Matthew 16:20
Then He admonished the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ.
The True ConfessionJ.A. Macdonald Matthew 16:13-20
Necessity of the CrossMarcus Dods Matthew 16:20-28

Peter's words pierced like a sharp thorn into the very heart of Christ, and roused as keen an indignation as his previous words had awakened gratitude. For the horror which our Lord saw in Peter's face as he announced the near approach of death reflected the horror he himself had passed through during those past days in which he had been making up his mind to die; the incapacity of Peter to understand that death should be the necessary step to glory tended to upset the balance of his own mind as well as to disclose to him the extreme difficulty there would be in persuading the world at large that a crucified King could be a King at all. Peter seemed for the moment to be the very embodiment of temptation, to be inspired by that very spirit of evil which had assailed him in the wilderness. Instead of a rock on which to found the Church, he had become a rock of offence. The words of reprimand were severe, but in the circumstances intelligible. Seeing, then, the unwillingness of the disciples to think of a Messiah who should not come with armed followers and all the pomp and circumstance of war, our Lord from this time forward spends much time in an endeavour to demonstrate the necessity of his death, and to fix in their minds that in following him to Jerusalem they were going to see him die. Again and again we find him solemnly assuring them that he must be taken and put to death, and that he would rise again. And yet when he was crucified they were entirely disheartened, and had no expectation of his rising again. Our wonder at the small impression made by our Lord's words is lessened when we consider the originality of his conception of the Messiah's glory. Only by Divine illumination, he said, could Peter have known him to be the Christ, but even a higher Divine illumination was needed to teach him the doctrine of the cross. So clean counter to natural human belief is this law that the truest glory is in humiliation for others, that even now each one has to discover this law for himself, and, when he discovers it, thinks he alone has had it revealed to him. So difficult is it for us to comprehend that, what the world needs for its regeneration more than the strong hand of a wise Ruler is the entrance into it, and the diffusion throughout it, of a meek and lowly spirit, of a righteous and God-fearing life. But our Lord assures us that not only for the Leader, but for the follower, this law holds good; these who would be with him in his glory must take his own path to it. The man who means to keep near Christ must not only deny himself one or two enjoyments or sinful indulgences, but must absolutely deny himself, must renounce self as an object in life, must give himself up as the enthusiastic physician gives himself up, regardless of all consequences to self, to the relief of his patients or to the advancement of science. You may say that the physician who does so does not deny himself, but gives expression to his highest and best self, and that is what our Lord means when he adds as his first proof of the truth of his law, "For whosoever wilt save his life shall lose it: and whosoever wilt lose his life for my sake shall find it." So long as you make self your object, your end, and your centre, you are losing your life and your self; but when you are enabled to abandon self and to live for righteousness, for God, for Christ, for the community, you emerge into life eternal, you find your truest self. "And what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" This is one of those truths that need no demonstration, and yet are very difficult to act upon. To gain even a very small part of the world is so appreciable a gain, whereas the loss of the soul is so inappreciable often in the process, and it seems so easy to regain it, that we are tempted to act as if it were a very small matter. A third ground on which our Lord rests his injunction to follow him is laid down in the twenty-seventh verse. All permanent happiness is so bound up with character that he can only make men happy in proportion to their growth. The reward chiefly desired by every one who loves him is an increase of that love and a truer likeness to himself, and in eternity, as on earth, Christ and all who are like him, will find their glory in works of self-sacrificing compassion and helpful mercy. Vers. 27, 28: As far as can be gathered from the abbreviated form we have in the text, our Lord meant to say that the man who spent his life on self, and so lost his truest life, would find his mistake in the day when at Christ's second coming things are forever arranged according to the principles he himself laid down and lived on in his first coming, and then, as if to answer the doubt whether such a day of true judgment should ever come, he goes on to say that the kingdom of heaven would, even in the lifetime of some standing there, be sufficiently manifested to make his Divine power clear to them. - D.

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
1. The kingdom of heaven does not mean heaven.

2. The kingdom of heaven does not mean the Church. It indicates power:



(D. Fraser, D. D.)

