WHO THE CHURCH IS BUILT UPON
It was time for Jesus to visit the villages of the district
of Caesarea Philippi, about 120 miles from Jerusalem, and about
30 miles from Tyre, on the North-west coast of Palestine. This
was the furthest that Jesus would travel in His ministry. On the
way Jesus stopped to pray for a while and then asked His
disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"
"Well Master," the disciples began to say, "some say you are
John the Baptist, others say you are Elijah, and still others say
you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
"Now who do you say that I am," Jesus asked them.
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," replied
Peter with assurance in his voice.
"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!" replied Jesus, "for flesh
and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in
heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter (Greek - Petros, small
stone), and on THIS ROCK (Greek - Petra, huge boulder) I will
build my church, and the powers of death will not kill it out. I
will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever
you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Then He told the disciples to tell no one that He was the
Christ (Mat.16: 13-20).
Jesus' fame was large enough and the people flocking to see
Him was overwhelming at times, without His disciples making a
direct effort to pronounce that Jesus was the promised Messiah to
Many have been puzzled over this section of teaching by
Jesus. But when you understand the Greek language it was written
in, all the difficulties should solve themselves. Jesus was not
saying that the Church of God would be built upon the man Peter
as some claim. The NT shows that Jesus is the "chief corner
stone" and it is upon Jesus as the head of the Church, that the
Church of God is built. Jesus is the "petra" - the huge massive
crag of a stone, while Peter the man was "petros" the small
Concerning the authority to "bind and loose" and have it
bound or loosed in heaven. This also has given thought and even
with some, established a kind of "divine authority for ministers"
doctrine. Some think that at times a "priest" or "minister/s" can
make God bind or loose decisions they make for other people or
for their "church flock."
Again, understanding the Greek, and the tense it was written
in, can answer our questions we may have. In the translation of
the New Testament by B.J. Phillips there is a comment among the
appendix footnotes, telling us the tense of the Greek and that it
is more probable that the translation of this section should have
been something like this: "And whatsoever you bind on earth must
be what is already bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on
earth must be what is already loosed in heaven."
Jesus then was telling Peter and all the disciples that they
could have authority to bind and loose, but they better make sure
it was within the laws and will of God in heaven, and that they
need to keep in mind that the Church of God is founded upon
Jesus, not any human man.
Now, if we do not want to bother with the Greek language,
and we stay only with the KJV English translation, we can still
make a case for understanding what Jesus said here without
putting it into the sanction of "divine human authority" bracket.
There are certain times within the Churches of Christ that
binding or loosing decisions must be made to safeguard the
Church. An example of this is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 5.
Here is a case of an unrepentant sinner (large sins of a wrong
life style), and the apostle Paul telling the church at Corinth
to disfellowship the man, to put him out of the local church
congregation, so such sins as he was practicing would not be
multiplied and practiced by others in the church. This was a
decision that had qualities of binding and loosing.
Yet, even this was something that was within all the laws
and commandments of God, where God's truth and way on the matter
was very clear. The congregation in that instant that Paul was
addressing were upholding the laws of God. Binding and loosing in
the context of 1 Cor.5 is a context of living within and
upholding, the commandments of God.
Binding and loosing for the disciples of Christ has nothing
to do with that which God has allowed and permitted as "freedom
of choice" for each individual in the body of Christ. A group of
disciples cannot tell you to only wear one certain color of dress
or suit in attending church services, for example. Such things
God does not have a law for, so no human person or persons can
bind or loose on such a matter.
At another time in Jesus' ministry He said to His disciples,
"Whoever sins you remit or cancel, they shall be cancelled, and
whoever sins you retain, they shall be retained (John 20:23).
This would again be a situation as Paul was addressing in 1
Corinthians chapter 5. It could also apply to a disciple or
disciples leading someone to baptism. Some only want to be
baptized because their friend was baptized, or their wife or
husband was baptized, or because their parents want them to be
baptized. It is not a genuine personal repentance to baptism. And
so discriminating disciples of Jesus would in all baptism
cases decide if it is truly from a genuine heart, that the person
wants to be baptized. If it is genuine, then baptism can be
performed and the individuals sins can be cancelled.
If it is not genuine then no baptism should be performed and
hence the individuals sins are retained, until the day of true
So, there is a certain amount of authority given by Jesus to
His disciples, in binding and loosing, within His church, but
that binding and loosing must always be within the laws and
commandments of God.
Also of course, any organization, such as a church
congregation of an area, must make "administrative" decisions.
The place to meet, the time of the day to meet, how long the
service or meeting will last, and a hundred and one other like
things. This must be done by a body of people within that
organization that have been given authority by the whole
organization to make such decisions, or by a vote of the
congregation as a whole. Such decisions must be made for a smooth
operation of an organization made up of many person. And needless
to say, all such decisions will not please everyone all the
But, Jesus was not here talking about the latter but the
JESUS FORETELLS HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION
From the time of Jesus' visit to the region of Caesarea
Philippi He began to show His disciples that He must go to
Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief
priests and scribes, and be killed, but on the third day be
raised to life once more.
