Matthew 16:13–18 ESV
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
As most, if not all of you know we are on a three-part series (four if you count the overview I did two weeks ago) on this passage where Jesus emphatically declares, “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!” Period.
- In the first part, we looked at Peter’s confession.
- On the second, we are about to look at the establishment of the local church by Jesus.
- And on the third part, we will see the outcome or the ends for which God has instituted the church.
Again, the reason I did an introductory sermon overviewing the whole passage is that we must hold these three parts together in this single discourse. They are important and they are all connected one to another.
Therefore, let me recap for you in 5 short points the things we learnt last Sunday.
1. There are two kinds of professing Christians – the genuine and the false, the true and the facade, the tree bearing good fruit and tree wearing bad fruit, or to put it more bluntly the regenerate and the unregenerate, the believer and the unbeliever.
2. While true believers bear good fruit as the evidence of their genuine faith, false Christians bear fruit unbecoming of a believer. Though the latter may appear to have an outer form of spirituality, it does not stem from true faith or conviction.
There is no neutral ground. Since Christ is the Saviour of the truly repentant heart, the false brethren are likely to show wolfish traits.
3. Why are some brethren false? How are they deceiving their own minds? And why does the Bible describe many as wolves who come to do harm? What do they gain by doing that?
The answer – is love for the world.
4. A Christian is one who beholds the surpassing value of knowing Christ. So all else is a loss for him in the face of that glory. He desires nothing apart from his God.
5. The Christian can only be created if heaven touches the soul of the individual. Unless the Father reveals the truth, you shall be lost indeed.
And today we see Christ’s blessing for the one whom the Father touches, who turns to Jesus in the manner that Peter did.
Now, I’m going to do something that I’ve not done, that I do not usually do in my sermons. I’m going to give you this sermon in seven points all starting with the letter ‘P’.
I’m not an acronym kind of person. I don’t usually think in terms of seven P’s or three T’s. And so I don’t tend to do any of that in my preaching.
However, I am also aware that acronyms and points are very useful for so many Christians to learn the Bible. It helps them understand, remember and pass on the things that they learn.
Don’t ask me how I ended up with these points but if you are glad I did, you can give all the thanks to the Holy Spirit who guided my mind to such an approach that is strange to my mind.
Let me give you the seven points at the outset
- The Purpose
- The Person
- The Passion
- The Promise
- The Possession
- The Posterity
- The Preservation
Now, there is another reason, a more important reason for why I wanted to use this method of seven points. I want you to see without a shred of doubt remaining in your mind, that the local church is not an ‘option’ for the Christian, it is a biblical ‘mandate’.
That when Jesus declared that he will build his church, he was declaring to you that the church will be the chief means by which God intended to build you up as Christians.
- Not youth camps or seminars, not Canon Press, not The Cross Purpose, not podcasts, not YouTube Videos, not Sermons, not inter-collegiate fellowships, not UESI or EU, not YFC, and not YWAM.
None of them can replace or substitute God’s intention for the local church, the gathering and the covenanting of the saints. All of them are meant to be support structures that aid the local church, that support the building and equipping of the local church.
The Church is the primary vessel for the propagation of God’s Kingdom on earth.
- Now I know that such talk is looked down upon in our culture. “How can you say that the church is the primary vessel? So many faithful Christians have survived, and continue to survive without the local church. What about the plenty of others who don’t have access to the local church? [children under ungodly parents, wives of unbelieving husbands and the list goes on and on.”
When you see a man without a limb trek and climb a mountain against all odds, does that inspire you to wish that you had lost a leg as well as that man, or does it inspire you to climb that mountain yourself? When you see a blind musician play the piano, do you desire to be blind also, or do you desire to learn how to play the piano as he does with your sight remaining?
So then, when we see Christians labour without the local church, should we desire to be separated from the local church too, or that we need to be serving even more diligently than they are?
A Christian without a church is a crippled Christian. He is outside of God’s preordained plan and is lacking. But just as a blind man does not choose to be blind or the cripple drags his feet intentionally, so also a Christian might be in a circumstance where they are unable to be plugged into a healthy local church. In such situations, our God is able to sustain them.
But if any one of us think that we have such a legitimate reason, we must be very careful to differentiate such genuine circumstance from sin.
- It is the Christian’s duty, his divine calling to be a part of the local church.
If you ever wonder what God’s calling upon your life is, here is one that I can give you without a question or doubt – you are called to be part of the local church.
As Paul Washer says, “Those who stand without a local church stand outside the will of God”. This is because God’s will is to build the local church and for the Christian to be a part of that local church.
