Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church

Nothing upsets Christians of other faiths more than the LDS doctrine of the Apostasy! One of the commonest scriptures they quote to argue against it is Matthew 16:18 “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.” They say that that means that God would not allow the church to apostatize!

But that scripture is misunderstood. If it is analyzed a bit more carefully, it will be seen that it doesn’t mean what they assume it means. The first thing to note is that God did not build His Church on Peter. God does not build His church on a mortal man. If the Church had been built on Peter, then when Peter died the church must have died with him, because there has been no Peter on earth for the past nearly 2,000 years for him to be the rock on which the church is built. If the church was built on Peter, then where there is no Peter, there could be no church. So the first thing to understand is what the Lord meant when He told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church”.

The Lord made that comment to Peter after He had asked His disciples the question, “Who do you think I am” (Matthew 16:15); to which Peter had replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). In other words, he bore his testimony that he knew that Jesus was the Son of God. This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus afterwards told him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). In other words, he had gained a testimony of the Holy Ghost that Jesus was the Son of God. When the Lord told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” the “rock” He was referring to was the rock of testimony, meaning the testimony of the Holy Ghost, which is a personal revelation that Jesus is the Christ. The Lord was saying to Peter that He would build His church on the solid rock of personal revelation—the testimony of the Holy Ghost; and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. That is of course entirely true. That is why the LDS Church puts so much emphasis on personal testimonies, because once someone has obtained that testimony, it is difficult to shake them from the faith. That is why many LDS remain strong and faithful to the Church, even in the face of strong adversity and criticism from the opponents of the Church—because they know; they aren’t just guessing. So that is the first point one needs to note.

The second point is what the Lord meant by “church”. The word “church” has more than one definition or meaning. It can mean just a house of worship, the place where people get together to worship God. It can mean a local branch of a particular church or denomination; or all of that denomination. Or it can mean the complete body of the saints or believers in Christ, which constitute His church in the widest sense of the term—His spiritual Church. It can also mean the organizational structure of the church. The true church of God has also a distinct organizational structure. Paul compared it to a house, with foundations, walls, and everything else:

Ephesians 2:

19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?

When the Lord told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” He was using the word in the wider sense of “the body of His true believers,” or His saints. And that is of course entirely correct. When we say that the church apostatized, we don’t mean that there were no more true believers in Christ left in the world. What we mean is that the organizational structure (as originally devised) was destroyed. The priesthood authority, hence the ability to lead and guide the church by revelation from the Lord was lost. The power to perform valid sacraments acceptable before God was lost. That is what we mean by the Apostasy of the church. We don’t mean that there were no more good Christians left in the world. On the contrary, modern scripture clearly states that there were many good, believing Christians left in the world, who had the Holy Ghost and a testimony of Jesus:

3 Nephi:

6 And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.

7 Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.

What the Lord is saying in this passage is that in the last days (our day), He is going to restore His gospel (the LDS Church) among the Gentiles rather than among the Jews, because the Gentiles believe in Him and the Jews don’t! Well, those who believed in Him constituted His church, which already existed in the world at the time of the Restoration. This is further explained and amplified in the following verses:

D&C 10:

53 And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them.

54 Now I do not say this to destroy my church (i.e. the church which already exists in the world, before the organization of the LDS Church), but I say this to build up my church;

55 Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church (which already existed) need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

56 But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil—yea, verily, verily, I say unto you, that it is they that I will disturb, and cause to tremble and shake to the center.

This revelation was received at a time when the LDS Church had not yet been organized, therefore the “church” that is being referred to is not the LDS Church, but the true church of God which at that time already existed in the world. So the word church has more than one definition and meaning, and that is what that scripture (Mark 16:18) is referring to. It does not mean that the organized church cannot apostatize. It means that those who gain the divine testimony of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Christ will not easily fall away from it, unless they willfully rebel against it. That is the correct interpretation of that scripture.

Revelation 14:6 confirms the Apostasy: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people”.

If the fullness of the gospel was already on earth (i.e. if there had been no Apostasy) why would there be a need for an angel to come down from heaven to restore it in the latter days? Therefore it must have been lost from the earth at some point through an apostasy for a restoration to be made necessary.


Loretta said...

No apostasy, no restoration.

Amen to that.

