The Church Belonging To Christ
By Tim Shepherd
The church of our Lord is constantly facing those who want to undermine the authority of Jesus by establishing their own authority (Romans 10:1-3). It is important for us to be constantly reminded that the church Jesus built is just that; it is the church Jesus built! He designed it, He purchased it, and He is the head of it! My, friend, it does make a difference what one believes and it does make a difference how one serves the Lord. For that reason I would like for us to give our attention to the promise Jesus made to His disciples (Matthew 16:16-18).
THE FOUNDATION OF IT – “Upon This Rock” – The “rock” upon which Jesus would build His church was not Peter, but upon what Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ” (V:16). That Christ is more than a mere man is the foundation upon which the church exists. He is the Son of the living God! Jesus was the one John identified (John 1:1, 14). Jesus was the one who performed miracles (John 3:5; 20:30-31). Jesus was declared to be the Son of God through His resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). Jesus being the Son of God is at the heart of everything we hold dear. It is upon Jesus that truth is found (John 14:6; Matthew 7:21-27). It was upon the fact that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, the one who came to deliver us from sin. It was JESUS in which the church would be built upon!
THE CERTAINTY OF IT – “I Will Build My Church” – My, friend, Jesus never said, “I might,” or “I will try”. Jesus said “I WILL!” I think that many people have a wrong concept of the church that Jesus built. The church of Christ is still under construction. Yes, the church was promised to come in their lifetime (Mark 9:1; John 18:36). Yes, the church was established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36-38, 47). Yes, the church was established, but the church is still being constructed. Every time someone obeys the gospel the church grows. Paul describes that we make up a “Temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:16-22). Peter described that we are “living stones” (I Peter 2:5, 9-10).
THE INTIMACY OF IT – “I Will Build My Church” – The church Jesus is building is not cold or impersonal. It is a relationship with His people. Notice the scripture references to this intimacy. The church is referred to as the “bride” of Christ (Revelation 21:9). The church is referred to as the “body” of Christ (Ephesians 5:29; Colossians 1:24). The church was purchased by the “blood” of Jesus (Acts 20:28). There is a beautiful picture painted for those who make up the church Jesus built. To persecute the Lord’s people is to persecute the Lord as when Paul made havoc of the church (Acts 7:51-60; 8:3; 9:14). Jesus tells us that He will take vengeance (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). When the Lord’s people are persecuted, Jesus takes it personally!
THE INVISIBILITY OF IT – “The Gates of Hades Shall Not Prevail against It” – This seems specifically to be a reference to the resurrection of Jesus, i.e., death would not prevent the building of His church (Acts 2:22-36). But there is another thought presented here that we need to consider. Jesus is picturing Hades (place of departed spirits) as a prison. This suggests that its gates would not be able to contain or imprison the church. Death could not hold Jesus! Neither will it hold us (I Corinthians 15:54-58)! Jesus knew that His disciples would face persecution, imprisonment, and even death. He promised they would overcome (Revelation 2:10). There is no reason to fear or be intimidated by the threat of death. Christ lives, and so shall those who obey Him (John 14:19). Remember death cannot stop us! With Christ we are invincible!
THE AUTHORITY OF IT – “I Will Give unto Thee the Keys of the Kingdom”- The Catholics mistakes this passage to mean that Jesus was giving Peter ruling authority, thereby making him the first Pope. But this same promise was given to the rest of the apostles (John 20:23). This promise is given to believers in general (Matthew 18:15-20). Jesus was not giving Peter or us the authority to make and bind laws. (1.) The authority to legislate is His and His alone (Matthew 28:18). (2.) The only authority we have is to preach His word (Mark 16:15). (3.) Our responsibility is to make the word of God authoritative in the lives of people. THE WORDS OF CHRIST ARE THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM! The words of Christ should be considered a sacred trust by every disciple. God’s word should be our guiding light on every issue (Psalm 119:105). If we cease to use that light, or if we camouflage it by compromise, we forfeit the very source of our authority (II John 9). This is why it is critical for each one of us to deal seriously with God by studying His word, handling it with reverence and Godly fear, allowing God to rule!
My friend, it does make a difference what one believes, and it does make a difference how one serves the Lord. Let us never lose sight of the truth (Matthew 16:16-18).