18 Nov 2018
As Gospel Light celebrates our 31st anniversary, we want to remind ourselves about the foundation and future of the church. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ some 2000 years ago in Mat 16:18 are still perfectly relevant for us today. He reminds us about the church cornerstone- that the church's one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord. May we determine to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Let's pray that the gospel is the central focus of our church. He assures us about the church construction- that it is undertaken by none other than Himself- "I will build my church. " Let us then be focused on making disciples, and trust that He will add to His church. Lastly, He promises us about the church conquest- "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. " Amidst toil and persecution, the church is still unstoppable, for we serve a risen, victorious saviour! Find out more from this sermon here, and may your church bring glory to God!
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Well this morning I like to encourage all of us in our 31st anniversary with the words of Jesus Christ. Anniversaries are not for us to pat ourselves on the back I think, anniversaries are for us to thank God and to give glory to Him. It's also a time for us to remember our roots to remember what we stand for and to find that hope for the days that are ahead of us.
So I don't find a passage more suitable this morning than the words of Jesus Christ Himself uttered some 2,000 years ago. In Matthew 16 verse 18, Jesus with this singular statement gives us tremendous teaching about the foundation and basis of church and hope for the future that is to come. He said, And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Very famous verse, well known, well heard of and this is the very first time in the New Testament that the word church occurs, first mentioned. And the word church is not a complicated word, it's not a word that is monopolized by Christianity. The word church in the Greek is Ekklesia, it's a commonly used word. It's a word that refers to people that have been called out to form an assembly, it really means an assembly of people.
So in this case, applied to the kingdom of God, a church is about people called out of this world of sin, to belong to God. An assembly of people called out of this world to Jesus Christ, that's what church is all about. In other words, as we often say in Gospel Light, church is not about buildings, it's about people. Church is not about bricks and cement, it's about living souls. But even though church is not equal to a building, Jesus here is saying, church is likened to a building. Church is not a building, Gospel Light has been in existence for 31 years way before this building is built, but church is likened to a building.
Jesus here is using an architectural analogy, He's giving us a construction image. He's teaching us lessons about the church of Jesus Christ using a familiar concept called building a building. So He says on this rock, I will build My church and therefore, there are a few things I like you to take note of. First of all, this is not something that is unusual. Actually, Peter clarifies that later on in 1st Peter chapter 2, He says, you yourselves, you Christians, you believers, followers of Jesus Christ, you are like spiritual living stones being built up a as a spiritual house. So Christians are not bricks, we are not stones, but for the sake of analogy, for the sake of exampling. Well let's understand this, the church is like stones being stacked on one another, built up as a structure that is meant to glorify God.
So let me say this again whilst a church is not equal to a building, a church is likened to a building so that we may learn some precious spiritual truths. The first truth, I like you to take note of is in this statement, the church cornerstone. We've got understand what the basis and foundation of this church is, the church cornerstone. In the old days when people build a building or build a house, the most important piece would be the cornerstone.
The cornerstone is the largest piece that is set at the bottom, at the foundation that provides support to the structure and to the other stones that would be built upon it. So a cornerstone, Jesus is using to refer to, in this verse, on this rock I will build My church. A cornerstone may look something like this, the bigger piece, right at the corner, it offers stability, it offers support to the entire structure. And from the way you positioned that cornerstone, it also sets the limits, it sets the direction of the building. So the cornerstone is absolutely vital.
Now when Jesus says, on this rock I will build My church. What is the rock? Jesus Christ. Very fast answer, yes, the answer we would give is Jesus Christ. But how do you know it's Jesus Christ? On this rock I will build, but how do we know that the rock is Jesus Christ? Well, that's where when you read the Bible, it's important to not just read one verse in isolation, read the verses before and after, read the context. So the story goes in verse 15 that Jesus asked His disciples, Who do you say that I am? You say, you see, what's happened is that the disciples have been saying, oh Jesus, do you know that people think that you are a prophet, people think that you're John the Baptist, people think you're Elijah, people think you're this and that. Jesus says, alright that's, that's, okay, what's important is, who do you say that I am? What do you think? And the first person to answer this question is...? Peter, it's always Peter, right, he's like the guy who speaks the fastest, fastest brain, fastest mouth.
He says, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The word Christ is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament word Messiah. It really means or refers to someone who is chosen, someone who is anointed, you say what's anointing? It's such a weird word. Well in the Bible, Jewish concept, when the king is chosen, he will be inaugurated, he will be installed by means of an anointing. Anointing is the pouring of oil on his head and let it flow down. It's a symbol of blessings of God upon him, it's a symbol of the Spirit of God upon him.
