Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHAT DID JESUS MEAN WHEN HE SAID ‘MY CHURCH’?”

Matthew 16.18

 

Does it need to be shown that the members of a church are supposed to be Christians, people who have come to faith in Christ? As well, does it need to be shown that members of a church are supposed to be baptized, and that baptism is seen in the Bible to be the immersion in water of a person only after he has come to faith in Christ?

These straightforward details are so firmly established in scripture that it is a wonder that they are distinctives that set Baptists off from every other Christian denomination in existence. Great persecution has been suffered by untold numbers of Baptists for insisting that churches ought to adhere to the Biblical mandate of accepting into membership only those who demonstrate a credible testimony of conversion to Christ, and upon submission to believer baptism by immersion.

Once a person has been reached with the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into a church relationship by means of believer baptism, that Christian is set on a life’s course of discipleship training and involvement in reaching others with the gospel of God’s grace. This is seen in the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28.18-20:

 

18     And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19     Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20     Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

The question, of course, is who does the teaching of those brought to Christ and baptized into the church? To whom is the ministry of training Christians committed? The men of the ministry are referred to by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4.11-12, a passage well known for the job description it provides for men in the gospel ministry:

 

11     And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12     For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

 

Early on in the Christian era, apostles and prophets were crucial, probably continuing their vital role until the completion of God’s Word. Evangelist may very well be the Bible term for what we now refer to as missionaries, men who start churches in communities that have no churches. Pastors and teachers are two words that refer to a single individual who performs the dual function of shepherding God’s people and teaching as a means of feeding them the Word of God, tasks we know are discharged by pastors. No wonder we so clearly saw in a message brought last Sunday night that the church congregation is important. Important because Jesus brought the church congregation into existence, important because Jesus sustains the church congregation, and important because Jesus promised to build His church congregation. We now see the importance of the church assembly from the other side of the situation. Church is important because through the church the gospel is authorized to be spread throughout the world, church is important because through the church, the ordinance of believer baptism is properly administered to qualified candidates, and church is important because through the church believers are trained and equipped to render service to Christ by church pastors.

This brings up a very important point to consider. If the Savior’s plan is for His disciples to be trained, to be taught, to be equipped, in the church congregation by gifted men, by pastors, what responsibility rests upon the church member Christian to be teachable, to be trainable, to be equippable? I mean, how can the man of God discharge his responsibility to train God’s people unless God’s people are predictably in attendance?

Hebrews 13.17 sets forth what is expected of the Christian church member with respect to his pastor: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” In other words, God’s Word shows in so many words that you should have a teachable spirit.

However, what good is a teachable spirit unless the Christian is actually in attendance? Can the pastor teacher teach you when you are not here? That is where Hebrews 10.25 comes in: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” In other words, you should be faithful in church, Hebrews 10.25, with a teachable spirit, Hebrews 13.17.

Have you ever considered those truths that can best be taught in three subsequent services, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening, but some people never learn those truths because they never attend three subsequent services? What about those important truths taught on consecutive Sunday evenings, that are not learned by some because they do not consistently attend Sunday evenings? Most pastors I know did not pursue careers in marketing before they entered the ministry, and we certainly were not taught marketing principles while preparing for the ministry. Is it any wonder, then, than I do not devote time planning and preparing my Sunday morning pitch for the Sunday evening service, or preparing my Sunday morning pitch for the Wednesday evening service?

We know the church congregation is important, because it is important to the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the church congregation (referring of course to each gathering of the people) is also important owing to the direct benefit to each Christian in the church who attends and is both fed and trained in the services. To learn how to live, to learn how to pray, to learn how to serve, to learn how to love, to learn how to marry, to learn how to parent, to learn how to glorify God, are each worthwhile and valuable for the Christian.

Rather than focusing on ourselves, what is important to us, what is meaningful to us, what we think about this and that and the other thing, we need to consciously refocus our attention to God, to His Son, and to scripture. This we will do in this morning’s message.

 

SERMON:

 

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.

 

The first two principles for properly interpreting the Word of God, or anything else that is written for that matter, are these: First, seek the literal sense, unless the literal sense makes nonsense. Next, understand the context in which the statement you seek to understand is placed.

