UN-LEAVENING THE CHURCH
Matthew 16:13-20 (KJV)
13 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?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 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.
18 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.
19 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.
20 Then charged he His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ.
coasts of Caesarea Philippi
This refers to a city about 25 miles north of Capernaum. It was first called Paneas, for a temple was there to Pan, god of all material substance. Herod the Great rebuilt the city, and built a temple there to Caesar. Philip, tetrarch of Iturea, enlarged it naming it Caesarea to honor Tiberias Caesar, adding "Philippi" to distinguish it from Caesarea on the sea coast. The first names od that city, were Dan, and Laish.
Christ Jesus had just spoken about the Pharisees, and identified the doctrines, i.e. the leaven, that spoiled and ruined their religion. Now, Jesus is going to identify what makes one immune to such leaven, and makes the faith of such to be pure and good.
Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
Christ ask what the public opinion of His identity is. This is key to having a pure faith, a righteous relationship. We must realize Who He is. There are many ideas from that time, and from our own.
Christian Science says that Jesus was the offspring of Mary's self-conscious communion with God; to them Jesus is incorporeal, spiritual. Mary's conception of him was spiritual in their eyes. They do not believe that Jesus Christ is God.
The Unity denomination believes that Jesus is the I in man, the self, the divine idea. They say you should reveal yourself to yourself and affirm, ‘I am the Christ.’
Spiritualism believes that Jesus is not the Son of God. They believe that any just being is the Christ. They think that they are, and Jesus was nothing more than a medium of a high order; not divine except in the sense that all people are divine.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus Christ was a man, not more, nor less. They also then identify Him as the archangel Michael. They believe that God created Jesus and He is dead, and not resurrected physically.
Many modernism churches today proclaim that Jesus is a man so good his deluded followers took him to be a god. They then purport that the belief in His resurrection, His deity, His soon return coming were added much later into the New Testament.
Mormonism believes that Jesus is a created being, brother to the devil, and not divine any more than any of us can be if we do certain works.
So, those are today’s ideas that others have about Jesus. None of those are correct, nor Biblical, nor able to save anyone.
The Pharisees proclaimed that they believed in a Messiah, but their idea of what Jesus should be if He were the Messiah, is one of them, one who would overthrow the Romans, and bring power and wealth to all Pharisees. They felt exclusive, better than others, and able to be mini-Messiahs to others. So, Jesus Who came preaching repentance, Who said that only He was the way to God the Father, and Who did not flaunt outward works, but emphasized inward change as vital to being in the kingdom, was not acceptable to the Pharisees.
WHO TRULY IS JESUS?
God spoke from heaven to announce Jesus to be "My beloved Son". Before this sermon here of Jesus, at the baptism in the Jordan, God said:
Matthew 3:17 (KJV)
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Soon after this sermon, God confirmed again:
Matthew 17:5 (KJV)
5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
Jesus said, "I am the Son of God"
John 10:36 (KJV)
36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
Many others confirmed belief that Jesus is One of the Trinity.
Demons recognized Jesus to be the ‘Son of God:’
Matthew 8:29 (KJV)
29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?
Gabriel announced that Jesus is the Son of God:
Luke 1:32-35 (KJV)
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Shortly before this sermon, the disciples came to the awareness that He had to be the Son of God:
Matthew 14:32-33 (KJV)
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Even before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Martha knew Jesus to be the Son of God:
John 11:27 (KJV)
27 She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, Who should come into the world.
Nathaniel recognized Jesus to be the Son of God, when he was first called to discipleship.
John 1:49 (KJV)
49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
So, here, at this sermon, for Peter to recognize Jesus to be the Son of God, took faith, and revelation from God, but Peter was not the first, nor only one to understand this. Jesus knew that the disciples should understand this, and even the Pharisees should have figured it out. Jesus had spent nearly three years by the time of this sermon doing miracles and fulfilling the signs of the Messiah. The truth of Who Jesus is, is the key to overcoming all the leaven of the Pharisees.
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.
