This past Sunday at Cornerstone we started a new sermon series on the Church. Throughout the series, we’ll be walking through Matthew 16 as we look at God’s plan for how the church is built, what it’s purpose is and ultimately how we are to look.
Our series started by looking at the Foundation of the Church. In Matthew 16:13-18, Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asks them a question. “Who do people say I am?” he asks.
The disciples respond with a variety of names…”this prophet” or “that prophet” they say. But Jesus presses them. “Who do YOU say I am?”
The bold reply comes from Peter, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.”
This is HUGE! Peter is making a strong declaration about who Jesus is…and he’s doing it in the face of the world’s religious and political superpowers.
Caesarea Philippi was a hotbed of pagan gods and emperor worship. There is a large cliff face located there where a variety of fertility gods were worshiped near a deep cave known as the “Gates of Hades.” (For more information on this location, visit FollowtheRabbi.com.)
Peter’s answer may have been bold, but Jesus’ declaration is shocking. He says “on this rock I will build my church and the Gates of Hell/Hades will not prevail against it.” With the visual of a huge rock cliff in front of them, Jesus informs his follows that he will build his church in the midst of and in spite of the powers of the world and false idols. His church is to be located in the midst of darkness. The church is not to be a place where believers run and hide and isolate themselves from culture.
And he calls Peter (which means “little stone”) a rock (which refers to a huge mass of stones). Jesus says that Peter’s confession of faith is the building stones with which the Church will be made. Peter uses similar language in one of his letters. In 1 Peter 2:4-5 he calls every believer “living stones” who “are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.”
The Church is not an organization. It’s not a building. It’s people. It’s anyone who’s made a confession of faith like Peter did that day. And the church is to be forward moving upon the gates of hell. That means that you and I need to be intentional about getting closer with those who are not in relationship with God. We need to live though we are the Church and not that we are just part of some club or organization. As we move forward, you and I can be confident that Christ works in us and through us.
Jesus is building his Church!