"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 shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16: 19.
RECENT conversations with those who are ensnared in Romanism has led me to think that it would be profitable to call your attention to this important pronouncement by our Lord. I find that with Romanists it is an obsession and to many Protestants it is an obstacle not easily overcome. If therefore anything can be said that will clarify the understanding of this statement and commission then it may prove to be helpful far beyond the limits of this congregation. Any man who desires to be sincerely a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ must have as a first qualification
A Love of the Truth
It must not be an affection for such truth as appeals to him but for all the truth. He must never permit himself to be sidetracked by prejudice, by the necessity of "saving face " or by any other consideration whereby he harbours the lie against the truth. Since there is so much falsity in our natures and so much ignorance in our minds it necessarily follows that the man who desires to be, to live, to speak and to hold the truth and nothing but the truth, must be a man constantly casting aside the false. At cost to himself, embracing what is revealed to him as truth. He must never allow truth to be withheld or falsehood to stand either within himself or in the things he holds dear. A love of the truth is essential to our salvation. We may also notice in passing that no Protestant authority has ever suggested that this verse of Scripture should be removed from the record or in any way amended to suit the point of view of those who support the doctrines of Rome. We do not question the
Authority of the Commission
so clearly stated in this text. We have no desire to make it mean anything else than our Lord intended. There it is in our Bibles to be read by all, for it is fundamental that every child of God should earnestly and regularly read the Scriptures and not least the Gospels. And this brings us at once to three issues with the Romanist. First the Bible he uses is not a correct translation of the original documents. In many places for example where we have the word "repent" as unquestionably correct translation he has used the words "do penance." We, on our part, believe our translation to be in all material respects a correct translation of the original documents.If our Version is not so, then we wish that it should be so, for as God is the God of truth He will never suffer the lie nor shall liars have any part in the kingdom of God with Him.
Secondly, the Romanist makes a good deal of ecclesiastical capital out of this verse, but in a strange way he entirely ignores and never presents to his people so much else in the Scriptures. Now we stand by the whole body of Scripture. We believe that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and whether it prove difficult, exacting and perplexing or whether it be agreeable, comforting and plain, we desire that our people shall be built up on the whole testimony of Scripture and not least on the verse which forms our study here.
Thirdly, the Roman priest so far from encouraging his flock to read the Scriptures expressly forbids it. The priest will read the Scriptures with any Protestant whom he hopes will become a Romanist, but you have only to go to Spain, to South America and Italy to discover that if there is one book that the priest wishes to keep out of the hands of the people it is the Bible. I have myself met people who have declared it was sin to look at the Bible, who have declined to cast their eyes upon it affirming that if they did they would have to confess the sin of so doing to the priest. And that in Christian England and in enlightened Peckham! Now let us look directly at the text to notice that this was
A Promise to Peter.
I find no evidence that our Lord mentioned anybody else but Peter. He does not mention his heirs, successors or assigns but simply Peter. He does not even include in this particular statement any other of the apostles but Peter only. Neither is anything here said of Peter in his position as bishop of Rome an office he is supposed to have held but of which history has no record. I know that on the night of the same day in which Our Lord was raised from the dead, He said to His disciples as He breathed upon them, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." It is not clear whether that was said to apostles only or whether disciples has a broader meaning. It certainly did not include all the apostles because Thomas was not there. Even so, there is no evidence on the day of Resurrection that our Lord gave the power to the successors of the apostles. It is also clear that while Peter received this commission
Peter was not infallible.
It is a strange thing that the priest who will point out this verse so carefully to ignorant Protestants does not point out verse 23. If he did, the foolish Protestant seduced for want of his reading of the Word, would see that Peter is also called Satan. If therefore Peter has the keys, Peter also is the instrument of Satan and these people who call themselves infallible and must be addressed in terms altogether unbecoming for a fallen humanity must also be identified with the one whose end is the pit. "Thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." It must also be remembered that
Peter Denied his Lord.
That was a personal act as this was a personal commission. Although Peter had received this commission yet he stooped so low as to curse and to swear and to deny his Lord. Furthermore, even after he was an apostle his supremacy did not remain unchallenged. It is quite clear from the epistle to the Galatians that he was not wholly walking in the freedom and liberty of the Gospel and therefore Paul blamed Peter for his contradictory witness. Anybody therefore who will simply read the Scriptures will see that there is no evidence at all of a supremacy such as is declared by Romanists nor of any kind of infallibility such as has been claimed by his so-called successors within the last century. Now let us look a little closer at the text. Our Lord said
Thou art Peter.
