Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rock Solid: Jesus Christ - The Only Rock Upon which I Stand

 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."  Matthew 16:15-18

This is an important passage of Scripture because it is one, depending on interpretation, which defines a major difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic doctrine.   Catholics use this passage in support of Peter being the first Pope and the church being established on this, and all subsequent Popes being Peter's successors.  Protestants believe Jesus was recognizing Simon Peter's profession that He was the Son of God and it is upon Christ the Church would be built. I  am Protestant and it is the latter interpretation I believe.  If I believed the former, I would be a Catholic.

There is one Body of Christ, made up of those who have recognized they are sinners in need of a savior, who have confessed this and asked forgiveness of God seeing a need of a savior, and who believe Jesus Christ, born of a Virgin, crucified, dead and risen, is the only Savior and have accepted that in their heart. I do not question anyone claiming to be a Christian under that truth.  Although I do not recognize Benedictus XVI as my spiritual leader, I do not question Joseph Ratzinger's sincerity, piety or devotion as a fellow seeking after God.  Whether someone is truly Born Again to salvation is known only to God, it is not my place to judge any person's claim. 

I only present what I believe and I leave it to you to search the scriptures in support of your own beliefs. And I hope no one misunderstands and takes offence in that we may have some differences of viewpoints.

This is how I see the passages in Mark 8:27-33, Matthew 16:13 and Luke 9:18-23 (combined here from the NIV)

Jesus had been through a period of preaching. He had been getting growing opposition from the religious leaders, but was drawing more crowds to his teachings. They had just finished up feeding thousands through the miracle of dividing a few fish and pieces of bread. At this point he went off with his disciples where they could have relative peace. These periods have been referred to as "retirements" and he did these three or four times during his ministry.

Apparently he used these periods to pray and instruct his Disciples. It is estimated He remained near Caesarea Philippi for about six months on this occasion, so obviously we don't have everything taught during the period.  We can assume what was recorded was consider very important, and of course, was something God wanted us to know. 

When Jesus and his disciples came to the region of {and} went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?". Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him on the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am? Who do the crowds say I am?"
The way each writer began his description is slightly different, but not really contradictory. It tells us he probably raised the question as they were arriving in the area. Luke tells us the Lord had been praying. His question comes on the heels of his prayer and probably harks back to the large crowds they had recently been addressing.
The question is addressed to his disciples. It is not clear if this was exclusively the 12 Apostles or included the other Disciples that often journeyed along. At the end it says He called the crowd along with his Disciples, so it may be He had been meeting with just the Apostles when Peter makes his profession.
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" 
I don't think these were idle questions or that Jesus was curious about the popular gossip about himself. He surely knew exactly what the people were saying. Jesus had a way of asking questions to make others think and teach them important lessons. The question about what the crowds thought was a setup to the more important question, who did the Disciples think he was.
Why did he ask this particular question at this particular time? For part of that answer we need to go back to a couple of passages in the events just before this. 
In Matthew 15, the Pharisees object to the Disciples not doing the ceremonial washing dictated by tradition before eating. Jesus rebukes them sharply.
 Afterward the Disciples kind of scold Jesus about what he said:
Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"
 He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."
 Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."
 "Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. Matthew 15: 12-16 NIV
A bit later we have the feeding of the four thousand and then the Pharisees testing Jesus by demanding a sign. Following this confrontation, Jesus and the Disciples go across a lake and He tells them to be on
 "guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
 They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread."
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith,why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand?" Matthew 16:5-7 NIV
 After all this time of traveling with Jesus, you wouldn't think it, but it would appear the Disciples were struggling with their faith. They had started off in the beginning with enthusiasm, but despite what they had witnessed, the hardships and attacks against Jesus may have dulled this some and make them wonder if they had been right about this person. This is not much different for new Christians even today. A person comes to Christ and then throws themself into church work with vigor, but after time passes often slide into a kind of malaise about it all. We need to keep our eye on the prize and not let this world tire us.
I think Jesus was putting them where they had to confront their faith with this question.
I think there was a second reason why now. At the end of this passage, He informs them that he is going to be killed. There were some of those following Him when he declared this that left Him. I think this question was to force their declaration of faith so they were prepared for the unexpected news he was about to spring on them.

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ of God, the Son of the living God."
 Ever impulsive, ever a man of action, Simon Peter was quick to give an answer to the question.
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter,  and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
This verse is one of those at the heart of the Protestant break from the Roman Catholic Church on the Papacy. It is the interpretation of the Catholic Church that  the rock the church was to be built upon was Peter. The Protestant Church contends the rock is Christ, the Son of God and indeed, God, and it is also where I place my faith. The Greek words translated "Peter" and "rock" are two different words and the second word implies a larger rock than the first. Jim in his "Journeling for Growth" Blog  and a comment to his post by thekingpin68 give a very detailed explanation on this. For simpler clarification, here is Matthew 16:18 from The Amplified Bible:
And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Petros--a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra--a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it]. 
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 next verse is also often sited as Jesus giving the keys to Peter. I admit, this verse is a bit ambivant, but I believe we must take it in context to the whole passage. Who was Jesus addressing in this passage from beginning to end? The Disciples. What is His purpose? To establish their faith in their own minds before he tells them what is to come, something that they are not expecting, that being that Jesus is going to be killed. 
I believe you can also look at the future acts of the Apostles to see they all were given these keys.
Notice there is no doubt he is addressing the group in the next sentence.
Then Jesus, he strictly warned them, his disciples not to tell this to anyone about him that he was the Christ.
 And from this point he begins his instruction to them of how he will suffer and will rise from the dead. Again, Peter, the impulsive, take action on his own and is immediately put in his place.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem He then began to teach them and he said, that the Son of Man must suffer many things at the hands of and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days, on the third day rise again, be raised to life. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me;” he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and then he Jesus said to his disciples, said to them all:: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 
The use of the two different words for Peter and Rock are not the only reason I believe Jesus Christ is the Rock referenced.  Jesus has told us the Scriptures (Old Testament) were about him and throughout the Scriptures, Rock is used to refer to God and is also associated with salvation.