So Peter says, You are the Christ, You are the chosen One, You are the anointed One, you are to be the King and You are the Son of the Living God. So this is what Peter said and look at what Jesus replied in response. Jesus answered him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! What is Bar-Jonah? Son of Jonah. The word Bar is son of, so Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed. Why? Because what you have just said, because what you have understood, what you have professed is not something you figured out by yourself. It's not even something people could teach you and convince you about. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
You know something about yourself today? If you could say with your heart, Jesus is the Christ, He is the chosen Savior, if you could say with all your heart, He is the Son of the Living God, it is God who has revealed this to you. You are a blessed person. There are many people today, you can teach them the Bible, show them the Bible, you can tell them Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the Son of the Living God, they just won't believe, they may reject you, they may scold you, they may just brush this off. Why? Because this is not something we can figure out by ourselves. It's a simple statement, but it's difficult to figure out in our sinful darkened minds. And it is the grace of God, the goodness of God, the blessing of God to reveal this.
So Simon you are blessed. Why? Because God has revealed this to you. And therefore in verse 18, I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church. In other words, Peter, when you said, I am the Christ, the Son of the Living God, you're blessed, Peter, and on this statement, on this confession, on this understanding, I will build My church. So that's I think the natural way, the right way to understand this passage. I took out verses in between but I read it to you, I hope you see the link. Why do we say that the church is built on Jesus Christ? He is the foundation, He is our basis, He's the One who sets the direction, He's the One who is indispensable in the church because based on this passage, Peter said, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God and Jesus said, on this rock I will build My church.
Now this is consistent with the rest of the Scriptures. For example, in first or in Acts chapter 4, we read that Christ is the Cornerstone, This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, (rejected by the Jewish leaders during their time) but now has become the Cornerstone (of the church). He's the foundation of the church. 1st Corinthians 3, For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
So let me bring you back, Matthew 16, the church is built on a rock, on the solid foundation, what is that? Jesus is the Christ, the chosen One, He's the Son of the Living God, He's the One who saves us from our sins. Now, I know there are newcomers here with us. I know you are, some of you have never been to church and I know this is probably already quite confusing. What I'm going to say next may confuse you even more. If it confuses you just like that, I'll tell you when to open your ears again.
But I'm speaking not only to newcomers, I also understand that there are Christians in our midst, there are people who have been troubled by questions thrown at them about this text, so let me just spend about a few minutes explaining this further. Because there are people today who read this verse and say, no, no, no, let's look at this verse, very simply, let just take away that first part and say, You are Peter and on this rock I will build My church. It seems natural to me to assume and to understand that, Peter. Don't you see? Peter is the rock. Something wrong with my English? No, right? If you read this, You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church. It is not unreasonable to read it this way. Agree? It's not unreasonable to read it this way.
So there are people today who say the church must be built on Peter. And since Peter has already died the church must be lead, must be built by people, by men who are successors to Peter. Without this human successor there is no true church. There are many people who believe that, there must be a human successor to Peter, because the foundation of the church is Peter and his successors.
Christian scholars therefore are very quick to say no, that cannot be. Christian scholars point us to the original Greek words, thou art Peter, which is Petros, and upon this Petra, rock, I will build My church. In the Greek it's two different words, actually they are very similar words. They are actually different forms of the same word. The word Petros is the feminine form, the word, oh! masculine form, the word Petra is the feminine form.
Basically, the word Petros means a little stone and the word Petra means a big boulder. And so they say, Jesus is saying, You are Petro and upon this Petra I will build My church. Jesus is not saying really that Peter is the foundation, that's what Christian scholars are very quick to jump in, so that we don't have the idea that the church is built on the man, a successor to Peter, there's no such thing like that.
However, I think that would be an overreaction really to a wrong understanding that there must be human successor. I would suggest to you that the plain natural reading of this text does allow for us to say in a sense the church is built upon Peter. But let me quickly also add, not in a sense that it is built on Peter's character, person or achievements or abilities, but simply on Peter's proclamation.
You're Peter and on this rock, what you said, Peter, I will build My church. You see, Peter himself never said that the church is built on him. In his epistles, first Peter, second Peter, he would say that I'm an elder, I am a shepherd, I'm an apostle. And in 1st Peter chapter 2 in particular, he says that the solid rock of the church is not himself, but Jesus Christ, he's clear about it. And if you think Peter should be the foundation of the church, you will be sorely disappointed because Peter sin a few moments right after this, the church cannot be built on sinful, frail man.
