Summary: The New Testament clearly demonstrates that there is one and only one Church that was founded by the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to talk to you tonight about the Church. However, before I get into that, I want to share a little bit about where I come from. I was born and raised in the United Methodist Church. I’ve spent some time kneeling with Baptists. I’ve played guitar with the Pentecostals. I’ve preached in denominational churches, and I even have a fancy degree from a Theological cemetery (uh, seminary). And where I come from, when you start talking about the “church”, people immediately think you’re talking about one of those denominations, or perhaps all of the denominations taken together. Most of these folk believe that “one church is just as good as another.” There are many good religious people who believe that all of these different denominations, with all of their differing names, creeds, doctrines, and man-made traditions somehow altogether represent God’s Church. But friends, that is NOT the Church I want to talk to you about today.
In Matthew’s gospel, when Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matthew 13:16), Jesus responds by saying, “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.” How many churches did Jesus say He was going to build? He said He was going to build "My church", which is singular, not plural. The Lord only promised to build one church. That is the church I want to talk to you about today. I want to talk to you about the Church that Jesus built.
I. The Basis: “Upon this rock . . .”
A. The basis of something is its foundation. What is the “rock” upon which Jesus said He would build His church? What is the foundation of the Church that Jesus built?
1. Roman Catholicism would have us believe that the “rock” that Jesus was referring to is Peter. This notion has led to the tradition that Peter established the church, and was in fact the first pope. There is absolutely no biblical authority for this idea. Jesus says, “Thou art Peter” [petros, masculine gender], “and upon this rock” [petra – feminine gender] “I will build my church.” Jesus did not promise to build His church upon Peter, but upon Peter’s confession – the grand and glorious fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
2. The church that Jesus built has no human foundation -- not Moses, not Elijah, not John Calvin or Martin Luther or John Wesley or even Alexander Campbell or Barton Stone. Peter didn’t really understand this at first, even though God had given him a revelation about the foundation of the Church. We read in Matthew 17 about the Transfiguration. Jesus had gone up on the mountain with Peter, James and John, and revealed himself in His glory to them. Moses and Elijah appeared to speak with Him -- and what did Peter say? “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” If there ever were any men worthy of having a church named after them, it would have been Moses and Elijah. But God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Son of the Living God is a revelation, and the Transfiguration is a confirmation, that the basis of the church that Jesus built is the truth that Christ is the Son of God. Someone said, “He is the impregnable rock on which every soul must build his heavenly superstructure, there being no other alternative except the drifting, sinking sand.” (W. B. Godbey)