Did God build His Church on Peter? In Matthew 16:18, Jesus talks about a “rock” that He would build His Church on. Was Peter the rock Jesus was talking about?
The rock that Jesus is building His Church on is the revelation of who He is as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The revelation of the identity of Jesus Christ is the rock on which the Church is built.
Throughout the ages, people have completely misunderstood Jesus’s words in Matthew 16 to interpret them as meaning God would build His church on Peter. This is not what Jesus was saying. The Bible is clear that Jesus is the chief cornerstone and foundation of the Church, not Peter. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11, Ephesians 2:20-22, 1 Peter 2:4-9).
Let’s look at what Jesus was saying in the context. One day Jesus asked His twelve closest disciples the most important question He would ever ask them.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:13-17
The words “Christ” and “Son of the living God” in Jewish culture were used exclusively for the coming Messiah, the deliverer of Israel and hope of the world who had been prophesied for centuries. The entire Jewish culture was waiting on this promised Messiah.
Simon Peter here was confessing his belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah. Jesus tells Peter that he did not arrive at this knowledge through his own understanding; it was given to him through supernatural revelation from God. God had revealed Jesus’ true identity to Peter, and that revelation would be the foundation for His Church.
Then Jesus goes on to say that upon the “rock” of Peter’s revelation of who Jesus is, He will build His “church.” The revelation of Jesus being the Messiah, the Son of the Living God is what the church is built on.
Peter was proclaiming Jesus to be God. Jesus not only accepted Peter’s claims but also blessed Peter for what he said and acknowledged that He was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God. On this truth He would build His church.
What is the Church?
Most Christians do not have a clue what Jesus intended to build as ‘His church’. The Greek word for “church” in this verse is ecclesia. This is not a religious word like most people think it is. Ecclesia is a governmental term. It literally means “called-out ones”.
The word ecclesia was used by the Greeks to refer to the political group that was chosen to represent the king. In Roman culture, the ecclesia was the senate, or cabinet.
The people within the ecclesia were handpicked by the emperor to work very closely with him. Their job was to take the desires of the king and implement them in the kingdom.
This political word is what Jesus used to describe what he would build, a term later translated “church”. It was a political term, not a religious one.
In effect, Jesus was saying, “I will build My cabinet or My government on the fact that I am the Christ, the anointed king, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to Peter, “Upon the ‘rock’ of the revelation of who I am, I will build My government. I will build My senate, My cabinet, My administrators who will carry out My wishes and My will.”
Jesus was saying that He was going to build not a religion, but a political force to bring the reign of the Kingdom of God back into the earth. His desires and plans would be implemented by this powerful group of called-out ones.
The ecclesia, or church, is a group of chosen ones entrusted with information and instructions critical for the operation of the Kingdom. If you are part of the church Jesus is building, you are so critically important. And if you are a born-again child of God, you are part of this ecclesia.
This ecclesia is meant to be so powerful that even the gates of hades will not overcome it or prove stronger than it. Even hell itself will never be as strong as the ecclesia that Jesus is establishing on the earth!
The Church is Built on the Revelation of Jesus
Jesus is the Son of God. He is God the Son. This revelation of Jesus’s identity is what the church is built on.
If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, you received this knowledge by revelation from God, just like Peter. The revelation of who Jesus is comes only by the Spirit of God.
No one seeks after God on their own (Romans 3:11). Anyone who desires God and has a revelation of the identity of Jesus as Messiah has received it by the influence of the Holy Spirit. No one comes to God without being drawn by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is the only way to the Father.
Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
…and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3
This is the work of the Holy Spirit on the earth, to bear witness of the identity of Jesus.
But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. John 15:26
The continual rejection of the Holy Spirit’s witness of Jesus is what is referred to as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. You can read more about that here.
When you know that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the forces of hell will never prove stronger than that revelation.
When something is quickened to your spirit from God, you have received revelation knowledge, or knowledge that came to you supernaturally. You didn’t learn it based on logic or classroom learning, you learned it by the Spirit of God quickening it to your spirit.
Knowledge that is received in this way can not be stolen from you easily. The forces of hell could try to convince you otherwise, but when you know something this strongly, it cannot be easily taken.
The Holy Spirit is always working to reveal Jesus to you. He will reveal to you the true identity of Jesus if you don’t already know. For more about salvation, read Salvation by Faith: Exactly What It Means.