"The Most Important Question"-Matthew 16:13-20

Core Belief: Church- I believe the church is God's primary way to accomplish His purposes on earth today.

Ephesians 4:15-16 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Paul uses a number of metaphors to describe the church. He calls the church God's field and God's building (1Co 3:9; cf., Eph 2:21), Christ's body (Eph 5:23; cf., 1Co 12:27, 28), and a holy temple (Eph 2:21) to mention just a few. Perhaps family qualifies as another of his metaphors since he refers to "the family of believers" in his letter to the Galatians (6:10).

As Ephesians 4:15-16 states: The Church is the family of God called by God, with Christ as the Head, building itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Introduction:  Matthew 16 is one of the key chapters in the entire Bible when it comes to understanding Scripture, God’s plan, and Jesus himself. It is a watershed chapter in the area of ecclesiology. Ecclesiology = the study of the church.


Scripture: Matthew 16:13-20 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 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.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

The Message of this Passage:  

In each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) one question Jesus asked His disciples marks a turning point. That question is, “Who do people say I am?” (see also Mark 8:27; Luke 9:18).  The disciples reported what the people were saying, people who had seen Jesus’ miracles, listened to His teaching, been restored by His healing power, and eaten of the bread and fishes He had multiplied. Everywhere, people were convinced that Jesus was among the greatest of the prophets, and might even be one of the ancients restored to life!

The synoptic Gospel writers each tell us that Jesus asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered for them all. “You are the Christ.”  What is so significant about this incident is that three Gospels tell us that from this point there was a shift in Jesus’ ministry. Only then did Jesus begin to teach His disciples about His coming death. In fact, from this point on Jesus focused His ministry more and more on instructing the Twelve.

Why? Because these men acknowledged Jesus for who He is: the Christ, the Son of God. The compliments of the crowds who linked Jesus with the greatest of Old Testament saints fell far short, for they failed to acknowledge Him for who He is. Those compliments in fact constituted a rejection of Jesus, a damning disguised as praise.

There is no way that people who will not believe in Jesus can really profit from His instruction. Without the personal relationship with God which is established by faith, what a person does is completely irrelevant. It is only as we believe and obey that Jesus can fill our lives with newness. It is only faith and obedience that can transform.

Jesus is also predicting that He will build a community of believers who follow Him. This community would soon become known as ‘the church.’ You are part of this community.

When you trusted in Jesus Christ, God placed you into His new community.

Answering Interpretive Questions:

  • Why do you think Jesus started by asking the disciples what others thought?

  • When you read this passage, what is the primary truth you draw from it?

  • Why do you think Jesus had this discussion with the disciples alone? He could have included others but He chose not to.

  • Of the people that the disciples said others thought Jesus was, is there one that surprises you? Is there one that makes perfect sense?

  • What is it about Peter’s answer that made it so astounding?

  • Why do you suppose people are so willing and able to give their opinions, even when they have no idea about what the facts and truth are? 

  • Would people you know want to learn the real Truth if they knew their beliefs were wrong? Or, would they not care, desiring to stay in their wrong beliefs?

  • When the church is obviously given such a great responsibility, how should we respond to that trust? How should we not respond? How should we respond as individuals? How should we not respond?

  • How would you define the difference between the statements, “You are not part of the Rock, which is the Church; you are the Rock, which is the Church.”

The world sees committed Christians and churches, but very little activity that can only be explained in terms of God’s activity.

Grant Schweisthal