When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi he asked the disciples who men thought that he was. They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” When he asked whom the disciples believed he was, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus then said Peter was blessed for this knowledge does not come from man but is a revelation of God. It is a revelation based upon faith, and that is the key to this understanding and this scripture.
Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church.” The rock to which he refers is twofold. Firstly, Jesus himself is the rock. He is the rock of ages and the foundation stone on which the church is built. In 1 Peter 2:4-8 we see him thus described as follows:
“4 Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious;
5 and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 For it stands in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,”
8 and “A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall”; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”
Christ is the cornerstone and foundation of the church. We who believe in him are the living stones being built into this spiritual house of God.
Secondly, the rock is about faith. When Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” he was using the Greek words “petros” and “petra.” The first of these is translated as “stone” and the second is “rock.” When Jesus called Peter a stone he was showing that he was one of the living stones that was being built into the house of God. But also when he said, “…on this rock,” he was speaking of the rock of Peter’s faith in believing that Jesus is the Son of God and the Christ.
Faith is the key to entering the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” he is talking about faith. Furthermore, Jesus shows that the powers of death will not prevail against this rock and his church. In Jesus case, he could not be held by death. The true church similarly cannot be held by death for those who enter go from death into life through Jesus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) The key here is to hear Jesus’ words and believe in God. This is faith and through faith we have moved from death into life.
We see the power of faith described by Paul who talks about it as the “shield of faith.” “…besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16) Through faith we overcome the devil and all of the powers he throws against the sons of God. It is only through faith that we stand. And it is only through faith that we can say of Jesus, as Peter did, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”