This post, I pray, will help us all be mindful of how we interpret the Scriptures. A recent look into Roman Catholic Doctrine has taught me a great deal concerning hermeneutics and doctrine. Let us look closely at a text that has major implications within the history of the church.
Mattthew 16:13-20 contains several controversial interpretations. The key verse of the controversy is verse 18 which says, “I (Jesus) say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). The question has been asked, “Who or what is Jesus talking about?” One of the main reasons it is asked is because the Roman Catholic Church states that the church is built on Peter (supposedly the first bishop of Rome). Reactions have developed concerning this doctrine due to the overemphasis placed on Peter. The RCC goes on to say that a succession of bishops has taken place from Peter until now. Of course, there is much more to this doctrine however this will suffice. The point of the post is not their error but ours.
The reason I bring this to our attention is due to the way many have reacted. The main four interpretations are: (1) Jesus is going to build his church on the confession of Peter; (2) Jesus is going to build his church on himself; (3) Jesus is going to build his church on Peter; and (4) Jesus is going to build his church on the previous three. Keep in mind, the Roman Catholic Church probably stated their doctrine first then found a Scripture to back it up. But, the same error can occur when one reacts by going to the text to find an alternative view that may not be right. Make a note to yourself, do not say, “The Holy Spirit just laid a sermon on my heart now I just need to find some verses to go along with it.” This is bad hermeneutics.
Which interpretation is correct? Many times we need more Scriptures to bring to light the truth. Paul says, “…God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles, and the prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building being fitted together” (Eph. 2:20-21 emphasis mine). The point of this post is to reveal a hermeneutic based on a reaction toward someones incorrect doctrine. The RCC has pushed this text further than it was meant to be. However, we must not come to this text and deny that Jesus was not going to build his church on Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ. I believe Matthew 16:18 means all three: The church is being built on Jesus Christ the cornerstone, the foundation of the apostles (those who saw Christ), and the apostolic confession. Let us now review the point of this post.
There are many Scriptures this principle could be observed. We must be aware of our presuppositions. Certainly, one brings the presupposition that the Bible is infallible and inerrant. However, do not come to the text unaware of the presupposition that you may be fighting against the truth. Furthermore, be very careful that you state your position clearly. You could say that Jesus is building his church on the confession and be wrong. The correct way to state this would be that Jesus is building his church on the apostolic confession. This is a big difference. Hope you enjoy the thoughts. I would like to know what you think.