The Church Jesus Builds
Faithful people do not build the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ builds his church through faithful people. We must realize that Jesus is the Head of the church. Jesus is the builder of the church. Jesus is the foundation of the church. Jesus is the Chief cornerstone of the church.
Let’s talk about how Jesus builds His Church. First, let me define what a church is. Here in Matthew 16:18 we find the first usage in the New Testament of this word, ?church.? In Greek, the word is ecclesia. This word appears 115 times in the New Testament. In means an assembly of people. ?Ek? is the preposition out. ?Klesia? means a calling. An ecclesia is a called out assembly. A New Testament church is a body of baptized believers who have been called out of the world in order to glorify God by worship, fellowship, and discipleship in fulfilling the Great Commission and practicing the ordinances Christ commanded. We desire to preserve and propagate the Word of God and the Name of God. We desire to evangelize the lost and edify the ones who are saved.
A church is not a building. A church is not a denomination. A church is an assembly of people who have been redeemed and baptized, called out of the world who have a desire to glorify God.
The church Jesus builds: Has the Right Foundation
Now these verses have been the subject of intense debate. Let me tell you up front what I believe the ?rock? is: the confession of Peter that is the basis of the Apostle’s doctrine. One can say that this rock is the entire doctrine of the apostles, but this confession provides the foundation for all Christian doctrine.
It is not really possible in our day to deal with these verses and not expose the error of the Roman Catholic system, for they have taken these verses far beyond their original meaning or intent. I know people don’t like to hear anything ?negative? about another church, but I do not believe it is possible to look at these verses without exposed the false views of the Roman church that have had a mighty influence upon the world. The Roman Catholic Church has taken these verses to assert that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built. They have twisted and turned this passage to teach that the Pope is the foundation of the church and that truth and salvation proceed from a church rather than Christ.
Let me say clearly what this passage does not teach:
That Peter alone is the founder or foundation of the church.
That Peter was the BISHOP or PASTOR of all Christians everywhere.
That Peter pastored the first church, which was at Jerusalem.
That Peter was the head of the first church, for he was not.
That Peter was the founder of the church at Rome. The Bible is absolutely silent on who was the first pastor of the church at Rome and is silent on whether Peter was even in Rome. It is therefore of no consequence.
That Rome is the Mother of all churches.
That the authority of the keys given to Peter was transmissible.
This passage has led to the Roman church declaring the infallibility of Peter and all those who succeed him. As one Catholic writer said, ?The pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven, of earth, and of hell? and he wields two swords, the spiritual and the temporal.? Roman Catholic Cardinal J. Gibbons has said: The Catholic Church teaches that ?to be true followers of Christ all Christians, both among the clergy and laity, must be in communion with the See (Pope) of Rome, where Peter rules in the person of his successor.? Furthermore, the Church teaches that when a pope speaks ex cathedra, or in his official capacity as head of the church, he speaks with divine authority equal to Scripture or to God Himself.
To say the least, the Roman Catholic Church throughout history has sought to grab all spiritual authority to forgive sins and be the only way of salvation for people.
For example, Pope Innocent in 1198 was the first pope to declare that he was the Vicar of Christ or that he was the very substitute of Jesus Christ upon earth and therefore the supreme authority on earth. He believed that God had given the successor of Peter the task of ruling the whole world as well as the church. Innocent sponsored crusades that led to bloody battles against the Albigenses in southern France. Innocent grabbed more power for the church to declare that Christ could be received only through the mass (Transubstantiation in 1215) and that sins must be confessed annually to a priest instead of God. This put power in the hands of the Pope to distribute Christ and to grant forgiveness of sins, and this abuse of power has led to much corruption through the centuries.
Friends, forgiveness of sin is not through a church but by the Person of Jesus Christ. The Pope is not Christ upon earth and all power does not reside in one man!
F.F. Bruce in his classic work, The Training of the Twelve has boldly written: ?What a gigantic system of spiritual despotism and blasphemous assumption has been built on these two sentences concerning the rock and the keys! How nearly, by their aid, has the kingdom of God been turned into a kingdom of Satan!?
To combat the erroneous teaching of the Pope, many have said that the rock here is Christ. You may take that as your interpretation, but it seems to me that this interpretation has arisen to combat Roman Catholic perversion. We ought to base our interpretations on the text itself and we must be careful not to overreact to false teachings.
The CONTEXT of the Old Testament:
Throughout Scripture God alone is called a rock. He only is our rock. Deut.32:4, He is the Rock, his work is perfect, all his ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.
Psalm 62:2,6,7: He only is my rock and my salvation; He only is my rock and my salvation: the rock of my strength and my refuge , is in God.
The point is that a man himself is not referred to as a rock in the Old Testament.
The CONTEXT of this passage:
In this context, we notice two clear points: Jesus is the BUILDER of the church. Since Jesus is the builder, it would be a mixing up of metaphors to say that He is also the foundation.
Peter has just made his consummate confession. The rock has to do with this confession one way or the other.
I am sure these statements are not meant to assert the supremacy of Peter and to elevate him to an infallible status. I believe Jesus means to declare the importance of the TRUTH He has confessed. ?Not Peter’s person, but Peter’s faith is the fundamental matter in Christ’s mind? (p.168,169, F.F. Bruce). The antecedent of rock is taken to be Peter’s mighty confession that Jesus is the ?Christ, the Son of the Living God.? Again, the context here shows that Jesus is going to build his church upon a foundation of those who believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Peter, as the director of the Apostolic Choir, speaks up as the representative of the apostles.
