As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

Opposing or Following Jesus

When Peter rebuked Jesus’ regarding his prophecy of his crucifixion, Jesus rebuked him saying, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Satan means “adversary.” Peter was opposed to Jesus’ plans. The word for “behind” is translated in the next verse as “follow” me. Jesus wanted Peter to quit being an adversary and get behind him and follow him. When we try to take the lead from Jesus, we are adversaries. When we create church rules in opposition to Jesus, we are adversaries. When we try to be more righteous than Jesus we are in opposition to him. In this story Jesus is also saying to us, “Back me up, you who are in opposition.”

Get Behind me Satan

We naturally want to protect others from possible suffering. Like Peter said to Jesus, do we also say, “No way”? Jesus’ reaction was blunt, “Get behind me Satan!” Have we tried to discourage children from what we imagined to be a poor career choice, when maybe it was their life’s calling, their purpose for being. It is an evil and diabolical thing to make a young person unhappy for life, merely for the sake of family expectations. We don’t want others to suffer, and so we tend to want to baby them. Yet, such good intentions may actually do more harm than good. Like Peter, we may be benefiting the devil.

The Cross Transcends Human Traditions

In Matthew 16:21 we read that, “Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer.” Jewish Messiahs were traditionally conquering military heroes who saved Israel from enemies. Jesus went totally against that, prophesying his crucifixion. To Peter it seemed to be admitting defeat. Peter’s immediate response was to reprimand Jesus. A Messiah was supposed to conquer, to say take up your sword and follow me, not your cross. The Church of Jesus Christ needs ongoing reformation. We constantly need to pray for and follow His direction not lean on our human traditions. In Jesus, loss is gain, defeat is victory. The cross transcends tradition.

Whatever You Forbid/Permit

In Matthew 16:19 we read, Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” As Peter opened the kingdom of heaven by his declaration of faith, so do the descendants of the faith of Peter “declare the terms under which God forgives sin and allows entrance to the kingdom.”1 This is shared by all the Apostles in Matthew 18:18. Their decisions “will have been tied up” and “will have been untied.”2 This is not divine endorsement of mere human decisions but divine guidance, enabling each to be “the faithful steward of God’s prior decisions.”3
1Michael J. Wilkins. The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan. 2004. 578.
2R. T. France. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2007. 626.
3Ibid. 627.

Tertullian’s View of the Keys

In Matthew 16:19 Jesus said, I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.” Tertullian taught that the whole Christian faith is built upon Peter being the first to confess Christ. What about the keys? Tertullian believed that, ‘(Peter) himself, therefore, was the first to unbar, in Christ's baptism, the entrance to the heavenly kingdom...’ He reasoned that Peter’s confession gave him and any others who showed this same faith, the key to the kingdom, not human politics and a succession of popes in an exclusive church. Indeed, ‘from that time forward, every number (of persons) who may have combined together into this faith is accounted "a Church"’.

Pope Impossible

The Apostles of Jesus Christ were scattered far and wide. How reliable was communication between the Christians of India, Ethiopia, Turkey and Spain? Is it unrealistic to claim Peter’s authority over all these lands in a time when it would have been a matter of practical impossibility? Early church fathers did not interpret Matthew 16:19 as Rome later came to. Could it simply be that wherever the right faith is to be found, there are the keys to the kingdom? How can any one person have a monopoly on that faith? Is that why Paul wrote that no other foundation than Jesus Christ can be laid (1 Corinthians 3:11)?

The Gates of Hades

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus spoke of the church that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” In Greek mythology, Hades is pictured as a place with strong gates that do not permit escape. In this context, Jesus most likely used the term as a metaphor for the grave. That which overthrows all other societies will not overthrow the church. Many have tried. Roman Emperors, Zoroastrians, Jews, Persians, Middle Eastern Muslims, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Bhutanese Buddhists, Russian Communists, Mexican governments, Madagascans, Fascists, Nazis, and North Korean despots all failed to destroy the church. The grave has no power over those who know that they will rise from the dead.

Chrysostom’s View of Peter

Chrysostom did not believe Matthew 16:18 supported Papal succession. ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church;" that is, on the faith of his confession… He that has built His church upon Peter's confession...’ (1) Peter’s authority over all the world did not continue beyond his grave other than through those who confessed the same faith. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ....I have preached Christ, I have delivered unto you the foundation. Take heed how you build thereon, lest haply it be in vainglory, lest haply so as to draw away the disciples unto men." (2)
(2) Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians

Augustine’s View of Peter

Augustine of Hippo wrote, Christ is the rock (Petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (Petra) is the original name. Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. "Therefore," he saith, "Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock" which thou hast confessed, upon this Rock which thou hast acknowledged, saying, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;" that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, "will I build My Church." I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon thee.’

Upon THIS Rock

Does the word “this” make Jesus’ statement “on this rock I will build My church” point away from Peter? It is a feminine Greek pronoun. If Rome’s argument about translating from Aramaic were correct, shouldn’t the meaning be made clearer not ambiguous? Why wouldn’t Jesus say, “upon you I will build my church”? Does the Greek grammar of the word “this” contradict Catholic dogma by directing our attention away from Peter as its intended meaning? What did it point to? Many early church Fathers said that “this rock” was Peter’s confession of faith, while others said it was Christ Himself. Is the grammar then clear that Peter was not the rock?