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The Foundation of the Church
Summary —A Sign Demanded. The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. At Cæsarea Philippi. The Elias Who Should Come. The Confession of Peter. The Rock on Which the Church Should Be Founded. The Keys. Christ's Death at Jerusalem Foretold. The Rebuke of Peter. Losing Life and Finding It. The Coming of the Son of Man.92
1. The Pharisees and Sadducees. Compare Mark 8:10–13. For description of these two sects, see note on Matt. 3:7. It is the first time the latter party is mentioned as opposed to Christ. A sign from heaven. Some mighty, visible miracle. See Matt. 12:38. Still in Paul's time “the Jews required a sign” (1 Cor. 1:22).
2, 3. Ye cannot discern the signs of the times. They could read the weather, but were blind to the events (signs of the times) that showed the fulfillment of prophecy, the end of the Jewish dispensation, and the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom.
4. No sign shall be given unto it but the sign of the prophet Jonah. See note on Matt. 12:40.
5. The disciples were come to the other side. They crossed over the sea to the eastern shore. Had forgotten to take bread. They had started on a journey to Cæsarea Philippi, partly through a wilderness country, and would need a supply. Mark says that they had one loaf. Compare Mark 8:14–21.
6. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, etc. The teaching and influence which spreads like leaven. See verse 12. The figure of the leaven was suggested by their need of bread. Mark, instead of Sadducees, says, “of Herod.” Herod and his followers were Sadducees.
7, 8, 9, 10, 11. It is because we took no bread. The thoughts of the disciples were so fixed upon their failure to supply bread that they thought the remark about leaven contained a rebuke. The Lord reminds them of his creative power, and how it has been put forth. 93
13. When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi. Compare Mark 8:27–38; Luke 9:18–22. This city was located near the base of Mt. Hermon, at a source of the Jordan, and in the northeast extremity of Palestine. It was called Cæsarea Philippi by Herod Philip, who rebuilt it in honor of Tiberius Cæsar, and added Philippi after his own name, to distinguish it from Cæsarea on the Mediterranean coast. It has now about fifty houses, many ruins of columns, towers, temples, a bridge, and a remarkable castle. Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? The original Greek is more specific, and means, “Who do the common people say that I am?” He does not ask for the opinion of the scribes, Pharisees, or priests, but of the people.
14. Some say that thou art John the Baptist. Who had been killed by Herod a few months before. That was one popular notion regarding him, circulating, no doubt, chiefly among those who had never seen him. Herod Antipas entertained it (chap. 14:1). Elias. It was very generally expected that Elijah was to return to the earth in connection with the Messiah's advent (Mal. 4:5). One of the prophets. The Jews believed that at the coming of the Messiah the prophets were to rise again.
15. But whom say ye that I am? This is the great and smaller catechism, the one great and essential question. Christ is the one object of the Christian's faith. We say we believe in him; but in whom do we believe? The hour had not come for the settlement of what should constitute the Christian confession.
16. And Peter answered. With the impetuosity and impulsiveness that were ever manifest in him, Peter replied at once and expressed the faith of all the apostolic band. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. This confession not only sees in Jesus the promised Messiah, but in the Messiah recognizes the divine nature. The confession of Peter is the one Christian confession of the New Testament and of the apostolic age, and the very foundation of the church, into which all saints are built as living stones of the temple.
17. Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona. Happy are all lips that make this confession, for such shall be confessed before the Father in heaven. For flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father. This holy and blessed confession no one can make from the heart unless he is moved by the Spirit. See 1 John 4:1, 2.
18. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. This is the first time Jesus speaks of his church, and here, as not yet founded. Three terms are to be noted: (1) Peter, in the Greek, Petros, meaning a single stone; (2) Rock, in the Greek, Petra, which means the solid, immovable bed-rock, a great mass like a cliff, and (3) church, Greek, ecclesia, those “called out,” the fellowship of believers, the organized society of Christ, the kingdom of heaven on earth. There is probably no passage in the word of God that has called forth more discussion. The Papal church insists 94that Peter is the rock upon which Christ founded his church. The Catholic position is based upon the fact that Peter means a stone (see John 1:42), and the Savior's language might be rendered, “Thou art a stone, and upon this rock I will build my church.” The Catholic view is untenable, for 1. The Savior does not say, “Thou art a stone, and upon thee I will build,” etc., or “Thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build.” He changes the word in the Greek from Petros (Peter, a stone) to Petra, a rock, or ledge of rock—a solid bed-rock. 2. Every saint is a stone (see 1 Pet. 2:5). The Lord declares that Peter is one these living stones, made such by his confession of faith, and ready to be built into the church, the spiritual temple, formed of living stones, and built upon the rock. So is every confessor of Christ. In order to settle what the Savior does mean by the rock, we must consider the 18th and 19th verses together, and keep in mind the entire figure. This figure portrays (1) a Builder, Christ; (2) a temple to be built, composed of lively stones, the church; (3) a foundation for that temple, the rock; (4) the gates of an unfriendly city or power which shall seek its destruction, hell, or more correctly, Hades, the unseen abode of the dead, the grave; (5) a door-keeper of the church, or spiritual temple, with his keys, Peter. Peter's place in the figure is not that of the foundation, but that of the key-holder, or turnkey. The only difficulty is in settling what the Lord means by the rock. Since this rock is the foundation of the church, the central principle, the fundamental idea, we are aided to a correct decision by the teachings of the Word elsewhere. We learn from 1 Cor. 3:11, “That other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” This excludes Peter or any human platform. Christ is often called a stone: “the stone that the builders rejected,” “the chief corner stone,” “the stone that is the head of the corner,” “the spiritual rock which is Christ.” Faith in Christ held in the heart, and confessed with the lips is the very foundation of the spiritual life and of the church. This constituted the fundamental difference in apostolic days between Christians and unbelievers, the church and the world. It does still. It is the essence of the teaching of the New Testament that the platform or foundation of the Christian society, the church, is this belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is then Peter's grand confession, faith in the Spiritual Rock, the faith that lays hold of Christ, belief that he is the Anointed of God, the Divine Savior, that the Lord pronounces the rock upon which he will found his church. That this view is correct is shown by a correct understanding of the declaration, The gates of hades shall not prevail against it. From the gates of the city always marched forth its armies. The powers of hades are represented by its gates. Hades is not hell (Gehenna), but the unseen abode of the dead that holds the departed within its gates. Just after these words the Lord talks of his death, or entering hades. Six months later the Sanhedrim sent him to death for making the same confession Peter had just made. See Matt. 26:64–67. They expected to demonstrate that the confession of his divinity which he had made was false by sending him to hades, which they supposed would hold him and prevail against the confession of the Rock. He was sent there from the cross, but the gates of hades did not prevail, for they could not hold him, and the living Savior, rising triumphant from the tomb, was the unanswerable argument that his own and Peter's confession was a rock that could never be moved. His resurrection demonstrated that he is the Rock. Hades did not prevail.
19. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of the heaven. That is, of the church. The office of the keys is to open the doors, or close them. On Pentecost, Peter first opened the doors and declared the conditions of which men could have their sins forgiven, be bound or loosed, and thus enter into the church. Seven years later at Cæsarea he declared the same conditions to the Gentiles. While Peter took the lead the keys were given to all the apostles, and to no other mortal. See Matt. 18:18, and John 20:19–28. All that is here said to Peter is said to all the apostles.
21. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples. They were not strong 95enough to bear this teaching until they were convinced of his divinity. And suffer many things. In this strange way carrying out the true idea of the Messiah (Isa. 53). Of the elders and chief priests and scribes. The three constituents of the Sanhedrim.
23. Get thee behind me, Satan. Christ saw in the words of Peter a suggestion not so much of his as of Satan's. It was a temptation to shrink from the work for which he came. It was the same temptation that called out from him the same rebuke once before (Matt. 4:10).
24. If any man will come after me. Compare Mark 8:34–38, and Luke 9:23–27. The conditions of discipleship are presented. Let him deny himself. Let him be prepared to say “no” to many of the strongest cravings of his nature, in the direction more particularly of earthly ease, comfort, dignity, and glory. Take up his cross. Luke adds, daily; not once, but all the time. The cross is the pain of the self-denial required in the preceding words. The cross is the symbol of doing our duty, even at the cost of the most painful death. And follow me. To follow Christ is to take him for our master, our teacher, our example; to believe his doctrines, to uphold his cause, to obey his precepts, and to do it though it leads to heaven by the way of the cross.
26. What is a man profited? etc. All the wealth, glory, pleasure and power of earth are worthless to the dying man. If he should gain them all and lose his own soul, he has lost all. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? What would a man not give? What is there that he can give, if in life he has not followed Christ?
27. For the Son of man shall come. Then all shall receive their deserts; those who lose their lives shall gain life; those who choose the world shall lose all. As Christ begins to teach of dying on the cross, he begins to give prominence to his coming again.
28. Shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man. The reference is not to his final coming to judge the world, but to his spiritual coming to establish his kingdom. This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Mark (9:1) shows the meaning by substituting, “Till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” The “coming of the Son of man in his kingdom” means, therefore, the same as “the kingdom of God come with power.” Compare Acts 1:8, and Luke 24:49. The kingdom came with power on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). 96
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