What Is The Foundation Of The Church Of Christ?
In 2009 the Millennium Tower opened up in San Francisco. The high rise luxury condominium building is 58 stories and was 645 feet tall. It has over 400 condominiums that sold out quickly for a reported total of 750 million dollars. The building won numerous awards for its design and architecture.
The condominiums were sold based on the views and the amenities of the property. The people who purchased the condos also thought they were making a really strong investment. There has been one main problem with the Millennium Tower… It has been sinking at an alarming rate of about one inch a year and tilting around three inches per year. Because of the sinking, the condominiums have lost value and has made it almost impossible for the owners to resell them.
When you look at pictures of the tower and what they offer, you can easily see why people were quick to buy up the spaces. But now, knowing that it has subsequently sunk over a foot and continues to do so, who would knowingly want to buy a space?
The Millennium Tower is a large scale reminder of the importance of a good foundation. It doesn’t matter how nice something looks, or even how well something is built, if it does not have a strong foundation it has little value. No building can be stronger than the foundation on which it rests.
The church is the building of God. As such, its foundation is of supreme importance (1 Cor 3:9-11). As the builder of the universe and the laws therein, Jesus knew even better than us that a strong foundation is key to building a superstructure (Matt 7:24-27, Heb 3:4). Therefore, we should look very closely to make sure that we are members of the church that rests on the scriptural foundation.
In Matthew 16:16-19, we have the confession of Peter that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Jesus responds by saying, “And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” In the Lord’s response we see that he is going to build his church on “this rock”. The rock is the foundation that the Great Architect of all things decided to build His church upon.
What or who is the rock?
Many people believe that Jesus is saying that Peter is the rock. The 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide would appeal to this interpretation to justify the Pope being the ruler of their faith. This view does not work for a number of reasons.
First, Peter simply does not fit with the structural integrity necessary to hold up the salvation of mankind (Eph 5:23). Peter sinned and fell into condemnation because of the pressure put on him by the Jews to distance himself from the Gentiles (Gal 2:7-13). Jesus is not going to have salvation rest on man.
Secondly, Peter cannot be the rock because the rock could never pass away. It must hold up all people until Jesus returns. Peter died and his body remains in the tomb where he was laid around 2000 years ago. Of course some will contend that Peter is a representative of the office of pope. But this is utter nonsense. You cannot extract the succession of Peter from this verse or any other passage.
Third, the grammar of the text doesn’t allow for Peter to be the rock. Some will contend that the word for Peter (petros) means rock and so because Jesus calls him rock, Peter must therefore be the rock that Jesus would build His church on. The actual text doesn’t allow for this possibility.
“Peter” and “rock” are two different words as is obvious in English and in Greek. Peter is a masculine gender noun (petros) and rock is a feminine gender noun (petra). To our eye the words look similar but they really are not the same. They are separate words that have two different meanings. The word associated with the name Peter means a little rock or a pebble sized rock. The word that Jesus uses for the foundation of his church means a massive stone. It was the word commonly used for the bedrock stones that people would use as the foundation of their homes.
In English, we do not give much consideration to the gender of words and so the point needs to be illustrated. If Instead of “Peter" and “rock” we substitute “man” and “woman” we can see the difference in words. The passage would be rendered like this, “you are man and upon this woman I will build my church”. We can clearly see that the man in that illustration could not be the foundation because man and woman, while having connecting qualities, are not actually the same thing. The same is true for Peter, and the foundational rock of the church.
To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “I say unto you, you are little rock, and upon this boulder I will build my church”.
The rock that Jesus would build his church on is in the confession that Peter made to the Lord, and the implications thereof. Jesus built the church on His own authority (Eph 1:22-23).
We can see that this is what Peter understood Jesus to mean as this is the foundation that he laid when the church was established in Acts chapter 2. He preached that Jesus was the Christ and the Lord (2:22-36). It is built on His authority and ability to save (Matt 28:18, Acts 4:12). It is built on Jesus teaching (Mark 16:15).
Consider this point, if Jesus did not give Peter authority to build a church on a foundation of Peters ideas and teachings, who was an actual apostle, why do people today think that they can start a church based on their authority and teachings and ideas? To ask it is to answer it. Yet the foundation of every denomination is the authority and teachings of men (Matt 15:13).
I am a member of the church of Christ because it was built upon the solid foundation of the fact and implications of Jesus being the Christ and the Son of the Living God.
Note: This series of articles dealing with the reasons to be a member of the Lord's church is highly influenced by the book "Why I am A Member Of The Church of Christ" by Leroy Brownlow.