I Will Build My Church

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I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it

Those words are from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ and found in Matthew 16:18. The occasion was when He was speaking to His disciples as they were entering into the district of Caesarea-Philippi in the northern region above the Sea of Galilee, shortly before His transfiguration (Matthew 16:13-19; 17:1-8). The complete verse reads this way:  and you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Ever since this portion of Scripture was uttered it has been the center of no small amount of controversy. This is due in large part to the Roman Catholic Church’s belief that it has Scriptural support in this verse for its papal office. Their interpretation goes like this:  Peter unmistakably came forth in this verse as the leader of the twelve disciples [who represent all believers] when he responded to our Lord’s question, But who do you say that I am? with the words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. They then continue by pointing out how our Lord “blessed” only Peter here and gave him, alone, the “keys of the Kingdom” when He said to him in response, Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church… I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Further, they say that we should take notice that seven times the word “you” is used in this passage to refer to Peter, and to Peter singularly. Finally, they argue, Christ here says to only Peter, and you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church. Thus, they conclude that Peter is “the” rock, the first Pope. And, every Pope thereafter is his rightful successor. But they miss the whole point of our Lord’s teaching here. Christ is simply and purely stating that He will build His church upon the Apostle Peter’s confession of Him as the Christ -- and everyone else who follows with the same confession! Again, Christ says, I will build My Church. That is, He says “I” will build “My” church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Therefore, hell will not be able to stop Christ from building “His” church. Once begun, it cannot be derailed from His one holy intention. The Greek word for “church” means “the called-out ones.” So, all believers are called-out of the world and “into” the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9; 12:13). This means they have heard the call of salvation through the gospel being preached to them (Matthew 4:19; 22:14), they saw their sin (Acts 16:30), they saw Jesus as their only hope for the forgiveness of all their sins (Acts 4:12), then they confessed Him as their Messiah -- You are the Christ, the Son of the living God! Paul spoke elsewhere of the necessity of this same confession:  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (Romans 10:9-10). So, when Peter was converted, and when you and I were converted, a miracle took place.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). Beloved, we have been called-out of the world and into Christ’s Church for the purpose of worshiping the living God. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He” (John 4:23-26)! So, as His Church, His holy and unstoppable Church, located throughout this vast world (John 1:29; 3:16; Revelation 5:9) -- we are to be “Salt and Light” (Matthew 5:13-16); we are to be a “Wisdom-Center” in a foolish age (Ephesians 3:8-10); we are to be “disciple-makers” who declare the excellency of Him who has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 2:9)!

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