You Are Cephas

You Are Cephas

Jesus had spent several years with His disciples. They had heard His teaching and seen His many miracles. They have withdrawn from Galilee and are now in Caesarea Philippi. Hostility by Jewish leaders is intensifying. Jesus questions them, “Who do men say that I the Son of Man am?” They began to tell them what the talk was. Some thought He was one of the old prophets come back to life or John the Baptist risen from the the dead.

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ “(Matt. 16:15-16 NKJ)
Peter stepped forward and speaking for them all gave this amazing witness. They were convinced He was the Messiah (christos GK.), the great Savior and King for whom the Jewish people were longing to see appear. And the disciples had come to believe that He was God in human form. It was the testimony that all must make when they become believers (Rom. 10: 9, 10).

Jesus response was striking. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father Who is in heaven. And I also say to you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:15-18)

Peter’s given name was Simon and he was the son of Jonah. Now Jesus gives him a new name Peter (Petros, GK., a stone; Cepha, Aramaic). Actually He was speaking in Aramaic, the Semitic language of Aram, ancient Syria. This became the national language of the Jews after their return from their Babylonian captivity. Hebrew was the language of the Scriptures and the synagogue. The Aramaic that Jesus spoke was translated into Greek in the Gospels.

It seems quite plain that Jesus is saying that Peter will be foundational in the building of the church. And it is not Peter, the man, but Peter in his confession. It is the message of the gospel, proclaiming Jesus as the Savior and Lord, that is the basis for the Christian faith. In writing to the Corinthian church Paul describes the beginning of the church. He was building a temple for God and he laid a good foundation. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:12).
The ones who proclaimed that message and taught the early church were the apostles (Acts 2:42). As such all the apostles are viewed as foundational in the church, “…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). The new Jerusalem, a picture of all of God’s people in glory, has twelve foundations carrying the names of the twelve apostles (Rev. 21:14). It was their preaching and guidance that marked the beginning of the church.

Peter was a prominent leader, but he never thought of himself as being over the other apostles. In writing to elders he would speak of himself as a fellow elder (1 Pet. 5:1). He was fallible and Paul rebuked him on one occasion and accused him of hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-13). But he did use the keys as a steward of the grace of God to open the door of salvation to the Jews at Pentecost and later to the Gentiles in Cornelius’ home (Acts 10).

Peter was a great man and faithful apostle, ultimately being crucified in Rome as a martyr according to tradition. Today we honor the apostles best by preaching the same gospel with fervor and following their teaching as preserved in the New Testament. This would delight Peter and the other apostles. Be faithful then to the Word of God.

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Donald Norbie

Donald Norbie was born in 1923 in Minnesota. He was saved in 1938. He continued his college education after World War II and serving in the U. S. Navy. After completing his graduate work, Donald and his wife, Marie, were commended to the Lord’s work by their assembly in Wheaton, Illinois in 1949. He taught at Emmaus Bible School for three years. After this, he and his family moved to Oklahoma to evangelize and teach the Bible. In 1970, they moved to Colorado and have lived there ever since. Mr. Norbie continues to be active in evangelism, teaching, and writing.