Study 5 WITH THE DISCIPLES AT CAESAREA PHILIPPI
OUR LORD’S INTERVIEWS
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Matthew 16:13-25)
In this study we are looking at the meaning and significance of these verses. Verse 13 tells us that Jesus and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi, which was situated north of the Sea of Galilee and on the east side of Jordan; it should not be confused with the other Caesarea on the coast of Samaria. Professor E. M. Blaiklock says, ‘It was a rocky region with the snow-capped peak of Hermon high above…’ Here, Jesus had this significant interview with His disciples and revealed lessons that are of great importance:-
1. The most important question of all is: “Who is Jesus Christ?”
Look at verses 13 and 14. Why did our Lord ask the question? It was not because He was ignorant of what others were thinking of Him, but to draw out His disciples and so that He might reveal Himself to them. Having asked the question in verse 13 he received the reply in verse 14. There are no more important questions than these: “Who is Jesus Christ? Is He just a wonderful man, or is He in fact God?” (Matthew 27:41-46). It is supremely important what we think of Christ for this 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 Christ is the Son of God, the Son of Man, and the True Messiah.
Look at verses 15,16 and the first part of verse 17. In verse 15 Jesus asked the question, and in verse 16 Peter, who was always more forward than the others in addressing the Lord, gave his answer. How many of them had arrived at this conclusion we do not know. Perhaps some of them were still wondering, but Peter was sure. We learn two things from verses 16 and 17.
- 1. Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God (verse 16). That is, 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 humanity and Incarnation.
- 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, 17:24. If Jesus was not the Son of God, He made a false claim, and He was therefore an imposter and a deceiver.
3. Our Lord’s true nature is only understood by divine revelation.
In verse 17 Peter’s confession was not the result of any effort on his part. It was based upon God’s revelation (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); and Gentiles likewise are in the dark until their eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 11:25-27). It is significant that most modern cults are in error over the deity of the Lord. But we say with Thomas – John 20:28!
4. Christ Himself is the Foundation, Builder and Preserver of His Church.
Verses 17-18 tell us. Notice Jesus’ dogmatic assertion, “And I tell you…” –
- 1. He is the Foundation of the Church (verse 18). If Jesus had meant He would build His Church upon Peter, why did He not say simply, ‘And upon you I will build my Church’? The word ‘Peter’ (Petros) means ‘a bit of rock‘, but Jesus’ reference to it is not the same. It is “Petra“, used of the rock itself of which a ‘petros‘ would be a fragment. Matthew, who wrote this Gospel, deliberately used two words to make clear to all generations that Jesus did not say that He would build His Church on Peter. Christ confessed as Lord is the great foundation, and Peter says there can be no other (1 Corinthians 3:11; Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:4-6).
- 2. He is the Builder of the Church. He said, “I will build my church…” He is doing His work and He will complete it. It is His Church.
- 3. He is the Preserver of the Church. “The gates of Hades will not overcome it…” Those were words spoken prophetically of the conflict and warfare that the Church would experience all through the centuries. We experience it today; the Devil is on the warpath; but here our Lord’s word guarantees the security of His Church and His people.
5. Our Lord gives all His servants authority to act and speak in His Name.
Verse 19 tells us this. Notice the first part has a dispensational reference. Peter was to open the door to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. He did this on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2); in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). The second part of the verse has a disciplinary reference. Binding and loosing refer to discipline within the Church, action honoured in heaven. Linked with these words are Jesus’ words in John 20:23. Do Christ’s servants have power to forgive sins? No! (Mark 2:10). They mean that Christ’s ambassadors have authority to declare God’s way of forgiveness – through faith in Him and His atoning work.
6. The central truth about Christ is the fact of His death and resurrection.
Verses 20-23 emphasise this, and these are the subjects of all biblical type and prophecy. When Jesus died upon the Cross He fulfilled the Old Testament types and prophecies. His death and resurrection should be the substance of all preaching (1 Corinthians 2:2) and this is the one theme which the Devil hates most of all, because by His death He finally defeated Satan (Hebrews 2:14).
7. We can only follow the Christ of the Cross by the way of the Cross.
See what verses 24-25 tell us. Not only was the Cross, sacrifice and suffering of Jesus the central thing in His life, but it is to be central in our lives if we are His disciples. Jesus was saying to Peter, ‘Yes, the Cross for me…and for you too’ (verses 23-24).This is what He says to us – look up Hebrews 13:12-13.