This article is part of Brother Jerry Valenti’s series on the original 12 Apostles of Christ.
The Apostle Peter is the most well-known of all of the original Apostles of Jesus. His name is mentioned many times in the four gospels, and he seems to be in the middle of the action most of the time, usually due to his outspokenness and impulsive behavior.
This Apostle’s actual name is Simon, but Jesus gives him a nickname (surname) of Peter (Mark 3:16, Luke 6:14) which means “rock” in Greek. John’s gospel mentions the Aramaic version of the nickname, Cephas, along with a note as to the meaning: “Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone” (John 1:42).
The use of this nickname in a famous conversation between Jesus and His disciples has caused confusion for some Bible readers through the years.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is. When Peter gives the correct answer, that He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16), Jesus points out that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (verse 17). This is such an important concept — that people would believe in Christ because God reveals it to them — that Jesus refers to it in the next verse as the “foundation” (or rock) upon which His Church will be “built.”
The confusion comes in because Jesus addresses the statement to the man called “Rock:” “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (verse 18). Now, Peter is an important participant in the beginning of the New Testament church, but Jesus is certainly not saying that His Church — The Church of Jesus Christ — will be built upon Peter. The statement of Jesus can best be understood by restating it as follows: “Hey, I call you Rock and I’m going to build my church upon this ‘rock’ that I just described.”
Just as Jesus likened His Church to a building that would be built on a solid foundation, our lives should also be built on a solid foundation. In Matthew 7, Jesus states that if we follow His teachings, we are like a wise man building his house (life) upon a rock. If we don’t follow His teachings, we are building our lives upon the sand.
This is a great comparison! The Word of God is unchanging and unmoving. Worldly positions on various issues swing wildly from one extreme to another over time. Worldly fortunes are made and lost in a day. Which do you want to build your life upon?
OK, we all agree that building our lives on the Word of God is the way to go. But, what if it’s not obvious which choices in life correspond to building on the teachings of Christ? That’s where the Holy Ghost comes in — that portion of God that lives within us and reveals things to us. Not only does the Holy Ghost reveal that Christ is the Son of God, but it also lets us know the right choices to make in various situations.
At times, the direction of the Holy Ghost may be at odds with the worldly wisdom of the day. When this happens, don’t be moved! Remember the foundation that your life is built upon. As the Apostle Paul writes:
“If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)
Here are a few things (listed in chronological order) that Peter did during his life that give us an idea of who he was and who he became:
- Rebuked Jesus for saying that He would be killed and rise again on the third day
- Expressed the idea that Jesus was the equivalent of Moses and Elijah
- While walking on the water, allowed doubt to cause him to sink
- Denied knowing Jesus three times, even using foul language the third time to emphasize his claim that he didn’t know Jesus
- Preached a powerful sermon that resulted in the baptism of 3,000 people
- Became so known for healing people in the name of Christ that the sick laid in the streets, hoping his shadow would pass over them
- Allowed himself to be imprisoned rather than stop preaching Christ
- Eventually was executed for the cause of Christ
Clearly, the Peter of numbers 1 through 4 was vastly different than the Peter of numbers 6 through 9. What happened on number 5 that made such a difference? Peter received the Holy Ghost! After that, all of the doubt and wrong ideas were replaced by faith and courage, and he devoted the remainder of his life to the cause of Christ.
Who do we want to be today? The 1-4 Peter or the 6-9 Peter? The same Holy Ghost that Peter received is the same one we received after being baptized. The same faith, trust, courage, and wisdom is available to each of us. Let’s tap into that same power and build our lives upon the Rock — not Peter the Rock but Jesus the Rock.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.