Summary: Jesus said He would build His church. What did he say about it’s foundation, function, fruit and future?
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
A man bought a new hunting dog. Eager to see how he would perform, he took him out to track a bear. No sooner had they gotten into the woods than the dog picked up the trail. Suddenly he stopped, sniffed the ground, and headed in a new direction. The inexperienced dag had caught the scent of a deer that had crossed the bear’s path. A few moments later the dog halted again, this time smelling a rabbit that had crossed the path of the deer. And so, on and on it went until finally the breathless hunter caught up with his dog, only to find him barking triumphantly down the hole of a field mouse. Sometimes we as Christians and the church as a whole is like that. We start out with high resolve, keeping Christ first in our lives. We plant churches to be light and salt but after a while our time, energy and attention is diverted to things of lesser importance. One pursuit leads to another until we’ve strayed far from our original purpose.
Today we want to go back to the basics and talk about the purpose for the church. I feel a little this morning like Vince Lombardi. In the early 1960’s he was rebuilding the Green Bay Packers. Just after losing a Superbowl and on the eve of a new season, he rallied his team in the locker room one day and mounted the bench for a speech. He reviewed last year’s loss, then began to talk about the plans for a return trip to the great game and how they would accomplish it. “We’re going back to basics,” he said. And with that he held up the familiar oblong, leather ball, and said slowly and deliberately, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” As we start this fall I want us to go back to the very basics and ask a very simple but important question: What is the church?
I read one definition which says that the church is “A group of people who find themselves in a new relationship with one another because of their new relationship with Jesus Christ.” We do not go to Church. We are the Church!
The Church is God’s creation and design; it is His method of providing spiritual nurture for believers and a community of faith through which the gospel is proclaimed and His will advanced in every generation.
Matt 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" 14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
This is the first mention of the church in the Bible. Jesus spoke of it here before it had even come into existence on the day of Pentecost. The word church is the word EKKLESIA which comes from the verb KALEO which means to call. The church are the CALLED OUT ones. This Greek term originally referred to an assembly of people who were called out from among the population to meet and make decisions and to be instructed. This is what we are. We have been called out of the world into a community of faith.
This passage describes the church in 4 ways:
1. IT’S FOUNDATION – upon this rock I will build my church
Jesus said to Simon Peter “on this rock I will build my church”. Jesus did not say that He would build the church on Peter – “on your rock I will build the church”. It was not Peter’s church. There are lots of jokes about Peter standing at the pearly gates deciding who goes in and out. This is not the case. The church does not belong to the pastor or to the elders or to the deacons. He did not say he would build only the Baptist church or the Methodist church or the Catholic church. He said, “I will build MY church.” The church is His church. This church belongs to Jesus.
The rock upon which the church is built is Christ himself. It is built upon the truth of Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ – the son of God. Upon this confession everything is based. If Jesus is Lord than everything we do is for Him.