Calvary Road Baptist Church

“I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH”

Matthew 16.18

 

If you have your Bible with you today, please turn to Matthew chapter 16. When you find Matthew 16.13, stand, and read along silently while I read aloud:

 

13     When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14     And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15     He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16     And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17     And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18     And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19     And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20     Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

 

This is a perplexing passage in God’s Word. It is perplexing to many who read the Bible because they attach contemporary meanings to archaic words, thinking the phrase “the coasts of Caesaria Philippi,” for example, refers to a shoreline instead of a legal boundary. To others, the passage is perplexing because we find the Lord Jesus Christ admonishing His disciples not to reveal His identity, “that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ,” verse 20. How do you reconcile that directive with the Great Commission to preach the gospel to every creature?

Over the last ten or fifteen years the meaning of the phrase “the gates of hell” has intrigued me. To what does this phrase refer? How are we to understand it? Is this phrase a promise or a warning, or is it both a promise and a warning? The phrase is not linguistically difficult. The word “gates” translates the straightforward Greek word pulh, which is commonly used to refer to the doors to a house or a temple, or to the gates of a prison or a city.[1] By extension, remembering the numerous places in the Old Testament where we read of those sitting in the gates of various cities, such as Lot in Sodom, and Absalom in Jerusalem, the gates could refer to those of power and persuasion who wield authority in the city gates, the shakers and movers in local government. The other word, $adou, is the plural of the Greek word we transliterate as Hades, and refers to the underworld, or to death.[2] In Psalm 9.13 and 107.18, we find reference made to “the gates of death.” In Isaiah 38.10, we find the phrase “the gates of the grave.” There are numerous examples of “the gates of Jerusalem,” suggesting the possibility that “the gates of hell” could be a Hebraism referring to the power or influence of a wicked city.

Of particular interest to me this evening is the phrase found immediately before “the gates of hell.” The declaration by the Lord Jesus Christ, “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” has some serious implications. It is rather common knowledge that the word Peter translates the Greek word petra, the Greek word for a rock. What is not as commonly known is that the word translated “rock” in Matthew 16.18 comes from the Greek word petroV. Thus, a petra, Peter, is correctly understood to refer to a small detachment of a massive ledge (petroV).[3]

It would seem, then, in light of the particular Greek words used in this verse, that the claim of the Roman Catholic Church to being built on the rock of St. Peter, who they claim to have been their first pope, is not a legitimate claim, is not supported by the straightforward and clear meaning of this phrase. A more reasonable interpretation of the phrase, “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” is that the Lord Jesus Christ was acknowledging Peter to be a little stone, but that He would build His church on the massive ledge of truth that Peter had just confessed in verse 16, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

However, the focus of this evening’s message will be even more confined than the pronouncement, “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” I want to zero in on the words “I will build my church.” You would think that this is a fairly straightforward statement, yet the divergence of opinion among professing Christians regarding its meaning is astounding.

Shall we begin with the assumption that words have meaning? To that we can also add the qualifier that the context narrows the meanings of words. These two things understood, what did the Lord Jesus Christ mean when He said to His disciples in Caesaria Philippi, “I will build my church”? The Greek phrase is comprised of only four words: oikodomhsw mou thn ekklhsian. The first word is a future tense verb meaning “I will build.”[4] The second word is a personal pronoun meaning “of me.”[5] The third word is the definite article that, when translated, is translated by our word “the.” The final word is the word ekklhsia, which refers to an assembly, a congregation of people.[6] In this statement, the Lord Jesus Christ is asserting that He will build the assembly which is His.

Why would He specify that it is His church that He will build, that it is His assembly that He will build? Because there are other kinds of churches, other types of assemblies, that are not claimed by Him to be His. For example: In Acts 7.38, Stephen makes mention of “the church in the wilderness,” shortly before he was martyred, referring to the children of Israel during their wilderness wanderings. Those people were a congregation, they were an assemblage of people, but they were not the church of Jesus Christ in the way Calvary Road Baptist Church is. Another example: In Acts 19.32, Luke refers to a mob in Ephesus using this Greek word ekklhsia, our word for church. Only in this case it is translated by our word assembly. That Ephesian mob was, in every legitimate sense of the word, a church as the word is properly understood. However, it was not an assembly of Jesus Christ, a congregation of Jesus Christ, a church of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not own that mob as He owns this body, or bring that mob into existence to worship and serve Him as He did this body, and He was not the head of that mob as He is the head of this congregation known as Calvary Road Baptist Church.

