Summary: God sees His church as being a mighty army, storming the gates of Hell.
One of our Lord’s teaching techniques was to ask His listeners a question, which, in the process of answering, would allow Him to teach them truth. Such is the case here. Jesus wanted His disciples to see that the world doesn’t know who He is. The disciples, on the other hand, did know who He is. Jesus said He was going to establish His church, to tell the world who He is and that the church would be like a mighty army, storming the gates of Hell.
1. Jesus spoke about the growth of His church - v. 18a
Jesus turned to Peter, the one who had spoken on behalf of the disciples and said, “God has touched your life, because of this, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” Jesus, in speaking to His disciples, addressed Peter, the spokesman for the group, and spoke to them about the growth of His church, His army. What Jesus said is so deep and rich, we need to take time to meditate on what He says.
Jesus used a play on words to teach His disciples about the growth of His church. Jesus had given Simon a nickname, “Cephas,” an Aramaic word meaning “stone.” Here, Jesus uses Simon’s nickname to teach a truth. Using the Greek equivalent of Cephas, Jesus addressed the disciples by addressing their spokesman and said, “You are Peter (Petros - a small stone, a chip) and upon this rock (Petras - huge foundation stone), I will build my church.”
Jesus says, “You are right, I am the Christ, and I am going to build my church, a body of call out ones, a mighty army, who will tell the world who I am. This church will be founded upon me, the foundation stone, and will be made up of living stones such as yourselves, who have confessed me as Lord and Savior!” Peter later declared the same thing in 1 Peter 2:4-5.
A. The church grows as we maintain an outward focus.
Jesus says that the church grows only as people are led to put their faith in Jesus and follow Him as His disciple. This is our proper focus.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
“The church is the only organization that exists for the benefit of those without.” - Harry Piland
A church exists only as it focuses on benefiting those without. If a it is to grow, it must seek to lead every person to place their faith in Christ and follow Him as a disciple. This is our first order of business.
“You may be elegant, you may be winsome, you may be a good financier, yea, you may be in great demand, but if you do not win souls, you are a failure. You are not called to do this or that, but to win souls.” - John Wesley’s advice to preachers
B. The church grows as we accept our personal responsibility.
As helpful as is John Wesley’s advice to preachers, we must emphasize that reaching people for Christ isn’t just the preacher’s job. This job is given to the CHURCH - which is EACH OF US - because I am the church and you are the church!
“According to Jesus, people are God’s method for winning the world to Himself. People who have been radically transformed by Jesus. People who are not sidelined to sit in a chair on Sundays while they watch professionals take care of ministry for them. People who are equipped on Sundays to participate in ministry every day of the week. People who are fit and free to do precisely what Jesus did and what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples.” - David Platt
The church grows as each believer accepts his responsibility to make disciples by reaching the unreached. But when we talk about church growth, we’re not talking only in terms of numbers of people won to Christ. No, we are also talking about you and I growing in our faith.
“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” - Philemon 6 (NIV)
C. The church grows as we work in partnership with one another.
Every believer is to make disciples, but that is not a responsibility be fulfilled individually. When Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men,” he wasn’t speaking of fishing with a pole, but with a net!
It is the individual testimony of each of us and the collective testimony of all of us that God can use to change the world! It is a Biblical principle that we can do far more together than we will ever be able to do alone; that all of us is far more effective that one of us!