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.

 

From verse 13, we are given to understand that Jesus and His disciples have traveled from Galilee to Caesaria Philippi, which your Bible map shows to be slightly to the east of being due north of Galilee, and was a region with a much stronger Greek influence than was Galilee. It was there, of all places, with the signs of idolatry and sexual promiscuity all around them, in what may have been to them the most foreign and completely pagan of all nearby cities, that the Lord Jesus Christ asked His followers, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” There were, of course, a variety of answers of others’ opinions before our Lord pressed them, saying, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter then spoke up and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

We need to be mindful that this is not the first time one of Christ’s disciples acknowledged Him to be the Christ. From John 1.41, we see that as much as three years earlier Peter’s brother, Andrew, owned Jesus as the Christ: “He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.” However, it may be that the setting in which Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ is too important to overlook. After all, it is one thing to own Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, which is what Christ is after all, in a Jewish setting along the Jordan River. It is quite another thing to own Him as the Jewish Messiah in a purely Gentile setting. Certainly, what Andrew had said about Jesus early on was just as much revealed by God as the same truth uttered by Peter, though it was Simon Peter who was selected by the Savior for a prominence Andrew would never know. Matthew 16.18: “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.”

The word Peter, of course, refers to a small stone, petroV, while the word “rock,” petra, translates the Greek word for a massive stone ledge.[1] Therefore, we know the Savior is not referring to building anything on the person of Simon Peter. It is a fiction to assert that Peter was the first pope. If you pay attention to references to a rock in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and especially Deuteronomy chapter 32, you will quickly see that the LORD is described as “the Rock” whose work is “perfect,” “the Rock of his salvation,” “the Rock that begat thee,” and as “our Rock.”[2] So you see, it is no coincidence that the Lord Jesus Christ took His men to a pagan city whose idols were set into the side of a rock cliff and there told them “upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Lord Jesus Christ was contrasting Himself, the true God, the Rock of Israel, with the false gods of the heathens all around them. That He chose to make such a comparison and contrast in Caesaria Philippi was no accident.

Before we focus our attention on the phrase I will use as my text, “I will build my church,” let me first deal with the concluding phrase of Matthew 16.18, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What is meant by the phrase “gates of hell”? A majority of scholars are persuaded that Jesus here alluded to Job 38.17: “Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?” If so, then He was asserting that not even death would prevail against His church. History has shown that to certainly be true. Though that may be the correct understanding of the phrase, I have never been able to clear my thinking of something my friend Jackie Feldman once said to me on a tour of Israel. Jackie is an Israeli scholar who speaks eight languages, as well as being well-versed in Jewish history. He told me that he thought the phrase “gates of Hell” was what the first century rabbis and Pharisees called Gentile cities. His view was they felt that upon entering a Gentile city one had passed through the gates of Hell. If that be true, consider the irony of what Jesus had done. He brought His Jewish disciples to a thoroughly Gentile city, what they might have considered “the gates of Hell” because of its vice and degradation, asserted His deity by describing Himself to be the Rock in contrast to a mere stone, declaring that He would build His church, His ecclesia, His congregation, and then even predicting to His provincial Jewish disciples that not even the Gentile cities, in all their wickedness and debauchery, would be able to withstand the march of Christ’s church forward with the saving gospel message. To be sure, not even death can stifle the impact of the church’s ministry of spreading the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is advancing in Africa, in China, in Iran, in South East Asia, and in India. Wherever there is great resistance the gospel eventually advances, even if withering persecution seems to stamp it out for a time.

All of these things considered, notice once again our text: “I will build my church.” Three things for us to be clear about before I bring before you the question I believe is especially needful for us today.

First, Jesus said “I will.” Building His church is something He does. To be sure, He makes use of various means, just as the architect uses engineers, steelworkers, masons, electricians, manual laborers, and many other types of workers to complete his project. In like manner, the Lord Jesus Christ employs the efforts of many members to build His church, all the while being the One Who builds it. As Psalm 127.1 declares, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” So it is with Christ’s church.

