Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
ST. PETER’S KEYS
"Upon this rock will I build My Church; and the gates
of Hell [Hades, the grave] shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of
For some unaccountable reason numerous Catholics have gotten the thought that I am their foe, just as Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Baptists, etc., have gotten the impression that I am their foe. I am a foe to no human being, and especially to no Christian.
I believe more fully than do Methodists in Free Grace—that ultimately God’s grace will reach every human being.
I believe more emphatically than do most Presbyterians that the Church is an especially elect class, and is now being gathered out of the world to be God’s agents in the ultimate blessing of all the non-elect. I believe with Baptists that only the Elect, the immersed, will constitute the Kingdom of God, although I deny their claim that baptism in water is the real immersion. I hold, with the Apostle, that it is baptism into Christ’s death. Similarly I hold to the great Catholic doctrine that there is only one true Church, founded by the Lord Jesus Christ through His Apostles, nearly nineteen centuries ago.
THEY DENY THEIR CATHOLICITY
I am aware that several churches claim to be Catholic—the Anglican Catholic, the Syrian Catholic, the Greek Catholic, and the Roman Catholic. Each claims to be the true Church and reprobates the others as heretical.
But I take the still broader, catholic ground. I hold that the word catholic means general; and that any limitation, such as Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, etc., to that extent denies their catholicity. Perhaps, therefore, I am really saying that I am more catholic than any of these brethren.
I must prove my point or be misunderstood. I hold, and few, if any, will dispute it, that the one catholic or universal or general Church of Christ is the one mentioned in the Bible—"the Church of the First-borns, written in Heaven." If this be admitted, my next proposition is that the Lord in Heaven records as members of His true Church all the saintly—whether Roman Catholics, Anglican Catholics, Greek Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.—and none others.
Have we not here the one Church, the Catholic Church, the universal, the only Church which the Bible recognizes?
In the past we have been too narrow and have supposed that God was as narrow as ourselves. It was on this account that in the past Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists and Methodists persecuted and were persecuted, because each thought itself the true Church. Are we not all getting broader conceptions of our God and of His Church? Do we not see that a part of our mistake was in calling the outward organization the Church of Christ, instead of remembering that the Lord alone writes the names of the Church, that He alone reads the hearts, that He alone is the Judge, and that He alone has the right to blot out the names of those who become reprobates?
RECTIFYING PAST ERRORS
St. Paul wrote against the spirit of sectarianism, already manifest in his day—some saying, "I am of Paul"; others, "I am of Peter," etc. The Apostle asks, "Is Christ divided?" (
.) So, today, if with us, he would ask, "Why Romanists, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, etc.? Is not the name of Christ enough?" He explains that these different names of old signified a sectarian spirit, the spirit of division, that failed to recognize the true Head of the Church, His true representatives and His true members. The trouble is the same today. The entire foundation of divided Christianity would disappear and all the true Church of
Christ—all real saints—would be speedily manifest, if true catholicity were acknowledged.
The one great obstacle to unity is the erroneous doctrine respecting the eternal torture of all not members of the Church. We must open our eyes wider and see that many of our theories were not taught by Jesus and the Apostles. We must see that the Church is a comparatively small company of saintly footstep followers of Jesus, irrespective of sectarian lines; that the Bible teaches not that these are to look over the battlements of Heaven to all eternity and see all others in torment, but that they are to demonstrate their loyalty unto death and in due time be associated with Messiah in His great Millennial Kingdom, which will bring knowledge and opportunity to all the families of the earth—the living and the dead.—
THE TWELVE FOUNDATION STONES
St. Paul declared that the saints of God, the true catholic Church, "are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner Stone." (
.) The Twelve Apostles are here referred to in their double office—Apostles especially commissioned by the Lord as His representatives and prophets, mouthpieces, for the proclamation of the Message to the Church. Jesus, referring to these same foundation stones, pictures the Church of Glory as the New Jerusalem, and its twelve foundations as twelve precious stones, in which are the names of the
Apostles of the Lamb—no more, no less—St. Paul being God’s choice to take the place of Judas, the betrayer of his Lord and Master.
