Matthew 16:18
This famous sentence, which is emblazoned in great letters of gold round the interior of the dome of St. Peter's at Rome, has been a centre of controversy in the Church for generations. It would be beside our present need to discuss the history of that controversy. Leaving out of account the angry arguments of polemical theology, let us see what positive truth our Lord is here teaching us; for too often the jewel of truth is lost by both parties in a quarrel while they are contending as to who has a right to the possession of it.

I. ST. PETER'S CONFESSION IS THE ROCK ON WHICH THE CHURCH IS BUILT. Accepting this idea as the most probable outcome of a fair exegesis of the passage, let us see what its real significance is.

1. The Church is built on Christ. He is its Author, its original Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11), and its chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). When we abandon faith in Christ we forsake the grounds of our faith.

2. The Messiahship and Divinity of Christ are essential to the stability of the Church. These two facts were the contents of St. Peter's confession. The Church cannot rest on vague sentiments concerning Christ. Exact philosophical definitions may not be attainable; the history of theology shows that the effort to form them nearly wrecked the Church. But the great central truths themselves are essential.

3. The confession of these truths is requisite in order that the Church may be firmly planted. It looks as though our Lord spoke of the confession as being itself the foundation. We must have faith in Christ before we can profit by him, and we must have courage to confess him if we would possess a robust Christian life.

II. THE CHURCH ON THIS ROCK WILL BE SECURE.

1. It is built by Christ. Therefore the superstructure will be sound as well as the foundation. Our Lord is ever at work on his Church. He can do nothing with those who will neither believe him nor confess him. But wherever he finds the faith and confession, he himself builds up the strong structure of a Christian character.

2. It is assailed by evil. The powers of hell attack the Church because she is their enemy; therefore the question of a sure foundation is of vital importance. The floods are sure to come and try the house.

3. It cannot be overthrown. This is a positive prediction of Christ's, and it ought to dispel our fear and confirm our faith. Of all he has predicted nothing has failed. He promised that the grain of mustard seed should become a great tree; and his promise has come true. His assurance that nothing shall overthrow the Church built on the true confession of faith in him has proved to be correct for nearly twenty centuries.

4. Its security is shared by those who confess the faith it embodies. St. Peter's name is justified by his rock like confession. The Christian character is confirmed by a loyal faith and a bold confession. The spirit of St. Peter's confession is typical of the Christian heroism that can withstand all attacks of doubt or opposition. - W.F.A.







That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.
I. Let us dwell on PETER'S PROFESSION OF FAITH. It is not a learned, complicated, or even detailed exposition. Full of depth. It was a rich source of happiness for Peter — "Blessed art thou." What is the Church of which the Saviour speaks?

II. THE CHURCH EXERCISES ITS POWER THROUGH FAITH. The power of the Church, as regards its essential features, is expressed in the words, "I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." This power not conferred on Peter exclusively. Our Lord did not connect the exercise of this power with one condition, one external and human position; but with the quality of disciple of the Son of God. When any faithful voice proclaims to you the design of God in regard to your salvation, he has the authority of the voice of God Himself; a Divine sentence is uttered respecting you; if you abhor your sins they will be forgiven; if not they are retained.

III. BY FAITH THE CHURCH TRIUMPHS OVER ITS ENEMIES. "The gates of hell," etc.

1. What is this hell whose power shall not prevail against the Church? Its enemies — external, internal.

2. How shall it resist these enemies? Not by violence, carnal display; by faith.

(The late Pastor Verny.)

I. A BUILDING — "My Church." Not a material building; made up of all true believers.

II. THE BUILDER — "I will build," etc. The true Church is cared for by all the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. Christ uses subordinate agencies in this building.

1. His wisdom. Each in right place.

2. His mercy. He despises no stone.

3. His power. In face of opposition.

4. The children of this world take little or no interest in the building of this Church.

III. THE FOUNDATION.

1. It was laid at a mighty cost.

2. It is very strong.

IV. IMPLIED TRIALS.

1. Marvel not at the enmity of hell.

2. Be prepared for it.

3. Be patient under it.

4. Be not cast down by it.

V. THE SECURITY.

(Bishop Ryle.)

I. THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH THE CHURCH RESTS.

1. How ancient.

2. How firm.

3. How enduring.

II. THE AGENCY BY WHICH THE CHURCH IS REARED.

1. Christ appoints the means.

2. Christ provides the instruments.

3. Christ communicates the blessing.

III. THE PERPETUITY WITH WHICH THE CHURCH SHALL BE HONOURED AND BLEST.

1. Notwithstanding the ravages of death.

2. Notwithstanding the power and policy of Satan.

(G. Brooks.)