The WORDS used:
Thou art Peter, or PETROS. This is a masculine word for a small stone.
Upon this ROCK, or PETRA. This is a feminine word for a rocky mountain peak.
In other words, Jesus says, You are a small stone, and upon this massive rock I will build my church.
Beloved, we are not as important as the truth of God’s Word. We are not as important as the truth of who Christ is, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
Some try to argue that Jesus spoke in Aramaic and that in this language he probably used the same word. I would say, we do not know for sure because we were not there to hear what Jesus said, but we do have the inspired Bible written in Greek with two different words. This is what we have to deal with in our interpretation. Otherwise, we should translate the entire Bible into Aramaic and study out of that language. God chose to inspire the writers to write Greek words and not Aramaic words.
Whatever the Lord was saying, he was telling Peter that he was a small stone and built upon a greater foundation.
The Remainder of the New Testament:
In the New Testament epistles, there are two foundations to the church: 1 Corinthians 3:11 says that Christ is the foundation of the church: For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Christ is THE foundation of the church. He is the ultimate foundation.
Eph. 2:20 says that the apostles are a foundation of the church: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.
The Apostles are a secondary foundation of the church. The revelation that God gave to the apostles who preached and wrote the Word of God was a foundation for the church. In this passage Christ is seen as the chief cornerstone.
Taking all of this together, I conclude that the rock upon which Jesus built His church in Matthew 16 is the doctrinal confession that Peter makes which is foundational for the apostles doctrine which laid the foundation of the early church. God used the apostles to write His Word and preach His word in propagating the Good News to the four corners of the world. That the apostles were a foundation does not mean that Christ was not THE foundation of the church.
The Invincibility of the Church
What does this phrase gates of hell mean?
The word hell is hades and speaks of the domain of everlasting destruction and torment.
Cities during Bible days were often surrounded by walls and gates. The city gates were the seat of power and place of strength in the city. It is where the King and the leaders of the city discussed and transacted business while running the affairs of the city. The gates of hell represent the very powers, strategies, and strength of the Devil and all his demons. Gates of hell speak of Satan’s ?City Hall.?
Gates do not attack, but the gates of hell speak of the administration and plans of attack that Satan has against the people of God.
The gates of a city because they were the point of strength of the city and the point of entrance into the city to capture a city were the point of attack. As the church of the living God, we are on the attack, because Satan is the God of this world.
The gates of hell have no power to hold onto those souls that God has chosen to save.
The gates of hell emphasize the aggressive strategy of the church to attack the Devil and his demons. We are marching on, not ashamed of the Gospel, knowing that God has power to pluck souls from out of the gates of hell.
No matter how liberal, fanatical, ritualistic, apathetic or apostate its outward adherents may be and no matter how decadent the rest of the world may become, Christ will build his church. No matter how oppressive and hopeless their outward circumstances may appear from a human perspective, God’s people belong to a cause that cannot fail.
Has Authority to Do His Work
A key opens the door, and Peter is the one authorized by God to open the door of faith to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, to the Samaritans in Acts 8 and to the Gentiles and Cornelius in Acts 10.
The Apostle Peter, as the spokesman of the Apostolic choir, was given authority by the Lord Jesus Christ to open the Gospel preaching and authenticate the Gospel message to the world.
Bind means to forbid.
Loose means to permit.
This does not mean that God does the churches will in heaven, but the church does God’s will on earth. The church is a family of God that has authority from God to fulfill His Great Commission upon earth. In fulfilling the great commission, we go, we evangelize, we baptize, and we make disciples. Who do we baptize? Those who have been saved. How do we determine if they have been saved? We must make a judgment based on their testimony and profession of faith. In baptizing someone we are recognizing that their sins have been forgiven and they are saved. We are not forgiving anyone, but on the basis of God’s Word, we proclaim the work of God that is done by His grace. If someone will not repent and believe we also can say, ?You are not saved and the wrath of God abideth upon you,? according to God’s Word.
Let me emphasize: this passage, along with John 20:23 has nothing to do with the church having the authority to forgive sins.
We do not have the authority to PROVIDE forgiveness of sin but we do have the authority to PROCLAIM the forgiveness of sin. We go forth not as JUDGES, but as AMBASSADORS. Our function in this world is to be witnesses of the grace of God and the salvation He offers. God is only one who can forgive sins, but when He forgives, we are put in a place of authority to recognize what God has indeed done by baptizing those who confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God has raised up His Son from the dead.
The church permits on earth what God has already permitted in heaven. The church must forbid on earth what God has forbid in heaven. The church is sensitive to uphold God’s Word and will on earth.
The church must uphold God’s unchanging holiness and righteous standards. Has God forbidden adultery? Yes, and the church must ever stand against adultery on earth as well.
Has God forbidden drunkenness? Yes, and the church must also stand against drunkenness on earth.
Has God forbidden abortion? Has God forbidden homosexuality? Yes, and the church must be unbending to uphold God’s Word as the pillar and ground of the truth.
This is not a license for the church to abuse authority. The church is not to make restrictions for someone and then go and do the same.
The Lord gives a temporary restriction to the disciples. Why? Hiebert well says, The disciples themselves were not yet qualified to proclaim the whole truth concerning Him as Messiah. His Messianic mission could not be rightly understood apart from the work of the cross. Only when they understood the relationship between His suffering and His glory would they be qualified to proclaim Him adequately as the Messiah.