Today we enter a text that has been a source of controversy. So, let me quote it in full and offer just a few brief remarks: .
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ?Who do people say the Son of Man is?? 14 They replied, ?Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.? 15 ?But what about you?? he asked. ?Who do you say I am?? 16 Simon Peter answered, ?You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.? 17 Jesus replied, ?Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 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. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.? 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
1. Jesus evokes a confession from Peter. Jesus responds — and most of this is only in Matthew’s Gospel — and uses kingdom.
2. I consider this important, but not all agree: church and kingdom are laid side by side in this text: “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. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
3. Does this equate the two? Not at all. Does it distinguish the two? Perhaps. But what it clearly does is connect the two: Jesus is building his Church and Peter is given the keys to the kingdom. I cannot but think kingdom and church overlap in some sense.
4. The Church, since it is Jesus’ work, will not be thwarted by the Enemy or by Death.
5. Peter, somehow, has keys; keys are used to lock and unlock doors and gates; Peter is the one given the charge to open and shut doors or gates.
6. What are these keys for? It says to bind and loosen — and keys and binding/loosing, like church and kingdom, are laid side by side as if they are nearly the same thing — and this has a variety of meanings, the most popular of which seems to be the capacity to render judgment for the church on what to believe and how to practice discipleship.
7. The future perfects — “will be bound/will be loosed” — shows that when Peter renders judgment, and this is passed on to the other disciples in 18:18, he will be rendering a judgment already decided in the heavens. Thus, the passage says Peter will be guided by God’s Spirit to render divine decisions.
8. You can’t get away from it: here is considerable authority to the apostles (which extends for us to the NT) and to God’s Spirit guiding the church. This text does not endorse the Eastern Orthodox or the Roman Catholic; instead, it promises guidance to the apostolic community. That guidance, as extended into our day, will have to be rooted into that apostolic guidance in what I prefer to call the “primacy” of Scripture.