John the Baptist
began His sermons with ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ So did Jesus. The similar message of repentance and inner cleansing to be done so one could enter the kingdom was the same between Jesus and John the Baptist, so this was an idea of some, based on that language. The difference was that John was a forerunner of the Messiah. He announced the ‘Lamb of God’ Who was to come, and Jesus came, and was acclaimed by God Himself to be this Son.
is a second idea of some others. Elijah was predicted to come back before the Messiah, so some thought Jesus might be he. This idea is faulty, for Jesus was obviously not Elijah. There are many today, in fact, perhaps we could fill a stadium with those who think they themselves are ‘Elijah’ who is come back, not a reincarnation, but the one who has come to finish the ministry of Elijah. They are all wrong too. Elijah will come back before the second coming of Jesus, in the middle of the tribulation. John the Baptist came in the first coming, and did similar announcing of the Messiah, but he was not Elijah either.
was called the weeping prophet. He wept often for the sins of the people. They had seen Jesus weep often, and feel the grief of sin in this world. Also, Jeremiah’s chief message was ‘repent’ for the city and Temple would soon be destroyed. One of the messages of Jesus was the coming destruction of the city and Temple also. So, based on the weeping, and the message, some thought Jesus might be Jeremiah returned.
Jesus was not Jeremiah, nor Elijah, nor John the Baptist. He is the Son of God. All misinterpretations of Who Jesus is, creates a leaven in the religion that ruins it.
But whom say ye that I am? Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God
This kind of confession from the heart brings salvation, and entrance into the kingdom. The spirit of man comes alive, sins are repented and forgiven, and one is alive in Jesus.
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 Who is in heaven.
is the state in which Peter entered when He realized Jesus is Deity. We are happy in this faith, we are enlivened in spirit, and encouraged in hope.
Flesh and blood
could not have revealed that to Peter, for flesh and blood, our carnal nature, fights the enthronement of Jesus. Our spirit is at war with that carnal nature, and any revelation that leads us to Jesus and His deity, is through the spirit, not through the carnal flesh. The Pharisees were motivated by the flesh, and were not open to hearing what their spirit would have wanted to relay to them from God. They did not have spiritual ears to hear.
Through the spirit of Peter, it was revealed... the ‘Father Who is in heaven’ had communicated with the hearing spirit of Peter and revealed the Person of Jesus to be the Messiah, and Son of God.
also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church
is the Greek word, Petros (G4074), and Aramaic, Kephas (G2784) meaning a fragment of a rock, a stone.
Upon this rock
refers to the revelation that Peter had from God, and upon that truth is the church to be built. The word ‘rock’ is not petros (G4074), but is petra (G4073), meaning an immovable stone.
The church is built upon Christ Jesus Himself, Who is the only foundation of the church. Peter is one of the stones that builds up the wall of the church, as are all of Christians. The foundation Rock is Jesus. The truth of Jesus being the foundation of the church, via being One of the Trinity, is the vital understanding that keeps the leaven out of the church.
1 Corinthians 3:11 (KJV)
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 28:16 (KJV)
16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
Peter was only one of the builders, and we are stones too in the church, built up upon the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God.
1 Peter 2:5 (KJV)
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.
‘My church’ are the words of Jesus. He does claim a ‘church’ to be His. For the only real church is His church. It is made up of all born-again believers.
1 Corinthians 12:13 (KJV)
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
Ephesians 2:22 (KJV)
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Many denominations, many groups have thought themselves to be exclusive and the only true church. The Pharisees had not accepted Jesus as One of the Trinity, and yet, felt themselves to be the exclusive group, and only they were going to heaven. There is no exclusivity of any denomination. Jesus is the way, not some man-made organization.
To avoid all ‘leaven’, as had the Pharisees, and many groups today too, we need to realize Jesus is the Son of God, and be in Him.
thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven
The keys were not just for Peter, but the same power is given to all believers.
Matthew 17:20 (KJV)
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Matthew 18:18-19 (KJV)
18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Mark 9:23 (KJV)
23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
John 14:12-14 (KJV)
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
These keys of the kingdom of heaven are a symbol of authority. Here they mean authority and power to do the works of Christ. Binding and loosing means more than declaring something lawful or unlawful by preaching. It also means to confirm the truth by power as Christ and the apostles did.
Then charged He His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ
Jesus wanted to be recognized, and sought for mankind to realize His deity. Yet, He did not want the disciples proclaiming it to the un-believers, the enemies of God, for they would hurry the crucifixion if it were proclaimed.
John begins his Gospel from the beginning of eternity, where the Word is coexistent, and co-equal with God.
Matthew begins with Jesus, the son of Abraham and David, yet the Divine implanted into human flesh.
Luke begins with the birth of John the Baptist, the Messiah's forerunner.
Mark begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, and his revelation of Who Jesus is.
