Summary: What exactly is the church ... A community center, a social action organization, or a gathering of people set apart from a sinful world and set apart to a life devoted to God’s calling? Peter, the rock, helps us define the true purpose of the church.
Please e-mail me with any comments or if you use any part of this at your church at Mail4ChrisR@aol.com. I would love to hear about it. God Bless! - Chris
To define the church there is no better place in the Bible to look than at the 16th Chapter of Matthew and Peter’s confession at Caesarea Phillipi.
Read passage – Matthew 16:13-20
To begin with Jesus asks his disciples “who do people say that I am?” You know the world will never be able to answer this question. The world of unbelievers will never be able to comprehend the truth.
Chris Seay, pastor of a church in Dallas, tells about a time when he was invited to tour MTV studios in New York. The reason MTV invited him to the tour was because they wanted to research about spirituality and young people. MTV’s studies asked young people one particular question: “Do you believe in God?” Their results – 94 percent said they had a belief in God. 94 percent. – that’s a pretty high number. But Seay’s contention would be if MTV asked about a belief in Jesus that number would be quite different. You see we live in a post-modern society. In a post-modern society the world will tell you “There are no absolutes – God is whatever or whoever you say it is.” “You’ve got to be in touch with the universe -- to tap into the aura of some guru” “May the force be with you” -- Those are the kind of answers the world would give to Jesus’ questions. The disciples in verse 14 tell Him many people think He is John the Baptist or one of the great prophets. You see the world of unbeliever never has nor never will be able to answer that question.
SO Jesus asks Peter “who do you say that I am?” Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t it interesting that Jesus even asked that question. Jesus asked one of His closest followers this question. But really, how many followers of Christ today do we know that perhaps would not be able to give a good answer if they were asked this question. What kind of answers do you think he would get from Christians today? Perhaps, a great teacher or prophet – maybe a strange doctor, a rebel. Some might say that Jesus was not sinless or perfect but a good, moral person. Probably many would say that He is not an absolute savior. You see throughout the Gospels it was Jesus’ closest companions that continued to doubt and question. But this time the follower was able to get it right.
It is Peter’s answer that sets him apart from a world of unbelievers. It is the answer of who Jesus truly is that makes all the difference in Peter’s life. And it is this answer that helps set the foundation of the church.
Jesus is very pleased with Peter’s answer. And Jesus tells him in verse 18 that he is “Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” The definition of the church is in the details of this short passage. To best explore this text we should look at some of the original Greek language. If there is one thing that I love to learn at seminary it is the Greek language. The English language is so inadequate to translate the Greek used by the Gospel writers. What God is trying to convey in his word is in often found in an exploration of the Greek. I am often amazed at what kind of insight God can reveal to me when I study His message in the original Greek and Hebrew.
And this time is certainly no different -- so let’s translate some of this passage. The word “rock” in Greek translates to “Petra.” Rock is Petra. And we all know that The rock is Jesus – the rock of our salvation. And Peter’s name in Greek translates to “petros.” Petros means a stone or a piece of a Petra – a piece of the rock. So Jesus is saying that Peter as a confessed believer is a piece of the rock – the rock that is the foundation on which the church will be built. This is the same for all believers. In 1 Peter the scriptures say “As you come to him, the living Stone -- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” You see we are all petros of the petra – all chips off that great and mighty rock.
The final word we need to translate is “church.” To define the church we need to know what the gospel writers used to define it. The Greek word for church is ekklesia. Ekklesia means a gathering of people called out. Ekklesia is actually two Greek Words – “Ek” which means “out” and “klesia” which means “calling.” You see ekklesia is describing a group of people called out. But to be more specific the Greek word Ekklesia is derived from (listen to this) the Greek word “klao” which means to break apart – it is about separation. Klao is the word used in the Lord’s Supper to describe the breaking of the bread. It is that kind of separation. So church is also about separation.