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Part 17: The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

Let us consider Peter’s confession in response to the question which the Lord Jesus put to His disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?”

“Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16.

Then note the Lord’s words to Simon Bar-jona:

“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.” Matthew 16:18 and 19.

Then after His resurrection the Lord Jesus said to His apostles:

“WHOSE SOEVER SINS YE REMIT, THEY ARE REMITTED UNTO THEM; AND WHOSE SOEVER SINS YE RETAIN, THEY ARE RETAINED.” John 20:23.

Many Christians have been perplexed and in much doubt as to what the Lord Jesus meant when He said;

a—“Upon this rock.”

b—“I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

c—“Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them.”

Did the Lord Jesus say, “I will build My Church on Peter”, or “I will build My Church on Peter’s confession”, or “I will build My Church on Myself the Rock?”

It is interesting to note that the Lord said “Thou art petros, and on this petra I will build My Church.” Petra is a rock larger than petros.

But let us note the words of Peter in I Peter 2:5, 6 and I Peter 5:1 to 3 and 5: “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. Wherefore 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.”

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”

“Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”

Peter wrote, as an elder, that an elder should not shepherd a flock as a lord over God’s heritage. And Peter called believers, living stones.

Then let us note the words of Paul, in Ephesians 2:19 to 22:

“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.”

Here again we see that believers are living stones in the spiritual temple. Then note Paul’s words, in I Corinthians 3:10 and 11:

“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.”

Before we search the Scriptures to see how the ministry of Peter fits into Divine truth concerning the Church which Paul calls “the Body of Christ”, let us see how Peter forgave sins:

“And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.” Acts 10:25 and 26. Peter would not permit a man to kneel before him in adoration or worship. Note how he forgave sin.

“TO HIM GIVE ALL THE PROPHETS WITNESS, THAT THROUGH HIS NAME WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM SHALL RECEIVE REMISSION OF SINS.” Acts 10:43.

Peter forgave sins just as any young or old Christian can forgive sin by preaching forgiveness of sins by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. He did have apostolic authority, but it was never transferred by Peter to any successor.

THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM

What did Christ give to Peter? We will let the Scriptures speak for themselves:

“These Twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not in the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:5 to 8.

“Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Matthew 19:27 and 28.

“Afterward He appeared unto the Eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues: They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Mark 16:14 to 18.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commended you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:19 and 20.

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8.

In John 21 Christ commanded Peter to feed His sheep and to tend His lambs. After we have carefully studied these commissions, let us again study them in the light of Galatians 2:7 to 9—Acts 10:28—Acts 8:1 and Acts 5:29 to 32.

“BUT CONTRARIWISE, WHEN THEY SAW THAT THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION WAS COMMITTED UNTO ME, AS THE GOSPEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION WAS UNTO PETER; (FOR HE THAT WROUGHT EFFECTUALLY IN PETER TO THE APOSTLESHIP OF THE CIRCUMCISION, THE SAME WAS MIGHTY IN ME TOWARD THE GENTILES:) AND WHEN JAMES, PETER, AND JOHN, WHO SEEMED TO BE PILLARS, PERCEIVED THE GRACE THAT WAS GIVEN UNTO ME, THEY GAVE TO ME AND BARNABAS THE RIGHT HANDS OF FELLOWSHIP; THAT WE SHOULD GO UNTO THE HEATHEN, AND THEY UNTO THE CIRCUMCISION.”

“And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, EXCEPT THE APOSTLES.”

Do you suppose Roman Catholic priests ever read these verses? Then note what Peter said about seven years after Pentecost.

“And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” Acts 10:28.

Note that instead of going to Rome to organize the Roman Church, Peter remained in Jerusalem.

How plain are these truths. Unto Peter was committed “the gospel of the circumcision” for the circumcision, and God worked in Him in that ministry.

Paul gave this testimony concerning Gentile salvation and the Body of Christ “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.” Colossians 1:29.

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8.

It was in this sense that Paul was a wise masterbuilder. “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.” I Corinthians 3:10. The words, “But contrariwise”, in Galatians 2:7 quoted above, assure us that Peter had no jurisdiction over Paul. In Acts 22:17 to 21, we read that Christ told Paul to get out of Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles. In Acts 8:1, we learn that Christ instructed Peter to remain in Jerusalem and preach to Jews. Peter remained in the land of the Jews, according to the Book of Acts, and the only time he went out of Palestine, so far as the “Acts” record is concerned he got into trouble.

