THE GOSPELS 83
THE FOUNDATION OF THE KINGDOM
After Peter made his great confession that Jesus was the “Christ,
the Son of the living God”, Jesus said that he had not received this information from human teachers, but that God had revealed it to him. He had watched the wonderful miracles Jesus had performed and it convinced him that this One came from Heaven, with the power of God, and that His message was true.
Then Jesus said, “You are Peter”. In other words, as sure as your name is Peter, I am going to build my church upon the mighty rock which your statement represents. He was not saying, as some teach, that He was going to build the church on Peter. Later, at the house of Cornelius, Peter is to tell Cornelius not to bow down to him because he was just a man. The church of the Lord was built upon a much greater foundation than “just a man”. [NOTE: Some of the confusion here arises from the fact that the Greek word for Peter means “rock” and the word Jesus used for the foundation of His church was also a word that means “rock”. Actually, Jesus used this very fact to make a comparison between Peter (the little rock) and the foundation of the church,
which word for rock means great ledge of rock. In other words, “You are a little rock (Peter), and the confession you have uttered proclaims the great rock upon which I will build my church.”]
When Jesus said He was going to build His church, He was not talking about the organizations which we call churches. His was a general statement which was to encompass all the people in the world who would hear His call. The word “church” comes from two Greek words which taken together mean “the called out”. Paul referred to this meaning when he talked about being called out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. In other words,
“the called out” are those who have placed their faith in Jesus and, having thus
had their sins forgiven, are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Those called-out ones do gather in groups for fellowship and a mutual sharing of their faith, and we call these churches, but Jesus had a much broader meaning to the word when He used it here.
But what was the foundation for this great Kingdom of God’s dear Son? It had to be the thing that made it possible for man to be forgiven and allowed back into the same relationship with God that he had before Adam was cast
out of the Garden because of sin. The power that made this possible was the love of God which caused Him to send His only begotten Son to earth to bring the invitation to come back in faith and accept the grace of God in forgiveness and love. That is what Peter confessed, when He acknowledged that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise and the Son of God. That gift of God is the only power upon which mankind could be allowed to leave this world of sin and once again enter into the Garden of God. That is the ledge of rock upon which the called out can rest their hope and, therefore, it is the foundation of the church.
Finally, Jesus said He was giving the “keys to the Kingdom” to Peter. The “keys to the Kingdom” would be whatever is necessary for man to have in order to enter the Kingdom. On the day of Pentecost it was Peter who was inspired by God to deliver the message, which contained the “keys to the Kingdom”. In this sermon he said, “Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, and you will receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit”. These were the “keys to the Kingdom”. He further said that this fulfilled the promise
which God made to Abraham and that it was for all mankind. We know Peter was speaking by inspiration for he obviously did not understand this last part of his sermon, which proclaimed that the promise was for Jew and Gentile. A bit later, when people came to ask him to go to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10),
God had to convince Peter to go, by a vision on the housetop to make him go. So the import of the words he spoke on Pentecost had not yet penetrated his mind.
With the giving of the “keys” Peter was told that what he bound on earth would be bound in heaven and what he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven. To me, this simply says that the words Peter would be inspired to say, in this Pentecost sermon, would be the words from Heaven, and whatever was contained in them of commands or promises would be the orders of heaven. It did not give to Peter, the man, the power to make decisions for the church over which only Jesus Christ is the head.