Tonight I want you to consider a third lesson from Matthew 16:13-23. In the first lesson we noted that Peter understood the fact that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. But he did not understand God's purposes in Jesus. Therefore, he rebuked Jesus when Jesus said that he would be killed.

In the second lesson we focused on Jesus blessing Peter. We examined some of the good and bad things that happened to Peter after Jesus said, "Peter, you are blessed." We noted that God used his successes and his failures to move him along the road to heaven.

Tonight, I want us to focus on Jesus' statement to Peter, "I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Do you enjoy the experience of having someone "read your mind"? Without expressing or explaining yourself, this person says, "I know what you are thinking. I know what you are concerned about. I understand what you want to accomplish."

Excuse me. How can you know what I am thinking if I have not told you? How could you possibly know what I intend to accomplish if I haven't discussed that information with you?

Do you enjoy talking to people who finish your sentences for you? You never finish anything that you start saying. This person always says it for you--or tries to.

Too often Christians "read God's mind" without allowing God to tell them what He wants or intends. With good intentions, we stress some teachings while we neglect others. We are certain that we "know what God wants and intends." It is as though we try to think for God and finish His conversations for Him.

  1. When Jesus said, "Peter I will give you the keys to kingdom," when Jesus told Peter that he would bind and loose on earth, I don't know what Peter thought those statements meant.
    1. I do know that Peter thought that Jesus came to be the physical king of Israel.
      1. He thought that Jesus would actually sit on a throne in Jerusalem.
      2. He thought that Jesus would be and fulfill Christ's mission by physically ruling over the nation of Israel.
    2. When Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom, I don't know what Peter thought that he would do with the keys.

  2. To correctly understand Jesus' promises to Peter, there are some things we need to know.
    1. First, we need to know that Jesus did not make the promise of binding and loosing only to Peter.
      1. Jesus was speaking specifically to Peter in Matthew 16:19.
      2. But in Matthew 18:1 he was speaking to all the disciples as he answered their question, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
      3. Speaking to all of them, Jesus said in verse 18, Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
    2. Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom only to Peter.
      1. Peter may have thought Jesus was giving him a privilege, but Jesus was actually giving him a responsibility.
      2. All the apostles were given the responsibility of binding and loosing.
    3. What did that mean? Did it mean that they used their own human, arbitrary choice to decide what the kingdom would be and do? Absolutely not. Kingdom decisions were not left to human reasoning, human opinion, or human desire.
      1. Please turn in your Bibles to John 13: the last supper on the last evening of Jesus' earthly life.
        1. Only Jesus and the twelve were there on that occasion.
        2. Matthew 26:20 states that Jesus shared that meal with "the twelve disciples."
        3. Mark 14:17 states that Jesus came to that meal "with the twelve."
        4. Luke 22:14 states that Jesus was at the table, "and the apostles with him."
        5. The conversation Jesus had in John 13, 14,15, and 16 was with the twelve disciples or apostles.
        6. The specific promises were made to with whom he ate--to the apostles.
      2. What did Jesus promise all twelve regarding their future teaching (excluding Judas who left to betray him)?
        1. After washing their feet (John 13), he urged them not to be troubled by the events of the evening (John 14:1).
        2. In 14:16 he promised that God would give them another Helper who would be with them forever--the new Helper would be permanent.
        3. In 14:18 he promised that he would not leave them as orphans.
        4. In 14:26 he promised that God would sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit, and this is what the Holy Spirit would do:
          He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
        5. The apostles would be taught by the Holy Spirit and have perfect recall.
        6. In 15:26 Jesus promised he would send the Helper, who, when He came as the Spirit of truth, would bear witness of Jesus--the Holy Spirit would be Jesus' witness to them.
        7. In 16:13 Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth would guide the apostles into all truth, would reveal the things that He heard God speak, and would enable them to know the things that would happen in the future.
      3. The apostles would bind and loose because they were guided by the Holy Spirit, taught by the Holy Spirit, could recall everything Jesus said, and were shown things to come by the Holy Spirit.
    4. I think it is extremely important that we understand this:
      1. Being guided by the Holy Spirit did not destroy their humanity, or their ability to make mistakes, or give them instant knowledge of all truth.
      2. Remember our study of Peter's life last Sunday night.
        1. In Acts 10 Peter did not understand that Jesus wanted him to teach and baptize people who were not Jews--and it took a lot to convince Peter that he was supposed to do that.
        2. Because Peter taught and baptized people who were not Jews, some Jewish Christians in Jerusalem hurt Peter, he became afraid of them.
        3. Later, because he was afraid of these Jewish Christians, he broke fellowship with Christians who were not Jews.
        4. He also encouraged other Jewish Christians to break fellowship with them.
        5. Paul confronted Peter publicly to his face because Peter was wrong and was acting hypocritically (Galatians 2:11-14).
      3. Peter had long been guided by the Holy Spirit when this happened.
        1. Obviously, that guidance did not destroy his humanity.
        2. Obviously, it did not instantly give him total knowledge of all truth--the process of the Spirit guiding him and teaching him was a continuing process.
        3. Obviously, it did not destroy his human weakness.
        4. Obviously, it did not destroy his human ability to make mistakes.
      4. Something else is obvious: being human, weak, and making mistakes did not destroy the Holy Spirit's ability to guide, teach, and direct Peter.

