Number 7 in the Top Ten Things Jesus Said is found in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church”
#1: Jesus Christ is the Builder of the Church
Who is building the Church? Is Christian ministry propelled by someone’s charismatic personality? Is it driven by growth models borrowed from the business world? Is human gumption generating its momentum throughout history? Does it need to “change or die”?
Not a chance. The Church of Jesus Christ is the work of Jesus Christ. He tells Peter in verse 18, “I will build…” Peter learned that lesson and preached it in his first sermon in Acts 2:33 where he told the crowds what they were seeing and hearing was of Jesus. He said, “Exalted to the right hand of God He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
And the rock on which the Lord is building His Church is not Peter, but, the truth of who Jesus is. The perversion of the Papacy has grown out of a perverted interpretation of this passage. Jesus is not saying He will build the Church upon Peter. The rock that is the foundation on which the Church will be built is a certain truth that is as solid and unchanging as a rock. What is that truth? It is in the passage. Read verses 13-18.
Our Lord asked the disciples, “Who do they say I am?” The topic of conversation is the identity of Jesus Christ. People have different ideas about Jesus. Jesus then turns to His disciples and asks them who they think He is. Peter, speaking for the group, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus affirms what Peter says. The focus is on Christ this whole conversation, the point of the conversation is the real identity of Jesus Christ. And then Jesus speaks of something called the Church and the Church He says will be built upon “this rock”. That rock is someone, but it is not Peter. That someone is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus plays on words here. Peter’s name in the Greek is a Greek name Petros, meaning rock or rock-man. But then Jesus says I will build on this “rock”, using the Greek word “petras”, which is not a name form, but is referring to a rock.
It would be like saying “Hey Mike, I’m going to use this mic’ to preach today”. Or “Hey Rob, I’m going to rob a bank”. Or “Hey Harry, I’m going to get my hair cut”. “Hey Peter, I’m going to build my Church on this Rock, not you, Peter, but the rock of truth that I’m the Christ, the Son of God.”
The point here is that the Church will be made up of people who correctly identify Jesus – people who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The foundational rock of the Church of Jesus Christ is Jesus Himself.
So Jesus is both the foundation of the Church and it’s architect. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” The Church is not something of man’s design. The true Church is built by Jesus Christ, by His Word, by His Spirit, by His gifts to the Church.
When the Church is something built by man it always becomes an instrument of Satan. It becomes worldly minded, carnal, idolatrous, and serves the purposes of the enemy of Christ rather than Christ.
Furthermore, if the Church were of human origin, and, it were built by human hands and ingenuity, then it would fail in the face of Satan. But because it is the enterprise of Jesus Christ on this earth the Church will succeed. He says, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”. Do you see your enemy right here? Do you see how Hell has pitted itself against the Lord and His Church? Hell’s agenda is set against our Lord’s: He will build His Church and Hell will pour everything it’s got into destroying it.
But, “the gates of Hades will not overcome it”. That promise is a statement of success. All of Hell will fail in the face of the Church not because of the Church but because of Jesus Christ. Remember 1 John 4:4? “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” No one will prevent our Lord from finishing His work in the Church. What Jesus Christ starts He finishes. Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Application: Believers need to be a vital, functioning, healthy part of a local church. One that preaches and teaches God’s Word and is faithful in discipleship and evangelism. Otherwise, as a believer, you are vulnerable to the attack of Satan. Strength is in fellowship.
Illustration: Motion Dazzle. Did you ever wonder why Zebras have stripes? I mean, it’s not helping hide you from any lions when you stand out in a field with that kind of color and pattern. But scientists believe that the patterns help the zebras in a different way from hiding. Hiding with color patterns that blend animals into the environment is called “crypsis” – like chameleons. But scientists believe that the stripes on zebras creates something called “motion dazzle”. When a bunch of zebras start running the motion has a confusing effect on the lions and they can’t see the speed and direction of individual zebras as they run together. It’s motion dazzle. It happens when they’re together. It’s important to be together.
Christians need to stay in the herd so the enemy, who is called a roaming lion, is affected by our motion dazzle. When we run together we are stronger. Being together facilitates protection, support, strength, help, love, and growth in the Body. The enemy devours individuals roaming out of the herd.
You know Jesus is building His Church when believers prioritize assembling together. It is not the work of Jesus Christ to isolate Christians. The parable of the 99 sheep says that the Shepherd went to get the 100th sheep to bring him back into the fold. Peter said we are living stones being built into a spiritual house. Ephesians 2:22 says, “And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Key word = “together”. Coming together with other believers for worship, preaching, and the great commission is something every believer needs to prioritize. That is where Jesus is building His Church
#2: The Church is Believers not Bricks
Secondly, the Church is believers, not bricks. One pastor I know tells his congregation their building is just a building but when they arrive it becomes the Church. Amen. We do not come to the Church, but, we come to assemble ourselves as the Church. We do church because we are the Church.
Jesus is building something made out of people, not blocks. The Church is a community of people with Christ in common. Sometimes the community of Christians is called “the Body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27). Other times it is referred to as the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:25). And other times it is called a building, such as in Ephesians 2:20-22.
People who believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation are the “bricks” in this “building”. Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 2:5, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
So what is this “holy temple”, this “spiritual house”? What is the Church? Is it all the people from all of history who believe in God? After all there were people before Jesus came who are going to heaven, are they considered part of the Church too? Some teach that but I think it doesn’t come from the best handling of Scriptures.
The Church is a unique group within history. Ephesians 3:5 says that the Church was a mystery to the OT that no one knew about. It didn’t exist. That makes sense, because the Church could not exist until Christ came to the earth AND left the earth to go back to heaven. To be part of the Church you must believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior who died on the cross for your sins. No one could do that in history until He actually came and did that. Furthermore, to be part of the Church, a person must have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which happens at the moment they put their faith in Jesus Christ. The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit was foreign to saved people before Jesus came.
Realize there is a difference between what is referred to as the Universal Church and the Local Church. The Universal Church refers to all true believers around the world since the day of Pentecost. The Local Church refers to believers who are close by to each other who start meeting together to worship and teach and fellowship. In the local church you get people who are saved and unsaved showing up. Someone may be a part of a local church and not believe in Christ and not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, but, they are not a part of the Church of Jesus Christ. Illustrative of this point is Judas, who was part of the 12 disciples, but he was not really saved. In the end his real identity was proven.
Jesus is building His Church but He is using His Church to do it. What He is doing is bigger than us but it is being done through us. And just like Jesus knew His Father labored alongside of Him here on earth (John 5:17), so too we should know that our Lord labors as well.
The Church belongs to Jesus Christ
Lastly, the Church belongs to Jesus Christ. He says, “I will build MY church”. He bought it with His blood, “You are not your own, you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). We belong to Him. That is the point of calling Him “Lord”, He is our Sovereign. We are His. I love how Ephesians 5 brings this out. Notice how the passage describes the Church is His. Read verses 25-27.
He cares for us. He provides for us. He loves us. We belong to Him.