When Jesus had asked, “who do people say that I am.” Peter, characteristically outspoken, gave answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The other eleven, in their silence gave endorsement to Peter’s statement. And the Lord turned and then pronounced a blessing upon Peter for having made the confession which flesh and blood had not revealed, but as is stated, was revealed by the Father which is in heaven.
Then Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter (a nickname Jesus had given to Simon, and a clear play on words – as Peter means a little rock), and upon this rock (this mighty rock – this confession you have made Peter – or as some understand it, upon the great foundation rock of Christ himself), “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth, will have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”
In this expression, the Middle English word for church (a word meaning a gathering of purpose, a called out assembly, an assembly of purpose) first appears in the English Bible. And, I discussed the etymology of the word church in the opening installment.
Christ then said, “on this rock I will build my church.”
Then Christ was the builder. And any church that has been built by some one else is not the church of the Bible – the Church of Christ. Any organization set up in some other time than the time under consideration is unknown to the book of God. What’s more, any organization built at some other place than the one mentioned in conjunction with these times is also not the one church that Christ built. Of churches the scriptures speak of just one, and that one is attributed to Christ, and was established sometime after this remark was made.
Notice, “on this rock I will build my church.” God forbid that in reference to this, I should fail to give credit to Christ for the honor and glory due him. He who gave his life and blood for the church – and who filled it with his spirit. That is why that I speak of it as “the” church of Christ. And by that I mean, it is the only assembly founded and ordained by God and belonging to Christ. It is a purchased possession, sanctified and made holy. That is why the Apostle Paul later calls it “the church of the firstborn, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
And again, Christ said, “on this rock I will build my church.” He said “church” in the singular – not churches plural. For that matter, it is not “a” church, but it is “my” church, showing clear possession. So, there had never previously been a church of Christ; and there has not been one established since Christ left this earth. That makes it the only church that matters. This institution is the single one of which the Bible has anything at all to say. Any other church is an impostor.
Once again, what he said was, “on this rock I will build my church.” He did not say, “I propose to build,” “I hope to build,” but, with the strongest of all possible future tenses said “I will build my church,” to indicate a clear purpose which would not be moved or dissuaded. Nothing could hinder the course that had been set before time itself.
He further stated, “And I will give to you (Peter) the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” From this statement I learn that the church and the kingdom are one and the same. It also shows once again that there is only one church-kingdom through the article and wording: “the” kingdom of heaven. Yet there are many that cannot see that and who argue against it even today. They may say that there are many churches for the many diverse situations and peoples; and that the church is only a stopgap measure, an interim piece between us and a yet-to-be rapturous kingdom. But the words of Christ also clearly shows that Peter would be alive when this kingdom/church came to be founded, for he had “the keys” and was to be present to open the doors. So these arguments have no legs, no foundation in the truth and amount to nothing.
I know that there are a variety of words and phrases that are used of the church and we have been introduced to several in this part of our examination. Each word or phrase provides some characteristics and a picture of the church’s importance and significance. So, church, and the phrase the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven, the church of God, and the body of Christ, while at first synonymous, all provide certain parts to the description of the Church of Christ.
So, the scriptures, and the words of Christ teach us, and we should understand, that the church Christ built was established during the Feast of Pentecost, exactly fifty-three days following the Passover during which Jesus had been crucified and was subsequently resurrected.