16 Jun 2019
Jesus promised Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But what does that mean? And what does this mean for you? This sermon seeks to correct wrong interpretations of Matthew 16:19 and offer the best approach to the understanding of this promise. Check it out here!
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Well, this day I'm going to continue our series, however in the book of Matthew. Not having a Father's Day message, but continuing our study in Matthew and in particular, chapter 16 and verse 19. Just one verse actually for our consideration today.
Now, there's a church here in Singapore that is very well known for its posters. They have a whole ministry about putting up nice posters for informing people about the Gospel and about the Word of God. If you drive by Dhoby Ghaut, if you drive by, drive by Orchard Road, you will probably see them put up very eye-catching posters.
Recently, there is a poster about the king and about the season and you would think it's about durian. But here it is - Seek only the one true King, in season and out of season. And when you see the, see the durian husk there, you inevitably think about ‘猫山王’ [a type of durian, māo shān wáng] and so on. But really, they are reminding us that the real King of our lives is none other than Jesus Christ, God's Son. And that's what Matthew is all about, isn't it?
The book of Matthew, the Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the King. The special King that Israel has been waiting for. So therefore, Matthew 15:16 in particular we are zeroing into this concept of how Jesus is King. He's no ordinary king as I've mentioned. He's a special King.
In fact, if you were here with us last week, you will realize that Jesus is the forever King. Because He's the special King, who is given an everlasting kingdom. Israel has had many, many kings but none of them could lead the people into an everlasting kingdom. And there was no king who had all nations under his reign. And there is no king who would really set the captives free.
But according to God, in His promises through the prophets over the centuries, He's been telling the people that He will send an everlasting King. A cosmic King, a universal King, a good King who would set His people free. And that King, that chosen One, that special One, the anointed One is what the people of Israel known as the Messiah. And what the people in the New Testament call, ‘The Christ’.
So, when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” [Matthew 16:15] And Peter then replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” [Matthew 16:16] It was a monumental statement! It was a huge confession! “You are the One that our ancestors have been waiting for, for centuries. You are the chosen King. You are the anointed One. You are our Messiah. You are the Son of the Living God.”
And then Jesus went on to say, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church.” [Matthew 16:18] I will build My church upon this great confession of yours. It's absolutely spot on! And church is about a gathering of people from all nations, who have the same conviction and belief. Church is not about coming to a place. Church is about the inward heart conviction that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
And then we come to this phrase, this statement for our consideration this morning. Verse 19, “When Jesus then said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.””
And so today, all the time we are going to spend is just going to figure out what did Jesus really mean when He said to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” That's all! So, it's really simple if you're lost midway. Just remember, we are heading towards this direction. We are trying to figure out what Jesus meant when He said, “I'll give you, Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
But it's going to be a technical sermon, it's going to be a rather … you might say academic sermon. But I hope, it will still be helpful to you, to really understand God's plan, God's purposes in His Word. So what does it really mean, when Jesus said, “I will give you the keys.”?
There are some people who believe that when Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus is appointing Peter as the head of the church. There are many people actually who even believe this. It is not a few. It's many! All across the world, countless people are saying, “Oh, Matthew 16:19, is about that delegation of authority to Peter, to be the very special apostle. To be that very special head, to be the very special authority of the church.”
In fact, they believe that if Peter is to speak in an authoritative manner, in an official manner, then His Word is like that of God's Word. It is as binding as that of God's Word. Now you say, “Peter has already died, so what happens?” Well, these people believe that Peter's authority is now passed on to the next person and to the next person and to the next person when one dies.
So up till today, they believe that there is a certain head of the church that is a successor to Peter, who was apparently given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Now, I find that difficult to accept because whilst Peter was certainly a very important apostle, he is nowhere in the Bible seen as the head of the church.
In fact, the Bible is very clear - Jesus is the head of the church. And you cannot have two heads. Not only that, Jesus has or Peter clearly an important apostle is never seen to be the ultimate apostle. He's one of the leaders but he's not the ultimate leader. And Peter certainly was not a man without his faults even after he denied Christ. He was not infallible, in another words.