Note that trouble “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.” Galatians 2:11 to 13.

It has truly been said that if Peter was a Catholic, Paul was a Protestant. Peter was neither infallible nor the first. pope. But note Paul’s testimony concerning his gospel and his communications with Peter.

“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught, it but by revelation of Jesus Christ:” Galatians 1:11 and 12.

“To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me; God accepteth no man’s person): for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me.” Galatians 2:5 and 6.

Paul did not receive the gospel from Peter. Peter did not know the gospel of the uncircumcision which Christ committed to Paul. Galatians 2:7. He heard this for the first time from Paul.

After Peter preached to the household of Cornelius, the Gentile, he and others of the Twelve agreed to go to the Jews. Galatians 2:9. Up to the time Peter preached to Cornelius, it was unlawful for him or any of the Twelve to preach to a Gentile. Acts 10:28. The other eleven condemned Peter when he did preach to Cornelius. Acts 11:1 to 5.

Note the difference between Peter’s message and Paul’s. Compare them. “Ye men of Israel.” Acts 3:12 to 15.

“Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts 3:25 and 26.

“Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:30 and 31.

“Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8.

“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward.” Ephesians 3:1 and 2.

“Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, Which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1:20 to 23.

You see there is a great difference. Now we note in Acts 2:14 that eleven other apostles stood up with Peter, on the day of Pentecost, and spoke to devout Jews from every nation under heaven concerning all the house of Israel. Acts 2:5— Acts 2:36. Twelve apostles to twelve tribes. One of the twelve was killed some years later. Acts 12:1 and 2.

With the death of James the Lord’s program changed. It was no longer twelve apostles to twelve tribes.

A NEW COMMISSION

“AS THEY MINISTERED TO THE LORD, AND FASTED, THE HOLY SPIRIT SAID, SEPARATE ME BARNABAS AND SAUL FOR THE WORK WHEREUNTO I HAVE CALLED THEM.” Acts 13:2.

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, LO, WE TURN TO THE GENTILES.” Acts 13:46.

Up to the death of James, in Acts 12:1, Simon Peter is mentioned many times. From the death of James to the close of Acts, Peter is mentioned very few times, and where his name is mentioned., in the last sixteen chapters of Acts, it is in connection with Paul’s ministry. Paul is mentioned in those closing seventeen chapters more than 130 times. Peter passed out and Paul became the chief human actor.

Now let us compare other statements in Peter’s messages with some of Paul’s.

– PETER –

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” Acts 2:22.

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38.

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.” Acts 10:34 and 35.

– PAUL –

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” II Corinthians 5:16.

“ For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” Romans 11:15.

“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:4 and 5.

Peter used the keys of the kingdom with Israel and with the household of one Godfearing, devout, religious, Jew-loving Gentile who feared God and who worked righteousness. Acts 2:22 and Acts 10:35.

Paul preached the gospel of the uncircumcision, the gospel of the grace of God, the ministry of reconciliation, the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ to Gentiles.

In Philippians 1:10 the Word says, “test things that differ.” Peter and the Eleven never called the “Church of the Mystery” the “Body”. That was the Lord’s own special revelation to Paul.

The twelve apostles are to have a ministry with the twelve tribes of Israel after the Body has been taken to glory. Matthew 19:28 and Revelation 21:12 to 14.

From Acts 1:1 to Acts 12:1 we have something of the kingdom program that God will put into action after this age has ended. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead to take the throne of David, and the heavens will retain Him until the times of the restitution of all things. Acts 2:27 to 32. Acts 3:19 to 21.

Note again-Matthew 16:16 to 19:

“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 Bar-jona; 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 whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Now compare with Ephesians 3:1 and 2— Ephesians 3:5 and 6:

“FOR THIS CAUSE I PAUL, THE PRISONER OF JESUS CHRIST FOR YOU GENTILES. IF YE HAVE HEARD OF THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH IS GIVEN ME TO YOU-WARD.”

“Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.”

So we are sure that the Joint-Body of Ephesians is the Lord’s Church of this age. It was not built on Peter’s confession. Ephesians 2:20 and I Corinthians 3:10.

The keys of the kingdom of heaven will not fit into the dispensation of the grace of God. “The dispensation of the grace of God” and “the dispensation of the mystery” did not begin with Peter and Pentecost.