But in a sense, the church can be built on Peter and his profession, not his person. I think that's the right way to understand this otherwise you will have difficulty with verses such as Ephesians 2:20 that says build the church, it's built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. In what way is the church based on the apostles and prophets? In this way, that the apostles and prophets point us to Jesus Christ. They teach us about Jesus Christ, the church is not built upon the works and worth of the prophets or apostles, there is none. The church is built upon the works and worth of Jesus but the apostles and prophets, point us to Christ.
Are you lost? Let me ask you, what is the church cornerstone today? Jesus Christ, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Is Peter the rock? My answer is both yes and no.
Yes, in a sense, in that his profession is the rock. So you are Peter and upon this rock, upon your, your specific profession, I will build My church. But no, in the sense that it is not based on his works or his worth. So what is the church cornerstone? I can say it is Christ. I can say it is the confession that Jesus is the Christ. I can say that it is Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ. You get that? But essentially we are saying that the church is built upon the Personhood, the work and the worth of Jesus Christ. It just came from the mouth of Peter and God honored that in this. But let it be clear that we are not saying that the church must have a human successor to Peter, I don't see that in the Scriptures at all, but the church must be built upon Jesus Christ.
So on this 31st anniversary, what is church? Is church about people who gather in this hall? Is church about people who eat downstairs during lunch? Is church about people who come and sing some words? I tell you, fundamentally a church is a gathering of people who confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The foundation of this church is not your pastor, it's not some man, your foundation of the church is that we all believe and we live in such a way that honors Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
And I pray this church will continue to remain on this straight and narrow way. I pray that our church will always determined to know nothing, except Christ and Him crucified. There are many things that are clamoring for attention, whether it's social justice, mercy and needs, whether it's LGBT movement, there's so many things! But as I've often say here, said here, let us center on the Gospel because He is the foundation of church.
So that's what is the first thing I want to share, I got to rush quickly and the second thing I like us to look at is the church construction because Jesus said I will build My church. John MacArthur is a well-known pastor, world renowned I think and there was an interviewer who interviews leaders from big churches and this interviewer came to John MacArthur and asked him, Sir, do you want to build a big church? John MacArthur immediately said to him, No, I don't want to. He say Why? Every pastor I interviewed, say he wants to. And John MacArthur says I don't want to because Jesus has already said He will build His church and I don't want to compete with Him. He said this a little tongue-in-cheek of course but it is true, Jesus is the builder of the church.
I've been a pastor here for 12 years. When I first started out, I, I hear, I read, I understand that it's not easy to be a pastor in any church, it's not easy to serve as a shepherd. The reason is because there can be a lot of depression, a lot of burnout, stressors, anxieties, expectations and so I enter with a kind of a trepidation. But after this 12 years, I would say to you, I'm still standing, I'm still living, I'm still happy serving the Lord and after all these 12 years, I can tell you one of the fundamental joys and comforts and assurances I have in ministry is exactly Matthew 16:18. I don't think at all, I'm responsible to build this church because the responsibility lies with Jesus, I'm not going to compete with Him.
So you say, pastor, you very lazy ah like that? Wah you like that don't have to do, everything say Jesus, zuo bo ah (in Hokkien, meaning: slack off, do nothing) what, what, what, what do you do? Well let's be very clear about our job descriptions. Nowhere in the Bible does God commands His people to build His church, it's Jesus' role. But at the same time God has also given you a very clear job description.
There are people today wondering about what's God's will for me in my life. I tell you, it's already given in the Bible. And this job description, this will, is not only for your pastors or your full-time workers, it's given to all of us, you know what that is? Very simple, so simple that sometimes we forget and assume. Matthew 28 says, Go and make disciples. What is your role? What is your job? Build church? No. Make disciples.
These two statements must be clearly apportioned. The problem with churches today is that we think Jesus makes disciples and we build church. So instead of investing ourselves in humble, quiet, patient, long-suffering ways to help people know Christ and grow in Christ, we think we are responsible for building churches, increasing the numbers, increasing our influences, growing bigger and we therefore succumb to compromises in methods and messages.
Wow, this church is going to be assessed by numbers. Pastor, what are you going to do about falling numbers? Why is our church size stagnating? You're not doing your job, you're not building the church, so try harder. And so the pastor gets stressed and he gets stressed and he uses funny methods, gimmicks, tricks and he starts to preach things people like to hear just to get people in. Why? We are not clear about our job description. I'm pretty sure that when I get to heaven, God is not going to ask me, Jason, how big your church ah? But He's going to ask have you been faithfully making disciples.
My job description is clear, your job description is clear. Are you making disciples at home? Are you making disciples in your workplace? Are you reaching people around you? You know, making disciples is not easy. You don't guarantee success, right? I mean out of the 12 Jesus had, one turned out to be a rotten fruit. But that's what we need to do and whether God increases, God brings in, God... that's Jesus' pasar, we say here in Singapore, my pasar, my business is to make disciples.
