We come now to the Word of God, Matthew, chapter 16; Matthew, chapter 16, and I know the tendency in the world today, even in the evangelical Christian world is to kind of float around and kind of create your own spiritual environment any ol’ way you want. It’s not a time for belonging, it’s not a time for loyalty and faithfulness and long-term commitments; that’s not on the agenda of most people today. But that is what the Lord requires of His church, that we be loyal and faithful to the assembly of those the Lord has called us to. So we’re trying to help you to understand the character of the church.
I think when most people think about a church they think about either a building or a certain style. Buildings aren’t so much the issue anymore. Traditional church buildings have pretty much passed off the scene. Churches might be meeting in any kind of building, any kind of location, any borrowed, rented building, or any kind of structure at all. So we don’t so much think of churches as generations past did associated with facilities with certain styles of architecture. We don’t even think of churches anymore with certain styles of worship. Unfortunately, we think more of them in terms of a kind of methodology, a kind of self-design, which seems to be the popular trend today. Every new church has an odd name, and an even more unique kind of format. So it’s hard for people today to really know what a church is and what it should be. So we’ve done this series the last three weeks – this will be Week Four – on the ordinary church.
What is an ordinary church? And by ordinary, I mean one that follows the prescription of Scripture, one like the Thessalonian church about which we read a little while ago. And just to start at the start we’ve gone to Matthew 16 where we have the first mention of the church in the New Testament from the lips of our Lord Himself in Matthew 16 and verse 18 where He says, “I will build My church.” And here is where the church is introduced, and He promises He’s going to build the church.
The church actually comes into existence on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes and the church is given its birth; and it has continued from there and will forever and ever in the presence of our Lord in the heaven of heavens. So understanding the church is important. It’s the only institution our Lord ever promised to build. It is the sum of His work on earth. He is not building nations, He is not building organizations and institutions independent of the church, He is building only one thing in the world and that is the church. It is the sole work of God in the church. And those of us who are a part of it need to understand what it is and what He requires of an ordinary church. Those who are not a part of the church, you need to understand what we need to be, so that when the time comes, the Lord taps your heart and sends you in the direction of His church you know exactly what to look for.
So we’ve looked at Matthew 16. Let’s look at it again, and I’ll read verses 13 to 23. We’ll kind of go through that by a way of a brief review, and then pick up some of the new thoughts.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and other, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered,” – and he answered, of course, on behalf of all of the other disciples – ‘You are the Christ,’ – or the Messiah – ‘the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,’ – son of Jonah – ‘because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.’ Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’”
As those of you who have been born again by the Spirit of God given divine and eternal life know. Those of you who are in permanent living union with the Lord Jesus Christ by His Spirit who resides in us, you know that we are members of His body, the church; that’s a fact. Every believer, truly converted person, is in union with Christ, in union with God, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and in living union by common eternal life with every other believer. And there is the church militant, that is the church alive on earth; the church triumphant, that is the church alive in heaven; and we are all one church, one church. There is only one church in the world in that sense, one spiritual entity of those who possess divine life through the gift of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. All believers who have received the gift of salvation have been placed into the church, into the body of Christ, the assembly of the redeemed.
You belong, because you share common life. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit: one with Him and one with all others joined to Him. We share common life. We love Him, John says, and we love all those who love Him, because we have a common love, and it’s by that love that we’re known as His disciples. There is then one church. We are the one church who is one with Him and one with all the rest of those who are one with Him. That is the true spiritual church. And the New Testament talks about the church of God, and the church of Christ, and the one true church.
But the New Testament also uses the word “church” in plural. It talks about churches of God in 2 Thessalonians. It talks about churches of Christ in Romans 16. It talks about churches of God in Christ in 1 Thessalonians, again, chapter 2. So the church is one, and yet it is manifest in the world in a multiplicity of local assemblies. So we can speak of the church as one in its spiritual reality, but as many in its visible manifestation. This is one of the churches of the church of Christ. This is the church in this location.
