What Do Men Say Matthew 16:18 Means?

I recently got to see Catholicism proved through negation. Stacey and Chris have attempted to inject a bit of Catholic clarity and charity into an anti-Catholic conversation (as I did briefly) on this post, and they’ve just been getting slammed with hostile comments and told in no uncertain terms that, while the blog has literally dedicated hundreds of posts to gossiping about Catholicism, real-life intelligent and charitable Catholics aren’t welcome. Hearing from Chris was termed “a monumental waste of time” when he questioned their use of the term “Scripture,” when Catholics and Protestants don’t agree on the canon. The moderator said “there’s no point in casting any additional pearls” to Chris. Quoting Matthew 7:6 to suggest another Christian is a swine who shouldn’t even be given the pearls of the “true Gospel” is gut-wrenching, and more than mildly ironic (apparently, Matthew 7:1-5 were just totally glossed over to get to the proof-text). Apparently, you can only preach of the supposed errors of Catholicism to non-Catholics.

In deciding to ban Chris and Stacey, the moderator said “Stacy and Chris are representing Rome,” and since by his warped logic, Catholics preach a different Gospel, they’re anathema, and “DefCon will not be a platform for the heretical doctrines of Rome. It would defeat the whole purpose of the blog, would it not?” Apparently, interacting with real Catholics on theological issues distracted from posts about how one blogger’s Catholic grandparents are hell-bound, and another’s Catholic aunt is in hell. Not a very Christian blog.

But that doesn’t mean God can’t have some fun with it. In the midst of this debacle was a fascinating three-comment series in which three different individuals ganged up on Stacey to teach her about what Matthew 16:17-19 really means. Only trouble is, they can’t seem to figure it out themselves. First up, a blogger named Lyn, who goes by the handle “unworthy1,” says:

Stacey, your misconceptions of Peter and the rock are due to RCC false teachings…notice the context of the verse,’you are Peter and upon THIS ROCK’ if Christ were talking to Peter, why didn’t he say, ‘You are Peter and upon YOU’. It is clear Christ was referring to the foundation of his church, which is what Peter means, i.e. rock. He wasn’t building His church on Peter, but on the meaning of Peter’s name, rock.

Then, Steve Martin (not the actor) corrects Lyn:

The rock upon which the Church was(is) built…is Peter’s confession of faith, not the man Peter.

Then, Manfred (not Manfred Mann, the band) corrects them both:

It was not Peter or his confession upon which Christ built the church. Christ is the cornerstone rejected by the Jewish leaders. He is the Rock of refuge and the firm foundation of everything that will pass through the fires of judgment. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

So who is right? Lyn claims that Peter and Rock are interchangable terms, and Jesus is saying He’ll build on Rock. Not Peter, but another (this) Rock. Steve claims Jesus will build on Peter’s confession. And Manfred claims that Jesus will build upon Himself, expressly denying that Jesus built upon Peter’s confession. No unision – just a lot of snarky in-fighting. Let’s go back to the passage from Matthew 16. It starts out in Matthew 16:13-14,

13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Left to the whims of individual interpretation, there can be no unity. Everyone heard the same things from Christ, but they interpreted the importance of it in different and contradictory ways. Which sounds shockingly like what just happened between Lyn, Steve, and Manfred, when attempting to interpret Matthew 16:18: “Some say a different rock, some say Peter’s confession, some say Jesus Himself.” Then Jesus asks the Twelve:

15″But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

And Peter answers, speaking on behalf of the Twelve:

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So Peter’s right while the masses are wrong. At which point:

17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

So Peter’s authority doesn’t come from the Twelve agreeing on the right answer and choosing him. No, it comes directly from God the Father. Jesus has now begun to bless Peter by his birth name, Simon, son of Jonah. He continues with the verse in question:

18And 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.

