Series 23


by Francis Dixon

(Scripture Portion: Matthew 16:13-25; Commendation: Verses 17-19)

This word of commendation given by our Lord to Peter leads us to the study of what is perhaps one of the most deeply significant passages in the Gospels – Matthew 16:13-25. Christ and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi, situated north of the Sea of Galilee on the east side of Jordan (not to be confused with the other Caesarea on the coast of Samaria – Acts 12:19; 21:8; 23:33). Here, our Lord revealed to His disciples some important lessons:

1. The most important question is: “Who is Jesus Christ?”

Look at verses 13 and 14. Why did our Lord ask this question? It was not because He did not know what others were thinking of Him but to bring expression from His disciples and in order that He might reveal Himself to them. He asked the question in verse 13, and received the reply in verse 14. Who is Jesus Christ? Is He just a wonderful man, or is He God? – look up Matthew 27:41-46. What we think of Christ is extremely important, for what we think of Him will determine what we do with Him (Matthew 27:22), and what we do with Him will determine what He does with us (John 8:24).

2. The Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Look at verses 15-17a. In verse 15 our Lord asked the question, and in verse 16 Peter, always more forward than the others, gave his answer. Peter was sure – and for his clear statement concerning our Lord’s essential mission and deity Peter won His immediate commendation. From verses 15 and 17 we learn two things:

  1. Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God – verse 16. He is not man who became God, but God who became man – compare John 1:1 and 14:
    1. “In the beginning was the Word” – His Eternal Being.
    2. “The Word was with God” – His Distinct Personality.
    3. “The Word was God” – His Essential Deity.
    4. “The Word became flesh” – His Incarnation and Humanity.
  2. Our Lord acknowledged Himself to be the Son of God – verse 17. Compare John 5:23; 8:42; 10:30-38; 14:9-10; 16:27-28; 17:5, 24.

3. Our Lord’s true nature is only understood by divine revelation.

Look at verse 17. Peter’s confession of the person of Christ was a revelation from God, not man! – compare 1 Corinthians 12:3 (last part). The Jews cannot see Jesus as their Messiah because a veil is over their eyes (2 Corinthians 3:14-15); Gentiles likewise are in the dark until their eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit – compare Matthew 11:25-27. What is our testimony concerning the Person of Christ? Is He God – or is He man? With Thomas we say – John 20:28!

4. Christ is the Foundation, the Builder and the Preserver of His Church.

Verses 17 and 18 tell us this. Notice Christ’s dogmatic assertion – “I tell you…” – what? Three things:

  1. He is the Foundation of the Church – verse 18. If Jesus had meant He was going to build His church on Peter, why did He not say, “And on you I will build my church”? Matthew deliberately used two words to make clear to all generations that Jesus did not say that He would build His church on Peter. “You are Peter (Petros – a stone) and on this rock (Petra – meaning a large rock) I will build my church.” Christ Jesus is the great foundation, and there can be no other – look up 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:4-6. “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord…”
  2. He is the Builder of the Church. He said, “I will build my church…” It is His church, He is building it, and He will complete it.
  3. He is the Preserver of the Church. He said, “The gates of Hades will not overcome…” These words were prophetic of the conflict which the church would experience all through the centuries. We are experiencing that warfare today. The Devil is on the warpath; but here is our Lord’s word guaranteeing the security of His church – look up John 10:28-29.

5. Our Lord gives His servants authority to act and speak in His Name.

Notice two things in verse 19. The first part of the verse has a dispensational reference. Peter was to open the door to the Jews (which he did on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2); and then to the Gentiles (which he did in the house of Cornelius – Acts 10). The second part of the verse has a disciplinary reference. Binding and loosing have to do with discipline within the church – compare 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 2:1-11. Closely linked with these words are our Lord’s words recorded in John 20:23. What do they mean? Do ministers or servants of Christ have the power to forgive sins? No – look up Mark 2:10. They mean that Christ’s ambassadors have authority to declare God’s way of forgiveness, which is through faith in Him and in His atoning work.

6. The central truth about Christ is His Death and Resurrection.

Verses 20-23 emphasise this. The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus are the subjects of all biblical types and prophecy, and when Christ came and died on the cross He fulfilled these. Concerning verse 21, we notice that all through His life He was conscious that He must go to the cross and die and be raised again. His death and resurrection should be the central point of all our preaching – look up 1 Corinthians 2:2. This is the one theme the Devil hates most – look at verses 22 and 23. Why? Because by His death He finally defeated Satan – look up Hebrews 2:14.

7. We can only follow the Christ of the Cross by the way of the Cross.

Notice verses 24 and 25. Not only was His suffering and death on the Cross the central thing in His life, but it is to be central in our lives if we are His disciples. Thus, our Lord was saying to Peter, “Yes, the Cross for Me…” (verse 23), “and for you too…” (verse 24). And this is what He says to us – look up Hebrews 13:12-13.