For example, in Galatians 2:11, the Bible says, “When Cephas …” that is another name for Peter, same guy, “When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned.” So Paul is saying, “When I met Peter, he was in the wrong. I told him he was in the wrong.”
You say, “What happened?” Well, Peter was having a meal with Gentiles and you know that Jews don't normally eat with Gentiles. But because he understood that the Gospel has now made no difference between Jews and Gentiles, he ate with the Gentiles. That's not wrong!
But when the Jews came, Peter then said, “Oh, I got to avoid the Gentiles.” And he moved away from them. Therefore Paul said that, “Withdrawal from the Gentiles is not good, that does not communicate well about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, what you did might stumble people.” So what Peter did was wrong and Paul told Peter it was wrong.
The point here is that whilst many I will say, millions of people say, “Peter is the head and that he has authority, absolute authority when he speaks in an official capacity.” I don't think that's what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is not appointing Peter here as the head of the church. So that's option one, which I think we can rule out.
There's another option. And it is this, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” in Matthew 16, they say, “Ah, this is the exact kind of phrasing we get in Matthew chapter 18:18.” So you say, “What is Matthew chapter 18?” It says, “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you…” listen to this, “…Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” That's what we read in Matthew 16:19, right?
So many Christians, therefore think that when Jesus said, “Peter, I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus is telling Peter, “That he can do what is said in Matthew 18.” What is Matthew 18 about? It's not about church authority, is about church? Church discipline. Very good! Excellent! Well done! It's about church discipline.
So, they think that Jesus is giving Peter the authority to exercise church discipline. The one to dictate or determine church discipline. However, there are a few inconsistencies if that is the right view. Number one - you must understand Matthew 16:18 is given to Peter as an individual. “I will give you…”
Now, when I say, “I love you.” You'll scratch your head and say, “Um, what do you mean by that?” Do you love us or do you love me? Right? Because the ‘you’ in English applies for both plural and singular sense. I love you - it can be one person or it can be one group. But in the Greek, it is more specific. The ‘you’ that is used here is to an individual. It's to one person. It's singular.
“I will give you, one person, Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” But Matthew 18:18 is plural - “Whatever you bind, whatever you loose…” it's in the plural sense. And is given to the church. So whilst the same phrasing is used, it's given to two different groups of people. One is an individual. One is a group - the church.
Moreover, if you consider Matthew 16, it is about church growth. But Matthew 18 is about church discipline. It's a different context, different idea. Same phrase but different application altogether. Are you lost? Okay, if you are lost, never mind, just sleep through, I'll tell you when to wake up, alright.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”, therefore I suggest to you is not about authority in the church. It's not installing Peter as the ultimate leader. Neither is this about church discipline, even though the same phrase is used, it's a different context. It's given to an individual. It's about church growth.
I think the “keys to the kingdom of heaven”, is about church commencement or about the launch of Gospel ministry henceforth. In other words, it is about the launch of Gospel ministry for the nations through Peter alone.
And I am going to show you why or how this is so. How is the Gospel ministry launched amongst the nations through Peter alone? This is what Peter stands out in amongst the apostles. He's been given this unique privilege to launch this Gospel ministry for the nations.
So, let me bring you on a little tour of church history. It begins in on the day of Pentecost. You know on the day of Pentecost, that's 50 days after the death of Christ. And there on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered in an upper room. Now, you would have thought that they would have gone preaching about Jesus. But they didn't because Jesus told them to wait, wait for the promise of the Father.
So, in Acts chapter 2, we read of them gathering in the upper room to pray. And as it were, all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit empowered the early disciples, the apostles and the people. And there was a physical outward manifestation in that tongues like as of fire appeared upon their heads. And not only that, they began to speak in tongues.
