On This Rock

Last evening, a brother in Christ started a study of difficult Bible passages.  I found his presentation thought provoking, so I decided to write a few blog entries about it.

He began with Matthew 16:13-20.   What makes this passage difficult is verse 18:

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Christ’s words challenge us because who or what the rock represents is not immediately apparent.    During the study, the brother described the three principal ways one could interpret “the rock”:  either the rock is Peter, or it is Peter’s faithful confession of Christ (see verse 16), or it is Christ Himself.  And, I might add, it could be some combination of the three.

Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to consider the merits of each interpretation.  Quite frankly, I believe two of these have more Biblical grounds than the third.  However, I’m interested to know what you think the rock represents.  What do you think is the foundation of Christ’s church?

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Seeking to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ by talking with people who love the truth.

7 thoughts on “On This Rock”

    1. @Marion Thanks Marion for entering the discussion. I received this comment in private. It was well stated, so I asked if I could post it anonymously.

      One of the strongest arguments, in my opinion against the rock referring to Peter is the difference of the nouns in the Greek. Strong’s word 4074 is a masculine noun, and is the proper name for Peter where as the “rock” on which God will build His church is 4073 and is the feminine form of the word. Furthermore, when you look into the meanings of those words and the differences between the masculine and feminine verbs, the masculine form is a detached or singular stone where as the feminine is a collective of rocks like a mountain, cliff, or other large rock structure. The feminine noun is the same word that is used in Matthew 7:24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

      Most Greek scholars, however,believe that petros and petra were synonyms in the first century so all the quibble about the masculine and feminine is pointless. Some also make good points that the original text would have been in Aramaic which had only one noun for rock (kepha) and that it made more sense in Greek to use the petra rock collective as a foundation, but that it would have been inappropriate to refer to Peter in the feminine noun.

      I realize not everyone will agree with what this commentator states, so I would love to hear some more discussion on the topic.

  1. As I mentioned in the introduction above, I believe there are two viable options for what the rock represents. Craig already identified the faithful confession of Peter as his preference, and I agree for the reasons I listed above.

    However, I also find Christ represented as a rock throughout the Old and New Testaments. Take, for instance, the quote I mentioned from Romans 9:32-33, “Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” The stumbling stone and rock of offense is Christ. If we believe in Him, we will not be disappointed.

    Peter’s confession is a confession all true disciples of Jesus share. However, the confession is meaningless unless the subject is what He claims to be. The promises associated with the confession are trustworthy because Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of God.

    Who or what is the rock? Is it the confession of Peter? Or, is it the subject of Peter’s confession?

  2. @Craig H I could not agree more. In Revelation 1:18, Jesus says He has the keys to Death and Hades, indicating that He was given the authority to open and shut Satan’s most powerful weapon and man’s greatest prison. Even in death, the church triumphs in Jesus Christ. No effort of man will prevail against those washed by the blood of the lamb, who hold to His testimony, and who do not love their lives to death. The gates of Hades could not hold our Lord, and they will not hold His church.

  3. @Wade I think that there is a part of Jesus comment that too often gets overlooked (or at least that is my experience) ” the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Not overcome it meaning – will not prove stronger than it. The focus is on the everlasting nature and the supreme power of the church that Christ was going to establish. It indicates that Christ’s church would not be overpowered by evil and that it would endure. To me, this has value when ideas are circulated that there was a time when the church was unrecognizable during the dark ages or when statements are made that the church is being destroyed in present times by sin in society or by eroding American freedom. The fact is: if you’re on Christ’s side you are going to win and if you’re not on Christ’s side he is still going to win. Christ was telling Peter (my paraphrase): “you’re right that I’m the Christ and I’m the son of God. I’m going to sacrifice my life and take the sins of mankind with me. I’m beating sin for good and through me people will have access to God, His Spirit and eternal life. The church that I’m establishing will be the earthly, and later heavenly, body where saints can live washed clean by my blood and nobody is taking that opportunity away.:

  4. @Craig H I think you’re interpretation has scriptural backing. In Romans 9:33, Paul supports his assessment of the Jewish rejection of Jesus with this quote from Isaiah 8:14-15: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” The rock is Jesus who the majority Jews failed to believe was the Messiah. Faith in Jesus, not the works of the Law, is how one obtains righteousness.

    After discussing the simplicity of faith in 10:1-8, Paul concludes in verse 9, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.'” It is the confession of belief in Jesus — the rock — that saves the soul. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Son of God. That confession, shared by believers everywhere, helps forms the bedrock of Christ’s church.

    However, I do think the rock may be more than just Peter’s faithful confession, but I’m interested to hear what others have to say.

  5. To start the discussion: I think that “this rock” was reference to his statement “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This statement and a is the foundation for His church.

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