The true church scattered throughout the world manifests itself in local assemblies for the purpose of putting salvation power on display, and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in every place. That’s the church’s role, to preach the gospel, which it demonstrates by its life, its transformed life to the watching world. We are not to be fashionable, we are to be faithful. We are not to be popular, we are to be persecuted. We are not to be a social force, we are to be a salvation force. We are not to be offering tolerance in love, but declaring truth in love. Every expression of the Lord’s church in the world is to be marked by biblical fidelity, biblical fidelity.
An ordinary church follows the pattern of Scripture as it outlines the life of the church. This is the ordinary church, and this is the church that our Lord is building. We should be known not by our novelty, not by our uniqueness, but by our commonality. We should not be proud to say we’re not like any other church, but we should be proud to say we are like every other true church following the prescription of Scripture.
Now let’s go back to Matthew 16 and just grip the statement in verse 18, “I will build My church,” from the lips of our Lord, the head of the church. “I will build My church.”
Every word is crucial. Every word is crucial. “I” indicates to us that the building of the church is the work of the Lord Himself personally. It is the work of the Lord Himself personally. If you’re in the church, you’re here because He personally added you to His church. Acts 2:47, “The Lord adds daily to the church, such as our being saved.”
The church grows one soul at a time as the Lord transforms that soul. He is the one who builds His church. “I do the work personally.” It is not a human enterprise, it is a divine enterprise, and it is the very work of Christ Himself. And He has a personal commitment to every person in the church. He is joined to that person for eternity. His life is lived through that person. His concern is for that person. He is personally at work in building His church: “I.”
And then the word “will.” That’s not a wish; that is an absolute, confident assertion based on sovereign purpose, sovereign power, sovereign will: “I will build the church.” He doesn’t hope to. He’s not saying, “I would like to. I desire to.” He says, “I will build the church. I will.” This is an assertion based on sovereign power, sovereign plan, “I will.”
In fact, that will is so strong that it says at the end of verse 18, “the gates of hades” – or some say the gates of hell – “will not overpower it.” The strongest weapon against the church is death, and that is what is being referred to by the gates of hades. The gates of hades is simply what opens up to put you into hades, and that would be death. Death cannot stop the church. He will build it; death cannot stop the church. It doesn’t stop the church. The church alive on earth is the church militant. The church alive in heaven is the church triumphant. Alive or dead, the church goes on. Paul says that when he says, “Whether I live or whether I die, I am the Lord’s.”
“I will build.” That tells us that this is not static, this is not static, this is still happening. It moves into the future. It started on Pentecost. It began to expand very rapidly: 3,000 the first day, 5,000 more a few weeks later. And then it began to expand over the whole earth. It is still growing. It is growing with irresistible divine force at a rate today that is unlike anything in the history of the world. The church is growing all over the globe. He is building His church, and He will continue to build it until the last chosen elect believer is redeemed, and then gather all His church into glory.
The word “My” tells us that He is the one who has exclusive ownership of the church. He possesses it by virtue of having paid the price for it in the sacrifice of Himself in the shedding of His blood on the cross. He is Lord and head over all the church and over all the churches. He has bought them with His own precious blood.
The word “church” is also a critically important word. It is the word which describes the assembly of the elect, the regenerate, the justified, the sanctified, and the glorified saints. Every word is so critical. “I will build My church.” And there is an invincible element to this, an invincible reality: nothing, not even death itself, the greatest weapon that Satan has.
Hebrews 2 says He has the power of death. Not even death itself can stop the church. That’s why Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians, “Death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your victory? Christ has conquered death.” And so in 2 Corinthians 2, Paul says, “We always triumph in Christ.” The church is God’s triumphant work in Christ by the Holy Spirit in the world, and it is invincible. It will be what God designed it to be.
