Matthew 16:17–20 ESV
17 And 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. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

This is the final sermon of the series on Jesus’ declaration, “I will build my church”.

You have Jesus after he’s done praying, come to the disciples and ask the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (v13). And the people thought many things except what was true. So, he asks them, “But who do you say that I am?” (v15). And Simon responded with the truth. Peter made this confession only because the Father touched him. If he were left to his own flesh, he would have come to the conclusion of all those other people.

And upon this faithful man, Jesus said, “I will build my church”. And subsequent to that, throughout the book of Acts and throughout church history we have witnessed how Jesus has built his church upon such faithful men.

When Jesus told Simon, “You are Petros” which means the rock and “Upon this Petra” which means a much larger rock “I will build my church”, I believe that Jesus was referring to Peter the apostle in both cases, but in the second it was more than the mere man, he was a man touched by God.

The two words ‘Petros’ and ‘Petra’ wouldn’t have been different in the Aramaic language which is most likely what Jesus spoke when making this statement. But Matthew intends to draw a certain distinction between the two words.

And a possible reason for this is the verses he records immediately after this passage,

Matthew 16:21–23 ESV
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

  • Peter’s mind was touched by the Father because he made the glorious confession. And later we see the same Peter set his mind on the things of man and is rebuked by Jesus.
  • I believe Matthew is trying to emphasise that God chose this faithful man to be the instrument that he would use to build his church, and he would do that on much more solid ground than the flesh of Peter.
    A single stone does not support the building constructed on top of it by itself, because it lies on top of a large cliff or boulder. Peter would not shoulder the church singlehandedly but rather take point or leadership in shouldering the church and that church is built on what Peter is standing on – God (more specifically here the revelation of God).

    • And when I say God, I also mean whatever means that God ordains. The ‘petra’ needn’t be just one thing, but anything that God would use to hold Peter up. It could be faith, the fellowship, the church members, co-elders, the preaching of the word, the counsel of the wise; all of it will hold Peter up as he takes leadership to shoulder the church, and it would be a mistake to think that he carries the whole weight on his own.
      • Jesus prays for Peter’s faith –
        Luke 22:31–32 ESV
        31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

The devil had demanded to have ‘the rock’, the Petros, to sift him like wheat. But the petra would not let his faith fail. The petra that revealed Christ’s true identity to Peter would not let him fall. It was Jesus’ prayer that resulted in Peter’s confession, and it will be Jesus’ prayer that keeps Peter’s faith.
When you have turned again – There will be a fall, but not a falling away because you will turn again, and when you do, strengthen your brothers.

      • Peter’s denial of Jesus –
        Matthew 26:69–75 ESV
        69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. That night you couldn’t tell Judas Iscariot apart from Peter. The Petros was failing, and the petra (the prayer of Jesus would hold him). Apart from that prayer, Peter would have ended up hanging next to Judas Iscariot.
        He went out and wept bitterly, while Judas,
        Matthew 27:5 ESV
        5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
      • Peter was freed from prison with the help of the church’s prayers –
        Acts 12:1–11 ESV
        1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.
        The Petros was rescued by the ‘petra’ the bedrock of God’s provision through the prayers of the saints, of the church.
      • Peter conceding to Paul’s rebuke –
        Galatians 2:11–21 ESV
        11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. That’s a long public rebuke from the least of the Apostles to the chiefest of the apostles. And from all that we know Peter received the rebuke. His thoughts about Paul were
        2 Peter 3:14–16 ESV
        14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
      • Paul’s incredible ministry – Although Peter had a significant role in the early church, there were others like Paul who had an amazing impact on the church, so much so that they looked like one among equals.
        The Petros firmly rested on the petra.
    • Now, the word petra, apart from its direct use to refer to an actual bedrock, is used metaphorically in two other places. One in
      Matthew 7:24 ESV
      24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
      And the other in
      Luke 6:47–48 ESV
      47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.
      In these other metaphoric uses, the petra directly refers to God’s word. Therefore, I believe that in Matthew 16, the petra refers to all of God’s power and provision, such as Jesus’ own intercession, the church’s intercession, and the accountability of fellow believers; but that it primarily refers to the greatest power and provision God has given us, his holy word, the Bible.
      Simon made the confession of faith because of God’s revelation. And if Simon was called Petros, then the revelation of God is the petra that upheld him.
  • When Jesus asked the question, “But who do you say that I am?”, the pronoun ‘you’ there is plural, meaning that he directed the question to all his disciples, not just Peter. But once Peter responds, every use of the pronoun ‘you’ is singular, meaning that Jesus was specifically talking about Peter.
  • I tell youyou are Peter – I will give you the keys of the Kingdom – whatever you bind on earth – whatever you lose on earth -> It is all directed at Peter.
    And that is another reason why I find it strange to assume that this text is not specifically about Peter. When theologians labour to separate ‘petra’ from ‘Petros’ to such an untenable degree.
    All of this is “you Peter!”.
    Why then do we not venerate the seat of Peter like the Catholic church does? Well, because the text does draw a balance.
  1. The fact that Matthew ensures to distinguish between the ‘Petros’ and ‘petra’ is a clear indication that he, and by extension, the other apostles, including Peter, understood that Jesus was not handing down unqualified power to a single individual.
    We don’t see that kind of power given to any man apart from Christ, either here or even in the way the fulfilment of Peter’s ministry is laid out in the book of Acts.
  2. The fact that Jesus begins by attributing the revelation that Peter has to his Father’s doing and not Peter’s flesh and blood, changes the focus off of Simon the mere man to Peter the man whom God uses.
    Philippians 1:6 ESV
    6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
    Peter, God will bring it to completion, not you. The ‘Petros’ is not the foundation, the ‘petra’ under the Petros is the foundation.
    Peter, you will be God’s instrument. It will be God who wields you.
  3. The fact that Matthew accounts for Peter’s folly in the immediately following verses is, I believe, an intentional emphasis to show the divide between Peter and the hand of God in Peter’s life.
  4. The fact that what we read in
    Matthew 16:19 ESV
    19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
    we also read later in the:
    Matthew 18:18 ESV
    18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    Here, Jesus is talking to the church at large, to all the disciples and he applies the same authority to all of them.
  5. The fact that Bible records the rest of Peter’s life and we do not see an absolute authority given to him over all the disciples. He is their leader but is the first among many equals.