All four gospels emphasize that Jesus is the Divine One prophesied to come. John uses the phrase "Son of God" 29 times, and Mark uses it 7 times. Yet, Matthew, writing for Jews, prefers "Son of David," 9 times, so that he might identify him as the Messiah the Divine One promised in the seed of David.
Mankind’s history is a history of sinfulness. Adam had but one sin possible, and he sinned that one. Later, many laws were added, along with a method of cleansing from sin. Yet, mankind continued to sin, and neglected and ignored the redemption. Mankind kept adding leaven to the truth, and kept seeking other ways to find salvation, if they could The Pharisees were professional religionists, and still, Jesus proclaimed, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and one not hypocritical in his zeal for righteousness, but he was full of the leaven of their teachings, so was seeking redemption though sinful things.
Finally, meeting Jesus, realizing He was the Son of God, brought Saul, now Paul, to the realization that "What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea, verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
This experience of grace found in the Son of God is the key to removing the leaven from our doctrines. Our own attempts at good works, our own pride in our own accomplishments, our own judgmentalism on the sins of others, can never redeem us.
One might try to exalt oneself, claim righteousness due to the outer example, and hope thereby to win heaven, but fallen human nature is totally depraved, and completely incapable of perfectly keeping the perfect law of God.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." So, how could we ever get something clean out of an unclean thing? "They that are in the flesh cannot please God."
A major portion of the leaven of the Pharisees was the idea that they could claim righteousness. The evil of unrighteousness slays many, but the devil of self righteousness dooms far more. Like Cain, the Pharisees, and many today, have the leaven of claiming righteousness due to one’s own works. Their idea is to "Believe in yourself" but that brings damnation, for self is sinful, doomed, and needing of grace.
If salvation is by grace and mercy alone, and no one can ever claim to deserve salvation, then those who are grace-less can then be saved. Prodigals can come home, the worst of sinners can escape the pig pen of sinfulness.
Grace is a pre-requisite to salvation, for there is no salvation without it. Jesus points out here, that the recognition of Him as the Atoning Savior is the only way, and all other ways are ‘leaven’, that ruins and corrupts all other religious systems.
Grace and mercy are not pity. Grace is not leniency or license to sin. Grace is an infinite attribute of God, that extends to all who come via Jesus the Son of God.
The fact that Christ died as a Sacrifice for our repented sins, settles the question as to whether salvation is or is not by Grace. If righteousness found in keeping the law, then Jesus died for no reason. But if one could never keep the law, nor atone for the times one previously broke the law, then it was vital and mandatory that Jesus die, so we can be saved by grace.
Penances, performances, good works, and pious looks are less than nothing in the scale of atonement. Only the precious and sinless blood of Jesus applied to that scale, is there hope for salvation. The self righteousness of the Pharisees was leaven to the plan of God.
Salvation is of necessity all of grace. Sin’s work was so complete, God's justice is undeniable, that nothing short of grace motivated by divine love can Omnipotent love can lift the sinner out of the mire of sin, into the light of grace and mercy.
The accomplishment of God’s plan in Jesus is mandatory, and the removal of Him as the key Ingredient to salvation, is the leaven that Jesus warns about.
Grace has worked in every believer’s heart, and it has done its atoning work. The idea we could ever do it on our own brought a ‘woe’ from the lips of Jesus. Salvation by the grace of Jesus’ work for us, is appropriated by faith. Faith is the hand that grabs hold of the grace, and faith is the shout of joy in the immediate change in our being that it has brought.
Grace is mandatory that it be accepted as the mercy it is, lest any of us should boast. The Pharisees lived a boastful life. They claimed to deserve salvation. The Pharisees felt self-made, and worshiped their creator, i.e. themselves. The self-righteous Pharisee adores his saviour, i.e. himself. The Pharisee brags of what he does, whereas the ones of the church of Jesus, mourned over what he is, and accepted the grace and mercy of transformation into a sinless being in Jesus.
To be ‘leaven’ free in our faith, we must accept Jesus to be the Son of God. The church is built on that truth, and any other idea is false and evil. There is no other way to the true God, but by Jesus. There is no atonement, but by Jesus, and Him alone. The world seeks to have us accept other ways to God, other Gods, other paths. Yet, Hinduism, Muslim, Mormon, Taoism, etc are all false ways. Even the Pharisees had tried to find another path, but their path too was leaven to the truth.