So, the Lord Jesus Christ said that He would build His church, understanding that there are churches and there are churches, and that not all assemblages of people that are churches (not even all those who claim to be churches) are churches of Jesus Christ.

 

SERMON:

 

Christine Wicker wrote The Fall Of The Evangelical Nation. In her book she states that 70 percent of Americans currently get their primary spiritual experience from church.[7] However, I recently talked to a guy who has attended this church for sixteen years, yet does not own a Bible and admitted to me that he does not read the Bible. Thus, even if 70 percent of Americans currently get their primary spiritual experience from church, that does not mean their spiritual experience is really worth anything.

Here is another quote from Wicker’s book: “By 2025 . . . only 30 to 35 percent will look to the local church. Everyone else will put together ad hoc, individualized spiritual lives based on media and on a variety of groups.”[8] That is just the twenty-first century version of every man doing that which is right in his own eyes. One study shows “that fewer than one out of five Americans firmly believes that a congregational church is critically important in spiritual growth. Only 17 percent believe that faith is meant to be developed mainly by involvement in a local church.”[9]

Do you realize what this information adds up to, my friends? People in this country, even church people in this country, even people who attend this church, do not believe church is important. Sadly, there are many pastors in this country who, by eliminating church services during the week and on Sunday nights, and cutting down the time spent studying and preaching the Word of God to people, are at least partly responsible for this general impression that church is not important.

Regardless of what people think, however, consider what the Lord Jesus Christ actually said. He said, “I will build my church.” In light of His words, consider several things with me:

 

First, CONSIDER THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHURCH CONGREGATION

 

You and I have brains. We can think and evaluate in a logical and orderly fashion. Therefore, we can arrive at valid conclusions about the importance of this church and other churches like this one.

First, bear in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ created the church. That is, He brought it into existence. This is significant when you consider what else the Lord Jesus Christ brought into existence. According to the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ was that Person of the triune godhead who actually created this universe and all that herein is. John 1.3 says this about the Lord Jesus Christ’s creative work: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” In Colossians 1.16, the Apostle Paul penned these words: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” Not only did Jesus create all things, and by all things I include the fact that He created you and He created me, but He also sustains all things, Colossians 1.17: “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” The church is important because the Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of heaven and earth, brought it into existence as an institution through which He would deal with His Own. Therefore, to think the church is unimportant, and to treat the church as being unimportant, belies the truth.

Next, bear in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ promised to construct the church. He said He would build it. To be sure, we have every reason to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ’s intentions were always to make use of His servants to labor in the process of building His church, but if His work is done His way by His people, then it certainly is the Lord Jesus Christ who is doing it, as much as any architect builds a building without ever picking up a hammer. Can something the Lord Jesus Christ is working through His Own to build, to construct, to expand, be thought of as unimportant? It is not without importance to Him. How could it be unimportant to Him, since He promised to build it? How could it be unimportant to Him, since He suffered the death of the cross in order to build it?

Third, bear in mind that the church is consecrated. Something is consecrated when it is made or declared to be sacred.[10] Yet, that is exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ did when He said to Peter and the other Apostles, “I will build my church.” It is His church and not someone else’s. It is reserved for His exclusive use, and no one else’s. And He is the head of the church, Paul asserts in Colossians 1.18: “And he is the head of the body, the church.” My friends, can something that is created by Jesus Christ, constructed by Jesus Christ, and consecrated to Jesus Christ be without great importance? Who cares what the evangelical crowd thinks about the significance of the New Testament Church, it is shown in the Bible to be important to the Lord of glory, meaning it ought to be important to you and to me.