This news hit Peter like a bolt out of the blue, as if stuck
by lightening. With dismay he said to Jesus, "God forbid Lord!
This shall never happen to you!" Peter was meaning that he and
all the disciples would do whatever it took to make sure He would
not die by the hands of the elders and religious leaders of their
"Get behind me Satan," Jesus, with severe and grim tones to
His voice, quickly replied, "You are a hindrance to me; for you
are not on the side of God but of men." And with those words all
went silent, no one venturing to say anything more about the
subject. But, many of the disciples kept what Jesus had said in
their hearts, meditating on what they could possibly mean, for
none wanted to believe Jesus would die, not being so young and so
popular among the people. They just could not imagine that the
elders and priests could have enough power to have Jesus put to
death. At that time, Judea being under the overall rule of the
Roman Empire, only by the authority of the Roman government could
any citizen of Judea be put to death. The disciples, at that
time, could not in their wildest dreams, imagine what was to
come, but Jesus knew, and knew it was the Father's will that it
should be as the prophets of old had foretold (Mat.16: 21-23).
WHAT IT TAKES TO FOLLOW CHRIST
Jesus then called all the multitude to Himself as well as
His disciples, and said, "If any person would follow me and be my
disciple, they must deny themselves and take up their cross of
burden and imitate me. For whoever would save their life shall
loose it; but whosoever looses his life for me and the Gospel's
sake, will save it. What does it profit a person if they should
gain the whole world, yet loose their life. For what can a man
give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my
words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the
Son of man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His
Father with the holy angels."
Jesus was speaking of the life a person can have in Him, the
inner Holy Spirit life, that leads to eternal life at the
resurrection day. You could gain the whole world, be head
of the physical Empire that rules the whole world, you could be
the richest person in the world, you could have the fame of the
whole world, like some Hollywood movies stars have, but if you
are not raised to eternal life one day in the resurrection when
Jesus returns in glory, then what have you really gained? In the
long run you will have gained nothing lasting, certainly way
less, very much less than those who will have gained that
resurrection. They may have had to deny themselves many things
in this life time (great wealth, fame, splendid comfort,
prominent and illustrious jobs or positions on the human scale of
things) to follow and imitate Christ Jesus, to stand up and not
be ashamed of belonging to Christ, and obeying His commandments.
The end result will be everlasting glory in the Kingdom of God.
And then Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there are
some standing here who will not taste of death before they see a
sight of the Kingdom of God, with glory and power" (Mark 8: 34 to
Jesus was speaking about a soon transfiguration event that
some of His disciples would witness.
JESUS' TRANSFIGURATION AND THE ELIJAH TO COME
Matthew and Mark state that "after six days" while Luke is
somewhat more specific in stating "about eight days after these
sayings." It would seem by all the accounts it was around eight
days later, that Jesus took with Him, Peter, James and John his
brother, up into a high mountain. There was just the four of
The disciples must have been wondering what was going to
happen if anything at all special was going to happen. They did
not have to wait long for the answer. Suddenly there was "light'
but light like they had never seen before. In their eyes Jesus
had CHANGED! His face had become like the sun for brightness and
glory, and all His clothes were as white as any bleach could make
white, white. It was all practically more than their eyes could
look at, but somehow they were able to see it all in its fully
splendid powerful GLORY!
Then something else happened that shocked the socks off them
as we say. There stood Moses and the prophet Elijah, talking to
Jesus. Obviously at this time in history there was enough
physical information that had been handed down through the
centuries, as to the physical appearance of Moses and Elijah.
They knew it was Moses and they knew it was Elijah that were
having a conversation with Jesus.
"Lord! " exclaimed Peter, "It is good that we are here, if
you wish I will make three booths here; one for YOU and one for
Moses and one for Elijah."
Peter was still speaking when a bright cloud over-shadowed
them, and then they heard this voice from the cloud saying, "This
is my beloved Son, with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him."
At the sound of this voice the three disciples fell on their
faces and were filled with great awe and fear, realizing they
were witnessing the very glory and presence of God, as well as
the future event of the resurrection that Jesus had so often by
now spoken about. The resurrection to glory of all the children
of God at the coming of Christ in glory, at the end of the age,
when the Kingdom of God would be a literal reality on the earth.
The disciples were still fallen down on their faces when
Jesus came and touched them and said, "Rise up, and have no
And when they lifted up their heads and looked, they saw no
one but Jesus only.
They were on their way down the mountain when Jesus
commanded them, "I want you to tell not a single soul about the
VISION you have seen today. Do not tell anyone until I am raised
again to life from death."
At this request and command the disciples said, "Then why is
it that the scribes say that Elijah must first come?"
They thought that they had the proof and the golden
opportunity now to really declare that Jesus was the promised
Messiah, because they had seen Elijah come, and the very scribes
of their nation were saying that Elijah had to come first before
the Messiah would come on the scene.
"Oh, Elijah shall come," replied Jesus, "and shall restore
all things, but at this present time Elijah has indeed already
come, and they did not know or recognize him, but did and said
evil and whatever they liked about him from their darkened
hearts. So they will also do to the Son of man, who will also
suffer from their hands."
