One of the most extraordinary statements in the Bible is in Matthew 16:19, when Christ was addressing Peter: “…And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Here is an ordinary fisherman whom Christ has chosen to be his disciple, and to whom, He is entrusting the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” The first question that comes to mind in seeing this scenario is this: How can the Lord Jesus entrust to such a man as this, with all of his flaws and failings, the very means by which the authority and power of God are exerted? The second question is perhaps more mind-boggling than the first: What does Christ really mean by the “keys” of the kingdom? A key is an instrument by which we gain access to something. We think instinctively of a car, or a house, or even a place of business. The key gives us access to that which enables us to travel, live, and work. But the keys of which Christ is speaking here are much more influential and far reaching. They give access to the “kingdom of heaven.” Now, the kingdom is that realm over which Christ reigns in power and authority. That kingdom speaks of all that is essentially true of Christ’s reign, and the consequent experience of His victorious life, His blessings. When Christ speaks to Peter of the “keys of the kingdom,” he also speaks of the kingdom being of Heaven, that which is of God, for God, kept by God…essentially without sin, and yet, possessing all the blessings in Christ for eternity. He is, in essence, putting into the hands of Peter, the means by which that heavenly reign will come to the hearts and souls of many, and the consequent blessings from heaven, in Christ…by the Spirit. There is an old hymn which explains in part what this issue of “keys” means:
“Open my eyes that I may see,
Glimpses of truth, Thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful KEY
That shall unclasp and set me free.”
What is the KEY here, but the truth of God revealed to the heart, by which His power and authority are revealed, applied, and exercised for the accomplishment of His will?
An illustration of a life where the keys were greatly used is that of David. If truth is a key, then we need to look at “truth” according to God to understand how it is used.
The first TRUTH, or key, concerns the heart. The Lord told Samuel that in choosing a king, the Lord, “…seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) The Lord provided Himself a king, because he found, “…David, the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.” (Acts 13:22) The first truth has to do with the heart attitude and disposition, that the Lord will bless…and it is a whole heart, one that is committed to God to DO His will. This is the man or woman to whom the Lord will look, a person who has a perfect heart towards Him. How can this be, and who can have such a heart? Simply said, it is one that is such by the cleansing of the blood of Christ, and the strengthening by the Spirit. Our hearts are “desperately wicked,” for they are inherently selfish, self-centered. When Christ comes to the heart, He comes to cleanse us, to empower us, but primarily to give us a new heart, one that lives for Him.
The second key, which is tied to the first, concerns the work of the Spirit in the life. Again, in 1 Samuel 16:13, we find that Samuel, according to the command of God, anointed David. It was at that moment that something most significant happened: “…and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.”
We can say with a great deal of certainty, that everything good and great in the life of David, this warrior/king, would be the result of the working of the Spirit of God. All through the Psalms, in David’s writings, it is clear that his experience of God was not limited to just one aspect of his life, but to all facets of his life. He was great by virtue of the Spirit of God working in and through him.
Peter, though a normal fisherman, was a man who was Christ’s by virtue of the Lord drawing him to Himself, and working in his life, so that Peter would yield himself totally to Him. But secondly, and we see the second key, the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God came. From that moment on, Peter is a different man, one in whom, and through whom, the Spirit of God would do wonderful things. Many would come through to a saving knowledge of Christ as a result. There were two keys…two mighty influences…two unveilings of the power and the authority of God, coming of heaven, Christ reigning in the heart, revealing Himself in and through the lives of ordinary men.
May the Lord give us clean, whole-hearted devotion to Him, and His blessed Spirit to strengthen, to enable…in all things…