Is Peter the "rock" upon which Jesus said His church would be built?

MATTHEW 16:13-23

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And 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.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

On this dissertation of Jesus to the disciples rests the entire foundation of the papacy, in which it claims that Jesus made Peter the foundation of His church, and gave Peter the authority to rule the church as it's head. The Popes claim to be Peter's successors, and govern the Roman Catholic church in this capacity.

The Popes also claim to have the keys to Heaven, and by "excommunication" or separation from the church body, they can keep a person from entering Heaven. But let's take a closer look at a few things here.

"upon this rock I will build my church;"

First, the word Peter comes from the Latin "petrus" meaning "a stone". However when Jesus made His statement in verse 18, He used two different words. When He said "upon this rock", he used the word "petra", meaning bedrock. So when He spoke to Peter, he essentially said, "You are a stone, but upon bedrock I will build my church"

This same word for bedrock was used by the apostle Paul when he wrote to the Jews in Corinth, saying;


1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Note that Paul correctly calls Jesus the bedrock, using the same word that Jesus used to describe the bedrock upon which He would build His church. Paul had also previously reminded the Corinthian Jews;


9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Paul was saying that he had first preached Jesus to the Gentiles in Corinth to establish the solid foundation required for the building of their faith. From there he was able to build the necessary doctrines required for understanding the message of salvation and what is required for Christian living.

Any builder knows that a building must first be built upon a solid foundation, starting with the first cornerstone, or the building will quickly collapse. Jesus, trying to make a point that even the common people could understand spoke of this when He said;

MATTHEW 7:24-27

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Note: Jesus used the word "Petra" (bedrock) when He said that the good house had been built upon a rock. Jesus is again plainly expressing that HE is the bedrock foundation upon which the church and our faith and hope is built.

The apostle Paul reinforces this point when he told the church at Ephesus;


19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone];

21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Verse 20 is in reference to Isaiah's prophecy of;

ISAIAH 28:16

16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner [stone], a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Any building that is built of stone blocks must start with the cornerstone, which rests on a solid foundation. All of the other building blocks are referenced from this cornerstone, making the cornerstone the most important point of a building.

According to the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is both the foundation and the chief cornerstone of the foundation, the stone and foundation upon which the entire building is built! Jesus is the foundation upon which all of the prophecies and promises of God to His church rest, not Peter!

Throughout the Bible, you will find many references to the fact that God is referred to as "a rock", denoting an unmovable foundation. And this being the case, why would God build His church on sinful Man who perishes, in violation of His own word to build his church on sinless Jesus Christ who is eternal?

And if you note what Paul is saying in Ephesians 2 verse 20, the foundations are not the apostles and prophets themselves, but their doctrine, teachings and prophecies.

Therefore the Catholic church is greatly in error in proclaiming that Jesus made Peter the "rock" upon which His church is built. God built His church foundation on Jesus Christ in accordance with His prophetic word, making Him also the chief cornerstone on which the entire foundation of the church is built.

And claiming that Peter is the "rock" that Jesus spoke of, is to make Peter equal with Jesus, thereby elevating Peter to the position of God. And considering Jesus words to Peter in Matthew 16:21-23 above, Jesus hardly considered Peter to be the bedrock upon which He would build His church.

Add to this the fact that Peter's first name was "Simon", meaning "sand" in Aramaic. And whenever Peter sinned, Jesus would remind him of this nature by calling him "Simon", reminding him that his faith tended to shift like sand. Hardly the one to build the church foundation upon! Personally, I think Jesus gave Simon the surname of "Peter" because of his stubbornness, rather than his supposed immovable will.

"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven"

This is an interesting verse. The Papal "coat of arms" or crest if you will, shows a pair of keys symbolizing that the "keys to the kingdom" were given to Peter, and supposedly to his successors, the Popes after him. But what are these "keys"?

Jesus made the issue quite clear when He publicly rebuked the lawyers and doctors of the Old Testament Law concerning the fact that the common people, most of whom could not read or write, depended on these doctors and lawyers for correct doctrine. These people had difficulty entering the kingdom of heaven because of the corrupt teachings by the very ones who should know the Law better than anyone else.

Jesus said to them;

LUKE 11:52

52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

Jesus says that the key to the kingdom of Heaven is knowledge! The apostles were given Jesus' teachings to spread to the world, as only through the knowledge and understanding of God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible can we hope to enter heaven!