The language Jesus said these words in, Aramaic, has one word for Rock. So His words are “you are Rock, and on this Rock I will build My Church.” The reason He doesn’t say “you” is because it’s Simon as Peter. It’s not Simon, the weak man, but Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit. Just as today, we’re not bound to follow the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, but we are bound to follow Pope Benedict XVI. If Jesus meant to say, “you are Rock, and on a different Rock, I will build My Church,” He couldn’t have found a less clear way to say so. Likewise if He meant, “you are Rock, and upon Myself, also a Rock, I will build My Church,” He probably could have found a clearer manner in which to express that thought. For one thing, if He means to say “I am going to build My Church upon Myself,” or “upon faith in Myself as the Christ,” He wouldn’t have brought this up in the middle of blessing Simon, son of Jonah and renaming him Rock. That leaves the third interpretation, that Jesus meant “I am going to build My Church upon faith like yours.” The next verse shows this interpretation as just wrong:

19I 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.”

He gives specific authority to Peter: the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the binding/loosening power. Later (Matthew 18:18) He gives the Twelve collectively the binding/loosening power, which shows the distinction and complimentarity between Papacy and Church Council. But the Keys are given only to Peter, and parallel Christ’s own Authority (Revelation 1:18). If Christ meant for His blessing to apply to everyone with faith, why intermix it with power given only to Peter?

So not only are Lyn, Steve, and Manfred all wrong, but they’re a house divided against themselves. They loudly proclaim their own private interpretation of Scripture correct, but aren’t even in harmony with each other. Which is, not incidentally, exactly why Jesus established a Rock to be perpetually visible upon Earth: Peter. Of course, Peter doesn’t replace Christ, just as Peter’s having the Keys doesn’t replace Christ’s having the Keys, and Peter being the Shepherd (John 10:1-10; John 21:15-17) doesn’t replace Christ’s being the Shepherd (John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). But it does create the very sort of Christian unity we should expect to find in the True Kingdom. As for Lyn, Steve, and Manfred, I agree with each of them that the other two are wrong, and would suggest only that their confusion points to a real spiritual need to humbly follow those shepherds appointed by Christ (cf. Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 23:4; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), including the successor to Peter, rather than choosing our own shepherds.


  1. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for giving your assessment of things. I really didn’t know what to think or say about all that. Btw, you’ve put “Bill” sometimes instead of “Chris”.


  2. Ha! I did it like five times. Bill, as you probably know, was the guy who wrote the original post. And I don’t mention that in the post… so I guess I just subconsciously slipped it in (repeatedly) by calling Chris Bill.

    Since you’re married to him, I’ll take you word that “Chris” is his real name.

  3. Joe,

    I have to say that it was an exceedingly bizarre experience to see that whole conversation unfold. I’m with Stacey in that I really don’t know what to make of it.

    It is certainly a strange, dark corner of the web over there on the “Defending. Contending.” blog. I had a lot of trouble actually getting my comments to appear. I guess they like to heavily censor anyone who disagrees with them and would like to challenge their claims and present a different point of view. Kinda makes them look childish and scared.

    Another thing that bothered me was the arrogant and condescending attitude exhibited by many of the commenters. As you once asked on this post, why are Calvinists so mean?

  4. Since you’re married to him, I’ll take you word that “Chris” is his real name.

    At least that’s what it said on the marriage license!

    Several of the commenters are actually contributors on the blog. That’s why I ended up leaving, because the one to suggest I leave (twice) was a co-blogger.

  5. All I can contribute is that Stacey has only called Chris “Chris” in front of me and that “Chris” has not presented himself as “Bill” yet. 🙂

    Stank…all this has got the juices flowing so I might actually add a post to OUR blog!

  6. Phil,

    I would never hold the actions of a few against a group, and honestly don’t even hold the actions of these guys against themselves. I hope they can come to a better understanding of Christian charity in time.

    But I have noticed that a great many Calvinists (or Monergists), especially those online, take a very hard view of God, His love, and others, particularly those they believe are “reprobate”. It is exactly this kind of hardness that has driven a good friend of my husband’s completely away from all religions (he was a Calvinist) and turned him specifically against Christianity. There are so many poor souls who see people like those at defcon and believe that is what Christians are, basing their view of religion on them, and are driven away entirely. Like Chris said above, makes you wonder why so many Calvinists are so mean, and lament the damage they do.

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