Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: Peter's Confession
Read the story very carefully, as it is one of the most important for you to know and remember. Notice especially what Peter said in answer to the Lord's question, who the disciples said that He was: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
You have learned that "the Christ" is the Greek word for the Hebrew "the Messiah," and that both mean "the Anointed One," which, again, means "the King," for kings were anointed with oil when they were crowned. Remember that when the angels announced the birth of the Lord to the shepherds in the field, they told them, "Unto you is born in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord." The Lord is King of kings. He rules in heaven and on earth. He rules by His Divine truth, which is the law that all must obey. And the oil with which He was anointed means the Divine love which is in the Divine truth.
What is meant by "the Son of the living God"?
The body which Peter and the rest of the disciples saw when they looked at Jesus was the clothing, or the Son, of the Soul that was in it, which Soul was the living God, and is called "the Father." When we look at a living person we see his body with his soul in it. When we look at a dead body, we no longer see the soul in it. A dead body looks very different from the living body. The soul is no longer in it. But when we look at a living body we see the soul in the body.
When Peter spoke to the Lord, the Christ, he was also speaking to the Father who dwelt in Him. He was speaking to "the Son" in whom was "the living God."
This is the reason why the disciples called Him "Lord" and also "God." This truth about the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important truth that we can learn. The acknowledgment of this truth is what makes the Christian church. When people do not worship the one God, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are not of the Christian church. This truth, and believing it from the heart, is like a great, solid, firm rock upon which a church building is erected; and therefore the Lord said to Peter after he had made this confession, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Of course the Lord did not mean that Peter was the rock upon which the church was to be built. He meant that what Peter said was "the Rock." The Lord told Peter that the words which he had spoken, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," were not from Peter himself, but that they had been given or revealed to him from heaven. So that this truth, or this rock itself came from heaven, "My Father who is in heaven hath revealed this unto thee."
But as Peter had expressed this truth he came to represent it. He stood for the truth that he had expressed, and therefore the Lord called him a "rock" - not Peter as an individual person, but as a representative. He represented the "rock" or the truth. The name "Peter" is Greek, and comes from a Greek word "petra," meaning "rock."
It is very important to understand that the Lord spoke of Peter as a representative. Then you can understand further that, when the Lord said to Peter, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven," of course He did not mean that the man Peter would have the keys of heaven, but that what Peter represented, that is, the truth regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, has the power (meant by "keys") to open heaven. For, everyone who believes from the heart, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the God of heaven and earth, of course obeys His commandments, and in this manner heaven is opened to him by means of the truth which he has taken into his heart.
Do you know that there are very many people who do not understand this, but think that the Lord meant Peter himself, as a person, when He said that He would give him the keys? These people are called Roman Catholics. No doubt you have seen their fine churches and cathedrals. They believe that Peter was the first pope, that is, the first head of the church; and that when he died, his keys to open heaven were given to the next pope; and that when he died, they were given to the pope after him; and so on until the present pope has the keys, or the power to open or shut heaven. In other words, that only he whom the pope lets into heaven goes there, and he whom the pope keeps out of heaven cannot go there. But all this is a mistake, a falsity.
It is easier to understand that the Lord did not give Peter any keys, like those we use, made of brass, or iron, but that he meant spiritual power by keys. For as a key gives us the power to open a door, so there is a spiritual power which opens heaven. And just as the Lord did not mean keys by "keys," He did not mean Peter by "Peter." Peter means the truth about the Lord. When this is received into anyone's heart and life, it has the power to let him into heaven. But when it is not received or believed, then its power is such as to keep the person out of heaven.
If you ever see gilded keys in a Roman Catholic procession, or in Roman Catholic pictures, you may know that they are put there to symbolize the belief of the Roman Catholics, that their pope has the power to open or shut heaven, as he pleases - a belief which is mistaken and false.
Remember the truth, that Peter represented faith from charity, or belief from the heart in the Lord Jesus Christ as the God of heaven and earth, whose human nature is Divine.