The Saviour had spoken of an edifice in which Peter was to be a conspicuous foundation-stone. The edifice was a temple. The scene was then varied a little; and the edifice was a city. The scene was varied again; the city is a kingdom. It is the kingdom of heaven. All the representations are significant. They are all appropriate aspects, though varied, of the grand reality. Our Lord promises to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. As the kingdom is a city, keys are needed for the gates. The city is a fortified place, a castle, the palatial residence of the Great King. A steward of the house is required, a major-domo, one who may take charge not only of the keys of the gates, but of the keys of the treasure-house too, and of all the storerooms of the establishment. Our Saviour intimates to Peter that he would be constituted such a steward of the house of God. He was to have great power and authority as the prime minister of the King. Acting according to the commands of his Sovereign, he would have authority to open the gates or to shut them; to open the storehouses or to close them. His power would be, relatively to the King, administrative only. And in discharge of the functions of his high office he would at once be instructed from above by the Divine Spirit, and be assisted from around by other high officials — the other apostles. He and they unitedly would constitute the King's ministry. He would be premier. Hence it was that on the Day of Pentecost he took the lead and opened the gates of the kingdom to the Jews. Hence too, when he was in Joppa, he was instructed by his Lord to open the gates of the kingdom to the Gentiles; and he did it. Hence also, in all the lists of the apostles, Peter is invariably mentioned first. He has, however, no successor in his premiership, just as he had no successor as a Foundation-Stone. The Foundation-Stone lasts for ever. So do all the living stones. They live for ever. And so the ministry of the apostles continues for ever. The laws of the King are communicated to us for ever through the ministry of his apostolic ministers.

(J. Morison, D. D.)

Every Jewish scribe, when fully trained and authorized to teach his brethren, received from his tutors and superiors a key, to symbolize the knowledge of the Divine will which he possessed, and was about to dedicate to the service of his brethren; many of them either carried a key at their girdle, or had it woven into their robe, as an open sign of the profession to which they had been set apart. When, therefore, Christ put " the keys of the kingdom of heaven " into the hands of His disciples, they would understand that they were to become scribes in His kingdom; teachers of the truth, expounders of the law they had learned from Him; witnesses and exemplars of the life they had seen Him live. These keys we have authority to use too — keys of righteousness and charity, i.e., keys of kindness and good living, as well as keys of wisdom and knowledge. By our daily conduct, and by the spirit of our whole conduct, no less than by our words, we are saying to our fellows, "This, so far as we understand Him, is how Christ would have men live; you have only to live so, and you will be in His kingdom, under His rule and benediction." By our good words, and our good works, we are to constitute ourselves door-keepers in the House of the Lord, and to open the doors to all who would enter in. It is, then, no merely personal salvation, no merely future and distant heaven, no merely selfish and ignoble task, for which we look and to which we are summoned. We are looking for the heaven of being now and always in tune with the will of God, and for a salvation which embraces the whole nature of man, and extends to every race and kindred and tribe.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

In the language of the Jewish schools, to "bind " and to " loose," meant to prohibit and to permit, to determine what was wrong and must not be done, and what was right and ought to be done. Rabbi Sham-mat, for instance, bound all heathen learning, i.e., he forbade his disciples to acquire it — declared what we should call "classical studies" to be wrong; while Rabbi Hillel loosed these studies — declared them to be right, that is, and encouraged his disciples to take them up. In addressing this promise to His first disciples, therefore, Christ meant to say that, humble and unlearned as they were, yet, in virtue of the new spiritual life and insight which He had conferred upon them, they should become "masters of sentences," and their decisions as to what was right and what wrong, should carry no less authority than they had once attached to the decisions of their rabbis and scribes. This promise also extends to us. We are authorized to make those practical applications of truth to the conditions and needs of the hour, by which the moral life and tone of men will be raised and purified. And we have made use of this power in the following, among other ways:

1. Abolishing slavery.

2. Raising the status of woman.

3. Securing the education of. children.

4. Advancing the cause of temperance, thrift, industry.

5. Promoting the growth of freedom, and the fraternity of men and nations.In these and similar ways, the general teaching of Christ has been applied to the social and moral conditions of men, bringing out new bearings of familiar principles on human conduct and duty.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

Once from the pulpit, at an ordination of elders, the late Rev. M. M'Cheyne made the following declaration. "When I first entered upon the work of the ministry among you, I was exceedingly ignorant of the vast importance of church discipline. I thought that my great, and almost only, work was to pray and preach. I saw your souls to be so precious, and the time so short, that I devoted all my time and care and strength to labour in word and doctrine. When cases of discipline were brought before me and the elders, I regarded them with something like abhorrence. It was a duty I shrank from; and I may truly say it nearly drove me from the work of the ministry among you altogether. But it pleased God, who teaches His servants in another way than man teaches, to bless some of the cases of discipline to the manifest and undeniable conversion of the souls of those under our care; and from that hour a new light broke in upon my mind, and I saw that if preaching be an ordinance of Christ, so is church discipline. I now feel very deeply persuaded that both are of God; that two keys are committed to us by Christ — the one the key of doctrine, by means of which we unlock the treasures of the Bible: the other the key of discipline, by which we open or shut the way to the sealing ordinances of the faith. Both are Christ's gift, and neither is to be resigned without sin."

