Friday, June 14, 2019
I suspect that there is a common thread of thinking throughout much of evangelical Christianity today that goes like this: “Let’s build the church.” While many would make that statement referring to people and not to buildings, far too many are swayed by image-consciousness into measuring their success as a church by material standards. We like sports, so the church must have a gym. We like music, so the church must have a great sound system. We like fellowship, so the church must have a great kitchen. We like pulpits, so the church must have a traditional platform. Very quickly the focus of what we want in a building becomes an expression of personal preference rather than a desire to effectively bring people to Jesus Christ for salvation. Kitchens and sound systems and gyms are all ok in a church, so long as the reason they are there is to bring more people into the kingdom of God and not just to meet our own personal needs.
But that’s not even the real problem with the statement “Let’s build the church.” Compare that statement to Christ’s words in our scripture passage for today.
Matthew 16:15-18 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 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.”
Doesn’t Jesus clearly say that He will build the church? Yes, He does! We have taken ownership of something that doesn’t belong to us. We are not in charge of the harvest. We are only called to be laborers in the harvest field, and we have been equipped to be witnesses. Follow along with my understanding of Scriptural truth.
- Peter was commended for declaring a God-given truth that did not originate in human reason: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. His confession was not deduced from human logic or human teaching, but was understood only by direct communication from God. He states that Jesus is the complete and perfect revelation of God in human form sent to earth to save people from the bondage of sin. He may not have fully understood the theology of his statement, but later it was revealed that he clearly proclaimed that Christ, the Messiah, would make possible a spiritual kingdom and provide a way of entrance into that kingdom for all mankind.
- Next, Jesus stated that it is on this truth that the church will be built. Peter was not declared to be the founder of the church. His name was changed to Peter at this point so that we would be reminded of the true foundation – Jesus Christ.
- Finally, Jesus declared that He alone is responsible for building the church. In other places He invites His followers to participate in the process, but never does He put us in charge of the harvest. We are given responsibilities of planting and watering and gathering in the crop, but we are not in charge of producing the crop. When Jesus invites us to participate in the process, He says He will send the Holy Spirit upon us to equip us for our particular task, whether it is planting, watering, or reaping. He describes all those activities by one word – witnessing. He says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Please notice carefully that we have not been given power to build, but to witness. Jesus Christ alone is responsible for the building. Our responsibility is singular – tell the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Understanding these truths is what makes it possible for people to travel to the other side of the world into sometimes dangerous situations as missionaries. They understand that Jesus will build His church, and the gates of hell will not be able to stop it. We are empowered to be the messengers of the Good News of the kingdom, that Jesus Christ saves lives from sin!