Monday, November 9, 2009

Upon What Did Jesus Say He Would Build His Church

I heard an interesting sermon yesterday. I was watching Walnut Street Baptist Church, and a preacher with the first name "Skip" (no relation haha) was speaking on, among other passages, Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asked His disciples "Whom do men say that I, the Son of man am?" After answering Him with John the Baptist, Elias, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets, He asks His disciples, "But whom say ye that I am?" It is obvious that He expected a different, and hopefully, a correct answer. As usual, Peter boldly proclaims Him to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God!" And, unlike most of what Peter says in the Gospels, this time he nails it.
This is where all Christians agree. Peter was right. No problem. Jesus goes on to say that Peter spoke as the Father directed (v. 17). Still no problem. Christians know that God directs Christians to say and do His will. He inspires us. In fact, II Timothy 3:16 states that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God...." Inspiration, in this sense, means "God breathed." So, God supernaturally gave Peter the answer (one might note that when man speaks using his own intellect, he is almost always wrong - ask his wife; but when inspired by the Spirit of God, he is never wrong). It is interesting that the Spirit is described as being like the wind (John 3:8) and the Greek word translated "Spirit" is pneuma which is translated in the Bible (KJV) as "life" (1), "ghost" (2), "spirit" (151), and Spirit (137).
Now comes the area of disagreement among Believers, and especially "scholars." Jesus calls Peter (Petros - "a stone") and says "upon this (Petra - rock I will build My Church...." Catholics believe that Peter is the foundation of the Church. But there is a great difference between a stone and a rock. One can be thrown, while the other can crush you. In the story of the wise man building his house upon the rock, one knows that it isn't a stone one could throw. It is a boulder. Jesus told His disciples that Peter had the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and that he would decided who got in and who didn't. If we check the Book of Acts, Peter is present when the Jews (ch. 2), when the Samaritans (ch. 8), and the Gentiles (ch. 10) are accepted as part of the Church. This did not make Peter the foundation, but merely the gate-keeper. Jesus had said that the Gospel would be preached in "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world (ch. 1). But the foundation of the Church is not Peter (note how he us used of Satan only seven verses after his confession of the identity of Jesus).
Protestants, not wanting to believe that a man could be the foundation, say it is Peter's faith. That faith in Christ is the foundation of the Church. But, there was faith in the Messiah (Christ) long before He came as Immanuel, yet the Church didn't begin until the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47).
So, if it is not Peter, and it is not Faith, what is the foundation of the Church? It is clearly presented in I Corinthians 3:11. Jesus Christ is the foundation. But, why didn't Jesus merely say that He was the foundation? He could have saved us centuries of debating over it. Perhaps it isn't as simple as it being Him. Perhaps there is another piece to the puzzle. What if it is the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church. After all, Peter didn't know apart from God's revealing it. Maybe it is the work of the Holy Spirit giving faith (Ephesians 2:8). Maybe it is the Word of God (inspired and written), His revelation of Jesus as the Christ. Peter believed God and declared Jesus as God's Son. The Bible declares Jesus as God's Son. The Spirit gives us faith to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Three witnesses. Still confused? The bottom line is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave His life in obedience for us. When we acknowledge Him through faith, we become part of the Body of Christ - His Church. God said it, I believe it, and that settles it, at least for me. I hope and pray it is true of all who read this.

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