The church was promised by the Father to the Son, in John 6 and 11, and then promised by the Son back to the Father in 1 Corinthians 15. The church is a love give from the Father to the Son, that’s why we are spoken of as being given to the Son. And yet in 1 Corinthians 15 when all of us are gathered into the Son’s embrace eternally, the Son will give us back to the Father. An incredible glorious purpose unfolding in the church. It’s not something to play fast and loose with, as we will see in a few moments.
So the great theme of this text is, “I will build My church.” And as we look again at the text and probe a little more deeply, we see that there are some things that define the church, and therefore, the expressions of the church in local churches. The first one we looked at is a great confession, a great confession. We won’t go back through all of it. But just to remind you, in verse 16 where Simon Peter says, “You are the Christ,” – that’s the Greek equivalent to Messiah, the Anointed One – “the Son of the living God, the Son of the living God.”
What defines the church is the confession of Jesus Christ. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Son of the living God. Jesus is the Holy One of God. Jesus is the virgin-born God-Man who lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, rose again, ascended into heaven. All that is true about Him. He is the cornerstone of the church, Ephesians 2:20. This is the confession that identifies the church.
The church is a Christ-confessing assembly, and Christ confessing in the truest and purest and most genuine sense. To emphasize this, our Lord says in verse 18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, but upon this rock I will build My church. You’re Peter,” – and the Greek word is a stone, a movable stone – “but upon this rock” – and the word in the Greek is a rock bed, a rock bed. “You’re a movable stone. I will build My church on an immovable foundation.” And what is that foundation? It is the very reality of Christ, the Son of the living God. The foundation is not Peter; he is a movable stone. The foundation is something far more immovable than Peter.
First Samuel 2:2 says, “There is no rock like our God.” Psalm 18, verse 2: “The Lord is my rock, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge.” Psalm 18, verse 31: “Who is a rock, except our God?” And 1 Corinthians 3:11 says, “There’s no other foundation that can be laid than Jesus Christ.”
Jesus Christ is the foundation stone of the church. It’s not Peter. It’s not a movable stone, it’s an immovable stone – the rock declared in the confession of Peter in verse 16. That is why the apostles go out and preach Christ. That is why Paul says, “We preach Christ. We preach Christ crucified.” That is why he said, “I’m determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, only Christ.”
First Corinthians 1 and 2 he talks about the preaching of Christ, which is to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness. But to those who are being saved, to those who are believing, it is the power of God unto salvation. The bed rock of the church is Christ, the Son of the Living God, the God-Man, the one who is God and Man, the incarnate Son of God. It is the church’s Christology that is its firm foundation.
We confess Jesus as Lord and God; that’s the true church. If you have any diminished or any heretical view of Christ, that’s not a church, that is not a church. That is not the church of God or the church of Jesus Christ, that is a church of Satan. “If anybody preaches another gospel or another Christ, let him be cursed. They call them churches, they are not churches.” So the bed rock of the church is Christ, the Son of the living God. And the church, by nature of that confession, is a Christ-focused assembly. He is the object of our worship.
Secondly, we saw in verse 17, that the church is identified by a great communication, or revelation. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. You know the truth about Me, because it was revealed to you from heaven.”
The truth of the church, the truth that the church holds and proclaims and guards is the truth revealed from God in heaven. The source of all truth for the church is the revelation of God contained in Holy Scripture, contained in Holy Scripture. It is Holy Scripture then that becomes the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It is when we act on behalf of Scripture that we act in agreement with heaven. That’s what he’s saying in verse 19.
The source of all truth then for the church is the revelation from God contained in Holy Scripture. The true church then becomes the pillar and ground of the truth. It is the truth of God’s Word, 1 Timothy 3:15 says, that shows us how we ought to behave in the church, how we ought to behave in the church. We go to the Word of God to know how to behave in the church. The church then is characterized by a great confession, “Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord, the Savior, the Messiah.” The church is known by its great communication, the divine revelation of God in Holy Scripture, the only source of saving, sanctifying truth.
