Matthew 16:13-19; Mark 8:27-29;
13. And when Jesus came to the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that I the Son of man am? 14. And they said, Some [say,] John the Baptist; and other, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. 15. He saith to them, But who do you say that I am? 16. And Simon Peter answering said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17. And Jesus answering said to him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; 1 for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. 18. But I say to thee, That thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatseover thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
27. And Jesus departed, and his disciples, into the villages of Cesarea, which is called, Philippi; and by the way he asked his disciples, saying to them, Who do men say that I am? 28. And they replied, John the Baptist; and some, Elijah; and others, One of the prophets, 29. And he saith to them, But who do you say that I am? And Peter answering saith to him, Thou art the Christ.
18. And it happened, when he was alone praying, his disciples also were with him, and he asked them, saying, Who do the multitudes say that I am? 19. And they answering said, John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and others, that one of the ancient prophets hath risen. 20. And he said to them, And who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
We see too how one error quickly produces another; for a preconceived opinion, which had taken a firm hold of the minds of the common people, that souls passed from one body to another, made them more ready to adopt this groundless fancy. But though, at the time of Christ's coming, the Jews were divided in this manner, such a diversity of opinions ought not to have hindered the godly from desiring to attain the pure knowledge of him. For if any man, under such a pretense, had given himself up to sloth, and neglected to seek Christ, we would have been forced to declare that there was no excuse for him. Much less then will any man escape the judgment of God who is led by the variety of sects to entertain a dislike of Christ, or who, disgusted by the false opinions of men, does not deign to attach himself to Christ.
this is life eternal, to know the only true God,
and him whom he hath sent, Jesus Christ, (John 17:3,)
Christ justly pronounces him to be blessed who has honestly made such a confession. This was not spoken in a peculiar manner to Peter alone, but our Lord's purpose was, to show in what the only happiness of the whole world consists. That every one may approach him with greater courage, we must first learn that all are by nature miserable and accursed, till they find a remedy in Christ. Next, we must add, that whoever has obtained Christ wants nothing that is necessary to perfect happiness, since we have no right to desire any thing better than the eternal glory of God, of which Christ puts us in possession.
This is the victory which overcometh the world, your faith,
(1 John 5:4.)
It is a promise which eminently deserves our observation, that all who are united to Christ, and acknowledge him to be Christ and Mediator, will remain to the end safe from all danger; for what is said of the body of the Church belongs to each of its members, since they are one in Christ. Yet this passage also instructs us, that so long as the Church shall continue to be a pilgrim on the earth, she will never enjoy rest, but will be exposed to many attacks; for, when it is declared that Satan will not conquer, this implies that he will be her constant enemy. While, therefore, we rely on this promise of Christ, feel ourselves at liberty to boast against Satan, and already triumph by faith over all his forces; let us learn, on the other hand, that this promise is, as it were, the sound of a trumpet, calling us to be always ready and prepared for battle. By the word gates (
Those who think that the word keys is here used in the plural number, because the Apostles received a commission not only to open but also to shut, have some probability on their side; but if any person choose to take a more simple view of the meaning, let him enjoy his own opinion. 6 Here a question arises, Why does the Lord promise that he will give to Peter what he appeared to have formerly given him by making him an Apostle? But this question has been already answered, 7 when I said that the twelve were at first (Matthew 10:5) nothing more than temporary preachers, 8 and so, when they returned to Christ, they had executed their commission; but after that Christ had risen from the dead, they then began to be appointed to be ordinary teachers of the Church. It is in this sense that the honor is now bestowed for the future.
When your obedience shall have been fulfilled,
(2 Corinthians 10:6.)
For were it not that the reprobate, through their own fault, turn life into death, the Gospel would be to all the power of God to salvation, (Romans 1:16;) but as many persons no sooner hear it than their impiety openly breaks out, and provokes against them more and more the wrath of God, to such persons its savor must be deadly, (2 Corinthians 2:16.)
The substance of this statement is, that Christ intended to assure his followers of the salvation promised to them in the Gospel, that they might expect it as firmly as if he were himself to descend from heaven to bear testimony concerning it; and, on the other hand, to strike despisers with terror, that they might not expect their mockery of the ministers of the word to remain unpunished. Both are exceedingly necessary; for the inestimable treasure of life is exhibited to us in earthen vessels, (2 Corinthians 4:7,) and had not the authority of the doctrine been established in this manner, the faith of it would have been, almost every moment, ready to give way. 9 The reason why the ungodly become so daring and presumptuous is, that they imagine they have to deal with men. Christ therefore declares that, by the preaching of the Gospel, is revealed on the earth what will be the heavenly judgment of God, and that the certainty of life or death is not to be obtained from any other source.
This is a great honor, that we are God's messengers to assure the world of its salvation. It is the highest honor conferred on the Gospel, that it is declared to be the embassy of mutual reconciliation between God and men, (2 Corinthians 5:20.) In a word, it is a wonderful consolation to devout minds to know that the message of salvation brought to them by a poor mortal man is ratified before God. Meanwhile, let the ungodly ridicule, as they may think fit, the doctrine which is preached to them by the command of God, they will one day learn with what truth and seriousness God threatened them by the mouth of men. Finally, let pious teachers, resting on this assurance, encourage themselves and others to defend with boldness the life-giving grace of God, and yet let them not the less boldly thunder against the hardened despisers of their doctrine.