That is a foreign language that they have never learned before. They were able to speak in the various dialects in the regions there, supernaturally because they did not learn these languages previously. So there was an outward miraculous manifestation. And when they began to speak in tongues, it was beginning to be noised abroad, people got to know about it. And they were wondering what's happening, why are they speaking in different languages, foreign languages.
Are they drunk? And so Peter stood up and explained. “No, they are not drunk! It's exactly what God has prophesied of in Joel chapter 2. And these are things coming to pass.” And he began to tell them of how Israel has sinned in rejecting and crucifying the Son of God, Jesus Christ. So the people then asked, “What must we do to be saved?” “We are in trouble!” they say. The Spirit was so working in their heart that they were convicted.
So, now Peter is the preacher on the day of Pentecost. He stood up again and he preached and said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. That you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 2:38] Go read Acts 2, he gave a sermon. He urged and persuaded the people to repent. To turn from their sin and believe in Jesus Christ, that they might be saved.
“And so those who received His Word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” [Acts 2:41] As far as we know, no one got saved for the first 40 days or so after Christ appeared. And only on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached, a huge number got saved. I mean, 3,000 is huge. 3000 got saved that same day.
And that was not the end of it all. Because Acts 2:47 tells us, “The Lord added to their number day by day, those who were being saved.” And as if that is not enough, you go to Acts 6:7, “In Jerusalem, we read, “That the number of the disciples multiplied greatly.” No more addition, it's multiplication. No more arithmetic growth but geometric growth. It's exponential growth!
So, there was a huge number of people getting saved. It's almost as you could think of the door of the Gospel is swung wide open for the Jews. Who opened that door? You could say, “It's God!” But you could say, “It was God giving Peter, the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” So that in Acts 2, when Peter preached, Jews were saved and many Jews continue to be saved. And God gave an outward declaration, endorsement by giving them signs and wonders in the form of speaking in tongues.
But notice, this is not just, “I give you the key…”, “I give you the keys …”. So it was used not just once but again it was used again in Acts chapter 10. You will recall that in this story, Peter again he was asleep and God gave him a dream. A very interesting dream where there were animals on this big white sheet coming down from heaven. And God said to Peter, “Kill and eat.” And Peter says, “No! I can't kill and eat.” Why? “These are unclean animals.”
Now, for Singaporeans and especially Chinese we eat anything. No problem for us. But for a Jew - no way, am I eating pork! No way am I eating all these unclean animals! Our ancestors have not, have not eaten it and neither will we. This is not right!
So, God said this to Peter three times and three times Peter said, “No! Can't!” And just as he was thinking about these things, there were servants sent from a centurion's house. His name is Cornelius. And Cornelius is a centurion, a centurion is a Roman officer, a soldier. He's not a Jew. He's a Roman. He's a Gentile. “What's a Gentile?” you say. A Gentile is someone who is not a Jew.
So, Cornelius sent servants to Peter, inviting Peter to his house. Cornelius has separately been informed by God to do so. And so that's what he did. Peter readily accepted the invitation and when he got to Cornelius' house, he met with the people gathered there. And this is what Peter said, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” [Acts 10:28]
He has now figured out what that dream was supposed to be. There is now no more a need to call the Gentiles - common or unclean. And then he goes on to say, “I understand that God shows no partiality.” [Acts 10:34] That God is not just going to save the Jews. “And He commanded us …” that is Jesus, “…He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One appointed by God.”
Jesus is the Christ. The Chosen One, the forever King, “… To be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him, to Jesus all the prophets from Moses to Isaiah, to Jeremiah, to Ezekiel, all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” [Acts 2:42-43]
Same message. Same Gospel. Same person preaching. And then we read in verse 44, “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised…” These are the Jews who came along with Peter, “… They were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” [Acts 10:45] No one would have believe it will come to the Gentiles. But it did! They were all amazed because, “They were hearing them, speak in tongues and extolling God.” [Acts 10:46]
So the same public supernatural manifestation in Acts chapter 2 is happening like-wise in Acts chapter 10. What is coming to the Jews has now come also upon the Gentiles. So Peter has used his keys, once in Acts 2 when Jews are getting saved. And now in Acts 10, when he likewise preached. And this time, the Gentiles are getting saved. And God puts His chop, His stamp of approval with the giving of the Holy Spirit and enabling them to speak in tongues.