And that brings us to a third characteristic of the church. The church is marked by a great contrast, verse 20, a great contrast. And this strikes the reader as a surprising statement in light of what has just been said: “Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.” This seems so counterintuitive, and certainly looks like the exact opposite of the Great Commission, which tells us to go and preach the gospel to every creature. But understand, at this point the gospel had not yet been completely revealed, because Christ had not yet died, and Christ had not yet risen from the dead; nor had the Holy Spirit come to empower the preaching of that gospel.
There is a hold put on the commission at this point by the Lord Himself: “Stop. I’m warning you, do not tell anyone that I am the Messiah.” Using the word “warning,” this makes this a very strong prohibition. This is not a suggestion. This is not, “Back off a little bit.” This is not, “Slow down.” This is, “Do not do this at all. Do not tell people I am the Messiah. Don’t tell them that. Tell no one. Tell no one.” It is a warning to not tell a single person that He is the Messiah.
What in the world is this about? Well, the answer comes in understanding how the Jews perceived Messiah. John, chapter 6 and verse 15, gives us an illustration of that. You remember in the 6th chapter of John, Jesus had fed the massive crowd, and this fit right into the standard Jewish view of Messiah as some ruler who was going to come and eliminate all their enemies, and eliminate all their problems, and provide peace and safety and security and prosperity, and even food, and bring to pass all the promises in the Abrahamic covenant, Davidic covenant, and even the new covenants given by the prophets. So when Jesus did what He did, they were ready to make Him their messianic King, verse 15, “Perceiving they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.”
What He did in feeding those maybe 20,000 people by creating food for them had the potential to play right into their false ideas of Messiah. They saw Messiah as a social person who would come and upgrade social life. They saw Him as a military person who would come and upgrade their security and their safety by wiping out their enemies. They saw Him as the one who would provide for them all the fulfillment of Davidic and Abrahamic promises which had to do with flourishing, had to do with well-being, had to do with wealth and prosperity. They basically saw Him as the ultimate human ruler, human king, God’s anointed. All of their perspectives were political, social, material, and military. That’s their view of Messiah, an earthly ruler.
And in His first coming, Jesus didn’t come to do any of that, not any of that. Why did He create food on those couple of occasions when He did it? To demonstrate His deity. Same reason He walked on water and healed people, and to give them a foretaste of the kingdom in the future when there would be an abundance of food, and there would be health and prosperity, to show that He was in fact the promised Messiah. But He did not come the first time to establish an earthly kingdom.
In the 18th chapter of John, He is before Pilate – or I guess you could say Pilate is really on trial before Him. Pilate comes into the Praetorium in verse 33 and says, “Are you the King of the Jews?” That was the question. Well, they had decided they didn’t want Him to be their king. They thought He would be when He did miracles and when He provided food.
But He disappointed them. He did disappoint them on a profound level for two reasons. Reason One: He did not overthrow their enemies, the Romans, and free them from occupation. And, two, He did attack, but He attacked them and their religion, their false, hypocritical religion. So they rejected Him as Messiah to the degree that they had Him executed by the Romans.
But Jesus answers Pilate in verse 36: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” There will come a time in the future when His kingdom will be of this world.
But the first time He came, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate says, “So You are a king?” And Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. I am a king, but I’ve come this time not to establish the kingdom on earth, but to preach the truth that is essential to the kingdom, and to do the work necessary to make kingdom citizens.”
Now let me just draw out of this a very important point. The church is the spiritual kingdom of Christ on earth today, and it has nothing to do with earthly kingdoms. “My kingdom, the church, is not of this world.” So we don’t fight. We don’t go with Cromwell and the Protestants to Ireland and kill the Catholics. We don’t do that; we don’t fight. In the name of the church throughout history there have been terrible, terrible actions of war and battle. We don’t do that.