1. Presumptive evidence of the safety of the Church. It is dear to God; purchased by Christ.

2. Positive declaration of the safety of the Church.

3. Actual facts and experience.The Church in Egypt under Joseph.

1. This ministers comfort to believers.

2. If God does prepare affliction for His Church, it is for her good.

(J. G. Lorimer.)

I. THE EDIFICE of which the Redeemer speaks. Not any material building. It rises through successive generations.

II. THE RELATION in which Jesus Christ stands to this edifice.

1. Its foundation.

2. Its Architect.

(1)As Architect He selected its site. He fixed it on earth.

(2)He drew the plan.

(3)He prepares the materials.

(4)He employs the workmen.

3. Its Proprietor. It is His Church.

4. He is the guarantee of its stability.

(T. Raffles, D. D.)

I. GOD'S CHURCH — My Church."

1. The foundation — "rock."

2. The superstructure.

3. The Builder — "I."

II. THE CHURCH'S FOE. Paganism led the van. Fanaticism.

(T. Mortimer, B. D.)

I. Peter's confession of his own faith in contrast to the report of the other disciples as to who the people said Christ was.

II. Peter's confession, contrasted with the delayed speech of the other disciples.

III. Peter's confession as contrasted with the less explicit confessions of others that had preceded it.

IV. How the promise to this man of rock was fulfilled. What is there in your character and conduct on which the Lord can build His Church?

(John Poster)

Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Divine character as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, and the foundation of the Christian Church.

I. THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS, FOR EVERYTHING THAT DISTINGUISHES IT AS SUCH, DIRECTLY DEPENDENT UPON CHRIST AS GOD. The Church is distinguished from all other forms of organized society —

1. By its peculiar origin and history. It comes up out of the past as no other form of organized society ever has or can. It takes root in the garden of man's innocency, immediately after the first sin.

2. By the character of its members. No other organization has ever been found thus constituted.

3. By its system of government and law. Governs from within.

II. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, BEING THUS BUILDED UPON HIM, AS MESSIAH, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD, IS ASSURED OF SECURITY AND PERPETUITY.

1. The yawning gates of death, open to receive the Church; the gates into which all human travellers pass. The disciples were dying men; enemies might say that the Church would pass away with the few fanatics who had been deceived by it. Believers have died, but the Church lives.

2. The Church's security and perpetuity beyond this earthly life. The heavenly Church.

(A. J. Kynett, D. D.)

I. WHAT THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS.

II. AS TO THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH.

1. Negatively. Not Peter.

(1)He was but a man.

(2)Peter was a frail mortal man.

(3)Peter was a sinful man.

(4)Peter determines the point himself, and expounds the prophecy in Isaiah of Christ (1 Peter 2:4).

(5)Peter, as mere Peter, could never victoriously grapple with the assaults of Satan.Some assert that Peter was the foundation in a secondary sense.

(1)This secondary foundation is an absurd distinction, and contrary to the very nature of a foundation.

(2)It would have to be extended to all the apostles.

2. Positively — that Christ is the only true foundation of the Church.

(1)God the Father selected no other.

(2)Christ asserts no other.

(3)The Holy Spirit fits no other.

(4)Only Christ can withstand the gates of hell.

III. THE DURATION OF THE CHURCH, IN SOME STATE OF VISIBILITY THROUGHOUT ALL AGES.

1. The Church's opposites" the gates of hell."

2. Their great undertakings.

IV. COMFORT FOR ALL TRUE MEMBERS. OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.

1. Let holy souls be comforted in this — that no weapon formed against Mount Zion shall finally prosper.

2. The Church, after all assaults and conflicts, shall be completely victorious, she shall joyfully survive her enemies, and behold their funerals.

(S. Lee, M. A.)

"Satan hath emptied his quiver, but hath not hurt the Church." By how much the more the enemies rage against her, by so much the more the true professors of piety and faith increase: not unlike the vine, that grows the more fertile by pruning; or as the palm, that rises the more erect after weights and pressures; gad although in time of trouble like some plants that shut up their flowers upon a storm, yet afterward display their lively and lovely colours more oriently to the face of the shining sun.

(S. Lee, M. A.)

I. To WHAT the Saviour refers as to the foundation of His Church.

II. THAT THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH IS A TRUTH — "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God."

1. A truth in itself indestructible.

2. A truth never to be invalidated.

3. A living truth.

4. A uniting truth — "My Church."

(G. S. Green, D. D.)

Christ assures us here of the constancy of the assaults which Satan will make upon the Church and its members. He does not promise the removal of trial and tribulation, assault and temptation, but Divine strength by which to overcome evil.

