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The ‘Church’ in Matthew 16:16-19


The Church in Matthew 16:16-19

Text Matthew 16:16-19
Jesus is teaching his disciples about the church. So, what can we learn about the church in this passage?

1. The Church Has Muptiple Facets! I will build My church
What does the church that Jesus built look like? It is…

  • Universal and Local! Elect from ev’ry nation, yet one o’er all the earth, her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with ev’ry grace endued.   Yet the truest form of the visible church is the local assembly – a group of believers meeting together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They may be just a handful, or a great number, but where the Word of God is being preached, the sacraments righlty observed and church discipline being exercised, there is a church, entire and complete, yet part of the worldwide universal church, the body of Christ.
  • Invisible and Visible. Again, there are those whom God has called to be part of his church, and only He knows who they are. But there is a church that can be seen – what we might call Christendom. It’s a wide definition – for it must include everyone from Roman Catholics to Free Presbyterians! Even the Mormons and the JW’s want to describe themselves as ‘Christians.’ – Yet we know that not all that glitters is gold! Just because a church or a denomination or an individual describes themselves as ‘Christian’ – that does not mean that they are part of the church that God has called for himself and redeemed. The REAL church is not the church that we see, but the church that God sees!
  • Militant and Victorious. The church is made up of those Christians who are still in the battle, still in this life, and the believers who are already victorious, who are gathered around the throne in glory. One church! Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.

2. The Church’s One Foundation. I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
The church’s one Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; she is His new creation, by water and the Word; from heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride; with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.

a. The Cornerstone of the Church is Jesus.
There are many passages in the NT that proclaim that Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation of the church. It was prophesied by Isaiah 28:16 and witnessed to by Peter, both in his sermons and his writings – Acts 4:11-12 1 Peter 2:6-8 Paul affirmed this too in 1 Corinthians 3:11 and Ephesians 2:20
The Bible, OT and NT, Peter and Paul, proclaim that Jesus is the rock upon which the church is founded. Now, immediately you will see the problem, for here it seems that Jesus is telling us that Peter is the ‘rock’ – the foundation of the church. What does this mean? Notice that…
b. The Rock is the Cornerstone Himself! Not everyone agrees, of course!

  • Is Peter the first pope? This is the claim of the Roman catholic church. This idea was first raised only after various bishops began claiming universal authority over the church, hundreds of years after the church began. Even if Peter is the “rock” in this passage, there is no Biblical basis for the idea that the church was built upon Peter alone
  • Is the ‘rock’ Peter and the apostles?. – cf. Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:6.
  • Is the ‘rock’ the ‘divine revelation ’given through the apostles? After all, Jesus has just told Peter that flesh and blood did not reveal this to him! It was because of divine revelation. Would the divine work of continuing revelation through the apostles e the rock on which the church was to be founded?
  • The best explanation is that the “rock” is the confession Peter had made…”You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” Notice that Peter is a ‘petros’ – a little stone, but it is on this ‘petra’ (a big boulder) that the church is built – moving the emphasis away from Peter to something else, to the confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”! Thus the REAL foundation of the church is Christ, in keeping with what we learn from those very disciples, and Jesu being the cornerstone.
    The church is built upon the strong foundation of Christ Himself and His apostles (Eph 2:20).


3. The Church’s Divine Authority. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
There are two illustrations of the authority given to Peter and to the other apostles:-

  • The Keys of the Kingdom. To Peter was promised “the keys of the kingdom” – Matt 16:19 The figure of “keys” suggest the ability to allow entrance into the kingdom. Peter exercised this ability through preaching the gospel, as he did on the day of Pentecost – Acts 2:17-41
  • The Right to Exercise Discipline. To the apostles was promised the power “to bind” and “to loose”. To Peter in this passage – Matt 16:19 To the rest of the disciples was promised similar power – Matt 18:18 — To exercise authoritative discipline in the church. The way that this is done, primarily, is by teaching from God’s word! Of course, presumed in all this would be the guidance of the Spirit, promised to lead the apostles into all the truth – Jn 16:12-13

Now, this twin authority was recognised in the early church. The Gospel was preached and the Christians continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine… Acts 2:42 1 Cor 14:37; 2 Thess 2:15

4. The Church’s Final Victory! ‘on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
The church shall never perish! Her dear Lord, to defend, to guide, sustain, and cherish, is with her to the end; tho’ there be those that hate her and false sons in her pale, against the foe or traitor she ever shall prevail. O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we, like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee.
To be part of that great final victory of the church, we must first be Born Again (born from above) – our sins forgiven through simply believing and trusting in Christ, who took our place at Calvary, died to take the punishment for sin we rightly deserved, and rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death and hell. As one of His redeemed church, we shall be part of that great victorious throng gathered in glory with him forever.

© BobMcEvoy November 2018

From → Bible Study, Matthew

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