The kingdom of which we are a part is not of this world. It is transcendent. It is separate. It is alien. It is independent of. So we live, even in our own country, in what the Anabaptists used to call a hybrid society, a hybrid society. It’s not fully merged, it’s not fully merged, and that is where the Anabaptists stood against the Reformers.
The Reformers decided that since there were Catholic countries like Italy and France and others, once the Reformation came, they needed to have Protestant countries to withstand the power of the Catholic countries; and so they created Protestant countries like Switzerland, and Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, and England. And then they brought in infant baptism to baptize everybody, so that everybody born into those countries was born a “Christian.” The Anabaptists said, “You fail to understand that the kingdom of heaven has no connection to the kingdoms of this world.” That’s what our Lord said. They violated the Anabaptist principle of a hybrid society where the church exists independent of transcendent, and alien to the existing nation.
Another way to say that is simply this: it is irrelevant to the kingdom of heaven what happens in any earthly kingdom, it’s irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the building of the kingdom. “I will build My church,” – and He will - “and nothing will stop it, and it does not depend either on the well-being or the ill-condition of any earthly kingdom.” This is important for us to understand.
We reject a national religion. We reject a sacral society. That was one of the things that was built into the fabric of the founding of the United States of America, the separation of those things, because people had read their Bibles when they got here and knew about that. The mandate is to advance the kingdom by the preaching of the gospel.
Now as a citizen, I want to keep up my lawn so my house looks nice in the neighborhood, and I want to do all I can to meet the needs of my neighbors if they’re poor or if they have troubles. I want to do good in the world. And from time to time I want to influence the powers that be, if I can, by the things I say; and I want to vote and bring about the best of what’s going on in the world. I would like people to enjoy God’s creation, and at a maximum level for people to enjoy it.
But that’s not the mission of the church. We are to be good citizens, right, we are to live peaceable lives – that’s what it says. We’re to be peaceful and tranquil. We don’t fight; we don’t march. The only thing we fight for is the gospel; the only we march for is the gospel.
We’re not a part of those other kind of things, kingdom, because the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, the church, has no connection to the kingdoms of this world. So there is no point in us rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; it’s going down. And that is not our calling. We have to get lifeboats and get people off the Titanic before it sinks. That is what the true church does.
It’s amazing how much time and money and effort from professing Christians and so-called churches has spent trying to manipulate the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of darkness. He is the prince of the power of the air, the god of this world. The whole world lies in the lap of the Evil One. It’s Satan’s domain.
In our generation, and the previous one, so-called Christians and churches and denominations and schools associated with them became so consumed with social issues, morality, and providing some level of comfort and upgrade in the kingdom of Satan that they abandoned the gospel; and all the major denominations in our country in the last century died out. Social activism, moralism, cultural conquest. That is not the mission of the church. We must strongly avoid being caught up in making superficial adjustments to the kingdom of darkness that belong to Satan.
Now, listen, the world wants the church to abandon the proclamation of the gospel and the exaltation of Christ and get caught up in social issues. That’s what the world wants; that serves Satan’s purpose. That’s why Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan,” when Peter said, “No, no, no. You don’t want to do that, Lord. We don’t want that to happen.”
Turning the church into an agency of social welfare and moral influence is Satan’s strategy. We don’t exist to propagate traditional values. I like traditional values obviously; and as a person living in the world, I want to do the best I can to see the best possible situation. But my goal in life is not to reinstate Judeo-Christian ethics on some social level. I don’t march for anything but the gospel. Our mission is not better government institutions or better government agencies. Our mission is not better, popular morality. Our mission is better people, transformed people through the gospel.
And the gospel so transforms people that they will transform their society. That’s the end of racism. That’s the end of crime. That’s the end of every rotten thing in our culture is the gospel of Jesus Christ and transformed souls, and it’s lived out right here. Let the world see. Let the world see people who love, people who care, people who serve one another.