To think of St. Peter as the only foundation for the Church would be to deny Christ’s teaching and St. Peter’s own statement—that the entire Church is symbolically represented as living stones built together by the Lord through the Holy Spirit. (
.) It was a costly mistake when our forefathers, overlooking this
well-established point of Scripture, thought of the bishops of the Church as Apostolic Bishops, and took their decisions in councils assembled as the voice of God to and through the Church. The voice of God to and through the Church came only through "the twelve Apostles of the Lamb." All others so claiming are denounced by Jesus Himself as false Apostles.—
God’s true saints of all denominations should ignore all human creeds and return to the Bible and its declaration of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." (
.) Are we more loyal to human organizations than to God, His Truth, His Church—all saints and one people, imbued with one spirit, the world around—the catholic Church?
POWER IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH
As St. Peter was only one of the twelve foundation stones of the Church, so, likewise, he was only one of The Twelve to whom the Lord declared, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven" (
)—the same statement exactly that on another occasion He made to St. Peter only.
But He gave the keys to St. Peter alone.
Would it seem reasonable that Jesus should tell the twelve Apostles that God would do anything that they bade Him do—taking to Heaven whom they pleased and excluding whom they chose? Would it be wise or safe to entrust to poor humanity such dictatorial powers respecting the eternal interest of even one individual?
Assuredly not! When we remember that these Apostles declared that they were men of like passions with others, that St. Peter himself dissembled on one occasion and on another denied his Master, we are the more convinced that Jesus did not mean that God would abdicate His authority and wisdom in favor of any twelve men.
What, then, does this passage mean? We answer, It implies that the Lord would so overrule the utterances
and writings of His twelve Apostles as to make them safe guides for His Church. To these Apostles would be given through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost wisdom enabling them to understand which things of the Jewish Law were binding upon the Church and which not binding.
Their decision would be absolutely right, and the entire Church might have confidence that what the Apostles bound or loosed on earth was equally bound or loosed in Heaven. As an illustration of this binding and loosing, see
To get back into proper relationship with each other and rid of all sectarian systems, God’s people must recognize that only the words of the New Testament Apostles and Prophets are authoritative, properly representing the Divine mind. Other things men have bound and loosed on earth, without recognition in Heaven. The things necessary to the Church are found only in the Bible, as St. Paul declares.—
THE CHURCH UPON THE ROCK
"Other Foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, Jesus Christ." (
.) In the Divine arrangement Jesus Christ is the Foundation, the Rock, upon which is built the entire superstructure of His Church—the one Catholic, world-wide Church. On this Rock, Christ Jesus, as St. Peter declares, all the Church is being built as a Temple of God. (
.) The New Jerusalem, the Church in glory, had twelve foundation stones, built upon the one Foundation Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. It would manifestly be erroneous, therefore, to suppose that our Lord abdicated His own place in the Church in favor of St. Peter, much as He loved His impulsive disciple.
What, then, did Jesus mean when He called St. Peter a stone, spoke of building His Church upon "this rock," and declared that the gates of Hell (Hades, the grave) would not prevail against it? We reply, Jesus went down into the prison-house of death, Sheol, Hades, the
tomb; but on the third day the gates of Sheol, Hades, were opened, and He came forth. These gates will not prevail against the Church, as they did not prevail against her Lord. This is an assurance of the resurrection of the dead.
To understand St. Peter’s connection with the Rock Foundation of the Church, we should read the preceding context. The disciples had told Jesus the common talk respecting Himself. He then asked them, "Who say ye that I am?" St. Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This was the first public declaration of Jesus’ Messiahship. Even the disciples had only now come to recognize their Teacher as the long-promised Messiah. Jesus answered, "Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Jonas; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but My Father in Heaven.
