on Matthew 16 :18
Thou art Peter - This was the same as if he had said, I acknowledge thee for one of my disciples - for this name was given him by our Lord when he first called him to the apostleship. See John 1:42.
Peter, πετρος, signifies a stone, or fragment of a rock; and our Lord, whose constant custom it was to rise to heavenly things through the medium of earthly, takes occasion from the name, the metaphorical meaning of which was strength and stability, to point out the solidity of the confession, and the stability of that cause which should be founded on The Christ, the Son of the Living God. See the notes at Luke 9:62.
Upon this very rock, επι ταυτη τη πετρα - this true confession of thine - that I am The Messiah, that am come to reveal and communicate The Living God, that the dead, lost world may be saved - upon this very rock, myself, thus confessed (alluding probably to Psalm 118:22, The Stone which the builders rejected is become the Head-Stone of the Corner: and to Isaiah 28:16, Behold I lay a Stone in Zion for a Foundation) - will I build my Church, μου την εκκλησιαν, my assembly, or congregation, i.e. of persons who are made partakers of this precious faith. That Peter is not designed in our Lord's words must be evident to all who are not blinded by prejudice. Peter was only one of the builders in this sacred edifice, Ephesians 2:20 who himself tells us, (with the rest of the believers), was built on this living foundation stone: 1 Peter 2:4, 1 Peter 2:5, therefore Jesus Christ did not say, on thee, Peter, will I build my Church, but changes immediately the expression, and says, upon that very rock, επι ταυτη τη πετρα, to show that he neither addressed Peter, nor any other of the apostles. So, the supremacy of Peter, and the infallibility of the Church of Rome, must be sought in some other scripture, for they certainly are not to be found in this. On the meaning of the word Church, see at the conclusion of this chapter.
The gates of hell, πυλαι Αδου i. e, the machinations and powers of the invisible world. In ancient times the gates of fortified cities were used to hold councils in, and were usually places of great strength. Our Lord's expression means, that neither the plots, stratagems, nor strength of Satan and his angels, should ever so far prevail as to destroy the sacred truths in the above confession. Sometimes the gates are taken for the troops which issue out from them: we may firmly believe, that though hell should open her gates, and vomit out her devil and all his angels, to fight against Christ and his saints, ruin and discomfiture must be the consequence on their part; as the arm of the Omnipotent must prevail.
on Matthew 16 :18
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter - The word "Peter," in Greek, means "a rock." It was given to Simon by Christ when he called him to be a disciple, John 1:42
Cephas is a Syriac word, meaning the same as Peter - a rock, or stone. The meaning of this phrase may be thus expressed: "Thou, in saying that I am the Son of God, hast called me by a name expressive of my true character. I, also, have given to thee a name expressive of your character. I have called you Peter, a rock, denoting firmness, solidity, stability, and your confession has shown that the name is appropriate. I see that you are worthy of the name, and will be a distinguished support of my religion."
And upon this rock ... - This passage has given rise to many different interpretations. Some have supposed that the word "rock" refers to Peter's confession, and that Jesus meant to say, upon this rock, this truth that thou hast confessed, that I am the Messiah and upon confessions of this from all believers, I will build my church. Confessions like this shall be the test of piety, and in such confessions shall my church stand amid the flames of persecution, the fury of the gates of hell. Others have thought that Jesus referred to himself. Christ is called a rock, Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:8. And it has been thought that he turned from Peter to himself, and said, "Upon this rock, this truth that I am the Messiah - upon myself as the Messiah, I will build my church." Both these interpretations, though plausible, seem forced upon the passage to avoid the main difficulty in it. Another interpretation is, that the word "rock" refers to Peter himself.
This is the obvious meaning of the passage; and had it not been that the Church of Rome has abused it, and applied it to what was never intended, no other interpretation would have been sought for. "Thou art a rock. Thou hast shown thyself firm, and suitable for the work of laying the foundation of the church. Upon thee will I build it. Thou shalt be highly honored; thou shalt be first in making known the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles." This was accomplished. See Acts 2:14-36, where he first preached to the Jews, and Acts 10, where he preached the gospel to Cornelius and his neighbors, who were Gentiles. Peter had thus the honor of laying the foundation of the church among the Jews and Gentiles; and this is the plain meaning of this passage. See also Galatians 2:9. But Christ did not mean, as the Roman Catholics say he did, to exalt Peter to supreme authority above all the other apostles, or to say that he was the only one upon whom he would rear his church. See Acts 15, where the advice of James, and not that of Peter, was followed. See also Galatians 2:11, where Paul withstood Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed - a thing which could not have happened if Christ (as the Roman Catholics say) meant that Peter was absolute and infallible. More than all, it is not said here, or anywhere else in the Bible, that Peter would have infallible successors who would be the vicegerents of Christ and the head of the church. The whole meaning of the passage is this: "I will make you the honored instrument of making known my gospel first to Jews and Gentiles, and I will make you a firm and distinguished preacher in building my church."
Will build my church - This refers to the custom of building in Judea upon a rock or other very firm foundation. See the notes at Matthew 7:24. The word "church" literally means "those called out," and often means an assembly or congregation. See Acts 19:32, Greek; Acts 7:38. It is applied to Christians as being "called out" from the world. It means sometimes the whole body of believers, Ephesians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 10:32. This is its meaning in this place. It means, also, a particular society of believers worshipping in one place, Acts 8:1; Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc.; sometimes, also, a society in a single house, as Romans 16:5. In common language it means the church visible - i. e., all who profess religion; or invisible, i. e., all who are real Christians, professors or not.
And the gates of hell ... - Ancient cities were surrounded by walls. In the gates by which they were entered were the principal places for holding courts, transacting business, and deliberating on public matters. See the notes at Matthew 7:13. Compare the notes at Job 29:7. See also Deuteronomy 22:4; 1 Samuel 4:18; Jeremiah 36:10; Genesis 19:1; Psalm 69:12; Psalm 9:14; Proverbs 1:21. The word "gates," therefore, is used for counsels, designs, machinations, evil purposes.
"Hell" means, here, the place of departed spirits, particularly evil spirits; and the meaning of the passage is, that all the plots, stratagems, and machinations of the enemies of the church would not be able to overcome it a promise that has been remarkably fulfilled.
on Matthew 16 :18
16:18 On this rock - Alluding to his name, which signifies a rock, namely, the faith which thou hast now professed; I will build my Church - But perhaps when our Lord uttered these words, he pointed to himself, in like manner as when he said, Destroy this temple, John 2:19; meaning the temple of his body. And it is certain, that as he is spoken of in Scripture, as the only foundation of the Church, so this is that which the apostles and evangelists laid in their preaching. It is in respect of laying this, that the names of the twelve apostles (not of St. Peter only) were equally inscribed on the twelve foundations of the city of God, Rev 21:14. The gates of hell - As gates and walls were the strength of cities, and as courts of judicature were held in their gates, this phrase properly signifies the power and policy of Satan and his instruments. Shall not prevail against it - Not against the Church universal, so as to destroy it. And they never did. There hath been a small remnant in all ages.