Safeguard the Church
General Overview of the Passage
Along His travels, Jesus decided to stop in the middle of Caesarea Philippi, a fully functioning pagan society. The city had Greek mythological influence, pagan worship, and even a place for people to worship Caesar.
It was here that Jesus asked a question to His disciples—His most devoted followers and the men He poured His life into for almost three years.
The question that He asked is an action that has no completion and whatever people are going to say will continually be said. When disciples provide Christ the answer, what they say will be a repeated action that is continuous with no end in sight.
So the wrong answer to the question will continue to be the wrong answer. The right answer will continue to be the right answer.
Peter answers that Christ is the Son of the living God, meaning Christ is deity, the promised Messiah. He is independent of everything yet begotten by the Father.
Christ blessed Peter because the revelation of who Christ is in the midst of a pagan, godless world was a supernatural revelation. God revealed to Peter the true nature of Christ.
Christ again uses a mood in this verse that says what He is saying is continuously going to be said. Christ tells Peter that this confession of faith, which was influenced by God, is a revelation from God that demonstrates that Peter is to become a “mass of a rock.”
This means that the influence of the Holy Spirit upon Peter’s life is the same experience that the church is going to be built upon (John 14:16–17; Acts 2:1–13; Rom. 8:1–25). It also means that Peter is going to be the primary leader of the disciples (Acts 10:23–48; 15).
Christ, however, is still the person who builds the church (Eph. 1:22–23; 4:11–13). It is Christ who provides salvation. He is the Word and the church is His body; He is the one who calls pastors, and as a result of His death and resurrection the Holy Spirit will come as our Helper and Advocate, our peace and Comforter. So even though this revelation establishes Peter, Christ is the true Rock (1 Cor. 10:4).
The gates of Hades will try to pollute God’s Word. Satan sends wolves, false teachers in the church who have selfish ambitions (Acts 20:28–30; 2 Tim. 3:1–9; 1 John 2:18–24). Satan even seeks to imitate Christ (2 Cor. 11:12–15).
Christ protects the church that is truly committed to Him because Christ’s power is greater than anything Satan can do (Eph. 3:10). Christ supplies the keys to the gate (2 Tim. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:3–4), but the authority to open and close the gate is in the hands of the disciples.
Jesus stopped in the most unusual place to ask this question. Caesarea Philippi was a place devoted to the worship of a pagan god called Pan. Herod had a temple set up for the worship of Caesar.
“The city was some twenty-five miles from the Lake of Galilee and about seventeen hundred feet higher, hence the need to stop along the way (Matt. 15:21); it lay near the source of the Jordan, at the Old Testament Dan, the northern boundary of ancient Israel.”
Christ has always been associated with being the Rock. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect” (Deut. 32:4). “The Lord is my rock and my fortress” (Ps. 18:2). “For who is God, except the Lord? Or who is a rock, except our God?” (Ps. 18:31).
“A living stone (1 Pet. 2:5).”2 There are several times He is mentioned as the Rock (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16; Acts 4:10–12; 1 Cor. 2:1–2; 3:11; Eph. 2:20).
“The word refers neither to Christ as a rock, distinguished from Simon, a stone, nor to Peter’s confession, but to Peter himself, in a sense defined by his previous confession, and as enlightened by the ‘Father in Heaven.’”
Jesus talks about Hades and mentions that to get to Hades you have to go down. So it seems like Hades is down in the earth. “According to Jesus, Hades is down (Matt. 11:23), and it is a prison to which He holds the keys (Rev. 1:18).”
Gates are very important to the Jews. They serve as a kind of City Hall for a major city. The elders sit at the gates, as we can see in the case of Boaz and Ruth.
The gates can also be a place of commerce (Deut. 16:18; 17:8; Ruth 4:11). Christ talks about the gates as a place of authority. The same idea is attached to keys. “Keys here refer to the authority to admit into the kingdom1 (Matt. 23:13), based on the knowledge of the truth about Jesus (16:16).”
