Peter was an interesting fellow. He would be the first to tell you, "I love the Lord! Nothin' I wouldn’t do for Him! Do I need to fight for Him? I'll do it! Do I need to go to jail for Him? I'll do it! Do I need to die for Him? I'll do it!!" When Jesus came walking on the water during the storm, who was it that walked out to join Him? Good ol' Peter! When the soldiers came for Christ at Gethsemane, who was it that pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus? Good ol' Peter! Who was it that denied he knew the Lord Jesus three times the night they arrested Him? Peter. But who was it that Jesus told to feed His lambs? Good ol' Peter!
Matthew 16:13-19—When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" And they said, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets." He saith unto them, "But whom say ye that I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered and said unto him, "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. 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."
"Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona." Happy, to be congratulated. It's the same word Jesus uses in the Beatitudes. "You are to be congratulated, Simon Barjona, because you did not come up with this on your own, but my Father in heaven showed you this!" What does Jesus say to him in verse 23? "Get thee behind Me, Satan!" Peter had it…almost.
Contrary to what some people think, the Bible was not written in English. Contrary to what some people think it was not written in King James English. The New Testament was written in Greek. And when we're studying a passage that some people may disagree on, the best thing to do is go back and read what the writers originally said in Greek. A little side note: There are many "paraphrase" Bibles—The Living Bible, the Contemporary English Version, and that abomination called "The Message"—some of them are nice to read, they give you a good idea of what the writers were saying. But I wouldn’t try building a doctrine on them. So, right now, we're going to go into a little lesson in the Greek. We're gonna look at some words here.
First, let's look at the name "Simon" in verse 17. That's a name that means, "hearer." It also means "a wavering reed," or simply "a waverer." But I found this definition and it was like a light bulb went off and we'll see why in a moment. The name "Simon" can also mean, "sand-like." Why is this important? Look at verse 18. There are 4 different Greek words--and one Aramaic--in the Bible that get translated as stone. Jesus uses two of them in this verse when He talks about rocks and stones.
He looks at the wavering sand and says, "Thou art Peter." The Greek word is "Petros." It means "a stone." It can even mean "a large stone." The best definition I found is, "a detached but large fragment of rock." Now, doesn’t the definition of "Simon" as "sand-like" mean a little bit more? "Blessed art thou, sand…thou art a stone." I don’t have the exact numbers, but Jesus refers to Simon Peter in different ways at different times. Sometimes He calls him "Simon." Sometimes He calls him "Peter." Sometimes He calls him "Simon Peter." In John 1 He calls him "Cephas." We'll see why this is important later.
"Thou art Peter." Then Jesus says, "…and upon this Rock…" He uses a different word—petra. Here's the difference. The word "petros" means "a stone." The word "petra" means "a large, projecting rock," or "a large boulder," or even "rocky ground, a bluff, bedrock." Let me give you an example of the difference. The word "petra" is used 13 times in the New Testament. Listen to how it is used in several verses:
Matthew 7:24; Luke 6:48—both of these record the words of Jesus saying, "Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock (petra): And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock (petra)." You cannot build a house on a stone. You have to build it on solid rock. Bedrock.
Matthew 27:59-60; Mark 15:46—Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock (petra), and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher. Now you cannot build a tomb out of a stone, even a large stone. This "petra" was the rock that made up the hill where He was buried.
Romans 9:33—As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock (petra) of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
1st Corinthians 10:4—…they drank of that spiritual Rock (petra) that followed them: and that Rock (petra) was Christ.
1st Peter 2:8—And a stone of stumbling, and a rock (petra) of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient…
Every time the word the word "petra" is used, it is used of rock that is part of the earth. The rock which makes up the hills and mountains. The rock which is underneath the grass and dirt, upon which everything sits.
Now, let's look at the word "Petros." This word is used 162 times in the New Testament. Guess how many times it is translated "stone"? Once. The other 161 times, it is used as a name for Peter. It is never used to describe something on which a building, or a house, or—especially—a church could be built on. Because that's not what it means. It means "A detached but large fragment of rock." And it is not what Christ said He would build His church upon. He said He would build His church upon the "petra." The solid Rock in which all things consist, by which all things are held together. Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior, our Petra.
OK, now for the keys. These "keys of the kingdom of heaven"—does not mean that Peter is the head of the church. Don’t ever think it does. Roman Catholics have got this verse backwards. Jesus is NOT saying that Peter has all authority on earth, and that his word is final. So many people think that when they get to them pearly gates, ol' Saint Pete is gonna be the first one they see. WRONG! Peter is not standing guard at the gates, deciding who he's going to let in and who he's going to keep out. That is absurd.
The verb "bind" is in the perfect tense. It happened in the past, and its effects continue. This is one of those places where the KJV doesn’t quite say it the best way. The NASB really has the best translation of this verse. Matthew 16:19—"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." In other words Jesus is saying, "Whatever you allow or prohibit on earth will have already been allowed or prohibited in Heaven." He was not giving them the authority to bind and loosen. He was giving them the ability to determine whether something should be bound or loosened. The "keys to the kingdom" are gifts like discernment and insight to know what God allows and does not allow.
The best example is Acts 15. There is a conflict between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians over circumcision. Peter and Barnabas and Paul and James gather to hear the matter and decide upon it. Let me stop here one moment. If Peter was the "visible head" of the church, as is believed by the Roman Catholics, he could have very easily declared a papal decree, thus settling the matter once and for all. Why then did he take council with these other apostles, who were, in the eyes of Rome, subject to Peter's leadership?
That said, after much discussion the council declares, in Acts 15:28-29—"…it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality." When they made this declaration, it was not a case of the apostles said it and God gives His Divine thumbs-up. It was this: that the matter was decided and bound in heaven. Then, having been bound in heaven, the apostles declared it, published it and made it known, thus making it binding on earth. So, we know who Peter wasn’t. Now let's look at who Peter really was.
First, Peter was a MAN OF FAITH. Verses 15-16—He saith unto them, "But whom say ye that I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." We don’t really hear a whole lot about Peter's brother Andrew. But it was Andrew that led Peter to Christ. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. He had been following John for quite some time, and the day when Jesus came to that John to be baptized, and the skies opened and the Holy Spirit came down and the voice called out, "This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," Andrew was probably there. It's not clearly spelled out, but from reading the passage—John 1:35-41—you could reasonably assume that he was there. And the next day, Jesus comes to them again, and tells Andrew "Follow Me." Then, in John 1:40-42, it says, One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas."
Cephas is Aramaic for "a stone." But something else I want you to notice is that Jesus says "You are Simon son of Jonah." Remember that. I mentioned earlier the significance of names. We're going to see that later on in this message. Now, about that name "Cephas." Stone. What had Peter done up to this point to earn this type of attention from Christ? Nothing. He was a fisherman. He was minding his nets. Minding his own business.
Can you imagine being Simon at this point? Your brother Andrew, who has been hanging out in the desert with this crazy guy that ate bugs and honey. And one day he comes running up to you and says, "The Messiah that all of Israel has been hoping and praying for! He's here!" And that long-awaited Messiah walks up to you, points His finger right at you and says, "You shall be a stone. You shall be consumed with a desire to tell the world about Me." And then He goes on His way. Many of us, when we are called to follow Christ; when we are called to some ministry, or some mission, we kinda push it back into the back of our minds.
But not Simon son of Jonah. He kept it in his mind, meditated on it, kept holding on to that until Christ came back. Then, the day after that, in Matthew 4:18-20--Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. Peter had faith enough to know that when Jesus says, "Let's go," there ain't no delay. There's no, "Let me go bury my father first." Peter left his nets, left the only thing he ever knew. He left the comfort and security of a good living being a fisherman to follow this man who didn’t even have a roof over His head. Forget what you hear on TBN, Jesus did not live in a big mansion. Yet Peter left it all, and followed Him. He was a MAN OF FAITH.
Part 2 tomorrow.