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Jesus Builds His Church on a Rock

I want to create a Bible course on three levels:

  1. For committed disciples who are bearing fruit and already understand the Scriptures.
  2. For the active Christian who needs to understand God's call to discipleship.
  3. For those who need to find out they still need to become Christians.

All three courses will develop from Matthew 16:13-20. Reading and understanding this passage requires looking at passages that will carry the student step by step through all of Scripture.

Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

 The things to notice are:

  • Jesus really liked what Peter said.
  • He thought Peter could not have known he was Christ and Son of God without revelation from the Father.
  • He made some amazing promises.to Peter

And above all, we must notice that:

  • Jesus is going to build his church on a rock that is mentioned in this passage.

Normally, I would go on to questions that will lead the students to consider the passage for themselves, and as they come up with answers, I will give them more Scripture passages related to their answers. In this way, I hope to begin a never-ending path with branches that wind through the whole Bible.

In this case, one interpretation is really tough, so I am going to provide it as a freebie.

I will ask two unusual questions.

  • Who here knows this is probably the Roman Catholic Church's favorite verse?
  • Who here thinks this is proof positive that you should do whatever Pope Francis says?

Next I will use the questions to point out that when most Protestants read this passage, they focus on denying Roman Catholic claims rather than interpreting the passage. We, instead, want to find out what, or who, the rock is.

Typically, I will want the students to do their own interpretations, but I think this one's tough. Thus, the first interpretation is on me. Everybody, Roman Catholics and Protestants and Orthodox alike, agrees that the rock on which Jesus will build his church is Peter's confession. In addition, the Roman Catholics believe that Peter is the rock.

I think, then, before we go further, we will address Peter as the rock by going to 1 Peter 2:4-9. You should be able to hover over the Scripture and read it without me having to copy it to this page as a quote.

I generally ask two questions about every passage:

  1. What stands out to you in this passage, or what do you like about it?
  2. What is hard to understand in this passage or maybe even bothers you?

I will let the students discuss the passage, but I want make sure they see that Jesus is both the only foundation of the church and the chief cornerstone. I will introduce 1 Corinthians 3:11 in the discussion. We are all living stones built on Jesus. Peter, however, is the first of those stones. Thus, Jesus offered him rewards, which we will discuss when we get back to Matthew 16.

I will add two more questions to lead us back to Matthew 16.

  1. How do we become living stones like Peter?
  2. How did Peter know to make his confession?

I hope for a solid discussion about confessing Jesus as Christ and Son of God and the difference between this and confessing that he died for our sins. I will have them look at John 20:31 and Romans 1:1-5 in this discussion. Discussing the role of the revelation of the Father in our becoming living stones can lead to talking about the reality of our own faith. In regard to faith that Jesus is Christ and Son of God vs. faith that he died for our sins, I will use Romans 1:5 to ask:

  • How do you obey faith that Jesus is Christ and Son of God?
  • How do you obey faith that Jesus died for your sins?

Of course, in the process of that discussion, I will assure everyone that the Bible says repeatedly that Jesus died for our sins, but we will not find verses saying we are saved because we believe that. Instead, it teaches us to believe that Jesus is Christ and Son of God. 

This is more than enough for the first session and will probably take two sessions. For the more in-depth version of this course, we will look at all the apostles' sermons in the book of Acts, which would be a session all by itself.

In following sessions, I will ask what "Christ" and "Son of God" mean, and I will send them to Psalm 2. That will definitely suffice for an entire session. In the next, I will ask about the promises Jesus made to Peter. The keys to the kingdom will send us to Acts 2, 8, and 10. I don't have a passage to go with the promise about the gates of Hades. We will go to Matthew 18:15-20 to discuss binding and loosing. I may switch the order of those sessions. 

I doubt many people are reading this blog yet, but for those of you who are, feedback is welcome. I am trying to develop this course. If you have problems commenting, email me at paul@christian-history.org.

Thank you!

 

 

 

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