Summary: The Church is absolutely necessary and vital to the triumphant plan of God.
Preaching Series: The Tie That Binds
The Necessity of the Church
Text: Matthew 16:13-20
Introduction: A husband and his wife arose one Sunday morning and the wife dressed for church as the husband sat sipping his coffee. It was just about time to leave when she noticed her husband hadn’t moved a finger toward getting ready. Perplexed, she asked, "Why aren’t you getting dressed for church?" He said, "Because I don’t want to go." She asked, "Why not?" He said, "Well, if you must know, I have three reasons. First, the congregation is cold. Second, no one likes me. And third, I just don’t want to go." The wife replied, wisely, "Well, honey, I have three reasons why you should go. First, the congregation is warm. Second, there are a few people there who like you. And third, you’re the pastor! So get dressed!"
Today we’re beginning a series on the church called "The Tie That Binds." We plan to spend the next ten or so weeks looking at God’s instructions for this sometimes confusing, occasionally carnal, yet always divinely-led community of true believers. Someone has said of the church, "It has many critics, but no rivals!" Why is this true? The church is the only institution ordained of God that exists for sole purpose of depopulating Hell. As we shall see, it is absolutely necessary and vital to the triumphant plan of God.
In Matthew 16, Jesus uses the word "church" for the very first time. Leading up to it we find the famous confession of Peter regarding the identity of Christ. Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist (See Mark 6:16); others say Elijah (See Matthew 17:10-13; Malachi 4:5); and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets (See Deuteronomy 18:15)." "But what about you?" Jesus asked. "Who do you say that I am?" Ever the spokesman for the group, Peter stepped forward with the answer. "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." The term means, ’Messiah or Anointed One.’ It was linked in the mind of the Jews to King David, as the anointed king of Israel (See 2 Samuel 5:3). But beyond this identification, the word was also applied to the descendant of David who, in the last days, would conquer the enemies of Israel (See 2 Samuel 7:11b-13; Psalm 2:2). CLEARLY PETER HAD GOTTEN IT RIGHT! HIS WAS NOT THE FIRST RECOGNITION OF JESUS AS MESSIAH (See Luke 2:25-32), BUT IT WAS THE FULLEST CONFESSION TO THIS POINT (Note that Peter acknowledges Jesus’ special relationship with the Father--the Son of the Living God--that sets Him apart from any other Messianic figure).
Once Peter makes his famous confession, Jesus confesses a few things of His own. These statements provide us with some helpful insight into the Lord’s plan for the future of this fledgling group of disciples who would form the foundation of the church. Let’s take a look at them together.
I. The Work of the Father (See Matthew 16:17). Jesus declared that Peter was blessed as the personal recipient of revelation from the Father. The word ’revealed’ means to uncover something that was previously covered. In the Gospel of John, we’re told that Jesus came to His own (the Jews) but they did not receive Him (See John 1:11). Unlike Peter and the other disciples (See Matthew 14:33), the nation of Israel had failed to rightly identify Jesus as the Promised Messiah. Why? Because God, in His good pleasure, had not revealed this truth to them (See Matthew 11:20-26). Though they had witnessed Jesus healing the sick, cleansing a leper, feeding 5,000 with a few loaves or bread and some fish and even raising the dead, they did not believe because God did not open their eyes to the truth. The Apostle Paul calls this lack of understanding a ’mystery (See Romans 16:25),’ something that is outside the range of unassisted human comprehension. Application: Did you know that it is impossible for us to grasp God’s spiritual realities apart from His revelatory work in our lives? Peter did not deduce from logic that Jesus was the Messiah. He did not come to this conclusion based on a careful evaluation of the empirical evidence. It was exclusively the work of the Father that enabled him to discern the identity of the Son. So many of us today believe that entrance into the church is determined by a reasonable and rational explanation of the Gospel, answering all the arguments and filling in all the holes so that we are left with only one possible conclusion. Yet, we all know that there are countless individuals who have sat in church pews or listened over the airways to the best expositors of the Word since the 1st century who will spend eternity in Hell. Just like Peter, our spiritual journey must begin with God revealing the truth to us. He, alone, makes the blind to see.