On various occasions Jesus warns his followers about the “yeast” of the Pharisees. He points out their hypocrisy in obeying law simply for self. The issue contrasts the heart versus the action. The Father is not interested in how one carries out a task when your heart is full of self. Jesus is in pursuit of your heart, and this is where He begins in building His church.
Entering the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks what others are saying. He turns to his disciples,
“But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mat. 16:15)
The bold disciple, Simon, speaks up, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mat. 16:16). Simon identifies Jesus with a common title from the scriptures, “the living God.” The Jews hold firmly that Jehovah is the living God, this in contrast to idols such as Pan–the god of the underworld. In Caesarea, a temple and statue of Pan is worshiped. Jesus responds to Simon’s answer.
“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:17-18).
Jesus points out, to Simon Peter, he did not come up with the response on his own. This revelation is given by the Father. God’s grace reveals, to Simon, Jesus’ true identity. Jesus continues and remarks that upon this revelation of the Father to Peter he will build his church. The word for “church” is a transliteration from later Germanic translations of the Greek word, ekklesia. The word means gathering or an “assembly” of people. Jesus takes ownership and responsibility as the builder. This gathering of people is built by Jesus. This church is not a building, but a people called out of slavery from sin.