“Thou Art the Christ”

Matthew 16:13-20

MARK relates the gradual healing of a blind man by our Lord (8:22-26). First he saw men as trees walking, then after a second touch he saw clearly. Is it not a lesson that not all are healed instantly, but that our Lord often uses a gradual process?

Three Gospels (Matt. 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21) record Peter’s confession of our Lord as the Christ, the Son of God. Men still differ concerning our Lord’s first question: “Whom do men say that I am?” To some He is one of the prophets or a great teacher or a great ideal. But Jesus comes down to the individual with “Whom say ye that I am?” It is because of who He is that the Master is what He is. Sadly, many speak kindly of Him today who will not confess Him as Christ and Son of God.

Much argument has raged about our Lord’s statement: “Upon this rock I will build My Church.” Of course, “this rock” has been made to mean Peter himself, a view utterly out of line with the Word, for Peter never claimed to be more than an apostle and elder. It has also been held that the Church was built upon Peter as “a foreshadowing of redeemed humanity confessing Christ as Son of God.” This, too, would make the Church rest upon man. Others hold that the Church is built upon the apostle’s confession, but the Church does not rest upon a creed or a doctrinal statement. It is more likely that by “this rock” our Lord meant Himself for Christ is the foundation of the Church as Peter himself says (1 Pet. 2:4-9).

Against this Church all the powers of hell shall not prevail! Then, our Lord gives to Peter the keys of the “kingdom of heaven.” Not the keys to heaven nor to eternal life, but to the kingdom in the sphere of Christian profession. It was Peter who opened the door of Christian opportunity to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-42) and to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:34-48). But let us remember that Peter was not infallible, for he himself later tried to close the very door which he opened (Gal. 2:11-18).

The power of “binding and loosing” was not authority to decide the eternal destinies of souls but authority to pass upon matters of discipline and doctrinal and moral issues. A rabbi received at ordination authority to decide upon what was lawful and unlawful. That which was allowed as lawful was said to be “loosed,” and that which was unlawful was “bound.” This is the terminology our Lord used here.

It is evident that we have here a delegated authority which the church today is failing to use. Of course, it must be used only under the Spirit’s guidelines, and it is there we fail because we are so little under the Spirit that when we undertake these matters we decide and act mainly in the strength of the flesh. The thought is well brought out in John 20:22-23 where authority to retain or remit sins is given, but this prerogative is first prefaced by Christ’s symbolic breathing out of the Holy Ghost. Unless the Spirit empowers and directs, we have no true authority and can only make matters worse.

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