought her and for her life he died

Mike. Out.


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