Answer: The verses often quoted in support of Jesus giving authority to Peter is found in Matthew 16:18-19. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
There are several points to consider upon looking at Matthew 16:18-19:
- Peter, to whom these words were addressed, emphatically stated by his teachings that the “rock” of which Jesus spoke referred to God (Acts 4:8-12; 1 Peter 2:4).
- Jesus used the same figure of speech to refer to Himself (Matthew 21:42; Luke 20:17).
- From very early times the figure of rock was used by the Hebrew people as a specific term for God (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 18:2).
- Paul affirms that Christ was the Rock (1Corinthinas 10:4; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
- It is the faith in Jesus that saves (John 1:12).
- Had Christ made Peter chief among the disciples, they would not thereafter have been involved in repeated arguments about which of them “should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24; Matthew 18:1).
The name Peter is derived from the Greek word “petros” – a “stone.” The word “rock” is in Greek “petra” – large mass of rock. Obviously a “petros,” or small stone, would, make an impossible foundation for any structure, and Jesus here affirms that nothing less than a “petra,” or “rock,” could suffice.
This fact is made even more sure by the words of Christ in Matthew 7:24 ”whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them“ is like “a wise man which built his house upon a rock [Gr. petra].” Any structure built upon Peter [Gr. pertos], a weak, erring human being, as the Gospel makes plain, has a foundation little better than shifting sand (ch. 7:27). Christ is the Rock that that church is build on.
Could Peter qualify to be the Rock? The scriptures say no. Here is why:
- The gates of Hell prevailed against Peter when He allowed Satan to speak through him (Matthew16:22). Then Jesus answered Peter saying “Get thee behind me, Satan thou art an offense unto me” (Matthew.16:23).
- The gates of Hell prevailed again against Peter when he thrice denied his Lord (John 18:25).
Peter was an erring human but the church of God was built on the faith in Christ that he expressed “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). By faith in God can the church prevail and triumph over all the powers of darkness.
The “keys” to the kingdom of heaven are the words of Christ (John 1:12; 17:3). Christ Himself speaks of the “key” here referred to as “the key of knowledge” of how to enter the kingdom (Luke 11:52). The words of Jesus are “spirit” and “life” to all who receive them (John 6:63). It is the words of Christ that bring eternal life (John 6:68). And the word of God is the key to the new-birth experience (1 Peter 1:23).
In His service,