WHO IS THE ROCK?
"And I say also unto thee, thou art Peter, upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
"We are a Bible people, making up a Bible church." The preceding statement was not a quotation by a Fundamental Biblicist Baptist preacher, but the words of a Roman Catholic priest from Cook, MN. The above quotation provides abundant evidence that Romanism recognizes the impact historical Biblical Fundamentalism had made upon Roman Catholics and is seeking to counteract these effects by making similar claims and utilizing near synonymous terminology.
According to this Roman priest, the R. C. church was "divinely founded by Jesus Christ" and "rests upon the rock that is Peter—this is God's Word, this is Scripture—it is paramount to our Catholic faith that we are the original Bible church."
THE BASIC QUESTION
Any claim to being the "original Bible church," however, must be validated by the Biblical answer to this question: "Who is the rock?" The correct answer to this question, not only decides what makes up a "Bible church" and what is the "original Bible church" but also determines control of the eternal destiny of sinful souls. The basic question is this: Is this rock Peter or is this rock the Lord Jesus Christ? The answer to this important question can be discovered solely within the pages of the Holy Scriptures, God's inerrant Word.
THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND FOR THE SCRIPTURE'S ANSWER
Now, since the land known as Palestine (Israel) abounds in hills and mountainous regions, it is not surprising that there are nearly 400 references to rocks and stones in the Scriptures. Within the Bible’s pages, rocks and stones are frequently connected with military purposes—protections against the enemy; historical locations—well known landmarks; ecological service—shelter from the storm, protection from the heat and commercial business—source of building structures and metals from which implements were made. It is not surprising, therefore, that rocks and stones also have religious significance, with one of the most common figures of God being that of a rock.
A BASIC PREMISE: GOD IS THE ROCK
In musical drama, both Moses' song in Deut. 32 and David's song of deliverance from the Philistines in II Samuel 12 proclaim that God is the rock. In Ps. 94:22, God is called "the rock of our refuge." In Isaiah 17:10, God is designated as "the rock of thy strength," while in Ps. 61:2, He is declared to be the "rock that is higher than I."
Of particular significance is the statement in II Sam. 22:47 where God is declared to be the "rock of our salvation." This statement corresponds with Jonah's claim in Jonah 2:9 that "salvation is of the Lord." The Scriptures make it plain that salvation can only be found in God alone and that for those who neglect this salvation, there is no escape—Heb. 2;3.
THE BIBLICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE DEITY OF CHRIST AS GOD THE SON
Now the N. T. presents abundant evidence of Christ's deity, that He is truly God the Son. The angelic witness proclaimed His deity the night of His earthly incarnation, citing the O. T. Scriptures (cp. Is. 7:14 with Matt. 1:23). Furthermore, our Saviour accepted worship from both angels and human beings (Heb. 1:6, Matt. 2:2, 2:1), fully cognizant that the Scriptures teach that only God is to be worshipped.
The apostles recognized and acknowledged Christ's deity: (a) John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God," "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us"—John 1:1, 1:14. (b) Paul: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ"—Titus 2:13. (c) Thomas: "My Lord and my God"—John 20:28, and (d) Peter: "ye denied the Holy One"—Acts 3:14, a name for God that is recorded 26 times in the book of Isaiah.
The conclusion is obviously clear: If God is the rock and salvation is found in God alone, and if Christ is also God, then Christ must alone be the rock and the sole source of the sinner's eternal assurance. Thus it should come as no surprise that within its trustworthy pages, the Scripture presents seven word pictures of Christ as the rock.
SEVEN SCRIPTURAL PORTRAYALS OF CHRIST AS THE ROCK
(1) Christ: The Smitten Rock—Ex. 33; (2) Christ: The Sheltering Rock—Numbers 20; (3) Christ: The Speaking Rock—Deut. 32; (4) Christ: The Sustaining Rock—Daniel 2; (5) Christ: The Sole Rock—Matt. 16, (6) Christ: the Solid Rock—Matt. 7:24-25, and (7) Christ: The Stumbling Rock—in Rom. 9, which an unbelieving nation rejected. Of these, we shall consider only three.
CHRIST AS THE SMITTEN ROCK-EXODUS 17
In Exodus 17, God's answer to the Israelite's lack of water (Ex. 17:1) was for Moses to take the rod of God, smite the rock designated by God, and water would issue forth (Ex. 17:5-6). The rock was the symbol of the O. T. law-which while perfect—because it could not be completely fulfilled by sinful human beings, represented death and judgment.
STRIKING AN INNOCENT ROCK, NOT A GUILTY PEOPLE
It is important to note that Moses was not commanded to smite the complaining guilty Israelites who were the guilty parties, but to strike an innocent rock, so that a guilty people might live. Now, according to Isaiah 53:3-6, Christ was the rock "smitten" for our salvation, and from that smiting, there issues forth the water of eternal life.
I Cor. 10:4 states that "They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them and that rock was Christ. “Jesus himself declared in John 4:14 that "whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." The songwriter aptly portrayed Christ as the living fountain of life with the following words: "I thirsted in the barren lands of sin and shame, and nothing satisfying there I found; But to the blessed Cross of Christ one day I came where springs of living water did abound." It is abundantly clear that the rock smitten for our salvation was Christ, not Peter!
