"But what about you?" He asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."" Matthew 16:15-16
Matthew 16; Mark 8, 33; Luke 9:18-27
How is your church's confession?
Key point: Our confession is measured in its "fertility." That is, how is the Fruit of the Spirit that should be growing in and through yourself and the people in your leadership and congregation. The fruit is meant to come through you as a collective in all things, to one another and your neighborhood and the world. Our collective faith will be tested--not to attack or cause us to fail--to teach us to be more faithful, stronger, and better so we can be better to those around us. God wants us holy and pure in Him. This is what gives Him glory and builds a great healthy church!
Who do you say I am? How can this be when Jesus is so humble?
Peter's confession is a lesson to us that we have to remain in His truth and not worry about what crowds have to say. Their wonderings are conflicting opinions that are rooted in only ideas rather than facts. Would they want to know the Truth if they knew their beliefs were wrong? Or would they not care, desiring rather to stay in their wrong beliefs? Peter's confession is about not following the crowds, but rather allowing the Father to reveal, by the work of the Spirit, who Jesus is. He IS the One who reveals! There is no person or opinion, no matter how good and informed, that can take the place of His Revelation.
Jesus is not seeking information; rather, He is showing His Disciples how to take ownership of their faith and mission by focusing on who He really is and what our response must be. Peter seems to answer on behalf of them all.
Confession is not just a mere statement. Confession is a realization that takes hold of the Father's leading and election and makes it real in our lives so we bubble over to tell others about Him.
In the response of Jesus to the confession, it is important to note that the rock is the Truth that Peter is confessing--not Peter. Church traditions--not the Bible--stress that Peter is the foundation, and all those who confess build on his foundation. In Catholicism, the line of Popes all directly ascend from Peter--not by birth, as kings, but by confession and the laying on of hands (Isa. 51:1-2; John 6:46-49).
The "rock" Jesus refers to is not Peter himself, but rather the foundation that His Church is built on. The foundation is Christ (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph2:19-22). The O.T. often spoke of people being used to build a foundation (Ruth 4:11; Jer. 1:10). The key is God, and our prayer for Him that builds us up (Psalm 51:18; 69:35; 147:2; Jer. 24:6; 31:4; 28). We become the living stones who remain in Him by the confession of our faith, as Peter did.
Death cannot silence His message or His church. These are great words of hope and comfort for the soon-to-be persecuted Church.
Church (Greek ekklesia) means "to call out." This term was used by the Jews, then for a "remnant community" such as the Qumran community who composed the Dead Sea Scrolls and who founded this term (versus the name of a synagogue or gathering). The Greeks used this term to refer to people assembling in the cities for clubs or organizations. Later in the NT, this term jumps to its full meaning as the ones who are called out (Acts 7:38). In its context, Jesus is using this term to expand His claim of Messianic leadership (Matt. 16:21-23; 18:17; 26:28).
Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven differs from the "Keys of Heaven" that only Jesus holds. (Rev. 1:18). The Key is our faith that turns the tumblers in the lock of His door, locked because of our sin. He is the One who opens the door for us. In ancient cultures, the person who had the keys was the most powerful, the leader of the servants. In the OT, a high official held symbolic keys to God's Temple. A key represents the authority to choose who would enter (Isa. 22:20-22; Mark 13:32-34; Matt. 18:18; Acts 2; 8:14-25; 10; 14:27; Eph. 3:5).
The Gospel is about One God Who is Sovereign and loves while we are separated deeper and further than we can imagine from His salvation because of our sin. Yet, God is the One Who seeks us out with a love deeper and further than we can imagine and wants to reconcile with us.
The concept of sin has fallen away from secular understanding. People think they are good as long as they have not done anything "really bad" like murdered anyone. They do not understand the depravity and how we are fallen away and are not able to have any relationship with God. Thus, people do not see the reason and need for the Gospel (Acts 17).
When we confess, we must understand the Gospel. When we do, we then apply the Gospel by putting off those sins and desires that are contrary to God's call and principles and put on proper understanding of God's Word to produce His Fruit. In so doing, we put on our good character because He is good and desires to work in and through us. Our ethics come from our relationship with Christ and in understanding His Lordship and the application of His Word, not just from obligation or ritual or law (Eph. 4:25-32; Col. 3:1-17).
Our growth in Christ has value! Real, impacting, growing faith requires our diligence.
We are asked to not stay at the confession, but to continue our Christian growth as an ongoing effort and apply His Truth so our hearts become centered upon Him. Just think what self-control, patience, endurance, godliness, and love would do for you and those close to you (2 Pet. 1: 5-11)! Our failure to obey God will cause us to lose out on so much in life and in eternity. Our diligence to remain faithful and obedient with virtue will help enable others to do so. When we obey God, He will reward us beyond our ability to fathom!
Jesus gives us a clear picture of His purpose for us, which is to acknowledge Him as LORD and worship Him. He is our meaning; He is our purpose!
This is what we confess, and this is what Peter did. Unless a person comes to faith in Christ, His teachings are meaningless, and we have no purpose. It takes the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to illuminate our hearts and minds so we can receive His Truth, and so we can have purpose. This purpose gives us keys to eternity that death itself cannot take away.
This illumination becomes our faith by Christ's work on the cross. This work becomes our redemption, our salvation; it is not of us--not our repentance or our prayer. It is only of Him. He is our purpose and the meaning of our life, both here on earth and for our life to come. When we have received His confession and have made it our own, we can confess His wonder to others and God will use His Spirit to empower that confession as a small part of His revelation.
Lead your church to confess, and live it out. Grow in Christ and pursue the faith with all due diligence, no matter what!
Life is not about our wants, needs, and comfort; it is about Christ working in us more powerfully and triumphantly. The key to turn on this engine of our spiritual formation is our willingness to pursue, endure, and grow. Allow the holiness of our Lord, His grace, His patience, understanding, faith, loyalty, goodness, and love to be exhibited in you--not by imitation, but with gratitude and submission, kept by His power (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:27; Gal. 5:21-23; 1 Pet. 1:5)!
© 2016 R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/