And as we all have access to the Scriptures and it's teachings, we all have the keys to the kingdom of heaven. No man holds the keys alone. Therefore no human being can keep another from entering the kingdom of heaven by "excommunication" or by any other means. Only Jesus, the righteous Judge can keep you from entering the kingdom of Heaven.

As He Himself said, when speaking to the apostle Thomas;

JOHN 14:6

6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

No man can come to the Father in Heaven, except through Jesus Christ. And the Catholic doctrine of "excommunication", or separating believers from the fellowship of the church thereby denying them access to Heaven, is in direct violation of Jesus words, when He said;

JOHN 6:37, 44-45

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Jesus plainly states that God the Father (not the "Holy Father") determines who will come to Him to be saved. And those sent to Him by the will of the Father (not the Popes), He will not cast out, or cast away. The Catholic church has no authority over the destiny of believers.

And while the Catholic church teaches there is no salvation apart from the church, the Scriptures teach that there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ. The church is a body of believers, and has no authority to pick and choose who will or will not go to heaven. And any such claim to do so, usurps the authority of Jesus Christ who does have authority to do so.

"and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

This is a much-disputed piece of Scripture, and I have heard many interpretations. But I will explain two meanings which I feel this fits, as it is both a blessing and a warning.

Jesus has given us power over Satan and his works here on earth. And if we bind and break his power here on earth, it is also broken in Heaven, where he accuses the believers before the Throne of God.

Satan is a spirit, and no weapon on earth can touch or harm him. That is why God has given us spiritual weapons to use, weapons that CAN harm and defeat him. Therefore whether he is in Heaven accusing believers, or on earth wreaking destruction, we have power over him, but only if we are aware and obedient to Jesus Christ!

The second interpretation which I feel is just as valid, goes along with what Jesus told the disciples after His resurrection as He commissioned them to preach to the world. These words are also binding on us as well.

JOHN 20:21-23

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace [be] unto you: as [my] Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; [and] whose soever [sins] ye retain, they are retained.

Unfortunately I have seen a letter from a Catholic monastery written to a renowned Christian publisher, saying because of his "vehement stand against the Catholic church", by their authority his sins were retained and God's grace was removed from him.

Really? This is a blatant misinterpretation and misuse of the Scriptures. What Jesus really meant in verse 23, is that we are to be diligent to forgive those who wrong us. If we forgive others for wrongs performed against us, then we are following Jesus commandments. However, if we retain the sins of others against them, our sins will also be retained before God. As Jesus told the disciples, and us as well;

MATTHEW 6:14,15

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

MATTHEW 18:21-35

21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

If you do not forgive others when they sin against you, neither will you be forgiven. Period.

Both cases as explained above concerning the meaning of John 20:23 are valid according to Scripture, and are equally important. And just as no man has the authority to forgive sins that are not committed directly against them, even so no man has the authority to retain sins of others which have not been committed directly against them. Period.

In summary, we have proven from Scripture that Peter cannot be the "rock" upon which the church is built, as Jesus used two different words in the Scriptural passage. He also rebuked Peter immediately afterward as being used by Satan, putting Peter in his place among men. A sinner, no different than anyone else.

The Old Testament is rife with descriptions of God as being a mighty rock, a bedrock foundation that cannot be moved. We have also seen that Jesus is the bedrock foundation and the chief cornerstone of the church He described in the Matthew 16:18 passage.

We have also seen that the "keys of the kingdom" that Jesus described are the keys of knowledge, both of the Scriptures and of God Himself. No one can enter the kingdom of God without this knowledge. If they could, there would be no need for preaching the Word.

Jesus granted Peter and the apostles understanding of the Scriptures, and moved them to write His teachings so that we too could have the keys. Therefore the Papal "excommunication", in which people are supposedly barred from Heaven by the authority of the Pope has no Biblical basis at all, and to claim to have this authority is to try to usurp the authority of Jesus Christ.

We have also discussed the passage concerning the authority to bind on earth and in Heaven. We can bind Satan and his demons, bind and break their power both in the physical realm as well as the spiritual realm.

We have also seen that we dare not retain sins of others that they have sinned against us, as our sins will be retained against us by God. Again, this is authority to bind and loose here on earth and in heaven.

Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Forgive not, and you will not be forgiven.

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