Then, it became clear, they knew He was speaking to them
about John the Baptist (Mat.17: 1-13).
The three disciples had witnessed a foretaste of the
resurrection in glory at the coming of the Kingdom of God on
earth, when Jesus will return in power and glory. So it was as
Jesus had said some days earlier, that some would not taste of
death until they saw the Son of man coming in power and glory.
You will notice that Matthew says it was a VISION the three
disciples saw. A vision is in the minds eye, not something that
is a literal happening per se. Moses and Elijah died, they are
still dead to this very day. They, like all who have lived, are
in the grave waiting that blessed resurrection day. When the
last trumpet, the voice of the arch angel, will sound, and the
dead in Christ shall rise first and then we which are alive,
shall be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, and we shall
all be gathered by the angels to rise and meet Jesus in the
clouds, in the air, and so be with Him for ever more (2 Thes. 4:
13-18; 1Cor.15; Mat.24: 29-31).
The prophecy concerning the coming of Elijah before the
Messiah, is found in Malachi chapter 4.
Here Christ makes it clear that it is not the literal first
Elijah that lived centuries earlier, that is meant, but someone
who will come in the power and might of Elijah, someone who will
speak the words and truth of the Almighty God as Elijah did in
his day. Christ also makes it clear that this prophecy has a DUAL
prophetic fulfilment - one fulfilment at the first coming of
Christ, and another yet future fulfilment just before the second
coming of Christ. The context of Malachi is just before the
prophetic "day of the Lord" - just before "the Lord's day" that
most of the book of Revelation is all about. Jesus makes it clear
that another Elijah man (as John the Baptist was before Christ's
first ministry on earth) will come "shall come" (future tense) as
Jesus said, and shall "restore all things."
This also tells us that by and near the end of this age, the
truths of the word of God will have been so distorted and bent
out of shape, that a "restoring of all things" will be greatly
needed. The Elijah to come will restore all things to its purity.
As before when John the Baptist fulfilled that prophecy,
most did not recognize him as the Elijah to come. So it probably
will be at the end of this age, most, even many within the very
true Church of God, will not recognize or know who the end time
Elijah is. It will only be those who have their nose in the
Bible, who are searching the Scriptures, who are willing to be
corrected, who desire to grow in grace and knowledge, that shall
understand who the end time Elijah is. May you and I be among
those who will recognize the Elijah to come, if he should appear
in our life time.
AN EPILEPTIC BOY IS HEALED
The next day when coming down from the mountain, as they
approached the other disciples, they saw a great crowd about them
and scribes arguing with them. Immediately the crowd when seeing
Jesus ran up to him. Jesus looked at them all and said, "What
are you discussing with the scribes?"
One person spoke up and replied, "Teacher, I brought my son
to you, but you were gone. Well, I brought him for healing,
because he has a dumb spirit, an evil spirit takes and seizes him
and dashes him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and
grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to
cast out the spirit, when I saw you were not among them, but they
could not cast it out."
Jesus answered, "O faithless generation, how long do I have
to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son to me."
They brought the boy forward towards Jesus, and when the
evil spirit saw Him it took the boy and convulsed him, and he
fell to the ground rolling about and foaming at the mouth.
"How long has the boy been like this?" Jesus asked the
father. "From childhood," the father replied, "and it has often
cast him into the fire and into water, trying to destroy him. But
if you can do anything at all to heal him, please have pity on us
and help us."
Jesus said to the man, "If you can! Why, all things are
possible to him that believes."
Then the father of the child with a loud cry and anguish
said, "I believe Lord, I believe, please help my unbelief!"
As a large crowd was gathering about Him, Jesus rebuked the
evil spirit, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out
of him, and never enter him again."
The evil spirit was not about to give up without some sort
of a fight. He took hold of the boy once more and convulsing him
terribly, it came out, and the boy was lying there like a corpse;
so that most of the people there said among themselves that the
boy was dead.
But Jesus leaned over and took the boy by the hand and he
arose, perfectly well and healthy, free from any evil spirit.
Later, in private, the disciples asked Jesus why they had
not been able to cast out the spirit. Jesus said to them,
"Because of your little faith. Truly I say to you, if you have
faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain,
'Move over to another place,' and it will move; and nothing will
be impossible to you. Then again, such healing can only be done
by much prayer and fasting" (Mat. 17: 14-21; Mark 9: 14-29).
We see here that it is faith that is required to do such
mighty healing miracles, and we also see that Jesus taught that
faith comes by and through much prayer and fasting. Prayer and
fasting draws us close to God, and it is by being close to God
that faith grows and is made strong.
Moving mountains in a literal way (unless for some specific
reason such would be required) was an analogy that Jesus was
giving to show that through faith miracles can be done. To do
this type of healing that Jesus (which is as great a miracle as
literally moving a mountain to a different location) did, took as
much faith as if for some reason a mountain had to be moved to
save life or avert continual pain, grief, and sorrow. Jesus
was simply pointing out that through faith nothing is impossible
with God. For He has power over all the spirits of the unseen
world and all the physical laws of this planet and universe.
Written October 2002