Thou art Peter [a stone, ready for the spiritual Temple, the first one to publicly acknowledge Jesus], and upon this rock [the Truth just declared, that I am Messiah] I will build My Church."
In the Greek the word Peter signifies a stone of moderate size, while the word here rendered rock signifies a mass of stone—a foundation. Our Lord Jesus Christ evidently meant that St. Peter’s statement was a recognition of Himself as the great Foundation of the Divine Plan—Messiah. Upon that foundation truth, that Jesus is Christ, the Church would be built; and St.
Peter was the first living stone to build himself upon that foundation by believing and confessing Christ. St. Peter himself gives us the same thought—that he and all others of the Church are living stones, being builded together as a holy Temple of God. This entire Gospel Age has been devoted to the building of these stones upon that great Foundation Rock, Christ Jesus. As soon as the great Temple of God shall be completed, this Gospel Age will end and the New Dispensation be inaugurated, for the blessing of all the families of the earth.
"THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM"
To St. Peter our Lord said, "I will give thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven." What did He mean? We shall not suppose that any who hear my voice or are sufficiently intelligent to read this discourse in the newspapers are stupid enough to think Jesus meant that Heaven is locked up, and that nobody could get in except as St. Peter would open the door or gate. True, some have voiced such fantastic notions. But we refuse to believe that intelligent people could be in earnest in any such view, the absurdity of which is apparent.
What the Lord meant is very simple, very beautiful; and we see exactly how it was fulfilled. He indicated that St. Peter, the first to confess Him, was to have a special honor in connection with the inauguration of the Church on earth. By the expression, "Kingdom of Heaven," is meant the Church, a class being called out of the world to become with Christ the ruling power of the world during the Millennium, through the great resurrection "change."—
Jesus meant that St. Peter would be honored in being permitted to do an opening work in connection with the Church. The Bible shows us two different opening works and two different keys. The key is a symbol of power or authority or an initiative. St. Peter used his first key of privilege on the day of Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit came upon the early waiting Church, it was St.
Peter that used this key. Standing up with the eleven, he lifted up his voice, explained the situation and opened the door to the Church of Christ for the Jews, admonishing them of their opportunity to enter. He told of the merit of Christ’s death and how He had risen and had ascended on High, and how forgiveness of sins was, therefore, preached in His name.—
The second key to the Kingdom of Heaven—the Church, the embryo Kingdom preparing for glory—St.
Peter used three and a half years later. Then the seventieth
week of Divine favor prophetically appointed to the Jews expired, and the time came that the Gentiles might be fellow-heirs with the Jews of the same Promise. The opening work was with the household of Cornelius, to whom St. Peter preached Christ. The Lord blessed the preaching and granted the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and his family. Thus the Gentile door into the Kingdom was thrown wide open.—Acts 10.
REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS
"That repentance and remission of sins might be preached in His name to all people" (
). God never gave power to bishops, priests or ministers of any denomination to forgive sins. "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Nor did Jesus give authority to His Apostles to forgive sins. They might preach repentance and forgiveness,
but only in His name.
Any child of God is Scripturally authorized to declare that Christ died for human sin, and has thus made arrangement by which all repentant sinners may be forgiven.
It is an honor to be the bearer of such a Message from God to men; and every child of God is fully commissioned to tell the Divine Message to all who will hear.
In proportion as God’s people throw away their sectarian spectacles they can read God’s Message in the words of Jesus and the Apostles. Let us hold fast the precious Word which Jesus exhorted us to search and which is sufficient that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished. Let us remember that there is only one true Church, each member of which is a saint, related to God and the Lord Jesus Christ through faith, repentance and remission of sin and the begetting of the Holy Spirit; that it is the only Church that is catholic, universal; and that a member of the Body of Christ is a member of that Body anywhere. "Now are ye the Body of Christ, and members in particular."—