Use of rocky sites as places of refuge (Num 24:21; Judg 15:8; 20:47) led to the frequent image of God as a rock, that is, a source of protection. Titles of God include the “Stone of Israel” (Gen 49:24 NASB), the Rock (Deut 32:4), the Rock of salvation (32:15), the Rock who begot Israel (32:18), “a rock that is high above me” (Ps 61:2 HCSB). Isaiah 8:13-14 pictures of the Lord of hosts as a “rock to stumble over” (NASB) to the unholy people of Israel and Judah. Paul identified Christ as the spiritual Rock that nourished Israel in the
wilderness (1 Cor 10:4). Other texts apply to Christ, the Isaiah image of a rock that causes persons to fall (Rom 9:33; 1 Pet 2:8). Jesus’ teaching is the rock-solid foundation for life (Matt 7:24-25). The identity of the rock upon which Christ promised to build the church (Matt 16:18) is disputed. Possible identifications include Peter (whose name means “rock”), the larger group of disciples, Christ Himself, and Peter’s confession of faith. The different Greek terms employed (Petros and petra) argue against a quick identification of Peter as the foundation. Both Christ (1 Cor 3:11) and the larger circle of apostles (Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14) are pictured as the foundation of the church elsewhere. It seems unlikely that Matthew presents Christ as both builder and foundation of the church. Application of the foundation image to evangelistic work (Rom 15:20; 1 Cor 3:10) suggests that Peter’s God-revealed confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt 16:16), is the foundation of the church that lays siege to the gates of Hades.