I think of the apostle Peter as an illustration. On one occasion, while Peter was walking on water towards Christ, he noticed the boisterous wind and began to sink. Fear and dread gripped him. Jesus rescued him, but with a rebuke: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (cf. Matthew 14:23-31). But there was a later event in his life in which Jesus taught him what it was to be rock solid in faith. Jesus had asked whom the disciples thought He was, and Peter had answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (cf. Matt. 16:15–18).
Many people have understood these words to mean that Jesus was going to build His church upon Peter. The Roman Catholic Church has interpreted Jesus’ words as a promise that Peter would become the first pope, and that the church would be built on Peter and his successors. We rather understand Jesus’ words as referring not to Peter himself but to Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and argue that the church is to be built on this confessional foundation.
Peter’s own words in 1 Peter 2:4–8 provide us with his understanding of the above words of Christ to him. He insists that the Rock upon which the church or any individual Christian is to build is Jesus Christ.
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”
Peter’s insistence is that Christ is the Rock upon which His people are built up as a church. There is no suggestion whatsoever that he is the rock. In the light of those words of Peter, we can say that Peter (which means “a little stone”) wanted us to know Christ Himself is the Rock upon which He builds His church. Peter learned that Jesus is the only possible foundation for a sure and stable Christian life. Peter had biblical grounds for understanding Jesus’ teaching this way. He indicated it by three Old Testament quotations.
First, Isaiah 28:16. The prophet Isaiah spoke of God “lay[ing] in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation”. Peter also emphasised that “he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:6). Everyone, who lives by faith on Christ and His Word, will be built up together as a spiritual temple God.
Second, Psalm 118:22. Jesus applied Psalm 118:22 to himself during his earthly ministry, so Peter had learned to interpret the verse as Jesus did (cf. 1 Peter 2:7). Jesus told a parable about a householder who leased his vineyard to some husbandmen (or farmers). They tried to take over the field for themselves, eventually killing the owner’s son, who had been sent to them to collect the profits. Jesus then asked, “When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?” His hearers correctly answered Him that “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus then applied it to Himself by quoting from Psalm 118:22, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” (cf. Matt. 21:33–42; Acts 4:11). By this parable, Jesus was teaching that God is the owner of the vineyard. The leaders of Israel were the evil tenant farmers. The servants were the prophets, and the son who was killed was Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, Christ is also the stone, rejected by the builders, who was to become the capstone (the head of the corner) of true biblical religion. Christ alone is the only sure foundation for His people.
Third, Isaiah 8:14. By using Isaiah 8:14, Peter added the thought of stumbling to the initial idea of rejection of Christ – “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Peter 2:8). Peter also warned that rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s anointed Messiah, had a disastrous consequence, i.e. to fall spiritually or be lost forever.
Dear Gethsemaneans, may every one of us be strong in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Then we shall be like a house well-built on a strong foundation of rock. And it shall be said of us, that “the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:25).
Testimonies from Combined Retreat of GYF and GYAF
I would like to praise and thank God for the opportunity to attend the combined retreat of GYF and GYAF. During the retreat, I have learnt many precious lessons from the 4 theme messages and 2 morning devotions. Through the morning devotions on the theme, “Offering Spiritual Sacrifices”, taught by Bro Cornelius, I learnt about 4 sacrifices that we need to offer:
(1) I need to offer the sacrifice of my lips through praise and thanksgiving – “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
(2) I need to offer the sacrifice of prayer. We are duty-bound to offer up prayers as our daily obligation as priests.
(3) I should offer the sacrifices of repentance and righteousness – “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD” (Psalm 4:5). In order for us sinful men to have our spiritual sacrifices accepted by God, we need to first repent of our sins.
(4) Finally, the sacrifice of ourselves for others. I need to pour out my life to be spent for the service of the faith of others.
Through the theme messages on “What Should the Church Leadership Be?” taught by Pastor, I learnt that church leadership consists of divinely designed offices, and men whom God has commissioned to those offices. Hence, leadership in the church ought to be a divine appointment, which is preceded by biblical evidence, and in line with biblical expectations.
I am grateful to God for the fellowship with both youths and young adults that I had during the lunch and dinner breaks. I also thank God for the Bible Reading session on John 21:1-14, which has taught me to read the Bible with more understanding. May God help me to delight in His Word, and grow in faith. All glory to God!
Truly, thank God for the recent combined YAF-YF Retreat on 25 and 26 December 2020, where the truths about church leadership were clearly expounded.
It was an illuminating study, especially the section on having an intense spiritual desire for the work. “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). The burden to preach was so strong that the apostle Paul described it as being “pressed in the spirit” (Acts 18:5) by a constraining force (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14).
I also praise the LORD for the morning devotions on “Offering Spiritual Sacrifices”. In particular, Philippians 2:17-18, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me”, struck me. The joy bubbling from those who minister and those who are ministered unto—merging as one ceaseless river of praise—is a wonderful sight to behold.
May God stir all His children to serve with gladness, and to receive the service rendered by others in the same body of Christ with much thanksgiving.
I am very grateful to God for the combined retreat of GYF and GYAF. I thank God for granting our church leaders the perseverance in feeding us with God’s Word amid challenging times, and for the brethren who labour much in planning and making the camp possible.
I learned from the morning devotions that God does not desire “burnt offering and sin offering” (Psalm 40:6), but He delights in “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), “a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17), and “the sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).
Pastor taught us that God designs church leadership, and every member in the leadership is under His direct supervision. We were taught that a godly leader should serve the Lord “with all humility of mind” (Acts 20:19) and possess Christ-like qualities.
The apostle Paul exhorts, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). So, may we respond to our divine calling and continue the good work that the Lord has started in Gethsemane!