Upon This Rock
I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (ᾅδης the grave) will not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
The above verse has been misunderstood, and misused for millennia in exalting the apostle Simon Peter, claiming Jesus made him the head of His church. In Matthew chapter sixteen, and verse eighteen the Greek word πέτρος (petros) which is translated "Peter" in English is very similar to the Greek word πέτρα (petra) translated "rock" in English. These two words are similar in meaning; but they are notably different.
The English word "Peter" from the Greek "petros" is defined as a piece of rock, "a stone"; and "rock" translated from "petra" means "a massive rock", a cliff or ledge.
Who the Church is Built On
The distinction between "petros" and "petra" may seem insignificant; but it is not, for Peter certainly was a small rock, a stone, which Jesus used, among other disciples, to lay the foundation of His church; but he is not the rock upon whom God built His church; Jesus is. Additionally, Peter was not the first head of the church. According to Scripture James was the first leader of God's New Testament church (Acts 12:17; 15:1-29; 21:15-18).
God used Peter mightily to help build His church; but He also used many others, including Paul whom He used powerfully. There is only One upon whom the church is built, and that is the Lord Jesus, the Rock of our salvation, the head of the body, His church (Deuteronomy 32:15; Psalms 95:1; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18).
Not In Scripture
Peter, the stone, as well as other apostles, helped establish God's church; but he is not the rock God built His church on; nor was he ever the head of God's church. The Bible does not list Peter as the head of the church; but the Scriptures do talk about James as the first church leader (Acts 12:17; 15:1-29; 21:15-18).
Encouragement From Jesus
When Jesus was speaking to Peter about building His church upon the rock, He was speaking of Himself; and at the same time encouraging Peter. Christ was letting him know that He would use him in formidable and extraordinary ways to help establish and influence His church.
Jesus knew after Peter would deny Him three times that he would be severely disheartened and ashamed. Christ, the ever tender and thoughtful Savior, was encouraging Peter.
Jesus knew what was in Peter's heart, that he loved Him; but He also understood His disciple's weakness. In loving kindness, Christ was lifting Peter up before he even fell. After the Savior's death he would come to understand this, and he became an intensely tireless laborer in the cause of God and His church.
Study to Be Approved of God
It is necessary for us to study the Bible for ourselves, that we may show ourselves approved unto God, rightly discerning His Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Depending solely on others, including teachers, scholars, and preachers for your understanding of Biblical text can be problematic and dangerous.
The Lord warns us about false teachers, and He admonishes us to search and study the Scriptures ourselves; and He promises wisdom to everyone who will genuinely seek Him for it (Proverbs 2:1-6; John 5:39; Acts 17:11; James 1:5; 2 Peter 2:1-3).
Build On The Rock
There is One, and One only, upon whom God's church is built, the Lord Jesus Christ; and there is One alone upon whom we should build our lives, Christ Jesus. If we build on anything or anyone other than the Rock of our salvation (Psalms 95:1), we live in vain.
There is only one Rock who is the solid foundation of the church; and of our lives, Christ the Savior who is the Everlasting Father, Counsellor, the Mighty God, Wonderful, the Prince of Peace who is the Head of the body, His church (Isaiah 9:6; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18).
"whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I liken them to a wise man who built his house on the rock and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock."
"...is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one." Matthew 7:24, 25; Isaiah 44:8.