He is the head of the body, the church . . . so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
When the Roman philosopher and orator Victorinus told Simplicianus, the Bishop of Milan, that he was a Christian the bishop refused to believe him. “I will not believe it, nor will I rank you among the Christians, unless I see you in the Church of Christ,” Simplicianus replied.
How important is the church to the Christian faith? The church is not a human invention but a work of Christ. His promise to build the church is also a guarantee of its future existence (v. 18). Although it was not revealed in the Old Testament, the church was a part of God’s eternal purpose. It is the primary agent for displaying God’s wisdom revealed in the gospel (Eph. 3:9–11).
The promise to Peter that he would receive “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” in verse 19 was the opposite of Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” The legalistic traditions of religious leaders shut out those who would have entered into the kingdom. Peter, in contrast, would open the door by proclaiming the gospel of Christ.
Likewise Jesus’ reference to binding and loosing came from a rabbinic metaphor for authority to declare what is permitted or forbidden. Jesus used the same language in connection with the church’s authority to exercise discipline (Matt. 18:18). As we will see tomorrow, Peter “opened the door” to forgiveness by proclaiming Christ on the day of Pentecost. He was the first to reveal that Jesus Christ had ushered in a new age of grace that included people from every nation (cf. Acts 10:9–48).
Apply the Word
Jesus’ plan for the church extends to every age. Although it has had ups and downs throughout its history, the church’s future is secure. Nothing can stop it, not even the grave. Spend some time today praying for your church and asking God to pour out His power upon it. Pray for its leaders and ask for boldness in declaring the message of Christ.