You will find that the context in which today’s text, Matthew 16.18, is placed comes into play in answering the question, What did Jesus mean when He said, My Church? What are we to understand about the congregation Jesus established, sustains, and has promised to build? What does this tell us about what is supposed to be true of this assembly, Calvary Road Baptist Church?

Paying attention to the context in which the phrase “my church” is set, notice three things about the church congregation established by the Lord Jesus Christ, three things about us:

 

First, WE ARE FOREIGN

 

If you have no grasp of the concept of the foreignness of God’s people then you do not really understand God’s dealings with His people down through the centuries.

First, realize that God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to live in the Promised Land as a stranger and a pilgrim. So lived his son, Isaac, and his son’s son, Jacob. Even when they moved to Egypt to initially live under Joseph’s protection, they were strangers among the natives in the land. When Moses delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage four centuries later, he delivered a people who were separate, distinct, foreigners in the land they had worked so hard to build. However, this was God’s will, so the people would be willing to leave to settle in a place promised to the descendants of Abraham.

Some six centuries before the birth of Christ, the Babylonians carried the Jewish people into what is known as the Babylonian captivity. Formally lasting seventy years, it once again demonstrated that God’s people were foreigners in a strange land. Though they were returned to the Promised Land before the days Jesus walked the earth, by 70 AD the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish people were once again dispersed, this time for 2000 years.

By the time the Apostle Peter wrote his epistles, we see that this imagery of the dispersed Israelites was also used to illustrate a truth about Christians. Just as the men and women of faith are described in Hebrews 11.13 as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” so Peter addresses his letter “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” First Peter 1.1, and continues by saying, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims,” in First Peter 2.11.

Clearly, God’s people after the flesh were strangers and frequently pilgrims. That is, they were ethnically and cultural separate and distinct from others who lived in their midst. However, even God’s spiritual people, Christians from every kindred, tongue and tribe, are also strangers and pilgrims. How so, since Christians are so frequently ethnically and culturally identical with those who surround us, even those who are virulently antichristian?

Christians are strangers and sojourners because we are not earthly, we are not fleshly, and our future hope is not tied to this corrupt and dead world. Christians are God’s children, with a heavenly hope, and a destiny unlike any Christ-rejecter. Therefore, since Christ’s church congregation is comprised of Christians who are strangers and pilgrims, should it be a great surprise to discover that we as a church are also foreign?

Consider that though the Lord Jesus Christ selected to be His apostles those twelve men back in Matthew chapter 10, He does not instruct them concerning His church congregation while they are in Judea, or while they are all in Galilee. No, it is when they are in strange and exotic Caesaria Philippi, Matthew 16.13, it is when they are in the midst of a heathen and wildly idolatrous city, that He makes His announcement about His church.

Why did the Lord Jesus Christ wait until they were in Caesaria Philippi to instruct them? It was at least partly to impress upon them the foreignness of His church congregation. As the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings had been a kind of church congregation, and as the mob in Ephesus would be a kind of church congregation, the Lord Jesus Christ’s kind of church congregation would be of a completely different type and nature. To be comprised of born again Christians, with the singular task of evangelizing a lost and God-hating world, Christ’s churches would always be different, always be otherworldly, always be very much foreign to this world.

 

However, Not Just Foreign. WE ARE ALSO FOUNDATIONAL

 

Please note that Jesus said, in Matthew 16.18, “upon this rock I will build my church.” Please remember that Peter translates petra, little stone, while rock translates petroV, massive ledge, or monolith. What our Lord is saying, here, is that His church will be built directly on the monolithic truth that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. However, that which is placed directly upon the bedrock, the monolith, is the foundation. Thus, we see in our text that the Lord Jesus Christ establishes His church as foundational. Our word foundation translates the Latin word fundare, which means to lay the bottom.[1] Therefore, I think it is a good analogy to represent the church of Jesus Christ as foundational, since it is the institution brought into existence by the Lord Jesus Christ that is built upon the solid rock of truth about Him, and on top of which everything else of spiritual significance is properly resting.

Do you want to build a life? Try building your life on some other foundation than the church that Jesus founded, itself resting on the solid truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Try building a marriage outside the church. Try raising a family outside the church. Try serving God outside the church. Try laying up treasures for the next life outside the church. To be sure, I have applied the designation of foundational to the church as Jesus represents it in our text. However, what better description can you think of for an institution that is the initial thing, the primary thing, the original thing, the basic thing, and the primary thing that the Son of God built on top of the bedrock truth that He is the Messiah, and that He is the Son of the living God? I stand by the church as foundational. I stand by Calvary Road Baptist Church as foundational.