Now, some of you may say, “Jason, you read too much lah. Wah, like that also can link ah you. Just a few things similar, you say they are the same thing.” Well, this is not my suggestion or imagination. But if you read on, the Bible makes it clear. God makes it clear.
Acts 11 verse 17, “If then God gave the same gift …” The argument is that God is certainly embracing both Jews and Gentiles. Why? He obviously gave them the same gift. He obviously gave them the same manifestation of the Spirit.
“Who was I that I could stand in God's way?” And again. Acts 11:18 then we conclude, we understand that, “To the Gentiles, God has granted repentance.” If it was just the Jews and there was no Peter, no speaking of tongues in Cornelius's house, then no one would know whether God has given salvation to the Gentiles as well.
But when God said, “Peter, I give you the keys, you go there.” And when Peter preached, there was the outpouring of the Spirit. We now know, “The door is opened to the Gentiles.” [Acts 14:27] It's clear! God is making this loud and clear so that we all know that salvation is no more limited to a particular race, but it's given to all.
The door is opened. How I know? Peter had the keys and God gave the public endorsement. So Acts 15:8 and 9, same, “And God who knows the heart, bore witness to them by…” How did God bear witness? “… By giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us and He made no distinction.”
So these are keys - Acts 2. Given to Peter. Jews were saved in great numbers. Same public endorsement, speaking in tongues through the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 10, Peter preached, Gentiles were saved and again the same public endorsement by the speaking of tongues.
As if this is not enough, if you look at the Bible again, you realize that in acts 8, something important happened. The disciples went everywhere preaching the Gospel. Now, they were scattered from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria.
Now, Samaria is not a good place to go to for a Jew, because Samaria is made up of Samaritans. You say, “What are Samaritans?” Samaritans are half breeds. They are the descendants of Jews and Gentiles. So, they intermarry and they have mixed breed people - the Samaritans. And Jews didn't like the Samaritans, Samaritans didn't like the Jews.
So, the disciples went to Samaria, they preached, but nothing special happened. And when many people believe, they, they responded well to the Gospel of Jesus. Then, the disciples called for the apostles and they sent John and Peter. And when Peter went there, he prayed for them. He laid hands on them and there was a supernatural manifestation also that they spoke in tongues.
And again, it is almost as if, Peter was there to publicly endorse, publicly declare as it were, the ministry opened now to the Samaritans. So, you could see the keys were given, when very uniquely the Jews, the Gentiles and the Samaritans had the door of the Gospel ministry now swung wide open.
That's why we can read and “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 16:19] To be precise, this should be read, “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound.” That's the tense in the Greek. That's an accurate way of reading it. You can check it out.
In other words, God is saying, “Whatever heaven has decided to be opened, you will go open, Peter.” So Peter is almost like that representative, to have this ribbon-cutting exercise. You know when you start a business or when you open a building, you send this guy with a suit, with a tie. He goes with a group of people, take a scissors and cut lah.
Now, sometimes it's the boss who cuts it, sometimes it's a representative to cut it. Because the boss is, is doing something else. So, Peter, is that representative. The boss has already decided. Business will be open for the Jews. So, he sent His rep. Who's His rep? Peter.
Peter go preach, preach. Say a few words, cut ribbon. Wah! opened already. Then the boss decides the Gentiles will be saved, so Peter goes as the spokesman, preach, preach, preach, cut the ribbon. Wah! Many Gentiles get saved. So, Peter is given this key in a unique way. He's the one who will cut the ribbon.
So, “I'll give you the keys”, I don't think it's about church authority. I don't think it's about church discipline. I think it's about church commencement. In what specific way? In that God used Peter alone for the launch of Gospel ministry for the nations. Okay, can wake up.
This is the slide you might want to remember or you just want to know about. Don't have to memorize, but I think Matthew 16:19, is to be understood in this light. I could let you go but I think I would have just done my job as explaining the verses, but not really helping you have some life lessons. So, let's look at some applicatory thoughts.
I want you to know that this is God's plan. God's plan is not just to save Jews. God's plan is to save the nations. After the sermon last evening, yesterday evening, a lady came up to me and said, “I'm so thankful that you explained this because now I don't feel like a second class person in this world. As if God loves only the Jews and I'm second rate.”
No! Because of the Gospel, we are one with the Jews, Jewish brothers who believe in Jesus. There's now no more Jew nor Gentile, according to the Bible. We are not second-class. We are the children, if you follow Jesus, if you believe in Him. We are all the children of the living God, because God's heart is for the nations.
Some people think that Christianity is for the Westerners, Caucasians, Angmohs. Actually, if you read about it, Christianity began with the Jews, the Middle Easterns, not the Angmohs. And if you read even more about it, the Bible tells us Christianity is not just for Middle East, not just for Jews, but it's for the nations.
Right from the start. Right from the beginning. Right from the first book of the Bible, God promised Abraham that, “In your seed, in your offspring, in your descendant shall… “ what? “… all nations.” [Genesis 22:18] “Yes, I did choose you and from you there will be a great nation. But it is My intent that through your nation, the whole world will be blessed. My heart has always been for all the nations.”
Psalm 2:8 tells us, “I will make the nations your heritage and ends of the earth your possession.” That's what the Son of man is supposed to receive. The Son of Man, referring to Jesus. “And to Him, the Son of Man was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him.” [Daniel 7:14]
God's church will be formed by people from not just Israel but from the Gentiles. Jesus said so, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will listen to My voice.” So that, there will be one flock, one Shepherd. [John 10:16] Jesus came for Israel but He also knows that there is a whole flock out there, that He will gather to form one with the flock of Israel.
So that's what Jesus did. When He went to the cross, when He suffered and died, He Himself is now our peace. This peace is a peace between different people groups. “For He has made us both one who has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” [Ephesians 2:14] The Jews hate the Gentiles, the Gentiles hate the Jews. It is such a deep rooted hostility. But the power of the Gospel brings these walls down.
And so we celebrate the church and its diversity. That people of all nations are together as one. And as mentioned, “There is now neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, no male and female, for you all one in Christ.” [Galatians 3:28]
That, that doesn't mean that we are now genderless - no male nor female. This doesn't mean that there is no such thing as employer or a servant. But it does mean that the Gospel is now not limited to just the males or the females, just as it is not limited to just Jews or the Gentiles,
By God's grace, no partiality is given to all nations, that anyone who repents and believes, regardless of their skin colour, regardless of their language, regardless of their social economic status, you can come and be saved. And that's what makes this church beautiful.
Church is beautiful not because we are all of the same colour. Church is beautiful not because we all came from the same school. Church is beautiful not because we all speak the same language. But, church is beautiful exactly because we are a people from all walks of life, united by the blood of Jesus Christ.
See, when the church is very homogeneous, it might be convenient. It might be easy, it might be expedient, it might be effective or efficient. But I think, it misses something when it is not as diverse as the Gospel allows it to be.
In our church, we came from a time where we had ministries that are demographically oriented. We have young adults, young families, mature families and so on and so forth. We divided the church according to demography. But when we realized that the church does not and should not, I think be always fragmented by this demographic lines, that we decided to scrap all that. And say, “Hey, we just want to be ministries that are centered in the Gospel.”
Yes, our people can choose to be in demographically defined groups. But as a church, from the leadership, we should not impose that on our people. And we should allow them the freedom to have homogeneous group if that is what they choose to associate themselves with. Or to have Gospel-centered groups that are absolutely diverse.
Now, homogeneous groups can be Gospel-centered too, don't get me wrong. But we want to give people that freedom. So that, if I am led to be in for example a care group where it is made of different races, different ages, different, different backgrounds, but we are all moving towards Jesus. I think that's beautiful!
