The Son of the God, the living one.” This is a clear testimony to the living church ministries. Jews understood that to be called the Son of God meant that person shared in the essence and attributes of God. The name “Peter” refers to a detached stone, but the word “rock” refers to a bedrock or cliff.
There are various interpretations of this bedrock. Some believe that it refers to Jesus Himself; others believe that it refers to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Some think that the rock refers to the teaching of Jesus, while others think that it refers to Peter (this is the general Roman Catholic view, although some evangelical theologians share this view).
The gates of Hades refers to all forces opposed to Christ, although some believe that it simply refers to death and that what Jesus was saying was that the church will not die. According to the Full Life Study Bible, “This passage does not mean that any particular believer, local church, fellowship of churches or denomination will never fall into immorality, doctrinal error, or apostasy. Jesus Himself predicted that many will fall from the faith, and He warns churches that are abandoning the NT faith to turn from their sins or face removal from His kingdom.The promise of verse 18 does not apply to those who deny the faith or to lukewarm churches.”
The keys, spoken about in verse 19, represent God’s delegated authority to Peter and the church. The Full Life Study Bible mentions the following: by these keys, the church rebukes sin and carries out church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18); prays effectively for God’s cause on earth (18:19, 20); binds the demonic and looses the captives; announces the guilt of sin, God’s standard of righteousness and the judgment to come; and proclaims salvation and the forgiveness of sin for all who repent and believe in Christ. Verse 20 presents something of an enigma, but Jesus simply did not want the disciples to publicize who He was because of the false ideas that the Jews had about the Messiah; such false ideas could have resulted in a revolution against Rome.
A proper revelation of Jesus means that you will have a proper understanding of His church, which is His body. Jesus is Lord of the church. To serve Him as Lord includes serving the church, to act in the best interest of the church. Ephesians 5:25 is instructive, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” To this we can add Ephesians 5:29, “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.” These verses clearly show the importance of the church to Jesus Christ. People claim that they love Christ, but they don’t demonstrate love to the people in the church. The apostle John challenges that dichotomy: How can you love God whom you have not seen but you cannot love the people around you whom you can see? We are either building or destroying the church.
Building the Church
People who build up the church do it out of a love for God and a love for the people in the church. There are various ways in which we can build up the church, but I will only mention a few. We build up the church by praying for the church. We are to pray for the leaders of the church. Leaders have an awesome responsibility and have to competently manage the whole church. Leaders have a greater accountability to God: James warns the saints that not many should be teachers, because teachers have greater accountability. Additionally, the enemy targets leaders and their family. We are to pray for all believers, particularly the ones that we may have some challenges with. The Bible tells us to bless and not to curse. Pray for others as you would pray for yourself: if you pray for favor, breakthrough, provision, healing and other benefits for yourself, then pray these same things into the lives of fellow believers.
We build up the church by maintaining the unity of the church. We need to be humble and have a right attitude to all believers. All believers are valuable to God and it is our responsibility to serve them as we would want to be served. We need to practice forgiveness. Jesus modeled this by asking for forgiveness for those who had crucified Him. Persons will do things against us whether intentionally or unintentionally. It is our responsibility to forgive them and to restore the relationship wherever possible. We need to deal with conflict in a biblical way. The first step is to talk to the person who has offended or sinned against you. If the individual shows no sign of repentance then you return to the individual with a witness. If that is ineffective then you take the matter to the leader who meets with the individual. If the person is still resistant and stubborn then the matter is taken to the church. Persons who reject discipline at this level are to be treated as unbelievers and barred from church fellowship. Maintaining unity also involves seeing things from other people’s perspective: we need to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.