The Confession of Peter is a well-known story, important for the individual as well as for the Church.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:15-16 NASB
After his confession, Jesus laid the entire responsibility for the Church on the shoulders of Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Peter did absolutely not understand at that moment what this meant. At first he would deny knowing Jesus in a moment of great fear. He was not yet the rock, as his name Peter suggested.
What Are the Keys of the Kingdom?
The first key is that Jesus is the Christ, the promised King of Israel.
Remarkably, Peter did not say: You are the Christ, the Son of David. No, as the Messiah of Israel, Jesus reigns in the Kingdom of God.
The second key is that Jesus is also the Son of God. He is God and man on earth, equal with his brethren and sisters as He is their Redeemer.
What about the Church?
Another important word has been used by Jesus in this passage: “Upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Jesus builds his Church on the two keys, that He is the Christ, and the Son of the living God. The word for Church is “Ekklesia”, and is mentioned only two times in the Gospels.
Meaning of ”the Church“
We need to understand the meaning of the word Church as it functioned in the time of Jesus and the apostles. An example is the expression “the lawful Assembly” of the city Ephesus, the lawful Ekklesia (Acts 19:39). This shows these assemblies (Ekklesiai) of cities had a written law. So then, what was that written law from the outset in the Church?
“For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” Hebrews 9:17 KJV
The Church was connected with a New Covenant, a “Testament” or “Will”, as most translations give. The Testament of Jesus’s words came into effect after his death, when the first Church came into being with the day of Pentecost. Already in classical times, a Testament was usually a written document about an inheritance.
Through Jesus’s death, his words and promises became active. They had been written during his life in reports after the events of Jesus, and became the rule for the Church. The Gospels were written very early and not decades later, as is often claimed without any Biblical support. All the local Churches thereafter came in possession of that Testament, the gospels.
A Testament Reckons with the Receivers
The Gospels are inspired and these documents have been written under the power of the Holy Spirit in the presence of the Jesus events (Luke 1:1-2). It is not strange that a testator reckons with the characters of his children. And so we have four gospels.
Already during the ministry of Jesus there were several groups for which reports had been published: reports for the interested public, teaching reports for dedicated disciples, reports for basic information, and personal diary reports. These came respectively in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. After Jesus’ departure the apostles simply presented what they already possessed, and what they held as representative of Jesus. The four gospels, that is Jesus’ Testament. And as said this Will became active shortly after his death as a real testament (and not 40-50 years later after an oral tradition without any Biblical evidence).