Jesus asks His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13).
He got various responses including John the Baptist, Isaiah and Jeremiah. But then Jesus asked them, “But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
It was Peter who responded, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’. This is the first time in the Bible that Jesus is identified as the Messiah and Son of the one true God, “The Existing One”, Jehovah.
Jesus says to Peter…
Jesus in turn responds to Peter, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18).
“Flesh and blood” or man did not reveal to Peter that Jesus was the Christ but rather God. The only way to the Father is through the Son so this shows Peter’s faith and belief in Jesus Christ. God gives revelation knowledge to those who believe.
Here we have the 12 chosen disciples with Jesus. One of them, Peter knows that Jesus is the Son of God and has absolute faith and belief in Him. As a result Jesus says that Peter, which the name means “rock” will be the, “rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.
Peter is to be the foundation of the Church, of what today is called Christianity. And to our religion Jesus adds, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.
We must remember that Hell and the devil are of no consequence to us when we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us. Every knee shall bow in heaven, on earth and underneath the earth at the name and power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Do not be terrified by the world but find comfort, joy and peace in our salvation and in our religion for the gates of hell shall not prevail against us.
Peter was given a tremendous weight and responsibility, the Church! But then Jesus adds more weight to that responsibility.
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
Dr. John Lightfoot was the 17th century rabbinical scholar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and the first Christian scholar to call attention to the importance of the Talmud. Considered to be an authoritative Hebraist, Lightfoot explains that the idea of binding and loosening was quite common for Jews. It was their belief that when something was let or loosed on earth the same was done in heaven.
So let’s take a look at what Jesus is telling Peter and his disciples here. “The keys of the kingdom of heaven” is nothing short of the Law of Moses. Jesus is expressing that they have liberty to bind and loose aspects of the law. This is the same liberty that Paul and James speak of when they speak of the law of liberty or the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25).
But look at the significance and the almost incomprehensible obligation, responsibility and weight being given Peter. Jesus is saying, “Here is the Mosaic law. Allow or disallow as you see fit but whatever you do, will take effect both here on earth and in heaven. This is not to imply that Peter could fundamentally alter God’s precepts and commands. But it did give him sway over rights and rituals not conducive to His will.
Dr. Lightfoot gives a thorough examination and explanation of this verse. Here are some of his salient points.
“To this, therefore, do these words amount: When the time was come, wherein the Mosaic law, as to some part of it, was to be abolished and left off; and as to another part of it, was to be continued, and to last for ever: he granted Peter here, and to the rest of the apostles, chapter 18:18, a power to abolish or confirm what they thought good, and as they thought good, being taught this and led by the Holy Spirit: as if he should say, “Whatsoever ye shall bind in the law of Moses, that is, forbid, it shall be forbidden, the Divine authority confirming it; and whatsoever ye shall loose, that is, permit, or shall teach, that it is permitted and lawful, shall be lawful and permitted.”
Let the words be applied, by way of paraphrase, to the matter that was transacted at present with Peter: “I am about to build a Gentile church (saith Christ); and to thee, O Peter, do I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, that thou mayest first open the door of faith to them; but if thou askest, by what rule that church is to be governed, when the Mosaic rule may seem so improper for it, thou shalt be so guided by the Holy Spirit, that whatsoever of the law of Moses thou shalt forbid them shall be forbidden; whatsoever thou grantest them shall be granted, and that under a sanction made in heaven.”
Hence in that instant, when he should use his keys, that is, when he was now ready to open the gate of the gospel to the Gentiles, Acts 10:28, he was taught from heaven, that the consorting of the Jew with the Gentile, which before had been bound, was now loosed; and the eating of any creature convenient for food was now loosed, which before had been bound; and he, in like manner, looses both these.
Those words of our Saviour, John 20:23, “Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted to them,” for the most part are forced to the same sense with these before us; when they carry quite another sense. Here the business is of doctrine only, not of persons; there of persons, not of doctrine: here of things lawful or unlawful in religion to be determined by the apostles; there of persons obstinate or not obstinate, to be punished by them, or not to be punished” (Dr. John Lightfoot).
Peter and the disciples were given an awesome responsibility. The Church, our religion and our word! But it all came about by one thing. It was by the faith of Peter in Jesus as the Christ, the Savior and the Son of God. We are in the same position. We can inherit all things as well and by the same way, the only way, through faith and belief in Jesus Christ.
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