We use the word Church in different ways. The word can refer to a building, the members of a congregation, worship services, a denomination, an institution and the church worldwide body of believers. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “. . . I will build my church . . .” What does that mean? This is the subject of our Bible study.
Understanding the Passage. Matthew 16:13-19
Peter’s great confession took place in the district of Ceasarea Philippi, center of Graeco-Roman culture in Palestine, with a large pagan population. The Bible says, “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-19)
At this point, we should make some observations. Responding to Jesus’ first question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” the disciples gave differing opinions of people which suggests that He was John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. This suggests that there is identity confusion about the person of Jesus Christ even in the midst of the disciples. Jesus found nothing in them that He could build His future church upon. In the mind of Jesus, He was thinking about a Church that would continue His ministry. However in Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus immediately recognized that the answer of Peter must have only been a revelation from God. Jesus knew that the confession fulfilled the age long prophesies about Him. Jesus then said, “I will build my church: and the gates of hell will not prevail over it.” This has proven to be true. Down the centuries, in spite of persecution and dispersal, satanic attack, and human failure, the church of Jesus has continued. Why is this so? Because it is God’s vehicle to take the message of life to a dying world.
Luke 4:17-21; Acts 10:38; Matthew 26:6-7; Matthew 26:63; Mark 3:11.
The word Christ comes from Christos, a Greek word that means “the anointed one” or “the chosen one.”
At the beginning of Jesus ministry, He went to the synagogue in Nazareth. As reported by Luke, He read the Scripture for the day. After reading it, He closed the book and gave it to the attendance and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Peter in Cornelius house declared, “How God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power.” In Bethany, Jesus was anointed with oil. At His trial, answering a question from the chief priest, Jesus confirmed that He is the Christ, the Son of God. The demons too acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of God.
It is clear from the above passages that the title “Christ” is an exclusive title for Jesus. Peter himself testified to that fact. Therefore, Jesus is the Christ; God’s anointed One who fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, the chosen One who came to save us from our sin, and the One who has promised to come again to take us to His everlasting kingdom. Peter could not fulfill this role as some have claimed.
Let us consider the meaning of the word church. The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia, from which we derive our word ecclesiastical. Later the word was used for official gathering of full citizens of a Greek city who were called together to make political and judicial decisions. In the New Testament, it means “a called-out assembly.” This is important because the gospel presentation called the lost people out of the world to gather together in a unique place for worship, fellowship and receiving instructions from the word of God.
John 3:16; John 12:32; 1Peter 2:9; Mark 1:11; Ephesians 5:23; 1Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 1:18; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Acts 2:47; Matthew 28: 19-20;
What type of church did Jesus envision? He envisioned a church where members would believe in Him as the Son of God, put their trust in Him and be saved. A church that honors Him in everything she does; a church where members are regenerated. Jesus also envisioned the church that would call sinners out from the kingdom of darkness to God’s marvelous kingdom of light. In His mind, Jesus was expecting His church that will be purchased by His blood, sanctified and cleansed. Jesus was also thinking of a growing church, where new members would be added by the Lord. Jesus taught of a moving church, a missional church that would go into the unreached places and make disciples of all nations and a church where ministers would feed the sheep and not be lording it over them.
Paul the Apostle, in his book to the Ephesians, wrote about:
1. The church mission in unity (Eph. 4: 1-16)
2. The church mission is mission in holiness (Eph. 1:1-14; 4:17-5:5; 5:6-6:20; 3:14-24.
3. The church mission is mission to all (Eph. 1:15-23; 2:1-22; 3:1-13.
What is the implication of “I will build my church” for AABF ministries?
There are several implications. Let us consider three. They are:
1. As we carry out our missionary mandate in the continent, this year and in future, we will intentionally request people to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We will also encourage pastors and leaders in various conventions and unions to do the same.
2. Knowing the role of the Holy Spirit in the creation (Genesis 1:2, 26). The Holy inspired the writing of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16). He provides help to our prayer life (Romans 8:26-27). He convinces, convicts and converts (John 16:8). He empowers believers for worldwide evangelism (Acts 1:8). Therefore, we will depend on Him to do what his office does best. No manipulation, it will be the stirring and prompting that He only can do. In every gathering, invitations will be extended for people to accept or reject salvation offered freely through Jesus death.
3. In order to ensure the continuous growth of the believers now and the next generations, disciplers would be raised and materials will be provided.
The church Jesus promised to build is HIS CHURCH. He says, “I will build my church.” The church Christ builds is not a personal property for business and other ventures. What we see today when churches, conventions and unions pay lip service to genuine salvation of their members is not a prototype of the Church in the mind of Jesus. In the sanctified mind of Jesus, and His divine imagination, He envisioned a church that is united, cooperates with each other to advance His kingdom, a church that pursue holiness in her mission endeavor and brings glory and honor to Him. This is the church All Africa Baptist Fellowship desires her member bodies to build.