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. – Matthew 16:18
When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter responded that Jesus was, “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” to which Jesus explained that this answer did not come from Peter himself but from God. This is when Jesus tells Peter that he will build his church “upon this rock.”
Many scholars debate what “this rock” is. Some say it is Peter. Others say it is Peter’s confession (that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God).
I do not believe that the debate is important. Usually, the debate occurs because the Catholic Church believes that this speaks to the Apostolic Succession (i.e.: that the Popes are successors to the Apostle Peter). Anyone reading this verse honestly will recognize that this verse has nothing to do with popes or succession. It simply speaks to the fact that Peter was going to be the rock upon which the church would be built (Peter means “rock, stone”). Indeed, we see this is true when we look at the book of Acts and see Peter building the church in Acts and acting as the spokesperson for the Apostles from the beginning of the Church in Acts 2 through his baptizing the Gentile Cornelius and his relatives and friends in Acts 10.
So, the debate regarding “this rock” is unimportant. What is important is Jesus’ promise: He would build his church and the gates of Hades would not overpower it.
Notice, it is Jesus’ church. He is the one who is building it. The church does not grow because of the great music, wonderful preaching, or any other thing that happens on Sunday Morning. It grows because God adds to its number (Acts 2:47). It grows because the Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8). Jesus is the head (Colossians 1:18). This is Jesus’ church.
Why is this important? Because many people want to believe they can be a Christian without actually going to church. This concept is not found anywhere in the New Testament. Throughout the Book of Acts, beginning at the start of the Church in Acts 2:42-47, Christians always gathered together.
Every book in the New Testament, except perhaps Philemon, was either written to a church (eg: Romans, Ephesians, Colossians) or about the church (eg.: 1 Timothy, Titus, James). How can someone believe the Bible is speaking to them if they are not part of the intended audience of the New Testament? How can one possibly apply the Bible’s teaching to oneself if you are not part of the church?
The Holy Spirit gives gifts to every Christian to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). How can someone build up the body if the person is not in the body to build it up? How can one use one’s gifts if you are not part of the body?
The writer of Hebrews mentions explicitly that we are not to stop meeting together, even as others have stopped (Hebrews 10:24-25). Instead, we must continue to meet together so that we can encourage each other and spur each other on to good works. How can that happen if you aren’t in church?
Our nation is struggling economically, emotionally, and politically. The world is falling apart around us. It is not hard for anyone to recognize that we cannot depend on our leaders, even if new ones were elected, to solve our problems.
Our problems are deeper.
Our problems are spiritual.
You know something is not right. Something is missing. Something is broken. 2000 years ago, Jesus prepared the answer for you: His church. Jesus gave us his church so that we could find the meaning for our lives. All who come to church can experience new life. The doors are open to all who would enter. The choice is yours.
I pray I will see you in Church this Sunday!