A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on August 3, 2008 by Pastor Dale Raether In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy SpiritMatthew 16:13-28Children, what are some things that might make you call out for your mom or dad?  How’ bout a loud thunderboomer, or, how ‘bout finding a scary spider in your toy box?  When you’re nervous or scared, it’s good to call out to your parents, because they love you and always take care of you.  However, there’s another name that’s good for children of all ages to call out.  Calling out this name reminds us that no matter what everything is going to turn out alright.  Do you know whose name I’m thinking of right now?  Jesus!  And so, whenever we’re facing something that’s very difficult or makes us nervous, we can start by saying, “In the name of Jesus.”  Or, another way we can say the same thing is, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Saying this makes us feel at peace, because 1.  The Lord, Almighty, has put His name on us.  2.  The Lord, Almighty, is with us and stands behind us.     We read in our text, “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  Caesarea was a heathen city about 25 miles north Galilee.  Jesus took His disciples there, because by this time the people of Galilee had rejected Him, and Jesus wanted to start getting His disciples ready for Holy Week.  We read on, “The disciples replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  These thoughts about Jesus weren’t entirely weird.  Herod and his friends were afraid Jesus might be John the Baptist come back from the dead, because remember Herod had murdered John, and so, he thought Jesus’ miracles were a sign that God had sent John back to get back at him.  Most people didn’t buy that.  However, they knew from the Old Testament that either Elijah or someone like Elijah would come as the forerunner of the Savior.  (Elijah, you might recall, had been miraculously taken up to heaven).  Anyway, Jesus said that John the Baptist was this forerunner, except the people didn’t believe Him.  They insisted that Jesus too had to be just a forerunner of the Savior, and not the real Savior, because Jesus had made it clear that He is a Savior from sin, and they wanted a Savior to solve all their earthly problems.  One other thought some had about Jesus was that He was the prophet Jeremiah come back from the dead.  They based this on a misunderstanding of one of Jeremiah’s prophecies.  But they too were looking at Jeremiah or Jesus, as just another forerunner of the Savior.   We read, “But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus is not just a great man.  He is also God. Likewise, Jesus is not just a great teacher.  He is the Christ of God.  The word “Christ” means the anointed or chosen one.  Jesus was anointed by God to be our prophet, priest and king.  As prophet, Jesus alone is the source of divine truth, which He has revealed to us through His Word.  As priest, Jesus alone could pay for all sins by his death.  And finally as king, Jesus is ruling over the entire universe and as well as over world events for the sake of believers.  All this is what the disciples believed about Jesus, and Peter was their spokesman.  All this is also what we believe and teach, and right now I’m being your spokesman.   Reading on in our text, “Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”’  Neither the disciples nor we came to believe Jesus is the Christ by figuring it out on our own.  We believe because God Himself revealed this to us.  For many of us this happened when a pastor poured water on us and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Through our Baptism, God put His name on us, and that’s why we believe.  Also, because we belong to God, we are safe.  We are the apple of His eye.  We are precious to Him.  In addition we are forgiven.  All our sins past, present, and future, are removed from us as far as the East is from the West.  Furthermore God is ever working in us to turn us from our sins, so that we never lose out on the blessings of being in His name.   But can that really happen?  Can a Christian lose his faith?  Satan is doing everything he can so that we will.  Yet as long as we stay close to Jesus through His Word, we will never fall!  We read, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  First let me tell you about the “Gates of Hades.”  In Greek and Roman mythology, Hades was thought to be a world that’s under our world, and this is where some of the gods lived as well as the souls of people who died.  Anyway, they believed that in order for anything to grow, the god Pan had to come out of Hades every spring and make the earth fertile again.  Pan by the way supposedly was this god that was half human and half goat.  The Gates of Hades pictured here is where they thought Pan came out.  Also, in order to lure Pan out, they had carved a temple and a statue of Pan into the side the side of the mountain, and then they would have sex with temple prostitutes and even temple animals.  Talk about your den of iniquity.  But this is where Jesus took His disciples so that they could see the dramatic difference between the gods of this world and Himself, who is the only true God. Let’s look again at verse 18.  “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”  In the original Greek, the word for “Peter” actually means “a little rock.”  The word for rock in this verse means “great big rock.”  So, in the backdrop of this mountain temple, Jesus says to Peter, and now I’m paraphrasing, “Peter, you are a little rock, and by your confession you are a part of me, the great big rock; for I am the temple of God, because I am God; and so the Church, the body of believers, is built upon ME.” This paraphrase is in line with an Old Testament prophesy, that the disciples would have known.   It’s in Daniel chapter two, and it states that a rock, cut out of a mountain, not by men, but by God, who would crush all the kingdoms and philosophies of this world, and that His Kingdom would last forever and ever.  Now, you can read Daniel chapter 2 on your own, but there’s even more Scriptural backing that Peter is a “little rock”, and Jesus is the great big rock on which the church is built is Jesus.  In our epistle lesson we read, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  And now in what I’m about to say, my goal isn’t to upset anyone, but I have to simply say the truth.  Some of you know that the Roman Catholic Church uses Matthew 16 to prove that Peter was first pope in Rome, and that all of his successors are the Vicar of Christ, whom everyone is supposed to obey if they want to go to heaven.     I’m sorry, but historically Peter was never the Bishop of Rome.  He served in Turkey.  He just died in Rome, as did Paul and many others.  But more importantly, this passage doesn’t say the church is built on Peter and his successors.  It says the opposite.  The church is built on Christ, whose Word alone we are to believe, whose sacrifice alone paid for our sins, and who alone can bring us safely to His heavenly Kingdom.     We read, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  Jesus has the right to give His Church the Keys to Heaven, because after all He’s God.  Now, the Loosing Key is the Gospel.  When we proclaim the Gospel, we tell people that they’re loosed from the chains of their sins by the blood of Jesus.  Furthermore through this very announcement God gives the Holy Spirit, so people believe it, and as they believe it, heaven is opened wide to them.  As a result, the moment their soul leaves their body, they are in heaven.  The Binding Key is the Law.  We use the Binding Key when we tell someone who’s unrepentant that his sins are still chained to him, and if he dies before he repents, he’ll be locked out of heaven forever.   Now, whenever a congregation through its pastor uses either of these keys, Jesus stands behind it.  For example, earlier in the service I announced, “I forgive you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Do you believe that my forgiveness is also God’s forgiveness?  You should, because Jesus said it is.  And so, you are fully acceptable to God.  God has acquitted you.  On the other hand, if the church ever has to tell someone that he’s locked out of heaven until he repents, that person really is locked out of heaven.  And so, give this careful thought.  Are there any sins you’re still holding on to and thinking to yourself, “That wasn’t really sinful, or God doesn’t really care”?  Whenever that’s our attitude, may the Holy Spirit convict our hearts!  Otherwise in time we’re not even going to care about the loosing key, and then we’re lost.  Anyway, as the church properly uses both the loosing key and the binding key, more and more people are going to be built into the walls God’s temple, and we’ll all be growing in our faith, and in living our faith, and be protected in our faith.   And now I want to come back to the phrase “The Gates of Hades” will not prevail against the church.  “The Gates of Hades” or the “Gates of Hell” is actually picture language for everything that comes out of hell.  The main thing that comes out of hell, besides temptations and persecutions is false doctrine.  In fact false doctrine was why Jesus took the disciples up to see the temple of Pan.  The people in Israel were believing the false doctrine that Jesus was just a good man.  They were also believing the false doctrine of the Pharisees, which said that the way to God was by one’s own good works, as well as the false doctrine of the Sadducees, which said that not all the Bible is true.   All these false doctrines are still around, and false doctrine always leads to an increase in wickedness, which is what we’re seeing in our society today.  Nevertheless, don’t be alarmed.  Rather, let’s start each new day and face each new or old challenge in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  May these words ever remind us who Jesus is and all He did to save us!  May these words also remind us that He stands with us to guide us, and He stands behind us to bless all that we do in His name!  And so, the devil may throw everything he has at us, and he will.  Yet be at peace!  Be confident!  Be bold in your living to the Lord, for Christ has said, the Gates of Hell will not prevail against us!  Amen.   

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