Beginning with the great question of Jesus to Peter, “Who do you say I am?” we see the mission and role of the church according to Christ. Peter answers with the following, “You are the Christ!”. As the conversation plays out we see an incredible transformation take place between Christ and the disciples. Jesus always knew what the mission and role of the church would be, but at this very moment, Jesus gives the disciples of that day and every era following one of the greatest challenges when He said,
17 Jesus answered and said to 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 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. 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.” Matthew 16:17-19
Did you see it? The very direct pronouncement to the church—“…on this rock I will build my church….” Many have mistakenly identified Peter as the rock Christ was speaking of at this moment. However, if the church of Jesus is built on a man, then it will fail! The “this rock” referenced is the rock of the confession found in verse 16, “you are the Christ, the son of the Living God!” The truth of this confession is the rock that the church is built upon, Jesus Is the Christ! He is the Son of the Living God. He is not merely a prophet or a teacher, He is Messiah! Savior, friend, helper, Word of God, and many other titles! The church in it’s essence is built on Christ and we should then model and walk in the power of each title ascribed to Jesus.
Let’s take a step back for a moment to continue looking at this scripture, after Christ tells the disciples that His church is built upon the fact that He is Christ, He lays something out there for them to consider. “…and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Now, I’m old enough now that I don’t get goaded into challenges easily. However, when I look at this statement, it is fuel to my soul! If we will follow Christ, if we believe He is who He says He is, then what are we waiting on? The church should be an organism marching forward and moving powerfully in His name and in His grace! This statement still motivates me to believe and work towards great things for the Kingdom of God. The church at that point was yet to be “organized”. Until the Day of Pentecost we don’t really see an organized church, but at this moment Christ begins to open up the minds of His followers so that they would truly see “Greater is He that is in us, then he that is in the world.” They began living the scriptures before the scriptures were written down!
We make a grave error when we stop at verse 18. You see to move forward and conquer, we must use the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”. Unfortunately this phrase has been misused by well meaning people for years. We can not use God’s Word as conduit to “get what we want”. As we fall in love with Him, His will becomes our will—we no longer look for what we want, but rather we choose and chase after the things that He wants! So before jumping to the conclusion you can simply pray for a new car or new house and God will just give it to you because you’ve “loosed it on earth”; this scripture is speaking to the church and it’s mission of moving against the kingdom of Hell.
As we approach May, we will look more in depth at the role of the church in the world today. We will see that even though much has changed over the centuries, the mission of the church has not changed much at all. While we may have changed methods thousands of times, the mission of the church remains the same today as when it was birthed. Come, join us as we walk in the purpose of the church!