The moment before Jesus announced that He would build His church upon “this rock” He had asked His disciples whom they thought He was. Peter had answered and said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Pleased with Simon Peter’s response, Jesus then made the statement contained in the Key Verse. Referring to Peter as a small stone (Petros) Jesus said He would build (oikodemeo G3618, to construct or confirm) His church upon a rock (petra G4073, a mass of rock). The Greek word “petra” was used to refer to a mountain. Jesus was saying to Peter, “You are a small stone that can be moved, but I will build My church upon the truth you have declared, that I am the Son of God, and this truth is a mountain (petra) that cannot be moved. So immovable is this rock, not even the grave will prevail against it. My church will never die out.”
The next verse (Matthew 16:19) is one of the most misunderstood verses in the whole Bible. The general thought has been that whatever doctrine the church decrees on Earth will get an automatic “Stamp of Approval” from the Kingdom of Heaven. The verb “shall be” is not a direct rendering of the Greek text but is assumed by the translators and could just as well be “is”. This puts a completely different perspective into the verse. Now, instead of Heaven approving of whatever doctrine the church dictates, the church is authorized to initiate doctrine that is already established in Heaven, such authorization being symbolized by the giving of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. The holder of the keys was in charge of the gate and had the authority to open and shut them. He did not have the authority to move them. Since God does not change His values or principles, this makes much more sense because if the church adopted a doctrine that violated God’s purpose or plan, He would not change in order to go along with it. Therefore, that would render false the statement of Jesus if it indicated the “Stamp of Approval” idea.
Many errors and false doctrines have resulted from this incorrect application of verse 19. Assuming the authority to establish whatever doctrine its leadership preferred, the church of the third and fourth centuries established Sunday worship, abolished the Passover as “Jewish” and instead instituted Easter and decreed that the birth of Christ occurred in December when, in fact, the flocks would be in their winter folds, not in an open field (Luke 2:8). These facts should make it evident that Jesus would not give His church carte blanche to formulate whatever doctrine it wanted.
Keeping true to His word, Jesus has not let His church die out. In a world where the law is “done away”, the Old Testament no longer applies and the Annual Holy Days are ignored, there is a small remnant still keeping His Sabbath, celebrating the seven annual Holy Days and preaching all the Bible to the faithful. This promise has been kept for two thousand years and will be kept until Jesus returns.
Pentecost is often considered the “birth of the church” and some may think it should be considered as the origin. That day was the day the church was established, but its origin was with Jesus. When a ship is built, the first act of construction is the laying of the keel. This is considered as the first day of the building of that ship. When Jesus told Simon Peter that He would build His church on “this rock”, He laid the keel of the church. Pentecost was the launching of the church, but instead of breaking a bottle of champagne on the bow, the Holy Spirit descended.
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