And so in this church, we are no specialists in any particular demographic group. I enjoy and relish and rejoice in the fact that we are people coming from diverse backgrounds - young and old, different races, different colours. I think that brings glory to God. That shows the power of the Gospel to unite even though our colour is different, our language is different, our background is different. It's all about Jesus.
So this is a mystery! This is, this is a puzzle for the Jews. How can the Gentiles be saved? They are unclean. They are common. They eat unclean things. How can they be one with us? Well, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are now fellow heirs, members of the same body, partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” [Ephesians 3:6] Jesus dying and rising to save us from our sin.
A homogeneous church is easier to manage, I am sure. But it is not I think God's will. That we should orchestrate and restrict ourselves that way. A diverse church, I think is beautiful but it does come also with its challenges. Nevertheless, the Bible is very clear that in a church that is diverse, we should still be eager and especially so, “Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4:3]
And Paul speaks of this in very relevant environment - the Ephesian church. Clearly in Ephesus, there are Jews and Gentiles getting saved. But Paul did not say, “Start a Jewish church of Ephesus and start a Gentile church of the Ephesus.” But he says, “It's one church.” “And when you're in one church and you're so different, it's easy to have friction. It's easy to split. But this is my command to you be eager to maintain the unity.”
It is so important to Paul that this is the very first command in Ephesians. For first three chapters. Paul just lays down what God has done, what God has done, what God has done in the Gospel. It's the blessings in the Gospel! But when it is our turn to respond, he says, “The first thing you do, the most important command I give, right from the word, go in fact I we are going to talk about unity some 18 times in Ephesians. The first thing to tell you is - be eager to maintain the unity.”
In fact, it is so important that we are going to spend three, four days in church camp this Wednesday onwards, to look at what it means to be together for the Gospel. We are together not because we look the same, speak the same, dress the same, spend the same. We are together because of the Gospel. What does that really mean? How does that get flashed out?
Well, that's for us to look at in church camp. I want just to lay this down upon us as a church. This is of utmost importance. I don't think there's anything that can quite devastate a church like disunity, dissension, strife, carnality maybe apart from false teachings.
So, that's certainly something we should be mindful of. And as individuals, as Christians, hey, we need to put unity as a huge premium in our life. We might need to suffer wrong. We might need to suffer accusations. We might need to suffer, defraud, as Paul says here in 1st Corinthians 5. But it is necessary sacrifice. If we are eager, we put in our maximum effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
So, celebrate diversity and put a premium on unity. Because God has given us a loud and clear message - My church will be for all nations. It will be as diverse as it comes - all peoples, all languages, all nations.
Now, when Peter heard these words, number one, I don't think Peter understood all that, there and then. I, I, I.. maybe, I see him no up. But this is not easy to figure all that out when Jesus, Jesus just spoke that. I think it's more on hindsight, I think.
Nevertheless, when Peter heard about how he, he alone, you alone is given the keys, it must have felt like a wonderful sense of privilege. But it's not going to be easy. He is now the one who is entrusted with the launch of Gospel ministry amongst the nations. He's going to be the one to cut the ribbon.
Now, imagine if there's an opening ceremony and the rep didn't come to cut ribbon. “Eh, are we opened for business or not?” “Don't know man.” So this rep, very important! And, and you can be sure he's not going to have it easy. So, we read amongst all the apostles, the greatest detail given to the betrayal of Jesus by Peter.
Now, I think all the disciples, in a sense fled. But Peter uniquely failed in a big way - he denied the Lord three times. And he deeply regretted what he did. He, he was sorry for what he did. He wept bitterly when he heard the cock crow. And he realized he had just done what Jesus had warned him.
So why so much detail about him failing? And why did he fail? Well, there's an insight story to that, there is a, explanation from another realm. And that is a kind of insight scoop from Jesus. In Luke 22:31, Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold…” Simon, again is Peter. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.”
