Is Peter The Rock?

A number of years ago, I was talking to Catholic youth group. Of course they believe that Jesus established Peter as the Rock that His Church was to be built on. When they asked if Peter was the Rock that the Catholic Church was built on, I did not have any other answer for them. However, it got me to thinking.

I went home and looked up the passage. It is Matthew 16:18 (NIV): “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” On the surface, the Catholic youth seemed to be right.

The Greek Words For Peter and Rock

Then I looked up the passage in the original Greek. “Peter” is the English word for the Greek word “Petros.” The English word “rock” is translated from the Greek word “petra.” Also, petra is a very large rock, not a small stone, otherwise Jesus would have used another Greek word for rock (lithos) which means a small rock or a stone.

Then it dawned on me. In the original Greek, Petros is a masculine word and petra is a feminine word. In Greek, a masculine word cannot refer to a feminine word. Greek syntax does not allow it. Petra is a feminine derivative of the masculine word petros. So Jesus deliberately used a feminine word for rock so that we would not equate it with Peter’s name.

If that is the case, what does petra (rock) refer to? It cannot refer to petros (Peter), so what does it refer to?

Look At The Context In Which It Is Written

I then looked at the passage within the context in which it was written. We should always look at passages in the Bible within the context in which it was written. Jesus had just been talking to them about who people say that He (Jesus) was. The Disciples were saying that some say He was Elijah and others say that He was Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

Then Jesus asked: “But who do you say that I am.” Peter spoke up and said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 (NIV).  Peter was saying that Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed One of God.

Why did Peter say this? It was because of the faith that Peter had in Jesus. He had been walking with Jesus for some time. He had listened to all that Jesus was saying. He believed what Jesus said. Peter had a faith in Jesus that no amount of argument could change. No one could change his mind about Jesus. This was a very bold statement that he just made.

Rock Refers To Faith Not Peter

Why is this important? When I looked up the Greek word for “faith” I found out. The Greek word for “faith” in Greek is “pistis.” And guess what? “pistis” is a feminine word. This is what Jesus was talking about. Peter had just expressed his undying faith in Jesus. Jesus was saying that He was going to build His Church on this type of faith.

Jesus was telling Peter that “you are a rock” and it is upon this type of faith that you have that I am going to build My Church. A faith that is unshakable and unmovable. A faith that is bold and unstoppable.

What Does This Mean For us?

Does this mean that Peter had a faith that would never fail? No. Remember that Peter was the one who denied Jesus three times. It was not that Peter would never fail. No matter how much faith we have in Jesus, we are frail human creatures and it is all too easy for us to fail. Peter did. But he quickly repented of his sin. And that is what we also must do when we sin.

Jesus was saying that when we demonstrate the kind of faith that Peter had, we would move the Church of God forward. Without that kind of faith, the Church would never grow. Without that kind of faith, the Church would never even get started. But it is that kind of faith that had caused the Church to spread around the world.

This Is the Kind Of Faith That We Must Have

This is the kind of faith that we must have. It does not mean that we will never sin again. But it does mean that whenever our weakness causes us to sin, we will immediately repent of our sin and, as God tells us in His Word, He will forgive us. It does mean that when we believe that strongly in Jesus, that we will be able to boldly proclaim Him to the world, beginning with those that are closest to us.

Jesus said that it was His Father in heaven that revealed this truth to Peter. And this is exactly what we must do. We must allow God to reveal His truth to us. And this is done through studying His Word (our Bible) and spending time in prayer. Is this what you are doing? If so, you can have the same type of faith that Peter had.


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