Summary: A familiar phrase in the church, but what was Jesus trying to say when he said this to Peter? The enemy of our souls is real and he seeks to destroy, but the church has a promise that should bring peace, joy and action...
One of the first things that any foreigner, like myself, should buy when they come to this country is a collection of Aussie terms and phrases. In our first few months of living here I heard things that left me scratching my head wondering, “What on earth does that mean?” Unforgettable phrases like, “he spat the dumby,” or “fair dinkum,” or “choka block.” All of these are things that any foreigner would have no clue as to what was being said. When you ask what they mean some don’t have a clue where it comes from. It’s amazing that even in the church we have Christian phrases that don’t make much sense to the unchurched person. Things like, “I’ve been blood bought,” or “let’s start praying in that heavenly language,” or “and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.” What is interesting is that when you ask someone to explain what these phrases mean some people don’t know either, accept to say that they are good and probably from the bible. Well I want to speak about that last phrase this morning and uncover what beauty and hope it holds for the church today.
1) We are at war
With this statement Jesus was making a claim that we as a church need always remember. Asking the disciples who people said that he was gave Jesus an opportunity to see what these men who had followed him so closely had really learned about who he was. Peter of course pipes up and speaks truly inspired words, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus had never spoken these words to Peter, but they had been revealed to him by God himself about His son. Jesus then says that, “upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Interesting phrase for Jesus to use, but it revealed something we all need to realize about the position of the church. We are at war. The church was never meant to be on the defensive, but always at the gates of Hell, vigorously attacking this dark enemy of our souls.
How does this translate for you and I? Well the culture at the turn of the century would have understood well these battle terms and would have known that the army that stands at the gate is the one who is attacking. Behind the gates were the enemy and a sense of not knowing their size or tactics. The only things we attack these days are each other, our food, and maybe the odd alien on some Xbox or Playstation game. What we need to realize is that we need to be on the frontline of obeying Christ’s commands because that is where his church is. The powers of the enemy will not overcome that church, but if you are lazy, sleeping, cowering, or apathetic, you have forgotten your call and isolated yourself from the mission of the church and your Messiah.
2) Satan is not sleeping
It is interesting that peter, years after this declaration from the Lord, wrote this of the devil, “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) Peter understood clearly that Jesus was using terms that described where the church would always find itself warring with this enemy. What we find in the church is strength in numbers and experience.
One of the greatest temptations of the Christian is to get comfortable once they experience the peace of salvation. We get into our routines and relax, which is so very dangerous. We would do well to hear the words of Peter. He doesn’t call him the enemy of the church, but the devil is your enemy! You wouldn’t sit and relax in the cage at the zoo if you knew there was a lion who was specifically looking to eat you. You would fight for your life, you would be very alert, you would ready yourself for his attack, how much more do we need to watch for Satan. “The greatest lie the devil ever convinced the world of was that he didn’t exist.”
3) Jesus is our Messiah (Saviour)
Now time for the exciting stuff! When Jesus said that upon this rock I will build my church, he wasn’t referring to Peter. Jesus specifically said that it would be His church. No Jesus was proclaiming that his church would be built on the fact that He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Upon that one truth there can be no victory for Satan. No matter what the situation, Jesus has not only proclaimed himself King of Kings, but through His death and resurrection, conquered sin and death once and for all. Jesus rose from the grave triumphant and so then are we triumphant. Paul echoed this fact in Romans 8:31 “If God is for us who can be against us?” and Romans 8:35-39.