What Does the Context Mean?
Even though the disciples walked with Christ and saw all the miracles and heard Him teach, they could not identify Him as the Christ without God’s revelation. If the Spirit of God does not illuminate the Word of God, we would not be able to know Christ or be the church (1 Cor. 2:10–15).
Bible knowledge alone only puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1). The Word of God needs to be brought to light as we walk in the light. Once the church has experienced Christ it then holds the keys to keeping Satan out of its doors. When Christ is placed first, a church truly becomes “the church of the living God.”
It is the church that serves as a covering, protecting the believer from Satan (Eph. 3:10), equipping them with the armor of God (Eph. 6:11–17) and strengthening each believer through spiritual gifts. The church is the only organism that Christ is attached to and will redeem.
Sermon Subject and Title
Sermon Title: Safeguard the Church
Big Idea: The church is an organism that is shaped, empowered, and finds its authority from the lordship of Christ exercised through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Sermon Outline (Matt. 16:13–16)
A.?Keep Christ First (vv. 13–16)
1. The church must be made up of people who are saved.
2. Knowledge alone does not put Christ first (John 6:41–43; 1 Cor. 8:1). Pharisees, Scribes rejected Him (John 5:39–40).
3. Christ is first when believers commit to be His disciples. Christ must move from Savior to Lord.
4. Sincere believers of Christ truly come to know Him (2 Cor. 4:4; Anna, Luke 2:36–38; Simeon, Luke 2:25–32; 1 John 2:3–6).
B. Allow the Holy Spirit to Illumine the Word (v. 17; 1 Cor. 2:10–15)
1. Christ told Peter that flesh and blood did not reveal Christ to him, but His Father.
2. The Spirit comes into those who accept Jesus as the Christ (John 10:9; 1 John 4:2; Eph. 1:13–14).
3.?The Holy Spirit illuminates our lives to have a true experience of Christ (Rom. 8:9–16).
4. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the deep things of God (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:10–15).
5. Spiritual blindness remains if we do not practice the things we know (Eph. 4:17–23; 2 Pet. 1:3–11).
C. Christ Must Shape and Establish the Church (v. 18a; 1 Cor. 3:10–11)
1. Christ is the Rock, the foundation, the cornerstone and the head of the church (1 Cor. 3:10–15; 10:4; Eph. 2:20–22).
2. Christ builds the church and it belongs to Him.
a) He is our salvation.
b) He is the Word.
c) Spiritual gifts shape the church to be His body (Rom. 12:3–8; 1 Cor. 12).
d) He calls pastors (Eph. 4:11).
e) The Holy Spirit guides us into truth (John 14:16–17; 16:13). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6).
3. Satan and his forces use many gates:
a) Pollute the Word (1 Tim. 4:1–4).
b)?Send wolves into the church (Acts 20:29).
c) False apostles and workers (2 Cor. 11:13–16).
d) Selfish ambition (James 3:13–15).
e) Anger (Eph. 4:26–27).
4. Christ protects the church that is truly committed to Him because Christ’s power is greater than anything Satan can do (Eph. 3:10).
D. We Must Use the Keys, His Word (v. 19)
1. The keys (the Word of God) are supplied by Christ (John 17:20–21).
2. The keys open the truths of God for believers. Truth sets us free (John 8:31–32).
3. The keys provide access to the kingdom of heaven (God’s rule) within the hearts of believers on earth (Luke 17:21).
4. The keys provide authority to handle church discipline issues (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:1–5; 2 Cor. 2:8; Titus 3:10).
5. The keys make sure that whatever is being bound or loosed has been approved in heaven (Matt. 16:19; 18:15–18).
Dr. Cannings holds a Doctorate in Philosophy/Theological Studies in Religion & Society from Oxford Graduate School in Dayton, Tennessee and a Masters Degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary.