Summary: A discussion of that famous statement by Jesus calling Peter "the rock."

As we continue answering your questions let’s go to this week’s email:

"Good morning Pastor Shane!

I have been slowly....... reading thru the book of Matthew.

1. The one thing that I’ve intended to ask you about is Mt 16:19. To what is Jesus referring?

*I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven ; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.*

Early on I was taught a certain thing about these verses, and then a while back on a message board, some ladies were discussing it and it blew me away that their explanation of the verse was WAY different than what I had been taught. Truely, when i reread it in context, I dont see what I would have expected to see, so I thought this would be a good one to ask you about. To me it is one of those verses that , as you’re reading along with understanding, and then come upon this verse, you sort of say to yourself.... *okay....*, meaning, what exactly does this mean?


This question has come up from three different individuals, so it obviously is one that is on people’s minds. This tells me there has been some difference in teaching and understanding of this passage.

I know of abuse of this scripture both intentional and unintentional.

I myself have been guilty of misapplying this scripture out of ignorance and not understanding the full context of what is being said here.

Like all scriptures, we must be sure we have a full grasp of what the actual meaning is and not what we want it to be to make a point or support what we are comfortable with.

With an open mind, let’s try to let go or “loose,” if you will, our preconceived ideas and even hopes for this text.

I hope no one is sitting there praying that I side with them in some debate over the meaning of Jesus’ words.

My intent as always is to get to the truth and show forth the reality of what has been recorded for us regardless of where that leads.

Like the other subjects we have delved into, this one is quite controversial, in fact, it is extremely controversial. It is very hard to get at the full meaning because there are so many variables within the translations we have. So hard in fact that many have tried to not only explain it, but to explain it away.

So varied are the opinions on this text that it will be impossible to present them all. Fact is, I could spend weeks with you on this conversation Jesus had with His disciples.

I am going to try to get through the highlights tonight and next week as there is no way to even do that in one session.

Let’s read the full passage in question: Matthew 16:13-20

I know the primary question is on “binding and loosing,” but to answer that question we need to back up just a bit and look at one other statement here:

v. 18 “18And 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.”

The Catholic Church has built their system of governance and even their application of following Christ on this passage. Their claim is that Jesus was installing Peter as Pope here and giving him supreme authority equal to that of Jesus

The assertion that Peter is the rock on which the church is built is a common one espcecially among Catholics because that is the easy understanding among many translations. The assertion goes even farther as we will see in verse 19 later on.

There are two other commonly held beliefs as to the translation of this verse:

Some see Peter’s confession of Jesus as the rock and see the church as built on those who likewise confess Christ as the Son of God

Then it is held by some that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore He is the foundation or rock on which the church is built.

Let’s look at verse 18 now and begin to break it down and see what is being said here.

“And I tell you that you are Peter” - Jesus is making a strong statement here. He calls him Peter which means rock, here lies the controversy (though I’m not sure why, it seems clear to me)

The original word is “petros” meaning a small stone or moveable rock. It was often used to indicate a stone that could be thrown.

Jesus is saying that yes, Peter is strong and his life will last in his legacy, but then Jesus said “and on this rock I will build my church”

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