Every praying man and every praying woman on the globe that lives in the intelligent knowledge of Christ, and employs the spirit and truth of Christ intelligently, just as much as councils, and synods, and conventions, and churches, has this power of the keys. God gives it to every one that desires to have the living nature of Christ in him. Ah! do you not suppose there have been thousands of men, who have gone down through life arrogating this claim, that never opened the door of heaven to one single soul? And yet there have been hundreds of poor bed-ridden Christians whose key was bright with perpetual using, and who, by faith, and example, and testimony, and clarity of teaching, did bind iniquity in the world, by the golden cords of truth, and did set loose, by the same truth, those that were bound, giving them power of spiritual insight, giving them emancipation, and bringing them into the large light and liberty of the children of God. Emancipators of the soul they were — humble, uncrowned, uncanonical, unordained, God-sanctified souls. They knew Christ, and loved Him, and poured out His spirit upon men. And every man that has that spirit has God's keys in his hands, and has authority to bind and loose — to bind lies and all iniquity, and to set loose all those that suffer oppression by reason of spiritual despotism. They go forth effulgent messengers of God's light and the emancipation that goes with it.

(H. W. Beecher.)

It is no mean prerogative; it is past all estimation, indeed, for honour and for dignity, to have the power to open heaven to any soul. If God were to give you the power to go forth, and, touching the earth, to open its fruitful bosom, so that where-ever you pressed your hand or your foot, out there should pour treasures of grain and treasures of fruit; if God were to give you that power which in ages gone by was attributed to Ceres, when it was supposed that she came to earth and taught men the arts of agriculture — what a power that would be. If God had given you power to touch the hidden treasures of metal; to know where iron lies buried; to know where all the veins of gold and silver are; to open up all the treasures beneath the surface of the earth, men would have supposed that that was a great and sovereign endowment — and it would have been great and sovereign in a lower sphere. But how much more noble is it that God has given men the power to develop, not gold and silver that perish, but riches that never fade, that moth and rust never corrupt, and that thieves do not break through to steal — eternal treasures — the immortal spirits of men. But this is the case. God has given authority to every man that lives in the higher realm of truth, to open the eternal realm to those around about him, as an inspired apostle. For you are a lineal successor of the apostle, every one of you that does the apostle's work. And God sends every man that goes forth to carry the Spirit of God to his fellow-men. And it is no small prerogative, no small honour, but a most responsible trust, to have committed to you the keys of life and death; to carry in yourself those influences that shall be a savour of life to some, and a savour of death to others — that shall be a buttress and a wall of defence to some, and a stumbling-stone and rock of offence and destruction to others. How solemn it is that God gives men to be parents in this life, to rear up congregations out of their own loins, to sit in the church of the family, and makes fathers and mothers to be apostles, and gives to them keys, saying, "What you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." It is even so. You cannot free yourself from the obligation. You cannot help it. You are the key-keeper for your children. You are the door-keeper for your own offspring. Take heed, then, how you carry yourselves as parents in your own household — how you administer God's Word. It depends much upon you whether, at last, your children shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, or whether they shall rise to everlasting shame and contempt.

(H. W. Beecher.)

When you are inspired you have the keys. In your sublimest moods, when earth fades into a fleck hardly to be seen, and heaven crowds itself in noble fellowship upon your soul, the whole man is lifted up in an ecstasy Divine. In that hour the church holds the keys. You do not hold the keys because of hereditary descent, or ecclesiastical relationship, or mechanical contrivance, or superior patronage — you hold the keys only so long as you realize the inspiration. And no man can take those keys from you; everywhere the inspired man keeps the keys — in merchandise, in statesmanship, in philosophy, in adventure, in religious thinking, in Christian civilization, you cannot keep down the inspired man.

(Dr. Parker.)

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