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Was Peter the first Pope? What did Jesus mean when He said to Peter, "upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:13-19)


Cesarea Philippi was a center of Greek philosophy, Roman logic, and Jewish traditional religion. Jesus set Himself against the back drop of the world's great religious and philosophical systems asking, "Who do men say that I am?" After they answered, "John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah," He asks, "Who do you say that I am?"

Jesus longed to deepen their faith. He desired to draw out a messianic confession. Peter instantly responds, "You are Christ, the Son of the living God." This thought could be inspired only by the Holy Spirit. Jesus affirms Peter's faith by declaring, "Thou art Petros (a moveable stone) but upon this rock (this immovable foundation-that I am the Christ) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The church is built upon Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone rejected by the builders (1 Pet. 2:4-8). Peter clearly understood the rock was Jesus.

Paul clarifies the issue in 1 Cor. 10:4 by proclaiming "That rock was Christ." David declares, "Truly my soul waiteth upon God, from Him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and salvation (Ps. 62:1, 2). There is no other foundation (1 Cor. 3:11) except Jesus. The gates of hell will never triumph over His church. Peter denied His Lord three times. He attempted to keep Jesus from going to Jerusalem.

The courageous disciple misunderstood Jesus' mission. Jesus said, "Get thee behind me Satan" (meaning Satan was influencing him). No, the church was not built upon Peter's weakness, but upon Jesus' strengths. Peter discovered the marvelous truth for himself. Jesus became the source of his strength, the center of his life and the foundation upon which he stood.