Part I

Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some (say) John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But who 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 Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 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. (Matt 16:13-19, ASV)

Heaven had long planned for it and both angels and men had long wondered about the church, which would bring to pass the fullness of the hidden purpose of God (Eph. 1:3ff; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Eph. 3:1-11). Involved in the plans of God for the church were the demonstrating of His wise plan for man’s redemption, and the securing of such a spiritual privilege for all human beings, Jews and Gentiles alike. It should not surprise any reader that the Christ would here introduce such a subject into the discussion with His trusted associates, into whose hands the work of establishing the church would soon fall. After gaining insight into the varied opinions of men about His identity, Jesus then directly asked the disciples of their understanding of who He was. Peter’s response was so profound and timely that here Jesus used the opportunity to anticipate the church, as her existence would rest upon the solid base of truth acknowledged by the apostle. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The Foundation of the Church

In Peter’s confession we hear the two elements of Jesus’ person—His Messianic role and His divine nature. Squarely upon this foundation would the people of God, the church, rest. No building is any stronger and more permanent that its foundation; expensive and elaborate buildings begin with foundations planted deep in the earth. Thus God secured for the church a stable and an enduring foundation.

In Old Testament prophecy the Messiah was depicted as deity (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Mic. 5:2). Though they stress different aspects of His role in the world, the witnesses of the Christ all agree concerning His divine nature in their accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The full force of prophecy also presented Him as the Messiah, the “anointed one,” which finds its New Testament equivalent in the word for Christ. Its meaning stems from the practice of anointing, used there to acknowledge one as God’s choice for a particular office. Prophets, priests, and kings were often shown to be God’s men for the office through the ceremony of pouring oil upon the individual’s head. The question arises about which office of the three Jesus was meant to fill. We do not have to choose one over the others, for Jesus came to fill all three—prophet, priest, and king.

He is that prophet like Moses, speaking for God with authority and finality (Deut. 18:15-18). In fact, He is God’s final prophet, coming after a long line of divinely sent spokesmen (Heb. 1:1-2). His prophetic role comes “in these last days,” in connection with God’s final arrangement for mankind. Jesus also is God’s priest (Psm. 110:4; Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:17). One of the astounding portraits of the Christ in the Hebrew letter is that of His high priestly role, as He offered Himself for the world’s sins and then took the blood of His own offering into the holiest of holies in heaven. We lose something of the Christ’s significance if we ignore Him as king. The same passage in Psalms 110 also speaks of His people (subjects) being willing in the day of His power (royal, kingly), and Zechariah declares the simultaneous execution of His dual roles as priest and king on His throne (6:13). Jesus assumed none of these roles and undertook no initiative on His own, but He did all in subjection to the Father’s will. For all of this work He had been “christed,” anointed by the Father. So secure was His standing with God and the basis for it—His messiahship and His deity—that not even the gates of Hades would be able to prevail against the building of the church in the death of the Savior. What certainty the affirmations of the Approved One here conveyed!

Could there be any more solid and enduring foundation for the church? The attempts of men to start their own religious organizations have always manifested their own plans and ideals, but Christ came in demonstration of that eternal wisdom planned by God before the world began. When the church sprang forth on the earth, beginning on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb, she came out of the divine womb as a consequence of people’s willingness to hear the prophet, submit to the king, and benefit from the priestly work of Christ. Such was the substance of Peter’s confession and such also was the very foundation of Christ’s people, His church. Only in hearing Him, bowing before Him, and being cleansed by Him does anyone have any standing with God and any part in His church. Whatever foundation the church has and whatever permanence Christians enjoy in God’s long-range plan, we own to the foundation laid by Christ for His church. Such a foundation assures a people trusting in the One sent by the Father and anointed by Him.

By Bobby Graham

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