Explain then, please, why I should believe in your alternative Jesus of the LDS church, who established his church not once but twice, and both times saw it fall into apostasy. A Jesus who is a a two-time loser doesn't sound like a safe bet.

Arguments in lines are stronger than arguments in circles. Talmage and others argue in circules. The Great Apostasy was a necessary "precondition" for restoration, period, because the Church established by Jesus Christ was, and is, safe and sound on the face of the earth and in no need whatsoever of restoration. It can be recognized easily--the Church which is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, united in sacrament, in governance, and in creed. By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed, yet still her faithful in watch are keeping. Check it out at a Roman Catholic parish near you.

True Faith said...

I would like to show you how Jesus set up his Church on earth. You she that when Christ said that Matthew 16:18 “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.” he was speaking of Peter's testimony. I would ask then when you look at the exact quote from Christ, which would have been in Aramaic, which was Jesus’ language, he would have used the word "Cephas" which means bedrock or rock. Thus being so Jesus would have said literally thou are And I say also unto thee, That thou art Rock, and upon this Rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. You may also want continue and look at Matthew 16:19 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. By handing Peter or Rock the keys of heaven he has also handed Peter the power to pass on the roll of the leader of the Church as Jesus' representative here on earth. You can also look to Acts to see first hand Peter's roll as the leader of the Church. Acts 2:14 led Apostles in preaching at Pentecost, Acts 2:41 received the first converts, Acts 15:7 led the first counsel in Jerusalem and there are many different example I can site if you are interested. You can look at many different sources to find a historical listing of Catholic Popes that have succeeded Peter here is just one example of a list from a secular source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_popes

Sapphire said...

Good for people to know.

Joanna N said...

It is a leap to say that Jesus was referring to all revelation from the Holy Spirit. The text only indicates THAT PARTICULAR revelation: Jesus is Christ, Son of the Living God. Jesus is that Rock. To get anyting else out of the text, whether you believe it's original language was aramaic (The language Jesus spoke, Hebrew or Syro-chaldaec.

Matthew was written to the Hebrews. Matthew goes to particular attention to show an established geneaology and to demonstrate the ways in which Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecy and was a good jew.
It is more likely that tthis gospel would have been written in Hebrew, for it's intent was the lead the Hebrews to Christ.

No matter: Our translation comes from the ancient Greek text, the earliest known. Why is this important? Koine Greek may be the most exact language ever written. They had at least sixteen tenses for every verb, and an unbelievable amount of ways to say and use words for "Love" . The greek person translating it, whether from Hebrew, Syro-chadalec, or Aramaic, would have been likely to have selected the words that BEST expressed the meaning of the text. The name "Peter, when used here, was the word "Petros" a very movable builders stone. Upon this rock was "Petra" a mass or mound of rock, the perfect place for a foundation. SO, it would be more likely that he was saying. "You are right, and you know this because my Father in Heaven revealed it to you. You are Peter, and you are a pretty strong person, although fallable and movable and that's why I am gong to use you, but I am the Unmovable bedrock. Upon this bedrock I will build my church. (That was a my paraphrase, but I believe it better shows the original intent of the statement.

Now, this is just my interpretation, but I was a curb setter in hermeneutics in college, so like Spock's "guess" in Star Trek Four, it's a pretty good guess.

I am an LDS investigator, but that leap really really bothers me. From that ONE revelation to saying that all continued revelation is the foundation of the Church. Revelation can come from many spirits, and feelings are easily manipulated. KNOW whom you believe in, not "feel" whom you believe in. I for one am glad my feelings aren't facts!

ausie said...

When Jesus said "upon this rock I build my church", he meant that all who believe sincerely what Peter had just said ("thou art the christ, the son of the living God") are part of that church. This may include members of many churches, but those who think it means that Peter was to be the head of the church and that those who followed him by some elected succession are christ's representatives are sadly mistaken.

One of the major reforms of the protestant reformation was this understanding. The "true church" is NOT a denomination, but ultimately is the collection of the true believers in Jesus Christ, whatever their denominational affiliation, i.e. the "invisible church". Its leader today is the Holy Spirit, not a man (Acts 1:8)

antodav said...

It's pathetic to see Catholics desperately trying to defend their fraudulent claim to apostolic succession with bald-faced lies. But lying is nothing new for the Catholic Church, now is it? The author's assessment of the meaning of that verse is correct.