Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
I must admit that early on in my Christian experience, I had misconceptions about what “church” really was. It may have been my lack of biblical knowledge. It may have been my misapplication of what the preacher taught about it. Or it may have been something as simple as lack of concern! But for whatever reason it may have been, I apparently had it all wrong! And perhaps at some point you realized you had it all wrong as well. I do know this: The state of the Church is in bad shape.
Although statically we find several factors that may contribute to the problem, I’ve concluded the main issue comes down to this…. US!!! Somehow or another, we stopped trusting that Christ can build His church better than US, and that our modern methods of church growth are more relevant than the original process. But anytime we attempt to outwit the wisest teacher that ever lived, our attempts will always fail! So, let’s discuss and look at Matthew 16:18 with fresh eyes to gain a greater perspective of the promise and purpose of the Lord Christ to build His Church.
It’s important to notice first and foremost what Jesus did not say! He did not say I will build “A” church. But rather, our Lord was clear and intentional about what He was to build and who was to be the sole possessor of it. He said “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!”
The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as an “assembly” or “called out ones.” The root meaning of church indicates that this was never to be confused with a building, but of people. In fact, Romans 16:5 says “Greet the church that is in their house.” That’s good news for those whose spirit and mentality is shackled to a particular structure. The church is also the “called out ones.” But what are we called out to do?
1. The church is called to make “disciples”, not just “converts” (Matt. 28:18-20).
A disciple is a student, an apprentice, a learner and imitator of a master or teacher. A disciple takes on the nature and character of the master or teacher, and does what the master and teacher does. In this case we are talking about Jesus. According to this passage, a disciple is made by three participles: go, baptize and teaching (discipleship) them to obey everything the Lord commands of us.
2. The church is called to be a witness and an example by serving others through doing good works in the world (Matt. 5:13-16).
A disciple of Christ is called to be a doer and not just a hearer (James 1:22)! We are to demonstrate to the world the truth of what we believe. In this passage Jesus shows us two metaphors that describe how should impact the world in His name: Salt and Light. Both metaphors indicate that the church is to be engaged with all of life, not just limited to “preaching and praising” on Sundays!
a. Salt – Salt acts as a preservative. Just as in Jesus’ day, when salt was used to preserve and season meat, the church should act as a preservative against spiritual and moral corruption. Salt also gives taste. The church should provide the taste of eternal life and the foretaste of heaven in a bland and corrupt world. For both of these reasons, Christians are to be “rubbed” into culture, penetrating every aspect of life and the society in which we live.
b. Light – Light is to be seen. The church should live and act in ways that people can see the gospel and the new life of love, mercy, peace, justice, and truth that Christ brings. Light also exposes darkness. Light brings clarity; it causes growth; it enables people to see their way; it causes people who want to do evil or shameful things to hide; it brings joy. The key thing about light is that its radiance can best be seen in the darkest places. The church’s mindset about what the church is needs to change. Until then we will never be effective in Kingdom business.
Learning what is on God’s heart for the Lord’s church will result in a number of changes from the values and priorities most churches appear to have and from the way most churches operate. I pray that this lesson will help shift our thinking from traditional behaviors. Please understand this: People don’t go to church; they are the church. They don’t bring people to church; they bring the church to people. Let’s discuss….
1. What stands out to you in this passage?
2. How does your view of church impact your Christian walk?
3. Has the phrase “Going to church” ever been a part of your vocabulary?
4. Have you ever pondered on “how” Jesus will build His church in Matt. 16:18?
5. Could you speak with clarity, and define what the church is?
6. Should you be involved in Jesus’ church building project? Why or why not?
1. In Matthew 16:18 what is the significance of the Lord’s usage of “Peter” and “rock”?
2. Did the Apostles initially understand the magnitude of this future mission?
3. 2,000 years later, does it appear that the “gates of hades” is prevailing? If so, How?
4. How does this passage speak to you right now?
5. As you think about what we have discussed, what is one thing you want to ask God for?