“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” -Matthew 16:18 NKJV
For the first time in scripture, we are introduced to the word “church.” Upon Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah “Christos” in Greek, Jesus speaks of building a Church. The Church belongs to Him. It is a Church that is expected to endure every attack of spiritual darkness as Jesus declared “and the gates of hell (Hades) SHALL NOT PREVAIL against it.
So what, or who is the Church? We will answer these and other questions from the scriptures. I pray that we will have open hearts and clear minds to receive a biblical explanation of the Church and put away any other impression that is contrary.
Word Focus: I will build my CHURCH
Ecclesia, Greek Ekklesia, (“gathering of those summoned”), in ancient Greece, an assembly of citizens. The “called out” ones.
An assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting.
A company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order's sake.
I. What the Church Is NOT
1. It is not a continuation of the "Jewish Dispensation" under another name.
As we have seen in the chapter on the Jews, the Jews have been shunted to a sidetrack that the "Main Line" may be clear for the passage of the Church. Jesus said "The Law and the Prophets are until John." If the Scriptures put Moses and Law in one Dispensation and Christ and Grace in another let us respect the Divine order and not join together what God has put asunder.
It is because some religious bodies believe that the Christian Church is but another phase of what they call the "Jewish Church," that they insist on a "ceremonial ritual" and retain the Priesthood with its altar, vestments, etc., and Temple-like buildings; and call the ordinances of the Christian Church "Sacrifices" and "Sacraments." They also go further and advocate a "State Church," with the Church as the head, and claim that all the Old Testament promises of riches and glory have been transferred from the Jew to the Church. This we shall see is unscriptural.
2. It is not "The Kingdom."
John the Baptist came preaching that the "Kingdom of Heaven" was "at hand" and Jesus sent out the Twelve and the Seventy to do the same, but the Jewish people rejected their King, and the setting up of the Kingdom was postponed. There cannot be any Kingdom until the "Nobleman Farmer" who has gone into a "far country" to receive the Kingdom returns. Luke 19:11-27.
The Church is never confounded with the Kingdom in the Scriptures. The Church is compared to a "House" (I Tim. 3:15), to a "Temple" (I Con 3:16,17), to a "Body" (I Cor. 12:27-31), but never to a Kingdom. Christ is the "HEAD" of His Church (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; Col. 1:18), but He is never spoken of as its King. The Church's relation to Christ is to be that of a "Bride." Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 21:2,9,10.
It is a "Mystery
The Kingdom was no mystery. The Old Testament prophets describe it in glowing terms. But there was something that was a "Mystery" to them, and that was what was to come in between the "Sufferings and Glory" of Christ. 1 Pet. 1:9-12.
That is, between the Cross and the Crown. Jesus intimated that there was to be something that He called the "Church," but He did not say when it should appear, or what it would be like. Matt.16:13-20.
The "Mystery of the Church" was first revealed to Paul.
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ...”
The mystery (hidden thing) was that Christ through death would make of two opposing people one unified body of those who have faith in Him. Read Ephesians 2:11-18.
The Church was unknown to the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets. That the Gentiles were to be saved was no mystery. Rom. 9:24-30. The "Mystery" was, that God was going to form an entirely "NEW THING," composed of Both Jew and Gentile, to be called-"THE CHURCH."