 

Finally, In Addition To Being Foreign And Foundational, WE ARE ALSO FORMIDABLE

 

Audie Murphy was the most highly decorated combat soldier in the United States Army in World War Two. A small and shy fellow from Georgetown, Texas, who was turned away in his attempts to enlist in the Marine Corps, the Navy, and the Army Air Corps, he settled for the Army and fought in both the North African and European theater of operations. You would never guess from meeting him in person that he was a warrior from the bottoms of his feet to the crown of his head, but his conduct in battle, when men’s lives were at stake, bore evidence that he was, indeed, a warrior.

Along the same line of thinking, when congregations like ours are scrutinized by those within and those without, they are unlikely to conclude that we have been raised up by God for conflict. As a matter of fact, we are only too willing to agree with the sentiments of the Apostle Paul in First Timothy 2.1-2, that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” We just want to live our lives and serve our God. Amen?

However, you may remember reading of Gideon and his band of 300 men. Chosen to defend the children of Israel against the marauding Midianites, God pared Gideon’s large force of more than 30,000 fighting men down to 10,000, and then down to a measly three hundred, a tiny fraction the size of their adversaries. Why so few men against a force of experienced and bloodthirsty killers that was so large? How else could Gideon have said, “Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian”?[2]

Please turn to First Corinthians chapter one, where we will read a passage before coming back to our text:

 

26     For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27     But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28     And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29     That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30     But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31     That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

 

Knowing, then, that God shares His glory with no one, and that everything that is exists to bring God glory, is it any wonder God pared Gideon’s army from 30,000 to three hundred? In addition, is it any wonder that God chooses weak things like you and me? Therefore, you see, our weakness and our despicable composition do not endanger our success, but guarantees it. Back to our text, if you will.

Notice the last phrase of Matthew 16.18. Concerning the church of Jesus Christ, the Savior Himself declared, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” As I mentioned last week, there is no consensus among scholars as to precisely what is meant by “the gates of hell.” However, whatever is meant, this one thing is clear: The church of Jesus Christ shall prevail. Whatever our opposition, the Savior Himself declared that His church congregation is formidable.

 

Calvary Road Baptist Church is a church congregation. We are an institution whose head is Jesus Christ, whose creator is Jesus Christ, whose sustainer is Jesus Christ, whose protector is Jesus Christ, whose enabler is Jesus Christ.

We are foreign. We are otherworldly. Our destiny is different from most that live here. We are born again. We have been baptized. We are now set apart for our Lord’s glory, to accomplish His ends, to achieve His purpose. In this selfish and grasping world of idolaters, who could be more foreign than we are?

We are foundational. Only we are built upon the bedrock of truth that owns Jesus Christ to be the Messiah of Israel and the Son of the living God. Our composition, our disposition, and our mission are given to us by our Lord and Master. He is the Legislator, while our whole duty and obligation is to execute His will by being the men and women He wants us to be, and then doing those things He has called us to do.

In this, we are formidable. Individually we are very weak. We are not always among the smartest, or the most capable, or the most highly esteemed, or the most accomplished. From time to time, there are those who are noble and accomplished among us, but not frequently. Nevertheless, like Audie Murphy as a civilian, as Gideon’s three hundred before the fighting broke out, the whole story of us is not told by our appearance. With us, the whole story is told by our Lord and by our God.

We embrace a risen Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. He died on a cruel cross and shed His blood an atonement for our sins. After conquering death three days later, He ascended to His Father’s right hand where He now sits, interceding for us until He comes again in power and in great glory.

Without raising a hand in anger, without His own harming or attacking anyone, and merely by preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ, this faith once delivered to the saints now covers the earth and is even advancing at an alarming rate in the muslim world, though gripped as they are in demonic darkness.

You see, we do not engage in sword point evangelism. Our cause is not advanced by intimidation or coercion. Neither are we stopped by threats or violence. Why not? Because the One we serve, He is the king of glory. Would you join us? Then you must first embrace our Savior. Have you already? Are you sure? Do you want to embrace Him as your own? Take the time to talk to me about this most important matter you will ever in your life deal with.



[1] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 724.

[2] Judges 7.15



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