1 Peter: Peter the Rock


Peter explained to those reading his letter that because they had been born anew, born from above, bought with the precious blood of the Lamb of God, were to prepare their minds for action, discipline -themselves-, but set all of their hope on the -grace- Jesus brings.

Their new birthright would bring them—and us today—hope, holiness, reverence for God, and a life of love.

They were also to see themselves as ones hewn from God, as living rock with a special unity, built upon the Cornerstone of Christ, and as a priesthood whose purpose was to serve and glorify God, remembering his own vivid experience of being named a rock of faith by Jesus.


You Are Peter, A Rock

I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church . . .

Jesus to Peter, Matthew 16:18 (NRSV)

This was a play on words in both the Greek and the Aramaic: You are rock, and on this rock I will build my church.

The rabbis applied the word “rock” to Abraham, saying that God had carved the nation of Israel from the one who had obeyed in faith. Now Jesus was forming a new people from the first person who confessed him in faith. The word rock shows up again and again in scripture as The Lord God, “[God] is the Rock, [God’s] work is perfect . . . The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation . . . There is no rock like our God . . . The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer . . . Who is a rock, except our God?”

What might Jesus have meant?

  1.  It could mean Peter was the first leader of the church, and all those appointed down the years follow in his line
  2. Jesus himself, Son of God, is the rock upon which the church would be built and Peter was the first living stone. Other stones just like him, who come to the same confession of faith, would become the living stones with which the church is built.

This was how Peter interpreted Jesus’ saying when he wrote his first letter.

  1. It could be Jesus meant the rock was the truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God.
  2. Or it could be that the rock was Peter’s faith, the “Peterishness” of his belief

Peter was the beginning of the new people of the Lord, the new fellowship of those who believe in Jesus, including all those who love the Lord.

Gates of Hades

. . . and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

Jesus to Peter, Matthew 16:18 (NRSV)

Jesus must have swept his hands up to take in the cliff, the famous temple to Pan, and the gorgeous scenery all around them. The ultimate power of Satan, the seduction of temptation into sin, the rule of death that was ushered into the world in Genesis 3, would not be able to withstand the awesome power of the resurrection

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:55 (NRSV)

To this day the gateway of death is merely the lobby hall to Paradise for every believer. The moment of death is our best moment on this earth as we go instantly into the open arms of Jesus as He gives us a big hug and says: “Welcome home!”

Keys of the Kingdom

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven

Jesus to Peter, Matthew 16:19 (NRSV)

Rabbis used this phrase when they felt their disciples were ready to pick up the rabbi’s yoke and teach as he taught.

The illustration goes back to Isaiah 22 when Eliakim was given the key to the house of David. His duty was to be a faithful steward of the house, opening the doors every morning to let the king’s subjects in.

In the same way Peter was given the privilege of being the first to preach the good news to the Jews, in Acts 2, and inspiring the conversion of three thousand people. Later, in Acts 10, it was again given to Peter to be the first to introduce the gospel to Gentiles and witness their salvation and baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Loose and Bind

. . . and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Jesus to Peter, Matthew 16:19 (NRSV)

This was a very common Jewish phrase which referred especially to the decisions of the great rabbis and teachers.

  • To bind something meant to declare it forbidden.
  • To loose something meant to declare it permitted.

In a more literal translation, this is how the Greek would sound:

whatsoever you would bind upon the earth shall be -having been- bound in the heavens, and whatsoever you would loose upon the earth shall be -having been- loosed in the heavens.”

The authority to bind and to loose on earth as it was in heaven was eventually given to all but one of the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. The apostles were given authority by God to make decisions about the growing Church’s life and practice.

They were to exercise authority according to God’s word, and by the guidance of God’s Spirit. There were eternal implications in this. Reading through Acts and the epistles, it is evident how this binding and loosing worked, the Christian Testament was written, the new faith established. They were to establish on earth whatever God willed in heaven: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . .”

Revealing the truth about Christ is God’s work but telling the truth about Christ is our work

Peter saw himself in relationship to Jesus as the foundation rock and himself, along with every believer who comes to Christ, as like a stone built upon that rock.

All of this went into his metaphor concerning living stones building up the house of God.


[Apostle Peter with Keys | Girolamo dai Libri, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

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