This is the first time the word church was used in the Bible.
It is interesting and noteworthy that Jesus spoke very little of church government. That would be the apostles work after the church began to form and Paul would lay out for us detailed structure in his letters he sent to the churches and pastors, all under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He was not concerned so much about the organization of the church in this statement.
Jesus did not speak of denominations although He knew there would come about.
He didn't speak of the various doctrinal distinctives which denominations would be formed around.
Nothing Jesus said had anything to so with buildings. The church for the first two hundred or so years met in homes. The place where the church is growing the most rapidly in the world still does!
He didn't even discuss how the church would be financed at this moment.
What was He talking about?
Jesus' main focus after He died and rose again was the need of the Baptism of the Spirit in His disciples and how that would energize them and enable and empower them to be His witnesses. It is in bringing souls into the Kingdom of God that the church is built. 1 Peter 2:4-5 "As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." The building of the church is the adding of living stones to the Body of Christ, the true Temple of God. All these other things we mentioned must cooperate with that.
The main thing He said in regard to the church was this statement we just read. He didn't go into details. He just said it would be done. He said He would do it. He said that the strongest opposition of hell would not be able to stop this building of His church.
China and Cuba are examples of that today. I am old enough to remember the missionaries from China who had to come back to the US after Mao's Revolution and the rise of what we used to call Red China. There were about a million believers in China when all the missionaries were expelled. No round eyed people could stay. Some were accused of being spies and imprisoned before the finally got out as city after city fell to the Communists. Failure was the word. Sadness also described the feelings of the church during the 50's, 60's and 70's. Then President Nixon reached out to China. He opened up relations with them. In the 80's as tourists began to go back we found not only did the church survive under persecution it actually grew astronomically. I am an eyewitness that the church there is stronger than ever there and that Jesus' Promise is true!
It is amazing how God used Medical Missions in China (and many other places). Hudson Taylor, Billy Graham's father-in-law, Nelson Bell, and Sandy Mucci's father, Dr. Howard Hamlin, were all medical doctors. Dr. Hamlin was set to go when the doors closed due to the the takeover of the Communists. He went to Africa instead and was used in a great way by the LORD there. Jesus built His Church there by these men in the 19th and 20 centuries. Today He is doing through Dr. Kent Brantly.
This week he said, "I am growing stronger every day, and I thank God for His mercy as I have wrestled with this terrible disease," Brantly wrote in a letter from his hospital room. "One thing I have learned is that following God often leads to unexpected places. My wife Amber and I, along with our two children, did not move to Liberia for the specific purpose of fighting Ebola. We went to Liberia because we believe God called us to serve Him at ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital."
So these words of Jesus were not just to handle the opposition although that is included. They were words of encouragement and truth which would come to the disciples again and again.
These words of Jesus to Peter and to His disciples and us are words of comfort, assurance and permanence.
1. It is a Comfort.
I know we get criticized and some of it is warranted by those who have abused the name of God and the church. But most of it is just ignorant. Charlatans are in the minority. Most folks are servants with a heart for God. The influence of the church in the world is beyond our imagination. There are visible influences and much more invisible ones. Salt and Light.
Billy Graham's response at the Press Conference in the Coliseum.
*If you were to put a syringe into the world today and pull from it the influence of Christian missions, the world would implode of its own moral weight. There's hardly a senior leader in all of Africa who wasn't taught to read by a missionary. I believe in the church."- Jay Kesler
*Last year millions of kids around the world were treated to with Christmas gifts because of millions of Christians who put together shoeboxes and sent them to Samaritan's Purse. They got things like soap, tooth brushes, tooth paste, pencils. There was great joy throughout the earth all because of the church.
*The generosity of the church is overwhelming. It understands how to store up treasures in heaven. People in the church give to people they will never meet on this earth... I remember the little Dominican lady calling out to that bus full of pastors in January of 2000 in La Romana, "Thank you for sending us missionaries who told us about Jesus Christ." But we were representing you, the church.
Every day hundreds of thousands of children are fed by the church and have been for years.
I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all Your works and consider all Your mighty deeds. Psalm 77.11-12
The concern for the lost, those outside the ark of safety, drives the church to its knees and out into the marketplace to tell the Good News.
I believe in the church because I need the church. Anyone who thinks Christian faith and life is so simple and easy that it can be a do-it-yourself at home job is either incredibly naive or insufferably conceited or both.
As we fight the good fight of the faith (I Timothy 6.12), we are comforted by the words of Jesus about His Church.
The good fight- battling against the devil, not with other believers
We are in a good fight. It is not to push our agenda but to follow His. It is battle for souls, our own and those of others. It is battle for truth and eternity. It is fight against the evil one. The gates of hell will not prevail against it!
I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
2.It is a Blessed Assurance.
There have been times in my lifetime when I thought, "How are we going to make it?" I have fallen back on this promise of Jesus. It is unconditional. It is a strong statement. It is encompassing. It is true in China, Cuba, Russia and the turbulence in the Middle East today. It is true in South America and Africa. I am assured that Jesus is building His Church even when I don't understand what is going on. Even in Europe there is a wave of the Holy Spirit. True that Islam is creating havoc but the church is on the march.
I believe in the church.
It provides a moral compass. God's Word is clear on all the issues that the culture in trying to muddle.
It provides a loving community and if that is not happening that church needs to repent. It has lost its first love!
Ephesus: Revelation 2:4-5 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
I am always encouraged when I see the loving one another. Deeds speak louder than words. Loving deeds done in Jesus' Name are a wonderful thing.
1-They glorify God. Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.
2-They help people emotionally, physically and spiritually.
3-They answer the critics and skeptics without a word.
4-They are eternal. They help build the church.
I believe in the church because...
3.It is Permanent.
Governments have come and gone. There has been empires which have risen and fallen. The Church of Jesus continues.
I believe in the church because it is the only institution that deals with eternity.
Our work can seem disparaging at times. That is often because we are bombarded by temporal earthly pursuits. Values held by unbelievers are not eternal ones. Unfortunately so many believers in our country are looking for heaven on earth that they forget this is not heaven and that there is one to come.
Not only is the church the only institution that deals with eternity, it is the only institution on earth that is eternal. Marriage even isn't. It is "until death parts us."
The service clubs and social organizations, as good as they are now, are not in the same league as the church. All of the things people can pour their time into are below, far below time given for the church.
Ephesians 3.10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters...
It is interesting to see the different groups which make up the church: the liturgical, the independents and the middle of the road ones like ours. Every nation on earth has the church in it. The gospel continues to got out to the whole world.
One day we will be gathered together in one place- that place Jesus is preparing for us.
I believe in the church because it gives dignity to mankind
C. S. Lewis helps us deal with this issue. He gives us a kind of fraction. He says, "Think of a man 100 years old. You draw a line and then you put below the line the combined dynasties of China 5,000 years. Man lives to be 100 years, society 5,000. Society must be 50 times more important than a man; therefore, men are expendable. You can use them up for society's purposes." This is basically the argument that must be used by every politician, every great mover of people. C. S. Lewis says, "Suppose it doesn't work this way. Suppose man doesn't live to be 100, but suppose he's eternal." It's a little hard to write eternity in a number. We'll have to take something more limited for our limited minds. We'll take a billion. A man lives a billion years; the combined dynasties of China 5,000 years. What do we conclude? Man is infinitely more important than society.
Finally the church has produced lasting, selfless contributions to humanity. Hospitals, orphanages, schools have been built in third world countries in the past. Clean water and crops are in places there was none because of the church.
The church is alive and well.
It will withstand the gates of hell.
It is Christ's new creation
It will stand forever.