 

Now, CONSIDER SOME IMPLICATIONS OF THE CHURCH CONGREGATION

 

I suggest we limit our considerations this evening to three implications of the church congregation:

First, the implication of Christ’s church congregation and the world we live in. If the church is Christ’s and represents Christ in the world, how would you expect a Christ-honoring church to be received in this world? Keep in mind that First John 5.19 declares, “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Keep also in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ said, in John 15.18, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” Thus, if the world hates Christ (and they do), and the world hates Christians (and they do), the world will certainly hate Christ’s church, which is comprised of Christians. No wonder churches are opposed by governments and ridiculed by unbelievers. However, churches should be loved by Christians because the Lord Jesus Christ loves the church. After all, He gave Himself for it, Ephesians 5.25. Is the church, therefore, not important?

Next, the implications of Christ’s church congregation and the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus. The Great Commission, of course, is our marching orders to reach sinners with the glorious gospel of Christ. In Matthew 28.18-20, we are told that those who become disciples of Jesus Christ are to be baptized and then trained to do all things Christ has taught us. However, the ordinance of believer baptism is a church congregational ordinance, and is rightly administered by a church congregation like ours to make someone a member by baptizing him. Thus, the church congregation is rightly understood to be that organization, that organism, charged with evangelizing, baptizing, and then training folks. How many other organizations presently exist that were brought into being by the Lord Jesus Christ and then authorized by that same Lord Jesus to reach the world with the gospel of God’s grace? The answer is none. In other words, the church congregation is Christ’s plan A for reaching a lost and dying world, and there is no plan B found in the Bible. Granted, there are many approaches that have been dreamed up by seemingly well-intentioned people to reach the lost for Christ. There is radio. There is television. There are Bible studies. There are camps and schools and outreaches. There is Navigators. There is Word of Life Fellowship. There is Campus Crusade For Christ. There is Youth For Christ. There are some in our immediate area that I will not mention. However, which of them is authorized to administer the church ordinances of believer baptism and the Lord’s Supper? Only the church congregation exists by Christ’s decree. Only the church congregation is authorized by the One to Whom all power was given in heaven and in earth. Therefore, only the church congregation is truly important and indispensable to the cause of Christ. All the other stuff could be done away with tomorrow without the cause of Christ being adversely affected in any way, because they are all plan B. However, there is no plan B in God’s Word. There is only plan A, the church congregation.

Finally, the implication of Christ’s church congregation and His glory. Turn to Ephesians 3.14-21 and read along with me:

 

14     For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15     Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

16     That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

17     That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18     May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

19     And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

20     Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

21     Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

 

I want you to carefully consider this passage. Keep in mind that throughout these eight verses the personal pronouns always refer to God the Father. The “he” and “his” and “his” in verse 16 is God the Father. The “him” in verse 20, and the “him” in verse 21, both refer to God the Father. That understood, notice what the Apostle Paul tells us in verse 21: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” In other words, it is the Lord Jesus Christ’s plan to give God the Father glory in the church throughout all ages, world without end. So, is the church congregation important? Is this church congregation important? There are few things more important to God, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the cause of Christ, or to the Savior’s plan to glorify His Father, than this church congregation.

 

When this church congregation gathers for worship, you would do well to be here.

When this church congregation gathers for evangelistic outreach, you would do well to be here.

When this church congregation needs financing, you would do well to invest in her ministries.

When this church congregation engages in a ministry, you would do well to support that ministry with your time, with your talent, with your prayers, and whatever else you can do to ensure that ministry’s success.

Why? Because this church congregation is just about the most important thing going on on the surface of this small planet to the One Who created this entire universe, and Who also died on the cross for sinners.

If you do not know that this church congregation is important, and if you do not treat this church congregation as if it is important, there is precious little you do know.



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 897.

[2] Ibid., page 19.

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 49.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek, (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1950), page 41.

[6] Rienecker, page 49.

[7] Christine Wicker, The Fall Of The Evangelical Nation, (New York: HarperOne, 2008), page 118.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 388.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org