The Foundation of the Church

By Larry R. DeVore

In Matt. 16:18 we read, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (NASB). Jesus promised to build His church; He only promised to build one. not two, nor twenty, nor two hundred-Only one! He said that he would build it upon “this rock.” What is this rock?

In the Greek text, the word “rock” is from “petra” meaning “a mass of rock” (Vine, pg. 302). In contrast to this, Peter’s name in Greek is “Petros” meaning “a stone.” Jesus said the church would be built, not on Peter, a stone, but rather on this large rock mass, or bed-rock. To what is Jesus referring? Let us look at the context. In verse 16 Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (NASB). Does this not suggest that the rock upon which the church is to be built is Jesus Christ? This is in harmony with other scripture. He is the one who was given such power to accomplish such a feat. “All authority (power) is given me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). Paul said, “As a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation.” What foundation had he laid? “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3: 10-11). How had Paul laid that foundation? By preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified. See I Cor. 2:1-5. Again in Eph. 2:20, Paul says, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.

The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ. The church is not built upon the apostles, but upon the foundation of the apostles, and that is Jesus Christ.

Also, in I Peter 2:4-8-Peter quotes Isa. 28:16 and Psa. 118:22 as referring to Jesus who is “a living stone,” “a choice stone, a precious cornerstone,” “the stone which the builders rejected,” “a stone of stumbling and rock of offense.” Are not all these images in harmony with Jesus’ statement, “upon this rock I will build my church”?

The Roman Catholic Church claims the church was built upon Peter, the opposite of Biblical truth. In the notes of the St. Joseph Ed. of the Confraternity-Douay Version of the Bible, the Catholic writer says, “The rock was Peter. Of course, the strength of the foundation comes from Christ.” The only thing wrong with that statement is that is not true! The Scriptures we have noted prove it. Many Protestant theologians have also given lip service to the idea of Petrine church foundation while claiming to reject popery. For example, Dr. Robert G. Bratcher in the Todays English Version (the infamous “Good News for Modern Man”) translates Matt. 16:18 as “And so I tell you: you are a rock, Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” This unfortunate translation is inaccurate. These “great theologians” have missed the point. The church is not built upon the apostles, but upon the foundation of the apostles and that is Jesus Christ. All need to accept this vital truth! Jesus promised the church, He died for it, He received power to establish it, and He did establish it on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:1-47. He is the head of His church (Eph. 1:22-23). No man on earth can scripturally be the “vicar of Christ.”

Truth Magazine, XVIII:38, p. 5
August 1, 1974