In chapter 16, Jesus and His disciples arrive in the district of Caesarea Philippi. Peter answers Jesus’ question of verse 15 with the knowledge that He is the son of God. Jesus declares that he was blessed to have such knowledge revealed to him by God Himself (verse 17). Unfortunately, verses 18-19 are the subject of much confusion and controversy. Many people get lost in scrutinizing the Greek and Aramaic words for rock, but the simple fact is that Jesus uses a play on words, as scripture very often does, with Peter’s name. And despite his flaws (and maybe even because of them), most of us really just like Peter. But the gospel is not about the glory of Peter. It is about Jesus, and our hope of salvation through Him.
The two verses are not so difficult to understand when you put them in context with verse 20, with the preceding verses, and with Jesus’ previous words about building a house on the rock (Matthew 7:24) The rock that Jesus is building on is the foundation of the son of God and His teachings; and his church or kingdom (Greek “ekklesia” – congregation or assembly) is the collection, or body, of people who have been saved by their obedience and faithfulness (Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Corinthians 12:13). When Jesus says that He will give him the keys to the kingdom (in contrast to the scribes and Pharisees who cause people to be shut out – see Matthew 23:13), He is speaking of the divine revelation of His word, that will be given to the apostles by the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15) to impart to us to be saved. That is when they will truly “get it.” The next part of verse 19 is best translated in the New American Standard Version, which in the correct tense says “and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Binding and loosing refer to forbidding and permitting, and the authority for their knowledge of it will be given to them. This is repeated to all of them in Matthew 18:18.
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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.