Here are several passages that show the Rock is God (All taken from the new American Standard Bible. Bold is my emphasis, capitalization is from the Bible text):

Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb. For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:1-4 (From Song of Moses)

But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked--You are grown fat, thick, and sleek--Then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation. They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth. Deuteronomy 32:15-18 (From Song of Moses)

Would that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would discern their future! How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves judge this. Deuteronomy 32:29-31 (From Song of Moses)

Then Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides you, nor is there any Rock like our God. Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. 1 Samuel 2:1-3 (From Hannah's Song of Thanksgiving) [Granted, there is a possiblility in this passage Hannah is inferring an idol is but rock, not like the Living God --Nitewrit]

And David spoke the words of this song to the LORD in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said, “the LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; 
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
 and I am saved from my enemies. 2 Samuel 22:1-4 (From David's Psalm of Deliverance)

As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. 
For who is God, besides the LORD? 
And who is a rock, besides our God? 
God is my strong fortress; and He sets the blameless in His way.       2 Samuel 22:31-33 

"The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be God, the rock of my salvation, the God who executes vengeance for me, and brings down peoples under me, who also brings me out from my enemies; you even lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man. 
Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the nations, and I will sing praises to your name. 
He is a tower of deliverance to His king, and shows loving kindness to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever." 2 Samuel 22:47-51 

Now these are the last words of David.
David the son of Jesse declares, the man who was raised on high declares, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, he Rock of Israel spoke to me, “he who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain”. Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, Ordered in all things, and secured; for all my salvation and all my desire, Will He not indeed make it grow?  2 Samuel 23:1-5 (David's Last Song)

For the choir director. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said,
"I love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:1-2 (The LORD Praised for Giving Deliverance.)

As for God, His way is blameless; The Word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God, The God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? Psalm 18:30-32 (The LORD Praised for Giving Deliverance.)

Foreigners fade away, and come trembling out of their fortresses. 
The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation, 
the God who executes vengeance for me, and subdues peoples under me. Psalm 18:30-32 (The LORD Praised for Giving Deliverance.)

To You, O LORD, I call; my rock, do not be deaf to me, for if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your holy sanctuary.  Psalm 28:1-2 (A Prayer for Help, and Praise for Its Answer)

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name's sake You will lead me and guide me.  Psalm 31:1-3 (A Psalm of Complaint and of Praise)

The LORD will command His loving kindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. 
I will say to God my rock, "Why have You forgotten me?  Psalm 42:8-10

My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

How long will you assail a man, that you may murder him, all of you, like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position; they delight in falsehood; they bless with their mouth, but inwardly they curse. Selah.
My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.
Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath.
Do not trust in oppression and do not vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God; and lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, for You recompense a man according to his work.  Psalm 62:1-12 (God Alone a Refuge from Treachery and Oppression)

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed. In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline Your ear to me and save me.  Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; you have given commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.  Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man, for You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.  Psalm 71:1-5 (Prayer of an Old Man for Deliverance)

Once You spoke in vision to Your godly ones, and said, "I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him. The enemy will not deceive him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. But I shall crush his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him.  My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, and in My name his horn will be exalted. I shall also set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.  He will cry to Me, 'You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.' I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him.  So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven.  Psalm 71:19-29 (Prayer of an Old Man for Deliverance)

They will still yield fruit in old age;
they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalm 92:14-15 
O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God and a great King  above all gods in whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 95:1-7 (Praise to the LORD, and Warning against Unbelief)
In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: "We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for security. Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, the one that remains faithful. The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.  Isaiah 26:1-4 (Song of Trust in God's Protection)

'Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
from the time that I established the ancient nation.
And let them declare to them the things that are coming
and the events that are going to take place. 
'Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
And you are My witnesses. 
Is there any God besides Me?
Or is there any other Rock?
 I know of none.'"  Isaiah 44:7-9 

"Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on 
but they will be held guilty,
they whose strength is their god." 
Are You not from  everlasting,
O LORD, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die. 
You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge;
and You, O Rock, have established them to correct.  Habakkuk 1:11-13 
 When Jesus tells the parable of the two men who built their homes, He makes clear what foundation is important. It is that built upon the Rock of Jesus Christ, Savior and God.
 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'
 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:23-25  (The Two Foundations)

"Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
 "But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great." Luke 6:47-49 

Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written,

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; 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 10:1-4

Finally, lets look at Peter's own words:

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
For this is contained in Scripture:
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 1 Peter 2:1-10
Here again, Peter declares Christ the corner stone and the Rock of offense.  We, those who put our faith in Christ are "living stones" who are being built up into that Church of Believers, the Bride of Christ and Peter tells us we are ALL a priesthood for proclaiming God's mercy and salvation. When Christ died upon the cross, God rent the vale in the temple, the barrier between us and Him. He gave us all the privileges once reserved for the Priests, direct access through Jesus to the Father by imbuing us with the Holy Spirit. There is no man between us and God if we have accepted his Gift of forgiveness.

It is on this Rock I stand, and no other.  


  1. Larry,
    I fear I may have begun a trend. Your post is long enough that I can print it and paper my walls with it.
    I am teasing. It is long and I am going to have to come back later. I have some things I promised to get done today.

  2. Well said and thorough with scripture examples. :-)

  3. Amen Larry,,

    You backed up Jesus being the Rock very thoroughly which much Scriptures! How could anyone argue or disagree with that. It is right there plain as day smack dab in the Word of God. Amen!