Next, be mindful of the certainty of it. Jesus declared that He would do this thing, and He will do this thing. It sometimes looks as though He will not do this thing, just as when He was crucified and buried it looked as though He would never get around to building His church, and just as though in the dark ages in Europe it looked as though He would not succeed in building His church, though we have seen over the last two thousand years that He has done what He declared He would do. To be sure, there are times the tide rises and then there are times the tide falls, but the advance and the effect of the water can be seen over time, nevertheless. Draw no lasting conclusions from what you observe in an instant, neither deny that what the Lord Jesus Christ said He would do He will certainly do.

Third, be mindful of what He meant when He promised to build His church. By church, Jesus meant congregation, meant assembly, meant a group of people called out from a larger population. When He referred to it as “my church” he was distinguishing His church from other congregations, from other assemblies, from other called out groups of people as belonging to Him. Thus, what Jesus meant here was not some ethereal notion of any unseen assembly, or indistinguishable congregation. No. What He meant here, as is proven by the discipline He later prescribed in Matthew 18.15ff, is a distinct group of people you can see, you can touch, and who gather from a larger population, comprising an assembly that uniquely belongs to Him and exists to serve His purposes. Calvary Road Baptist Church is such a church of Jesus Christ. We are a group of people who comprise a congregation that uniquely belongs to Jesus Christ. We come to be part of this church by first responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ and becoming Christians, by then submitting to the ordinance of believer baptism and being incorporated into this body, and finally by being subject to the authority of this congregation for instruction and progress in our Christian lives.

With all of this being considered, we come to the question that lies back of our text, “I will build my church.” The question is why. Why will Jesus build His church? What is the point of it? What is the benefit? What is the immediate purpose for it?

 

First, THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE WHERE JESUS PENS HIS SHEEP

 

I cannot remember the source where I first read it, but the evangelist George Whitefield once made mention of a regret he had shortly before his life ended, that he had not penned his sheep like John Wesley had done. Wesley, of course, is generally credited for founding the Methodist movement, consisting of an organization that later became the Methodist denomination, consisting of meetings where he encouraged his converts to gather for instruction and worship. What those First Great Awakening giants of the Christian faith did not grasp, from their perspective as Church of England priests and graduates of Oxford University, is that the Lord Jesus Christ came up with the idea of penning His sheep long before John Wesley did. The pen into which our chief Shepherd gathers His sheep is what we call the local New Testament church congregation.

In Hebrews 13.20, our resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ, is referred to as “that great shepherd of the sheep.” In First Peter 2.25, the Apostle writes to his readers as those who “are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Then, in First Peter 5.4, our Lord Jesus is identified as “the chief Shepherd.” So you see, Jesus is the great Shepherd and the chief Shepherd and Christians are His sheep. So, what does He then do with us as His sheep? Does He let us run wild to fend for ourselves? That is what some seem to think, as evidenced by their hit and miss approach to church. However, the discerning believer knows the importance of the church for every believer as the place of safety for the Christian, as well as being the place of instruction for the Christian.

When a sinner is exposed to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, he will refuse or respond to God’s offer of His Son. If the sinner responds, it is Christ’s will for his life to then be baptized as the means of being brought into the church that Jesus established. Once in the church, the place where Jesus pens His sheep, the Christian member can then be protected by Christ’s under shepherd, which is the pastor, and can also be equipped for effective service to Christ. This is described in Ephesians 4.11-12:

 

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.

 

Next, THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE FROM WHICH THE GOSPEL IS ADVANCED

 

The Lord Jesus Christ predicted that He would build His church in Matthew 16.18. In Matthew 18.15 and following, He provided for the discipline of His church. However, it is in Matthew 28.18-20 that we find Christ’s marching orders for His church:

 

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.

 

Search the New Testament thoroughly, but you will not find any institution save the church authorized to perform this task of making disciples for Jesus Christ. Oh, you have unscriptural parachurch ministries such as Campus Crusade and Women’s Bible Fellowship all over the place, but only churches with their pastors and deacons are authorized to teach all nations, to baptize converts in the name of the triune God, and to then provide the instruction new Christians so desperately need.

So, how can we be sure the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ is given to churches and not individual Christians? Individual Christians cannot simultaneously evangelize at home and abroad as churches can, are not authorized to administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as churches are, and cannot submit to the spiritual oversight of a pastor as those in a church can, Hebrews 13.17. So you see, those unscriptural notions that strip away from churches the time, the talent, and the treasure of Christians and redirect them to outreach efforts that are not authorized by God’s Word are bogus. Jesus brought the church into existence to fulfill His Great Commission, and He has authorized no other means for getting the job done. The church is the place from which the gospel is proclaimed.

