Theme: The Old Testament Pointing to Christ
In this week’s lessons, we see the results that trusting in the Lord brings.
Scripture: Psalm 125:1-5
We concluded yesterday’s study with the truth that our security can never be in ourselves or in circumstances. It must always be in God. I think of the Apostle Peter as an illustration. At one point in his life, Peter took his eyes off Jesus, looked at the water on which he was walking and began to sink. He was an insecure man. But there was a later incident in his life in which Jesus taught him what it was to be rock solid. Jesus had asked who the disciples thought he was, and Peter had answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:16-18).
Many people have understood these words to mean that Jesus was going to build his church on Peter, but in the light of Peter’s own later testimony, I cannot understand why they think that. The Roman Church has interpreted Jesus’ words as a promise that Peter would become the first pope and that the church would be built on Peter and his successors. Most Protestants take the words as referring not to Peter himself but to Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and argue that the church is to be built on this confessional foundation.
But how did Peter understand Jesus’ words? He answers that question in 1 Peter 2:4-8, where he insists that the rock upon which the church or any individual Christian is to build is Jesus Christ. He does not suggest even for a moment that he is himself the rock. What this means, if we take his own teaching into consideration, is that Peter must have understood Jesus’ words to him as a contrast meaning, “You are Peter (Peter means “a little stone”), but upon this rock (that is, Jesus Christ himself) I will build my church.” Peter learned that Jesus is the only possible foundation for a sure and stable life, and Peter wanted to be built on him.
Peter had biblical grounds for understanding Jesus’ teaching this way. He indicates it by three Old Testament quotations.
1. Isaiah 28:16. This verse speaks of God laying “a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone,” adding, “the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6). It teaches that we build upon Jesus by faith. We are to “trust in him.” It is by believing on Jesus that we become stones built into the great spiritual temple God is building.
2. Psalm 118:22. Jesus had applied Psalm 118:22 to himself during his earthly ministry, so Peter had probably learned to interpret the verse this way from Jesus. Jesus had told a parable about farmers to whom the owner of a vineyard had leased a field. They tried to appropriate the field for themselves, eventually killing the owner’s son who had been sent to collect his profits. “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” Jesus asked.
They answered, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” That was the right answer. But Jesus then applied it to himself by quoting from Psalm 118: “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone’?” (Matt. 22:33-42).
God is the owner of the vineyard. The leaders of Israel were the evil tenant farmers. The servants were the prophets, and the son who was killed was Jesus himself. Therefore, he is also the stone rejected by the builders who was to become the capstone of religion and the only sure foundation for his people. Psalm 118:22 must have meant a lot to Peter because he cited it not only here but also in his speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:11).
3. Isaiah 8:14. In the last of these three texts Peter returned to Isaiah again, using Isaiah 8:14 to add the thought of stumbling to the prior thought of rejecting Jesus: “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (1 Pet. 2:8).
He meant that rejecting God’s anointed Messiah is no small matter. It has a fatal consequence, which is to fall down spiritually or be lost forever.
Explain the various ways people have interpreted Jesus’ words in Matthew 16. How did Peter explain them?
What three Old Testament references does Peter use concerning Jesus’ teaching? What does each mean?
Application: On what are you building your life? What competing foundations vie for your commitment?
Observation: Old Testament texts can be used in the New Testament to establish the identity of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Ask God to reveal any ways in which you are not trusting in him.
Key Point: Rejecting God’s anointed Messiah is no small matter. It has a fatal consequence.