I. Throughout the bible, God is represented as the Rock, and Christ the Rock of Salvation.
Just before the death of Moses, he addresses the people at Deuteronomy, chapters 31, 32. In chapter 31, he promises the people success in their conquest of the Promised Land, appoints Joshua as their leader, and gives the Law to the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant, that it may be read publicly at designated times. However, at chapter 32 Moses speaks a song from the Lord, to be taught to the children of Israel, because they will break the covenant and forsake him. Then, God will become angry and forsake them, and as they encounter evils and trouble, the Song of Moses will be a witness against them.
The Song of Moses sets out a prophetic history of the Jews, and it is sung by angels as God's final wrath is poured out on the earth at the sounding of the seventh trumpet in the book of Revelation. Verse 15:2,3 — And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. (The Song of the Lamb refers to Ezekiel 38:18-23).
The Song of Moses makes compelling references to God as the Rock, and as compared to the rock of false gods. However, the song begins by noting it can only be understood by those who are willing to hear — Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth..., verse one. Then, the song sets out that the very name of God is ROCK — Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he, verses 3,4. And Jacob's people, the Lord's inheritance, the apple of his eye, sucked honey and oil out of the Rock, verses 9,10,13. Still, as the people become fat, they forsake God and the Rock of their salvation, verse 15, unmindful of him, forgetting he formed them, verse 18. They turn to strange gods and sacrifice to devils, verses 16,17. Then, God sells them to their enemies, as their rock is not like the Rock, verses 30,31. At a point in their calamity, the Lord will repent and say, where are their gods, their rock they trusted, verse 37. Let them rise up and help you and be your protection. Yet, the Lord will be merciful and bring vengeance to his adversaries.
With the exodus from Egypt, while the people wondered in the wilderness, they experienced two miraculous events through Moses, involving a rock bringing forth water, Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-13. At one of the early camps, the people argued with Moses for taking them out of Egypt, for they had no water. The Lord told Moses to strike a certain rock and water would come out of it. Years later, again the people argued with Moses for taking them out of Egypt for the lack of water. The Lord told Moses to assemble the people and speak to the rock before them, and it would give forth water. The apostle Paul noted that the rock Moses struck in the wilderness was Christ. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ, I Corinthians 10:1-4. (However, Moses was denied leading the people into the Promised land because of his lack of faith, as he actually disobeyed God in the second miracle. Rather than merely speaking to the rock, he struck it twice out of anger to bring forth the water. Is this the actual rock Moses struck?)
II Samuel, chapter 22 sets out just before the last words of King David, his song from the time of his deliverance from his enemies and from Saul. This song also refers to God as a Rock, and in fact at verse 32, David says that only God can be a Rock.
And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence, — verses 2,3.
For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God? — verse 32.
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation, — verse 47.
In David's last words at chapter 23, he also refers to God as the rock. The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue, — verse 2. It is interesting what the rock has to say in the following verses, as it depicts what being a rock is like. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
The Psalms also uphold God as the rock of the people and of their salvation.
Psalm 18:2, 46 — The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower... The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
Psalm 28:1 — Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock...
Psalm 42:9 — I will say unto God my rock...
Psalm 62:2,6,7 — He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved... He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved... In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
Psalm 71:3 — ...for thou art my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 78:35 — And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.
Psalm 89:26 — He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
Psalm 92:14-15 — They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Psalm 94:22 — But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge.
Psalm 95:1 — O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
And again, in the Psalms only God can be a rock. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? — Psalm 18:31.
(Reference: J. R. Church, Hidden Prophecies in the Song of Moses. Oklahoma: Prophecy Publications, 1991, pp. 35-51.)
II. However, the Roman Catholic Church maintains that the apostle Peter is the foundational rock of the Church based on Matthew 16:18.
Note this verse as set out below in bold, quoted as a part of verses 13-20.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
The RCC maintains this passage establishes Peter as the first of the apostles, the rock upon which the Church is built, and the only apostle with the keys of the kingdom, having the authority to absolve sin, pronounce doctrinal judgments, and make disciplinary decisions, paragraphs 552,553, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, (Rome: Urbi et Orbi, 1994). Further, as the passage indicates Peter was given by Christ a permanent office, it was destined to his successors, and the Pope and the bishops take the place of Christ and the apostles, 862, 877. However, as part of receiving the keys, the office of binding and loosing sin “which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head,” 1444. (The Catechism further notes that the heavenly father also revealed to Paul the significance of acknowledging Christ as the Son of God, but this apostle's conversion came later, and Peter was the first to make the confession, 442).
This doctrinal position based on Matthew 16:18 has been repeated so many times over so many centuries, that in society it is not immediately considered ridiculous, and it is backed up by the authoritative witness of a large number of magnificent cathedral buildings, the most exquisite collection of works of art in the world, and a clergy dressed to the envy of any court of nobility in history. Nevertheless, by basic logic and reasoning, the Catholic position must be held as not just error, but an outright lie. In the present day, if any other person or organization asserted such a position, it would be considered irrational and even utterly insane. (See also — The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 16:19)
The focus within the passage of Matthew 16:13-20 is not Peter, but on who is Jesus Christ. Peter is not the rock — as noted from the scriptures set out in the first section, only God can be a rock. In the original Greek of the verse, Peter is Petros, and rock is petra — That thou art Petros, and upon this petra I will build my church. According to Walter Bauer's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, translated by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, Petros is defined as stone; and petra, as rock, “literally of the rock in which a tomb is hewn,” and can be used to refer to a rocky grotto, or a rock suitable for the foundation of a building. Thus, a correct translation of the verse could included, That thou art a stone, and upon this massive rock, I will build my church. Clearly, Christ as the Son of God is the rock upon which the church will be built.
Indeed, Ephesians 2:19-22 sets out specifically what is the foundation of the church, Christ as the chief cornerstone, and the apostles and prophets. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (The apostles and prophets are foundational through their writings, Scripture. The Church is built on the foundation of Christ as represented by the Word of God, the Bible).
Paul emphasized that only Christ can be the foundation of the Church. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ, — I Corinthians 3:10,11.
Peter also notes Christ as the cornerstone and believers as stones built upon him as the foundation. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Therefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, — I Peter 2:4-7. All who believe in Christ are stones. Christ is the chief cornerstone, and the apostles and prophets are other foundational stones, and believers are the stones forming the temple. (These passages use lithos for stone, meaning any kind of stone, and akrogoniaios for cornerstone. Note that in neither of the quoted passages is there any reference to tradition as a foundation of the church, and in I Peter 2:9, the believers are designated as the priests).
Furthermore, Peter was no example of a rock. A few verses after Matthew 16:18 referencing the rock of the church, Christ calls Peter Satan, for not being mindful of the things of God. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men, — 16:23. And Peter denied Christ three times after his arrest, 26:69-75. In Galatians, the apostle Paul notes that he did not receive the Gospel he preached from any man, not the apostles or even Peter, but from Jesus Christ himself, the Rock, 1:11-19. And in fact, Paul had to rebuke Peter for not living according to the truth of the Gospel, 2:11-14.
M. Paul Webb