So the church is known by its confession, its communication revelation from God, and its contrast with the world around it. There’s a fourth important feature here. The church acknowledges a great conquest.
We have triumphed. The church is a triumphant reality. In what sense? Verse 21: “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” And Mark, chapter 8 says, “And He said these things plainly.”
Here’s the great conquest of the church: the cross, the cross. It isn’t that we conquer lands. It isn’t that we conquer people groups. It is that our Savior has conquered the greatest enemy of all enemies. And what is that enemy? Sin. This is the great triumph of the church. “We always triumph in Christ,” – 2 Corinthians 2 – “because Christ has conquered sin.” That is the proclamation of the church.
He says, “I am going to be killed by the religious leaders of Israel, and I will rise on the third day.” He conquered sin, and then He conquered death, right? He conquered sin and conquered death. So this is what defines the church; it’s the fact that sin has been conquered and death has been conquered. You would think living today that the big effectiveness of the church has to do with some kind of social elevation or some kind of prosperity.
I just finished reading a book called “Blessed.” It’s the history of the prosperity movement, the history of the prosperity movement. It started with Phineas Quimby way back, who came up with the nonsense that we have the power to create our own world, and it’s progressed all the way till today when there are millions of people caught up in churches that, to one degree or another, promote the prosperity gospel.
The largest church in America, Joel Osteen’s church, promotes the prosperity gospel; and in that gospel God is your slave, God is your servant. He waits in the wings until you speak Him into power with your words. Very little is ever said about Christ. There’s really not much a role for Him, because if you can activate God by your words, what do you need Christ for. And there’s very little reference to the Holy Spirit, because all the power resides in you. So there is literally a blasphemous irreverence toward the Trinity to start with.
And then the church becomes the means by which people pursue what unregenerate people all want: health and wealth.
The gospel doesn’t offer what unregenerate people want. The gospel offers what unregenerate people don’t want: the elimination of their sin. That’s our triumph. I can’t promise anybody health and wealth, that’s a lie.
And the book concluded with a very kind of compassionate ending in saying, “Without theological evaluation, this is a good movement, because it gives people hope, it gives people hope. It gives us something to hope for, something to anticipate; lifts them out of the doldrums of life, and they can live with the hope that things could get better.” So you’ve just given people hope based on an absolute and complete lie. What kind of a gift is that, and what is the fallout of that?
We don’t offer that. We don’t offer healing. We don’t offer wealth. We don’t offer any of that. What we do offer is forgiveness for sin and eternal life in the glory of heaven, because our Lord conquered sin and death at the cross, and rose triumphantly from the grave; and we died with Him and rose with Him to glory. This is a great conquest of the church. This is why you don’t see behind me a pot of gold, you see a cross. That’s a triumphant cross, where He bore in His body our sins, where He became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We don’t offer cheap lying psychology, we don’t offer false dreams, we don’t offer prosperity, but we do offer through the gospel the greatest conquest of all; we offer you, because of the sacrifice of Christ, the forgiveness of all your sins, and righteous standing before God, a transformed life filled with love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, and eternal heaven of heavens with lavish promises from God that we can’t even comprehend. Who cares how much you have here when all that is waiting there.
It’s when you ask, “What is a church?” there’s some answers. It’s a place where Christ is confessed by all as Lord and God. It’s a place where there is a submission to the revelation of God, the holy communication of Scripture. It’s a place where there is a contrast. It’s separate from transcendent to above and beyond the world. It’s heaven on earth, not a part of this world. And it’s marked by a great conquest. It not the conquest of some temporal discomfort; it is the conquest of sin and death and hell, and the triumph of Christ on the cross and through the open tomb.
