Upon This Rock
Of all the false doctrines circulating in the Catholic Church, none has created as much controversy as the dogma that Christ would build His church on the person of Peter the apostle. This confusion comes from a gross misinterpretation of Matthew 16:15-19, when Jesus asked His disciples who He was.
“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.’”
The Catholic Church interprets this passage to mean that Peter was the “rock” on which the church would be built. This, of course, lead to the error of the Catholic Church electing popes. However, for many centuries the church held no such notion about this passage.
Why this dogma was instituted so long after the New Testament was written is unknown, unless it was merely a power grab by the evolving hierarchy. Without careful study it’s possible to interpret the passage as the Catholic Church has.
I should point out that the purpose of this article and all my articles is not to bash the Catholic Church. The purpose is to find the truth. It serves no practical purpose to believe things that are not true, especially if they affect your eternal destiny. This is why the Bible must be the final arbiter for truth as it is God’s revealed word. If seeking the truth is considered to be bashing a particular church, then mankind truly is in a hopeless state.
The confusion over this passage seems to center on the meaning of the word “rock.” The verse in question (“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church.”) uses two different words for “rock.” The word “peter” comes from the Greek word petros, and the word for “rock” comes from the Greek word petra.
“Petros” is defined as a piece of a rock, and “petra” is defined as a mass of rock. This may appear as semantics, but it is not. There is no part of Scripture that is given to error or a casual use of language. This is God’s word and every word has meaning.
If the word “rock” and Peter’s name were to mean the same thing, then why would God use two different words to say the same thing? Keep in mind also: Peter’s name was changed from Simon to Peter when he was called to be an apostle (John 1:42). This discussion in Matthew occurred much later in Jesus’ ministry.
So then, what is meant by the word “rock”? Staying within the context of the Lord’s announcement, we must define what “this” means. The focus of Christ’s comments was not Peter, but what Peter said. So, what did Peter say? He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (verse 16)
Peter’s words defined “this”, not Peter himself. This was an incredible revelation uttered by Peter. The Lord told him it did not come from him or any other person (flesh and blood). The “this” came from the Father in Heaven.” There’s no question, Peter was truly blessed to have been given such a revelation. Up until this time, the apostles did not understand that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, much less God incarnate.
In reality, the “rock” is the Lord Jesus: “…and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)
Jesus was saying that He would build His church from those who would believe and trust in Him as their personal Savior. In other words, those who would believe in the revelation that Peter expressed. These believers would constitute the Body of Christ.
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