Now, before we go through the 7 P’s, let me recap the context of Jesus’ statement – I will build my church.
Matthew 16:18 ESV
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
- This statement by Jesus is issued as a promise or a blessing for Peter’s confession. When heaven touched Peter’s soul, he cried out, “You are the Son of the living God!”
God renames him the ‘rock’. [On this rock – based on the last sermon – Matthew’s use of two words – what is the greater rock (the petra)?]
- I want you to see how this works. Jesus prays, then gives the ‘altar call’, the Father touches Peter’s heart [has been for a while or might have been at that moment] and he sees who Jesus really is, Peter makes the confession by the power of the Holy Spirit [because the Spirit helps us in our prayers | he gives us words], and Jesus acknowledges him, changes his name & issues him this blessing.
The salvation of a man involves the man but the work of salvation is itself entirely a work of God. His choosing, his prayer, and his confession all arise from what God is doing inside of him. The salvation of a man is when a man is raptured by God’s grace.
Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
John 6:44 ESV
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
- If God is so able to save a man, to transform his life, to save him from the peril of hell and wrath, then the power of God is more than able to build the church upon the shoulders of such men.
Because, is it not strange that God would use men to save men? Why does he save them and leave them in the hands of other saved men? Why does the church have elders and deacons, and why do we submit to one another and love and care for one another? Why do God and mankind who are wrestling against sin in this broken world serve and aid one another? Why does he carry out his rule through men?
And I have two answers to that question,
- Because God is able.
Acts 20:32 ESV
32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Philippians 3:21 ESV
21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Ephesians 3:20 ESV
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
Hebrews 7:25 ESV
25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
- Because it reveals God’s glory.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 11:30 ESV
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
Therefore, one of the main purposes for which God touched Peter was for the purpose of building his church.
Christians have become so selfish in our time that they think only about themselves and their faith. Christ did not leave heaven and come down to die for you so that you can get some me-time. You were made for so much more. You were made to change the world. That’s the mission of the church.
“I Will Build My Church”
Exodus 3:13–15 ESV
13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
- As I mentioned in the first sermon of this series, the name of a person was always important in the Bible. It signified the person’s identity or character. That’s why at several intervals you have God or people changing the names of individuals.
So, when Moses asks for God’s name, the answer which God gives is a sign of who he really is. But how can man truly know the name of the infinite? Even the word ‘infinite’ is a sign of the unknowable. It’s a name we put for something we can’t know except to place some descriptors on it.
Yet, God is knowable. He has revealed himself to us in Scripture. He is knowable and infinitely more knowable. It is the joy of the finite to dwell within the infinite.
God responds with two names
- I AM – Absolute Being
- The God of the Fathers is pleased to be identified as the God of the men whose hearts he has touched.
Acts 19:15 ESV
15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”
This is my name forever!
Beloved, the church is God’s personal agenda. He, not you and I, will build his church.
- Just as he touched Peter to confess and Peter didn’t confess from his own flesh and blood, so also will God build the church, not with the power of flesh and blood, but with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Zechariah 4:6 ESV
6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
“I Will Build My Church”
Proverbs 19:21 ESV
21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Matthew 6:9–10 ESV
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
When we consider the subject of God’s will, we generally find two kinds of will as theologians commonly note – the preferred will of God (the will of command) and the decreed will of God.
The preferred will of God is what God desires for us, his will for us that we are able to receive or reject. [His commandments]
The decreed will of God is that which no force can resist.
Isaiah 55:11 ESV
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
What Jesus issues here is not a desire that any force can resist, not even the gates of hell. It is his decreed will that will come to pass.
It is the passion of Christ, his decreed purpose and his sovereign will build his church.
Whatever people do, Christians and non-Christians alike, against the institution of the church will be undone. God will build his church. This is not a matter of debate or questions, not a matter of if, not a matter of cultural interpretation. It is the sovereign will.
“I Will Build My Church”
You can call this ‘the promise’ or ‘the plan’ of Christ. To Build.
Hebrews 3:4 ESV
4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)
What does this building involve? What is being built and how is it being built?
The church is built by God through men.
Ephesians 4:12–16 ESV
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
- Through men (all that the church does)
- Through circumstance (suffering and blessing)
“I Will Build My Church”
Ephesians 5:23 ESV
23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
Colossians 1:18 ESV
18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
The Church belongs to Christ, she is his bride.
“I Will Build My Church”
Galatians 3:26 ESV
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Romans 8:14 ESV
4 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
2 Corinthians 6:18 ESV
18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Hebrews 10:25 ESV
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
“the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
God who saves is the God who keeps.
Psalm 46:4–5 ESV
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.