That is to say, Thou art, " a fragment of rock and upon this Rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Now the fragment of rock is one thing, the rock itself another. St. Paul speaks of the children of Israel in the desert and he says (1 Corinthians 10:4) " They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them : and that Rock was Christ." " Upon this Rock will I build my church," says our Lord. That Rock was Peter's confession of Jesus as the Christ. It must be so, for we have it on the authority of Peter himself in his first epistle, chapter 2, speaking of the spiritual house of the church : "he that believeth on Him (Jesus) shall not be confounded." And it is not without interest that in the Old Testament "rock" is never applied to man, but is frequently applied to God. If it is on Peter that the church is built then it would not be the church of our Lord Jesus Christ but the church of Peter. The church is fundamentally those who acknowledge Jesus as Son of God and Saviour of men. "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God dwelleth in Him and he in God." He is the Rock and to declare that Peter is the rock or that the church is in any way whatsoever built on Peter is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and derogatory to the sovereign glory of our Lord Who shed His blood to redeem to Himself a people for Himself. The great privilege that belonged to Peter was that he was the one who registered the conviction of them all that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah. Blessed indeed was he in such a privilege. It may be that his reward was
The Gift of the Keys
of the kingdom of heaven. Now what do keys suggest? They certainly indicate that there is authority for the opening of doors. That authority may not be absolute but derived. A gentleman may keep the keys of his private safe entirely in his own possession and use them for himself alone as he will. Has Peter possession of the keys like that? Very clearly not because our Lord gives them to him. His possession of them is because he has made such a God-given confession of Jesus as the Christ and as one who has so confessed Christ as his Lord, he receives the keys in the service of his Lord. I have no doubt that the Romanist would accept that position that Peter's authority with the keys is a delegated authority from the Lord. But we may be perfectly sure that if Peter has the keys of the kingdom of heaven, then the Scriptures will show us very clearly how he used them. It is inconceivable that he received the keys and then never brought them into service. Hence we are bound to search the New Testament to see the ministry of Peter in using the keys to open the kingdom of God. How did Peter
Use the Keys
put into his possession by our Lord ? There can be no question that if ever Peter used the keys it was on the day of Pentecost. When the fire descended and the disciples went out into the streets of Jerusalem they were mistaken for drunken men, but Peter stood up with the eleven and declared the truth of Christ risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and bestowing the Holy Spirit. His audience was deeply affected. We are told that when they heard this, " they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do ?" Now Peter is about to open the door to these people. What answer does he give? Does he say anything about obedience to Rome, doing penance, paying for masses for the repose of the soul? Confessing sins to the priest? This question is vital, for this is the use of the keys. He is opening the door of the kingdom, inviting men to enter. Mark then his words Then Peter said unto them, "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call." The kingdom of heaven is most evidently those who turn from their sin, receive the forgiveness of sins through Jesus, and trusting Him as their Redeemer, receive the Holy Spirit. They constitute the kingdom of heaven. There can be no possible question that
Peter used the keys and believing his message concerning Jesus about three thousand souls were added to the church. And mark you, Peter never even mentioned the Virgin Mary. But if this were the only occasion, then possibly Peter would have needed but one key, but there is another occasion which has been called
The Gentile Pentecost.
You remember that Peter had a vision and went down to Caesarea to Cornelius. While Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word. We are told, "they of the circumcision were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit." These were accordingly baptised but when Peter returned to Jerusalem the brethren there criticised him severely until Peter explained all the circumstances and he concluded: "Forasmuch then as God gave unto them the same gift as unto us who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God? "It was an irresistible argument. The Holy Spirit coming on anybody is the infallible seal of the grace of God and when they heard these things they held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" Hence Peter used the keys to open the kingdom of heaven to all who should have faith in Christ, first on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem and then to the Gentiles at Caesarea. But mark you there is
A Big Difference
between the kingdom of heaven and an ecclesiastical organisation controlled from Rome in which the Pope takes very good care that the majority of Cardinals shall always be Italians and that an Italian will most likely succeed to the Papal throne. But a religion based on fear, a religion that dominates the individual can never be the religion of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. A Romanist can mix with the world in its pleasures but he cannot do two things. He must not read the Bible and he must not enter a Protestant place of worship. Where then is the liberty wherewith Christ makes free? Where is the falling of the Holy Spirit on those that believe? I would, in humble succession to the ministry of Peter as he used the keys, declare the message he proclaimed the message of the Cross. The message of salvation through faith in Christ which as Jesus is received into the heart as Saviour, will bring with it the marvellous blessing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the seal of our salvation and the entrance into the kingdom of heaven. In very truth this is the
Binding and the Loosing
for the man or woman, who refuses the offer of grace in the gospel, is bound not only on earth but in heaven, to eternal condemnation. Thank God they who receive the Lord are loosed here and now from the bondage and judgment of sin and they are loosed eternally for this is the song of the redeemed who speak not of Peter but of Jesus: "Unto Him that loveth us, and hath washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us a kingdom,priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever. Amen"
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