Hitherto I have given a plain exposition of the native meaning of the words, so that nothing farther could have been desired, had it not been that the Roman Antichrist, wishing to cloak his tyranny, has wickedly and dishonestly dared to pervert the whole of this passage. The light of the true interpretation which I have stated would be of itself sufficient, one would think, for dispelling his darkness; but that pious readers may feel no uneasiness, I shall briefly refute his disgusting calumnies. First, he alleges that Peter is declared to be the foundation of the Church. But who does not see that what he applies to the person of a man is said in reference to Peter's faith in Christ? There is no difference of meaning, I acknowledge, between the two Greek words
But not to be tedious, as we must acknowledge the truth and certainty of the declaration of Paul, that the Church can have no other foundation than Christ alone, (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20,) it can be nothing less than blasphemy and sacrilege when the Pope has contrived another foundation. And certainly no words can express the detestation with which we ought to regard the tyranny of the Papal system on this single account, that, in order to maintain it, the foundation of the Church has been subverted, that the mouth of hell might be opened and swallow up wretched souls. Besides, as I have already hinted, that part does not refer to Peter's public office, but only assigns to him a distinguished place among the sacred stones of the temple. The commendations that follow relate to the Apostolic office; and hence we conclude that nothing is here said to Peter which does not apply equally to the others who were his companions, for if the rank of apostleship was common to them all, whatever was connected with it must also have been held in common.
But it will be said, Christ addresses Peter alone: he does so, because Peter alone, in the name of all, had confessed Christ to be the Son of God, and to him alone is addressed the discourse, which applies equally to the rest. And the reason adduced by Cyprian and others is not to be despised, that Christ spake to all in the person of one man, in order to recommend the unity of the Church. They reply, 13 that he to whom this privilege was granted in a peculiar manner is preferred to all others. But that is equivalent to saying that he was more an apostle than his companions; for the power to bind and to loose can no more be separated from the office of teaching and the Apostleship than light or heat can be separated from the sun. And even granting that something more was bestowed on Peter than on the rest, that he might hold a distinguished place among the Apostles, it is a foolish inference of the Papists, that he received the primacy, and became the universal head of the whole Church. Rank is a different thing from power, and to be elevated to the highest place of honor among a few persons is a different thing from embracing the whole world under his dominion. And in fact, Christ laid no heavier burden on him than he was able to bear. He is ordered to be the porter of the kingdom of heaven; he is ordered to dispense the grace of God by binding and loosing; that is, as far as the power of a mortal man reaches. All that was given to him, therefore, must be limited to the measure of grace which he received for the edification of the Church; and so that vast dominion, which the Papists claim for him, falls to the ground.
But though there were no strife or controversy about Peter, 14 still this passage would not lend countenance to the tyranny of the Pope. For no man in his senses will admit the principle which the Papists take for granted, that what is here granted to Peter was intended to be transmitted by him to posterity by hereditary right; for he does not receive permission to give any thing to his successors. So then the Papists make him bountiful with what is not his own. Finally, though the uninterrupted succession were fully established, still the Pope will gain nothing by it till he has proved himself to be Peter's lawful successor. And how does he prove it? Because Peter died at Rome; as if Rome, by the detestable murder of the Apostle, had procured for herself the primacy. But they allege that he was also bishop there. How frivolous 15 that allegation is, I have made abundantly evident in my Institutes, (Book 4, Chapter 6,) to which I would willingly send my reader for a complete discussion of this argument, rather than annoy or weary him by repeating it in this place. Yet I would add a few words. Though the Bishop of Rome had been the lawful successor of Peter, since by his own treachery he has deprived himself of so high an honor, all that Christ bestowed on the successors of Peter avails him nothing. That the Pope's court resides at Rome is sufficiently known, but no mark of a Church there can be pointed out. As to the pastoral office, his eagerness to shun it is equal to the ardor with which he contends for his own dominion. Certainly, if it were true that Christ has left nothing undone to exalt the heirs of Peter, still he was not so lavish as to part with his own honor to bestow it on apostates.
1 "Simon, fils de Iona;" -- "Simon, son of Jonah."
2 "On la nommoit Cesaree de Philippe;" -- "it was named Cesarea of Philip."
4 "Ces dons qui estoyent procedez de sa pure liberalite;" -- "those gifts which had proceeded altogether from his liberality."
5 "Laquelle est receue et advouee es cieux;" -- "which is received and acknowledged in heaven."
6 "Ie n'y contredi point;" -- "I do not contradict him in it."
8 "Ambassadeurs ou prescheurs temporels;" -- "temporary messengers or preachers."
9 "D'heure en heure elle seroit revoquee en doute;" -- "from hour to hour it would be called in question."
10 "Ie confesse bien qu'en la langue Grecque il n'y a pas grande difference entre le mot qui signifie une pierre, et celuy qui signifie un homme nomme Pierre;" -- "I readily acknowledge that, in the Greek language, there is no great difference between the word that signifies a stone, and that which signifies a man named Peter."
11 "A fin de monstrer qu'au second lieu il parloit de quelque autre chose que de la personne de Pierre;" -- "in order to show that, in the latter clause, he was speaking of something totally different from the person of Peter."
12 By Christ's own language is meant the Syriac -- a dialect of Hebrew -- which is supposed to have been the vernacular language of Palestine in the time of our Lord, and consequently to have been spoken by him and his apostles. It is enough for our present purpose that CALVIN adopted this hypothesis, whatever may be the result of a controversy in which the claims of the Greek language above the Syriac, as familiarly spoken and written in Syria at that period, have been urged with vast learning and ability. -- Ed.
13 "Les Romanisques repliquent a l'encontre;" -- "the Romanists reply on the other hand."
14 "Mais mettons le cas que ce qu'ils disent de Pierre soit hors de doute;" -- "but let us suppose that what they say about Peter were beyond a doubt."
15 "Combien cela est faux et frivole;" -- "how false and frivolous it is."
Back to BibleStudyGuide.org.
These files are public domain. This electronic edition was downloaded from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.