A final point for this morning briefly. Church in the world faces a great conflict, and it shows up right away with Peter, verse 22: “Peter took Him aside” – pulled Him to the side – “and began to rebuke Him,” – which means he kind of kept it up, it wasn’t just one statement; he was all over the Lord, correcting Him about this notion of dying, being killed – “began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord!’ – now there’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one – ‘God forbid it, Lord!’ – you’re having God forbid something that the Lord is going to do – ‘This will never happen to You. You’re not going to die.’” Again, this indicates – this is a reflection among the best of men of the depth with which their messianic concept of an earthly ruler had permeated their thinking. “You can’t die; that’s not going to work with the plan.”
“And then He turned and said to Peter” – verse 23 ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You’re a stumbling block to Me. You’re not setting you mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’”
I just need to say it again: the church’s interest is set on what? On God’s, not man’s interest. God’s interest, not man’s interest. In the strongest language, Peter contradicts Jesus, and Jesus says to him, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Anything contrary to the will of God puts a person on Satan’s side, takes up Satan’s cause.
We’re in a conflict. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world and heavenly places. We’re in a war against Satan and his demons. He’s the ruler of the world of demons and the world in which we live. Unregenerate people are of their father, the devil. There’s a conflict then between the will of the devil and the will of God. And anytime you step away from the will of God you become a part of the obstruction of Satan.
False forms of Christianity are satanic stumbling blocks. Any misrepresentation of God is a satanic stumbling block. “You’re a stumbling block to Me.” Outside the church there are many stumbling blocks. But inside there are many as well. Ignorance is a stumbling block. Misrepresenting God, Christ, the Holy Spirit; misrepresenting Scripture – all of that is a stumbling block to the purposes of God through the church. It’s foundational for the church to confront all that is evil, that is why it is such a dangerous thing to have – and it’s very common today – somebody decide they’re going to start a church, pop up, rent a place and say the represent God and propagate ignorance.
And you know you’re hearing Jesus say, “Get behind Me, Satan!” That’s a misrepresentation. The whole prosperity movement’s a misrepresentation. It’s a stumbling block. It’s in the way of the progress of the church in the will and purpose of God.
False teachers abound, they’re everywhere. The reason there’s a seminary here, The Master’s Seminary; the reason there’s The Master’s University is because we need people who fully understand the will of God as revealed in Scripture to be leaders in the church, so that the church doesn’t have people in it that are obstructing the very purpose for which it exists.
Now we know that Satan sows tears in the midst of the church; and we know, Paul said in Acts 20, perverse men will rise up in the church and lead people astray. So we have to be aware of that. We do everything we can to guard the truth, preach the truth, interpret accurately the Word of God. That’s why we take men, and for years we put them under godly, skilled, erudite handlers of the Word of God, so that when they walk out of that place they are ready to live a life that honors God and not be teaching something that is a stumbling block to the very purposes of God. This is the true church. This is the true church. It doesn’t take up Satan’s side. But today in so many false churches, Satan is in charge; and what is being propagated is an obstruction to the movement of the truth and the true church.
The true church then, known by its great confession of Christ, its submission to Scripture, its contrast with the world, its cross-centered triumph, and willing to face the conflict with the kingdom of darkness and face it as good soldiers, ready to go to battle with all their armor on and with the sword of the Spirit. This is our calling as a church. Now there’ll be a few more things to say next time.
Lord, again, Your Word comes to us with clarity, with power. We feel the moving of Your Spirit even as we read it. It is supernatural. It comes to us from heaven, exalting Christ, exalting You, exalting the Holy Spirit, defining the church. Lord, we just want to be that ordinary church that our dear Lord directed and directs. We want to be faithful to those things that are the markers that He identified at the very beginning. And we want You, Lord, to raise up many more faithful churches, many more.
Thank You for these precious people; thank You for all the folks You’re bringing to us. We want them all to find here joy, love, peace, a family, a friendship, a hope, a place to belong, an opportunity to serve, to be helped, strengthened, ministered to mutually, so that this church will give testimony to the power of the gospel to Your glory and draw many sinners to the Savior. That’s our prayer we pray in His name. Amen.