Who was the “Rock”

By John Berlin

In Matthew 16:18, we read, “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the Gates of Hell (Hades) shall not prevail against it.”

From this very important passage of scripture, we learn several things. First and foremost, it should teach us that Christ has a church which he himself built. Jesus did not speak of building “churches” plural, but spoke of building a “church,” singular. This is in accord with Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4:4, “There is one body. . : .” We learn from Ephesians 1:22, 23 that this body was the church, so Paul and Christ both spoke of but one church, the church that Jesus built.

What is the Rock upon which the church is built? Common logic must admit that it could not have been Peter for the Greek words from which “Peter” and “Rock” are translated are altogether different. “Peter” comes from “Petros” (masculine), and “Rock” from “Petra” (feminine). The two words refer to two different types of rock or stone. To refer to Peter (masculine) by a feminine noun (Rock) is like saying, “What a fine baby boy, what is her name?”

A careful study of related scriptures brings out the fact that Peter could. not be the Rock upon which the church was built. In Isaiah 28:16, we learn that the foundation was to be a stone, a tried stone, a sure foundation. Peter was not the foundation spoken of for when he was tried he did not remain, sure and steadfast. Five verses after Jesus said, “Upon this Rock I will build My church,” He said to Peter, “Get thee behind Me, Satan; Thou art an offense unto Me; For thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matt. 16:23). This was the same Peter that ten chapters later cursed and swore and said “I know not this man” (Matt. 26:74). Peter repented of this and was a good man, an inspired Apostle, but he was not the foundation of the church. The church is built upon a sure foundation. Peter was “loose, shifting rock” while Christ was the “solid, sure bedrock.” Peter himself declares Christ to be the sure foundation, the tried stone in Acts 4:11, 12, “This (Christ) is the stone which was nought (rejected) by you builders . . . .” The Church of Christ, the church built by Jesus; is founded upon the sure and tried foundation of Jesus Christ, not Peter.

The church was not dependent upon a continuous, unbroken line of succession. The church is propagated by the seed principle. (See Matt. 13). The word of God is the seed of the kingdom. When a seed is sown in a field, it produces a new plant identical to the plant from which the seed came. We would not expect to plant wheat and reap corn. Now if one wants to produce a Christian, what is needful-joining some institution that “claims” unbroken lineage, or to simply plant the word of God, which is the seed of the kingdom? The seed principle cannot be ignored or by-passed either in the natural or spiritual realm.

Truth Magazine XVIII: 6, p. 82
December 12, 1974