  3. Now I ask you to think with me very carefully: Peter's concept of the kingdom was not Jesus' concept of the kingdom.
    1. Peter opened the kingdom to all people who were Jews in Acts 2.
      1. That day Peter first preached the good news about the resurrected Jesus being Christ and Lord, and he preached it to Jewish people from sixteen different areas of the Roman empire (Acts 2:8-11).
      2. That day Peter taught Jewish people from all over the Roman empire.
      3. That day Jewish people who resided all over the Roman empire had an opportunity to become Christians.
      4. And that was fine with Peter--that fit Peter's concept of the kingdom; it should be available to all Jewish people everywhere.
    2. Peter first opened the kingdom to people who were not Jews in Acts 10.
      1. Cornelius gathered his relatives and close friends to hear what Peter had to say (Acts 10:24).
        1. An angel instructed him to send for Peter, and Cornelius did.
        2. He was filled with expectation as he waited for Peter to come.
        3. Before that day was over, Peter had taught and baptized these people who were not Jews.
      2. Initially, Peter had a lot of difficulty understanding that he was to teach people who were not Jews.
        1. That did not fit Peter's concept of the kingdom--he had never envisioned the kingdom including people who were not Jews.
        2. This was so foreign to Peter's thinking that the Lord had to take unusual initiatives to open Peter's mind and understanding.
      3. When Peter finally understood this was God's plan for the kingdom, many of the Jewish Christians did not understand it.
        1. They fought the idea.
        2. They were certain that this was not what God intended for the kingdom.
        3. Many of these Christians never did understand.
        4. They read God's mind; they knew what God wanted and intended; they were absolutely certain.
        5. They were certain, but they completely misunderstood God's plans for the kingdom.

  4. Jewish Christians had an enormous disadvantage as they tried to understand the kingdom of Christ.
    1. They mixed the concept of the kingdom of Israel with the concept of Christ's kingdom.
      1. They had great difficulty separating the concepts of the two kingdoms.
      2. The way they looked at Israel determined the way they saw the church.
    2. The contrast between Israel and the church is dramatic.
      1. For example, the kingdom of Israel was formed around an institution and rituals.
        1. The institution was the temple.
        2. The rituals included animal sacrifices and sacrificial worship.
      2. The kingdom of Christ is not formed around an institution or rituals.
        1. There is no temple--each Christian is a living stone in the living temple of God (1 Peter 2:5).
        2. There are no commanded rituals--Jesus is our complete sacrifice.
      3. Another example:
        1. The morality and ethics of Israel were based on and defined by laws.
        2. The morality and ethics of Christianity are based on and defined by a Savior.
    3. Many Jewish Christians did not want to open Christ's kingdom to the world.
      1. They wanted to keep the kingdom to themselves.
      2. They wanted the kingdom to be what they wanted and only what they wanted.
      3. They were more concerned about preserving their concept than they were expanding Christ's kingdom--they did not realize it, but they were.
    4. It is too easy for us to make their mistake.
      1. Though the New Testament does not refer to the church as an institution, it is easy for us to make it an institution.
      2. When we make the church an institution, It is easy for us to be more concerned about preserving our institution than expanding Christ's kingdom.
      3. It is easy to be more concerned about making the church what we want it to be than allowing the church to become what God intended his kingdom to be.

Peter discovered that using the keys to open God's kingdom to people was much more difficult, much more complicated than he ever imagined. Even Peter who was guided and taught by the Holy Spirit struggled to understand God's concept. Even when he understood, he found it very difficult time to help other Christians understand.

It still is difficult and complicated to keep the doors unlocked. It is hard to open our minds to God's full concept of the kingdom. It is never easy to help each other understand.

One of our greatest challenges and most urgent challenges is to rediscover the importance of opening the kingdom all around us. May we never lock what Christ through Peter unlocked.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 December 1997
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