“Amongst all, Peter you are going to be sorely tempted.” And I think Peter fell in the temptation, isn't it? He failed three times. You might have thought that's it, man. “Peter, you're a goner, you are not going to believe in Jesus anymore. You are going to betray him. You are going to forsake him forever.” But then the insight scoop also gave an encouragement to Peter, when Jesus said, “…But I have prayed for you.” [Luke 22:32]
You know, in the Bible, the word, ‘but’ is such an important word. Many times the word, ‘but’ gives you a sad thing but this is a good thing. “Oh, Peter is going to crash, is going to burn. Oh no, he's going to lose it, he's going to deny the Lord, absolutely forever.” But no! Because Jesus prayed for him that his faith may not fail.
And indeed, we know Peter's faith did not fail. He was ultimately restored. He did not lose his faith, he kept following Jesus, serving Jesus. And it was said that he died a horrible death because he was faithful to Jesus.
My point in this is that, I like you to imagine what it would have been like for Peter to preach on the day of Pentecost. One might be lifted up in arrogance and pride and say, “Hah, look at me. I'm the one man, to open the door to the Jews. Look at me, I'm the …” And he could easily have done that. But I think what Peter went through, humbled him. And what went through his mind probably would be – “This is amazing! I blew it and yet God would still use me.”
I think his reflection must be that God used me not because of me, but in spite of me.
And I think to myself, I've such a tremendous privilege to preach every Sunday. It is a privilege! I think it's a, it is something I have to answer to God one day, for whether I've been discharging this duty responsibly, faithfully. But no matter what, this is a huge privilege.
But I have also known like Peter, I've failed my God so many times in my life. I step up, stepped up on this stage preaching not because I am worthy and believing God will bless you not because of me, but really in spite of me. And I think, it is a tremendous grace of God to use people like us to serve Him.
Hey, if you're serving God today, well, if you're honest with yourself, we are all like Peter. We have failed Him. We have sinned against God and so many ways. It's a privilege to serve Him and when we serve Him and when people are blessed and when ministry moves. Hey, let it not be said, “That it is a blessed ministry because of me.” But let it said, be said, “That it is a blessed ministry in spite of me. In spite of us.” Peter I think learned that.
One last word, I want to highlight in this Matthew 16:19 and it is the word, ‘will’. “I will give you the keys.” He did not say, “I give you now.” The Greek is clear, it is in the future tense. “I will give you…” Know why it is in the future? “I will give you…” You know why? I hope I say this reverently and you don't take me wrongly.
It is in the future because at this point of time, Jesus didn't have the keys. The authority to all nations, that they might be saved, has not been given to Christ yet. I see that because in verse 20 and 21, it is followed, “Then He strictly charged the disciples, to tell no one that He was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
It was imperative! Look at the word, ‘must’. It was imperative that Jesus must die and rise again. In fact, it was so important I think that's why verse 20 says, “He told the disciples, don't go and tell people that I am the Christ. Not that I am not the Christ, but that the Christ must die.”
I mean that's prophesied in Zechariah and Isaiah, the Christ must die. And if the Christ will not die, He will not be the Christ. “So, if they know that I'm the Christ, the King, they might mistakenly think that, that is all that I'm going to do. And they may put me as king and I will not die. But I must die, I must be killed and I must rise the third day.”
And it is only after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that He would then call for His disciples. And say to them, “All authority is given unto me, go ye therefore…” But before that, no, not yet. “So Peter, I will give you the keys, not just yet but I must die first.”
In other words, Revelation 1:17-18 also tells us, “Fear not, I am the first and the last and the living One.” I died…” Look at this, “…and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades.” It is through the death of Jesus, that Jesus conquered death. “Oh death where is your sting.” Jesus died and rose again. The cross is the inevitable reality. It must take place. And that is the crux of it all, isn't it?
So people say, “Salvation is free.” It is not! Salvation has to be earned. Jesus had to say on the cross, “It, it is finished.” or “It is paid.” Salvation has to be earned but only One is worthy to earn it and that is Jesus Christ. It is free for all, who repent and believe. But it was earned, it was bought with a huge price - His life.
So, if you today are here with us and you are lost. You say, “Wow, this is the first time in church and you give me this kind of a sermon. Tolong [please in Malay] ah! Tolong! This is really, wah…” I say to you, “I just want you to know, you may not understand what this key, that key, what Gentile, Jew, what Cornelius. I know cornetto, I don't know Cornelius. I, I have no clue what these things are.”
I just want to say, “The message of the Bible is - Jesus is that special King. That special King who will rule forever. That special King who will rule all nations. That special King who will set the captives free from their sin. This special King is the King who will come humbly on the donkey, enter Jerusalem and be crucified on the cross. This is the King who will rise again. And this is the King who will one day return to receive His church to himself, and He will judge all nations.”
I want to ask you, “Will you face this King as a rebel or as a follower?” He says to you, “Whosoever believes in me will not perish but have everlasting life.” He is the King. There is no name given under heaven, whereby man may be saved except Jesus Christ. May you repent. May you believe. May you not just come to this service, but may you come to Christ today.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
I want to thank you for listening in to a, I think, really tough message - technical, loaded with Scripture. But I want to thank you for hanging in there. And as mentioned, if you're here with us and you do not know Jesus or if you are struggling and wondering about how you can be saved from your sin, how you can be a child of God, a follower of God. I say to you this question, is the question of the Bible, which God sought to answer right from the beginning.
That when man sin in the garden of Eden, God immediately ushered in the plan of salvation and the announcement that there will come a man born from Eve's descendants who will crush the devil and save His people from their sins. This man is called, The Christ, The Messiah.
And some 2000 years ago, a baby Child named, Jesus was born into this world. The angels declared, He is the Christ. Many saints declared, “He is the Christ.” His disciples watched His life said, “He is the Christ.” And when He died and rose again, heaven said, “This is the Christ.”
My friends, there is only One who can save you from your sin - Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the father but by me.” If you repent and believe, you may receive the forgiveness of sins. You will be reconciled with God and He, Jesus, will be your King. I pray today, you will not harden your heart but you will humble yourself. Repent and believe.
I say to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Maybe you have been serving God for some time now and you feel that your sense of worth is derived from your ministry. You see success around you, you see people blessed and numbers grow. And you are tempted to pat yourself on your shoulders and say “Well done man. Well done. Look at how gifted you are. Look at how dedicated you are. Look at how capable you are.”
Oh, let Peter's story be a gentle mirror you can look yourself in. It is God's mercy to use us. And God blesses the ministry not because of me, but in spite of me. What an amazing God and Saviour! Choosing to use broken vessels like as we are. Now, I hope this does not in any way make you lethargic and slothful in your ministry. We give our best. He deserves it. But if there be any success, let it all be about glory to God. May He increase and may we decrease.
Friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, unity in church is of utmost importance. That's God's design for His church. He didn't bind homogeneous people together. He gathered diverse people together. This is what we see here in Gospel Light and this is what we must value and embrace and celebrate.
My friends, do you do your level best to preserve the unity? Because often times the greatest hindrance to unity is me. It's I, it's my flesh, it's my selfish desires, it's my selfish preferences. It's the way I have insisted in doing things my way. Would you not suffer wrong? Would you not be willing to be defrauded, if that could mean the preservation of the unity in the body? Would you not be willing to forgive? “By this shall all men know we are His disciples, if we love one another.”
So, if there's some bitterness in your heart, some conflict in your relationship, for the sake of the unity of this church, would you put aside yourself? And say, “God, humble me. Use me. Give us a church united. That like Psalm 133 would say, “This is where God commands His blessings forever more.”
Father, thank You today for Your Word. And thank you we can all be reminded, it's all about Jesus. Thank You, He's the Christ. Thank you through His finished work, the doors of the Gospel are now swung wide open to the Jews and Gentiles, to the Samaritans, to all nations. We praise you and thank you. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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