 

Thirdly, THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE WHERE THE TRUTH IS HELD AND PUT ON DISPLAY

 

Notice what Paul wrote in First Timothy 3.15: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” In this verse, the Apostle of Jesus Christ identifies the church of the living God, that congregation where the ordinances are administered and from which efforts to advance the gospel are sent forth, as “the pillar and ground of the truth.” What an astonishing statement to make, since this single phrase identifies two staggering responsibilities for a church like ours. Pillar and ground have to do with important components of an important structure, with the pillar providing visibility by holding something up, and ground referring to that part of the structure that ensures stability.

Thus, seminaries are not the pillar and ground of the truth. Colleges are not the pillar and ground of the truth. Churches, congregations like ours, are where the truth is both held up and steadied in its application to be effectively and energetically put to use. Did not Paul elsewhere identify church members he was writing to as epistles known and read of all men? When people look at us, observe us, listen to us, are exposed to the gospel which we preach, then we are doing what the Lord Jesus Christ brought us into existence to do in a way He brought no other institution on earth to do, hold forth the Word of God in a display that brings Him great glory. The church is the place where the Word of God is given great prominence.

 

Finally, THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE WHERE CHRISTIANS WORSHIP GOD AND EXHORT ONE ANOTHER

 

We live in a nasty world, where many opponents are arrayed against us to neutralize our efforts to bring people to Christ, to discourage us, and deprive us of the joy God wants us to benefit from as a result of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because it such a corrosive environment, our Savior has constructed a place of refuge for us where we can gather to worship our God and exhort one another. That place is our church. Hebrews 10.22-25:

 

22     Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

23     Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24     And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25     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.

 

Please notice something in verse 22, verse 23, and verse 24. Verse 22 begins, “Let us.” Verse 23 begins, “Let us.” Finally, verse 24 begins, “And let us.” I could preach a whole series of sermons on these three verses, but it is enough for us to see this morning that the writer of Hebrews is pleading with his readers to all do something together. Please do not hold back, like you usually do. Do not stand apart, like you feel so often you must. No! There is something we must all do together.

We draw near . . . together. We hold fast our profession of faith without wavering . . . together. And we consider one another to provoke unto love and good works . . . together. The key, of course, is verse 25. How do we do this together stuff? By not skipping out on church the way some people do, verse 25. You see, it is only when we are all here that we, together, let us he writes, can exhort one another.

Discouraged? Depressed? Despondent? Disillusioned? Defeated? Dismayed? Who can deny that what you need is to be exhorted, to be encouraged, to be lifted, to get your spirits buoyed? Sadly, there are so many who absent themselves from the one place Jesus created to deal with that matter, so you and I can heal from our wounds and worship our God together. The church is the place Christ wants you to be.

 

Romans 5.6 indicates that Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5.8 declares that Christ died for us. Romans 14.15 instructs us that Christ died for my brother in Christ. First Corinthians 8.11 reveals that Christ died for the weak brother. And First Corinthians 15.3 shows that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. If you are ungodly you are a fit candidate for Christ’s salvation. Why so? Christ died for you. That makes you important. That makes you valuable. That shows God wants you. Why else would He send His Son to die for you, unless you were very, very important to Him?

May I surprise some of you? You know Christ gave Himself for you. You know His sacrifice for you shows the depth of His concern for you. However, did you also know that He gave Himself for the church? That is correct. Ephesians 5.25 tells us “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” He said He would build His church. The Apostle Paul tells us He gave Himself for His church. Why? So He would have a place to pen His sheep, a place from which to advance the gospel, a place where the truth is held and put on display, and a place where we can gather to worship and exhort one another.

Perhaps your relationship to Calvary Road Baptist Church warrants a fresh look in light of these things. If Jesus said He would build His church, and if Paul said Jesus gave Himself for the church, then perhaps the church warrants a bit more of your time and attention . . . but not, of course, until after you become a Christian.

What a great Savior my Lord Jesus Christ is, that He would not only die to save me from my sins, but that He would being the church into existence to be such a blessing to me and others.



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

[2] Deuteronomy 32.4, 15, 18, 31



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