When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“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. 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 foundation of the church
“…and on this rock I will build my church…”
The church belongs to Jesus. It does not belong to any other man. No man, except the God-man, can lord it over the church. And no man can build the church, except Jesus. Some will plant the seed, some will water the seed, but it is Jesus who will grow the church. The church is His field, His building. (1 Cor 3:6-9)
But what is the rock Jesus refers to? For that matter, what also is the seed that Paul refers to?
It must be clarified that Peter is not the rock, despite his namesake. The rock Jesus speaks of is Peter’s confession of the identity of Christ. The rock on which Christ will build His church is the confession that He is the Son of the living God. Christ is building His church on this one Truth, with a capital T. The church is not going to be on any other ordinary foundation. It will be built by and on the Son of the living God . He is not only the builder, He is also the rock. He is the foundation. Paul affirms as much in 1 Corinthians 3:11 – no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. The seed Paul plants must likewise be this one Truth, if no other foundation, no other seed can be laid. We perceive as much from the context of the first few chapters of 1 Corinthians.
We can glean something even richer from the context of this letter. Paul clearly resolved to preach nothing but Christ crucified. The churches he planted rested on this glorious Truth. The Truth that Jesus is the Son of the living God and the Truth that Christ was crucified to pay the penalty for our sin and set us free from its dominion is the same Truth. The Son of the living God has no identity apart from that of the crucified Son. It is sad then to hear how often Jesus is reduced to a mere teacher, or moral example to follow.
This line of thought also appears to run through Matthew, as we see that “from that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
The church will be built on the proclamation of Christ crucified and nothing else.