“I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
– Matthew 16:18
Now this verse has caused all kinds of question, controversy in the history of the church. What does it mean for Jesus to say, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church?” So what is the rock that the Church is building on? Is the rock Peter or is it Jesus or is it the apostles? Is that the Gospel? And I believe the answer is yes.
Jesus is building His church, and the gates of hell cannot stop Him.
So think about it. What’s unique here is that Peter’s name means rock. So there’s a play on words. It’s basically Jesus is saying, “I tell you, you are rock and on this rock I will build my church”. Which certainly points us to the fact that Jesus is acknowledging some kind of foundation in Peter. “You’re the rock, Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”. But what was the foundation in Peter that was so significant?
Well, what happened right before this is Peter confessed his faith in Christ, he said, “Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:18 Calls Us Towards Confession of Our Faith
And Jesus is saying, “That confession of faith is the confession of faith upon which the church is built”. So this is Jesus in this verse saying, “In light of that confession, Peter you are an authoritative apostle sent out from me to proclaim this Gospel and upon you and your proclamation of this Gospel I will build my church.” So the rock of the church is the people of God proclaiming the truth about Christ, the Gospel of Christ. Specifically here, Peter, as the first apostle to make that declaration and then you get to Acts chapter two and Peter proclaims this Gospel and 3,000 people are saved. And as soon as that happened, the early church started devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching of the word and thousands more come to Christ in the days ahead and what we see is Jesus building his church.
And Peter was central in what Jesus is doing to build his church all throughout the first 12 chapters of Acts. Which is exactly why Paul said in Ephesians chapter two, “The church is built on the foundation of the apostles.” But the reality is wherever the people of God are proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, Jesus will build his church. It all started with Peter’s confession right here. But it would continue in chapters beyond chapter 12 in the book of Acts as Paul was proclaiming this Gospel and then in the rest of the New Testament and for the last 2,000 years, Jesus has been building his church as people have been proclaiming him as the son of the living God.
Matthew 16:18 Reminds Us that the Church is Still Growing
So think about what that means for our lives today. Jesus is still building his church. How is he doing it? He’s doing it through you and me proclaiming Jesus as the son of the living God. The church is growing today through you and me making this good news known where we live and wherever God leads us in the world. So realize the part that God has given us to play in the building of his church. Know this promise as the people of God proclaim the Gospel of Christ, Jesus will build his church and nothing can stop it. Death couldn’t stop Jesus and the gates of hell cannot stop the spread of the Gospel in the world.
So God we pray. Help us today to be faithful to proclaim this Gospel, to proclaim the truth about who you are. We pray for an opportunity today to share the good news of Jesus the Savior, the son of a living God. What he has done so that people might be forgiven of all their sins. So that people could be a part of your family. God we pray that you would build your church today through us, through our proclamation of the Gospel. We pray that you would give us confidence based on these verses that nothing can stop the people of God proclaiming the Gospel of God in the world. So help us to proclaim it confidently, boldly, compassionately, to people around us today and to people wherever you lead us in the world. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.