1. That the truth which Peter has here confessed shall never be lost to the great body of His faithful ones; that the Church shall never, as a whole, fall from the faith, or lose its hold of the truth.

2. That however corrupt many of the members of the Church shall be, it shall never be wholly depraved, or fall utterly from that sanctity which it has through union with Him.

3. That human councils, and man's devices, and Satan's assaults upon the Church, shall never prevail; for, since it is of God, it cannot come to naught.

(W. Denton, M. A.)

Christ's Church is(1) A community of free men. There are no slaves in it, and no criminals; no strangers and foreigners.(2) A community gathered together for a public purpose.(3) Gathered together by a call. It is divinely called out from among the mass of those who are determined to be slaves or criminals, or who are wilfully willing to remain foreigners and strangers to Christ and Christianity.

(J. Morison, D. D.)

Here Christ represents the Church as an edifice, of which He is the Architect and the Builder. The kind of edifice is not specified. And indeed it could not well be, at least exhaustively. It is a house. It is a temple. But it is a city too, gathered around the central temple, and into which, indeed, the temple has expanded. It is Zion. It is Jerusalem. It is the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem. It is a place of perfect security. It is a fortress, standing high upon a rock. It is a safe city of refuge. Its "defence is the munition of rocks," or of what is far better and stronger than rocks.

(J. Morison, D. D.)

1. The Architect.

2. The Building.

3. The Foundation.

4. The materials.

5. Its permanence.

(Anon.)

A little way to the left of the village there stands the majestic ruin of the Castle of Banias, built on the rocky crest of a projecting spur of Hermon, which rises a thousand feet above the village, and it is itself several hundred feet higher. Is it possible to doubt that the eye of the Great Master and His disciples was turned, while He spoke, to that castle upon its rocky base, filling up the whole view eastward, and that he doubled the impression of His sayings, as He so often did, by surrounding them with the framework and casting on them the colouring of a natural picture?

(A. Thomson.)

The Church of Christ is not a material building, a temple made with hands, of brick, or wood, or stone, or marble. It is no particular visible church on earth; it is made up of all true believers in Christ, of every name and rank and people and tongue. All visible churches on earth are its servants and handmaidens; they are the scaffolding behind which the grand building is going on. the husk under which the living kernel grows. The Temple of Solomon in all its glory was mean and contemptible in comparison with this Church, which is built upon a Rock; small and despicable though it may be in this world, it is precious and honourable in the sight of God. Statesmen, rulers, kings, and all the rowers of hell, may scheme and plan against it; they are only the axes and saws in God's hands, in the erection of Christ's spiritual temple, the gathering in of living stones into the one true Church.

(Bishop J. C. Ryle.)

I. THE CHURCH IS BUILT ON CHRIST. It is built on Jesus Christ, and not upon any idea or representation of Him.

2. It is built upon the historical Christ.

3. But if it is built on the historical Christ, then it must be built upon the theological Christ — the Christ as represented in the doctrines of the Church.

II. THE CHURCH IS BUILT UPON CHRIST AS THE GOD-MAN.

1. It is built upon the God-man.

2. It is built upon the God-man, and not upon the man-God.

3. It is built upon the God-man, and not upon any theory.

III. The Church is built upon Jesus Christ as the God-man SLAIN.

1. To be the foundation of the Church it was necessary that He should be slain.

2. The idea of the God-man slain seems to be the foundation of all the thoughts of God.

3. And as the "Lamb slain" was the centre of the Divine thoughts before the creation of the world, so will He become the centre of the myriad thoughts of redeemed humanity after the creation shall have been destroyed.

4. Make sure of your foundation. Build a Church

(1)not on creeds;

(2)but on the Bible.

(J. C. Jones.)

There is a picture frontispiece in Wycliffe's Bible which, to my mind, is very significant, very prophetic. There is a fire burning and spreading rather rapidly, representing Christianity; and around the spreading fire are congregated a considerable number of significant and most important individuals, all endeavouring to devise methods whereby they can put the fire out. Among the number, I see there one gentleman with horns and a tail, I suppose representing his satanic majesty; and another is the Pope of Rome, with a few red-coated cardinals; Mahomet, I believe, has a representative there too, and there is another representative of infidelity; and they are all devising some means, suggesting some method whereby to extinguish the fire, and after considerable cogitation one of them suggests that they should all make a desperate effort to blow on the fire till they blow it out. The resolution is adopted, and there they are with swollen cheeks and extended lips, blowing upon the fire with all their might, but instead of blowing it out, they are blowing it up, and they blow themselves out of breath before they blow the fire out. It is an unquenchable flame, and no human power can extinguish it.

(Richard Roberts.)

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