No Apologies Round Two

"Few if any recent generations could sit with a Bible in one hand and their newspapers in the other and see the fulfillment of prophecy, but for us it’s almost routine." Jack Kelly

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Rock- Who or What is Your Foundation Built Upon?

A lot of times I get ideas for something to write about by conversations with others.  I've had the same topic come up in numerous places for the past few months about something which many people find themselves at odds with others about, and something which seems to be a stumbling stone for many in the Catholic Church- and that is, What or Who is the Rock that the Church is built on.

I want to address this from a couple of angles.  We need to understand Who Jesus is talking about when He tells Peter, "Upon this rock, I build my church", and we need to know what kind of foundation or props we have built our faith upon. As Jesus tells us, the foolish build their houses on sand, where storms can wash the house away, and the smart folks  build their houses on rock- a firm foundation where nothing can shake it.  We must be wise and build our faith on the strongest possible foundation- solid rock, so nothing will sway or shake our faith in Christ.   So- Who is the rock, and have you built your faith on this rock?

Let's begin in Matthew 16, where Peter has just proclaimed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." When Jesus asked his disciples who they believed he was. Peter answered correctly, and to this, Jesus replied, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 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."

Many people read Jesus' words here and believe that Jesus first changes Simon's name to Peter because Peter had a revelation from God about Jesus, and then Jesus says "upon Peter, I build my church".   It does look that way, however Jesus  changes Simon's name, which in Hebrew and Greek, Simo¯n, of Hebrew origin, Shimon, which means the name of nine Israelites, to Peter, in Greek, Petros, meaning a (piece of) rock and as a name, Petrus, an apostle.  Petros also means stone.  Jesus seems to be changing Peter's name not to infer that He will build his church upon the stone, but the stone will be the first one of the many stones which will be the church.   Why do I say this?  Because when Jesus says "upon this rock", the word rock here is taken from the Greek, petra meaning a mass of rock.
OK, so you're still wondering about rocks and stones- how do we know Jesus was talking about a different rock, the mass of rock instead of the stone, and what then is this massive rock He built His church on?  For that, we need to go to other parts of the Scripture, to see how Jesus is described.

Back in Deuteronomy 32:4, the Lord is described,  He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.  The word rock here, is from the Hebrew word sela,  an unused root meaning to be lofty; a craggy rock, literally or figuratively (a fortress): - (ragged) rock, strong hold.

The word rock in these next few verses is also from the same Hebrew root sela.

2 Samuel 22:2, the Lord is described as, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.

Psalm 18:2  describes Him this way, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. 

Romans  9:33 says,  As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  Here, the word rock is from the same word as the rock referred to in Matthew 16.  It is petra, not petros, and clearly this verse is talking about the Lord when it refers to this stumbling block, and rock of offense as "him". 

1 Peter 2:3-5 says, If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

The words "stone" in these verses, is taken from the Greek word lithos, lee'-thos,  a primary word; a stone, (mill-, stumbling-) stone.  Now while the meaning of stone is the same root word for the description of Jesus as it also is for the followers, notice that the plural stones are built up as a spiritual house, that is the church.  The church is made up of stones- any follower of Christ is a stone in His church.  The fact that the different meaning of stone here describing Christ as lithos rather than petra, shows that He is too a stone, but He is still the foundation- Petra, but also the stumbling stone, the lithos and the capstone of His church.

For the last verse I'll use, lets go to 1Corinthians 10:4,   And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

We can't have it much more clearer than that.  The Rock is Christ.  He is also referred to as the stumbling block as we have seen, the cornerstone and the capstone.  In all verses, Christ is the Rock, Petra, the foundation of His church.  There are other reasons why it is impossible for Peter to be the foundation, the rock of Christ's church.   Some would argue that because Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, that was worthy of his position as "the first pope" of the church.  However, others, just as important also proclaimed Christ.  What about  in John 1:29, when John the Baptist cried, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!"   That was a public confession of Jesus being Lord and Savior, and he proclaimed that before Peter had even heard of Jesus.  In fact, it was Peter's brother Andrew who became a disciple first and introduced Peter to Jesus.  Of John the Baptist, Jesus described him in Matthew 11:11  Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Now that's an interesting comment about someone.  What did Jesus mean by that?  Well, not that John  doesn't deserve a place of honor in heaven even if he was greater on earth- but he will not be given one, even though he was the one to make way for the Lord.  He is the last of the Old Testament prophets.  Even though his life is written about during the New Testament time, he is the last prophet who proclaimed the coming of the Lord, of His ministry and mission and purpose as the Spotless Sacrificial Lamb.  He was not one of the apostles, so a place in heaven will not be included for him among the apostles.  He was not a member of the Church, as the church was begun after his death on the day of Pentecost.  He will be among the old testament saints who rise up from sleep when Christ comes His final time to earth and the dead will be raised.   It's interesting though to think of the one who was Jesus' earthly cousin, the one who was a prophet and the voice heralding the coming of the Lord will not be among the New Testament saints in heaven.  Now, why do I bring all of this up about John? Because John was the first person alive during the time of Christ on earth to proclaim Jesus as Christ, the savior of the world.  Peter proclaimed this truth as well, but John was the first.  Why then, didn't Jesus make John the foundation of the church instead of Peter, if the belief that Peter is the foundation is true?  John did as much as Peter did, he baptized the people first, he told the people of Christ first, he preached first.  Why then, if Jesus meant for the church to be founded on a human person, why not John?  Because Jesus did not found the church on any human.  He is the foundation.  Jesus is the rock.  The solid rock of our foundation.