For these reasons, I do not see the blessings that Jesus bestows on Peter as being an exclusive principle, but I see him rather as the first of many.
In Acts 2, Peter was the first to preach the Gospel to the Jews at Pentecost.
He was the first to the Samaritans in Acts 8.
And he was the first to the Gentiles in Acts 10.

It is God’s intention to bless faithful men touched by his hand, to be instruments upon whom Christ will build his church.
And hell cannot prevail against that work that God does.
Like Peter, Jesus looks at every Christian believer who truly confesses Jesus is Lord by the work of the Father’s hand upon their lives, and says, “Upon you, I will build my church”.

If you’re looking for a reason to be part of the local church, there you go.
If you’re wondering what God’s call upon your life is, there you go. It is to build his church upon you. Not on top of mere flesh, but on top of the petra. Just as Peter was upheld by all of the provisions God prepared, so shall we be held up by the hand of God.

And as I mentioned in the first part of this series, we find God’s promise fulfilled in Peter’s life through the local church.

Oftentimes, believers are too quick to draw a distinction between the Universal Church and the Local Church.
But we need to understand that whenever the Bible talks about the church or the duties of the church, it is specifically referring to local bodies. The Universal Church is real but it is invisible. Many of the instructions like in Matthew 18 cannot be carried out without a realised congregation.
Since Peter is one man, we find in the book of Acts, how God used the leadership of this man to build local churches.
Peter is a local man who served local churches, and so is everyone whom the Christian God touches, therefore we are all called to the.

Keys to the Kingdom

Matthew 16:19 ESV
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

He gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The one who holds the keys has the power to grant entry to those who come and shut out those who are unwelcome.
The elaboration of binding and loosening makes that point even stronger. Whatever you bind together on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you lose on earth is loosed in heaven. In the Matthew 18 portion, when Jesus applies the same role to the church in binding and loosening we have more context that shows how through spiritual discipline a person might be won back from a sinful lifestyle or excommunicated from the church – binding and loosening.
However, we have to understand binding and loosening from the context of the ‘Petros’ and the ‘Petra’. We have to understand the context of ‘flesh and blood’ and ‘the work of the heavenly Father’.

Therefore, the binding and loosening we know are not at the will of Peter or anyone else who can unilaterally decide who goes to heaven and who doesn’t.
We are saved not by ‘flesh and blood’ or kept by it. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to the word of God alone for the glory of God alone.
But God, in his divine providence was pleased to bind and lose people for salvation and for destruction through the ministry of the church. Therefore, ex-communication from a healthy church is a dangerous proposition because it is, biblically the earthly sign of heavenly rejection. Now, I say healthy church because it is possible and has happened before where unhealthy churches have excommunicated genuine believers.

A similar text can be found in
John 20:23 ESV
23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

  • Again, this is not unilateral power given unto man, but God’s power manifests in and through the life of man and the church.

So, taking Matthew 16 and 18 into account, the obvious way that the church, during Peter’s time and ours, identifies those who are bound and loosed is through Church Membership.
You cannot put out someone who is not first put in. Those who belonged to a church were held accountable to the church.
To put more meat behind this thought, look at what Peter did in way of building the church.

To Elders and Members
1 Peter 5:1–5 ESV
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Modesty and Submission
1 Peter 3:1–6 ESV
1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

If we look to other parts of Scripture,
Hebrews 13:17 ESV
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

  • Obey your leaders.
    1 Timothy 3:5 ESV
    5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
  • Caring for the household is a stepping stone to caring for the church. And just as you have boundaries on who belongs to the household, you have boundaries on who belongs to the local church.

All of the letters of the NT are written to local churches and they are focussed on ordering the church and regulating principles of worship. In all this, the local church was definitive, visible, identifiable, specific, ordered, and disciplined.
1 Corinthians 5:1–2 ESV
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

Titus 3:10–11 ESV
10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Matthew 18:17 ESV
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Hebrews 10:25 ESV
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Now, I have used many examples of spiritual disciplining only because that helps make the clearest case for church membership. But the other side of it, of loving one another, edifying, caring and praying for one another, all require a coming together and accountability.
But, how do you use the keys? The primary means of using the keys of the Kingdom is through the preaching of the word, which culminates in Church Membership (Acts 2)

Acts 2:40–41 ESV
40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Luke 11:52 ESV
52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”


Jesus will build his church on the shoulders of faithful men whose strength does not lie in themselves but upon God who powerfully works within them.
Colossians 1:28–29 ESV
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.