In our study of Matthew, we considered the other Sunday the passage in chapter 16 where Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The Lord said that Peter was blessed, because God had revealed this to him. This is what is needed to know Christ—the revelation of God through His word.
So far, so good. God’s word is foundational for the church that Christ says he will build. But then something happens that shatters this wonderful moment. As Jesus goes on to speak of how he will suffer, be killed, and be raised on the third day, Peter takes him aside (the Greek word means that Peter forcefully dragged Jesus away) and begins to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” The Lord then rebukes Peter, identifying Satan as the one behind this opposition to God’s redemptive purpose.
So here’s the question: Peter knows the Old Testament, which speaks of the Messiah’s suffering and death. And Peter had just heard Jesus affirm this. So why would Peter, who believes God’s word, be so fervent in contradicting God’s word? It’s because Peter’s theology trumped Scripture. Peter grew up hearing teaching after teaching that the Messiah would come as a conquering king, not a suffering savior. And so he focused on the passages that spoke of the victory and rule of the Messiah and ignored the passages that spoke of His suffering and death. His perspective determined how he understood Scripture, which is backwards. It is Scripture that should determine your understanding. But people still fall into this mistake. They are influenced by a particular theological system and that determines their understanding of Scripture. And so like Peter, they become locked into their theological system and it becomes very hard for them to consider deviating from that, despite what God’s word says. I have seen people leave the church over their theological perspective, not wanting to even discuss what God’s word says, because their theology trumps everything else and for them that is the final word.
This incident in Matthew 16 is a warning to all of us to not put anything above the authority of God’s word. Let Scripture guide your understanding, and even challenge your understanding. God commends the Bereans in Acts 17:11, because they “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” May this be your attitude—to eagerly hear the teaching of God’s word and to examine the Scriptures as the final authority to determine if what you hear is true. That is the right response that God blesses.