Who else held a special place for Jesus?  Certainly there was Lazarus, but he did not preach.  He did understand in human reasoning who Jesus was and is- but he was flawed in his humanity and understanding.  There was John, the beloved, the Revelator.  He was the beloved of the apostles, he was a believer and he was the only one saved from a martyr's death.  He also was blessed to have the visions, the Revelations of Jesus which he wrote for the world. In fact, he, along with Paul and Philip were the only three apostles who were raptured or "translated" to heaven or to another location as in Philip's case while in the Spirit of the Lord.  Peter never was given such a gift.   Why did Jesus not choose John the Beloved revalator to be the foundation of the church?  What about Paul?  Paul was not even an original apostle, and actually gave orders for the persecution, imprisonment and death of Christ believers!  Yet, when he was physically blinded on his way to Damascus, his spirit was given sight!  Surely being given knowledge of Christ by Jesus Himself, Paul would have been a good candidate to be the rock, the foundation of the church?

There were many people, disciples, and even among the apostles who were beloved, and blessed by Jesus- yet Catholics believe Peter was chosen as the foundation.  Peter was a human, with all the human frailties and made mistakes.  Yes he was praised by Jesus to have been given the knowledge from God, but he was also one to give into human will as demonstrated later when he said, "surely it is not meant for you to die!"   And what was Jesus' reply, but a rebuke of Satan when he told him to "get thee behind me!"  Peter when on the Mount at Jesus' Transfiguration still did not understand the full nature of Christ, when he said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  He was thinking of physical worldly things and being prideful. Peter also denied Christ three times.  He lied, he ran and he denied.  At Pentecost, Peter wanted to vote for the one who would replace Judas, again, he did this out of a worldly reasoning, not depending on the Holy Spirit.  I'm not picking on Peter here, because we all fall into the same as he did- all I am trying to point out is that if a human, a sinful human was the Lord's church's foundation, that would be a mighty shaky one to build upon.  And one more point here, about the Roman Catholic Church, which has to do with marriage and the Pope.  Why would the church have the celibacy rule for the leaders of the church, because if Peter was the first Pope as they are taught to believe, he was married.

People might not understand, but when Jesus picked the apostles, they were all given powers to perform miracles yes, but only to draw people towards Jesus, and the Gospel message, as representatives of the Messiah who had come.  The apostles were chosen first to be evangelizers to Israel as it was not until later that Jesus sent them out into the world to the Gentiles.

People make people, places and buildings their props for their foundation. Moses as in the case of the Israelites coming out of Egypt, Peter, as in the case of a couple of thousand years of teaching that he is the foundation of the Catholic church, prophets, in the cases throughout history which shows people have based their foundation on the words of the prophets, but not on the Word of God.  Rome.  Mecca. Jerusalem.  Church buildings, denominations, synagogues.   What is it about people, places, things and buildings that we think we can use as props, when our only foundation, Jesus, said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

While we must gather together in worship and fellowship and sound Biblical teaching, there is nowhere Biblically that says we must gather in a specific building,  acknowledge a specific city, follow a specific tradition or base our foundation on human beings.  When we do that, we do not build our faith on the true foundation which is Christ.  And what happens when the foolish man built his house on sand instead of on the Rock?  Sure, it crumbles. Just as the Israelite's faith crumbled in the desert when they believed Moses was gone for good- so they had Aaron build them a golden calf idol.  It crumbles when a person who claims to be a Christian says, "I could never go to that fake church"  meaning Baptist church, just because it does not follow or recognize the pope. To believe one must attend mass and follow all of the traditions and rites, and to believe the doctrines of the church history, they would be lost in a simple building made up of a few simple believers with nothing more than some chairs and a worn out Bible.  

Jesus is the foundation of the Church- not the Catholic church, not the Baptist, Episcopalian, Anglican, Methodist, Pentacostal, or whatever other church people are brought up in.  He is the foundation of His People- those who follow Him, who trust only in Him, and who are saved by Him- we are His church.  His church is not a building, not a cathedral, not the vatican, not notre dame.  His church is His Bride, His believers.  And the gates of hell can not penetrate the Rock that is Christ.


Barbara said...

AMen and Amen! I'm back on Blogger and thrilled to see this post. :) "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteouness" ~ I've heard good arguments for Jesus refering to "faith" like Peter's. I just know "on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." (((Carolyn))) ~ Barbara

Mik said...

Not Notre Dame??? What's an Irish fan to do? Next you're going to tell me there's no Santa or Easter bunny??? lol... Every time I read you're blog Carolyn, it's like having a Bible study on the spot! Great, great stuff my friend ;)

God Bless,