CHRIST AS THE SHELTERING ROCK-EXODUS 33
In Exodus 33, Moses requested a manifestation of the glory of God ("I beseech thee, shew me thy glory:” 33:18). God declared that He would make His goodness to pass before Moses, but that Moses would not see God's face, since no human being could perfectly view the "face of God" and live. The phrase, “the glory of God," or its equivalent represents the sum total of God's attributes or perfections.
That glory [perfection] is so bright that no man could look upon God and live. The Apostle Paul stated in I Tim. 6:16 that God dwells "in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see." In like manner, the apostle John described the nature of God as total light in I John 1:5. Physical light, symbolizing God's nature, is invisible, and one can only see the objects upon which light shines. God, likewise is invisible and can be seen only in the face of Jesus Christ via His perfect character.
TWO ATTRIBUTE RAYS OF GOD
Two rays of God's attributes deserve special attention here: the ray of His justice which demands the sinner's death, and the ray of His love which provides our salvation. Since Moses in his sinful humanity would not be able to withstand the penetrating brightness of God's glory, God hid Moses in the "clift of the rock”—Ex 33.23, while His glory passed by, permitting Moses to see His "back part”," but not God's face.
God's hand covered Moses, while the manifestation of the first ray of His divine nature—His face: His perfect justice which demanded death—passed by. God then took away His "hand," and Moses saw God's "backparts," two words that denote behind (back) and parts or (hand): phraseology which means "behind the hand," or that which "follows after" or afterglow! The ray-light of God's glory that Moses saw was the afterglow of God upon the rock. God hid Moses in the rock, and Moses saw God through the afterglow of the rock, a beautiful picture of Christ.
THE HIDING ROCK OF CHRIST
The rock in which the believer safely and securely trusts for His salvation is Christ—I Cor. 3:11. The rays of God's divine justice at Calvary were absorbed by that rock—II Cor. 5:21, and the believing sinner [now saint] sees God through the glow-light of Jesus Christ. Paul thus rightly declares in II Cor. 4:6 that "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in the face of Jesus Christ."
The glory of God is manifested in this sheltering rock—the Lord Jesus Christ. Vernon J. Charlesworth aptly portrayed Christ as this sheltering rock when he wrote: "the Lord's our rock, in Him we hide, a shelter in the time of story; Secure whatever ill betide, a shelter in the time of storm. O Jesus is the rock in a weary land, a weary land, a weary land; O Jesus is the rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm."
Augustua M. Toplady would also rightly pen these memorable words: "Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee." The Scriptures thus clearly validate that the sheltering rock is Christ not Peter.
CHRIST AS THE SOLID ROCK-MATT. 16:16
Using the human figure of a physical building, Christ declared that He would build His church. Since every lasting structure requires a foundation, the questions naturally arises, "who or what is that foundation?" The Roman Catholic church [institution—not really a "church"] alleges that the foundation rock is Peter and that the office of the Papacy, with all its numerous Papal successors, are the legitimate heirs of that office.
CAN THE TRUE CHURCH BE BUILT UPON A DEAD MAN?
However, if Peter is the rock, and the head of the church, then the church is built upon a dead man! What a delight and joy to know that the believer's true infallible pope—one who never dies—and our sole high priest, is alive forevermore—Rev. 1:16.
THE SCRIPTURAL ASSERTIONS OF PAUL
The testimony of Paul affirms that Christ is that solid rock. In I Cor. 3:11, Paul emphatically affirms that "no other foundation [underpinning rock] can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (not Peter!) Peter's own testimony reiterates this fact: In Acts 4:10-11, Peter, speaking about Jesus Christ as the one "whom ye crucified" says under divine inspiration: "This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner." In the following verse, Acts 4:12, Peter decisively proclaims concerning Christ: "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."
THE BIBLICAL AFFIRMATION OF PETER
In I Peter 2:5 Peter further confirms the fact that Christ is indeed the Solid Rock. While he states in that verse that all believers are living stones, he notes that according to the prophetic Scriptures, there was the "chief cornerstone elect," and "precious"—the Lord Jesus Christ—and that those who believe "on him" will never be disappointed ("shall not be confounded") or have cause for shame.
TWO ROCKS: A MOVEABLE STONE VERSUS A MASSIVE ROCK
The testimony of Christ in Matt. 16:18 also provides ample evidence that Christ is the rock. The Greek word for Peter there is "Petros," a word that refers to a "detached stone or boulder, a stone that might be thrown or easily moved": (Vine's Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words), while the second word Christ used for himself : "upon this rock— ("Petra")—I will build my church" is the same word Paul used I Cor. 10:4, where he says, "and they drank of that rock ("Petra") and that rock was Christ." Paul repeats that same word in Rom. 9:33 when quoting God the Father himself he says: "I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock ("petra") of offence and whosoever believeth on him [Christ, not Peter!] shall not be ashamed."
"Petra," the Greek word Christ used for himself, is a huge or massive stone, and was never used in the N. T. when referring to Peter. When referring to Peter, Christ used the word for a smaller or moveable rock, "petros." Furthermore, in John 1:42, Christ omitted the definite article when speaking about Peter, and using the same word "petros," he said: "Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation a [not The] stone (petros)."
Though Peter did play an extremely important part in the early but temporary role of the Apostles, the foundation rock upon which the true Church of Christ is built, was not Peter but the Lord Jesus Christ. To construct our hope of eternal salvation upon any other foundation than Christ alone is to build our faith upon sinking sand.
Also in this issue:
|Editorial – February 2010 - March 2010 The Fundamentalist Digest; Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.|