You look at the early church, the Bible tells us the early church, the disciples, they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship. I love this. You know why the early church grew? You know why the early church was dynamic? You know why the early church was changing the world around them? They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship.
You know what Singaporeans are devoted to? We have interesting side effects, sound effects, what, what are Singaporeans devoted to? Money, Korean drama, soccer. We are devoted to these things, no time for the Bible, no time to learn. Oh, the Bible, ah it's okay when I need help, when I'm feeling down, when I need stress relief then I go to the Bible, otherwise it's okay. What is the attitude? Devotion. They were dedicated. The early church prospered because the people devoted themselves to the study of God's Word and they devoted themselves also to fellowship, amongst many things.
In other words to them, communities, spiritual community is not an option. They don't say to themselves, ah, all I need to do is to hear a sermon and that's all I need as a Christian. No, they devoted themselves also to fellowship. Let me ask you, are you lamenting stagnation in your spiritual life? Are you lamenting the fact that you're not what you should be? You know you should be someone else, you know should be somewhere better, you should be more like Jesus, but you're not and you lament that, let me ask you, have you availed yourself to commitment to the means of grace? Simple question, are you serious about pursuing and following Jesus? There's no shortcut, there's no instant magic potion. God has ordained these biblical means for your growth and transformation, it's all about the heart.
Well, the apostles knew what was important and the apostles gave themselves, dedicated themselves also to prayer and the ministry of the Word. And as a result of that we see in verse 47, The Lord added to their number day by day. Who is building the church? The Lord. Who is saving souls? The Lord. But at the same time the apostles are not slack nor complacent, they gave themselves to the teaching and praying for the people.
So I see a balance that we as a church must focus ourselves on making disciples, helping people believe and grow in the Gospel and when we do so, God in His sovereign goodness, in His providence adds to His church, builds his church.
The hope of Gospel Light is that the builder of this church is not pastor Paul, pastor Jason or anyone of us at all, the builder of this church is Jesus Christ. And for the years to come, for the decades to come, I may die, I may do not know what happened to me, it really doesn't matter because Jesus is the builder of the church. That's our hope, I hope that's your joy and confidence.
The last thing I want to say in this text is the church conquest. Now the imagery changes a bit, Jesus mixes two imageries in this one statement. The first is an architectural imagery, the second is a wartime imagery, the conquest of the church, because He says The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
So this is war, gates are not known as offensive weapons, right? Nobody goes to war carrying a door, huurr... you don't do that, it's stupid. Gates are never used for war or as offensive weapons, gates are defensive structures, right? So when Jesus says the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, it's referring to the church. He's saying that the church, led by Jesus Christ Himself is like a wartime army that chargers into the citadel, into the fortress of Satan, into the prison of sin and hell and the gates that are keeping God out will not be able to keep Jesus and His church out, they will fall. And the church, Jesus will enter in and rescue the perishing.
In other words Jesus is painting a picture of an unstoppable, victorious church. Isn't that encouraging? Because we hear so much about how Christians are being persecuted, churches are being suppressed, people are dying in the faith and how there are other religions that seem to prosper and Christianity limps along, don't you believe a word of that?
Oh yes the church has always been persecuted but don't you believe that God's work is going to be stopped? No, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church of Jesus Christ. God is on the move and consistently and constantly He's adding to His church. Jesus is entering the strong man's house and plundering and rescuing and saving, that's what it is all about.
By the way, just a little trivial or interesting note. The word gates here can also refer to authorities, why? Because in the Bible, leaders of cities are said to meet at the gate. So the gates here can also refer to the spiritual authorities in dark places, Satan and his minions. And in a sense, we see that in Colossians 2:15 where God is said to disarmed the rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame by triumphing over these spiritual dark forces, in Him that is Jesus Christ. Satan and his minions are powerless before Christ and His church.
The last question I have for you is how. How is Jesus victorious? How is Jesus able to have victory over Satan and his minions? How did He do it? Because Jesus didn't carry a sword when He was here. What did He do? Well, this is the paradox of the Christian life, this is the beauty of the Gospel. Jesus didn't come first as a militant conquering warrior but He came as a humble servant. He came as a lamb who will defeat death by death. He would come and go to the cross to die for our sins and He hinted that. In fact He didn't hint about that, He spoke about that explicitly, three verses later, when He said He will be killed and on the third day be raised. I will build My church upon your confession, Peter. I will build it and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Why? Because I will be killed and I'll be raised the third day.
In other words, I'm going to defeat sin, death and hell and prove it by My resurrection from the dead. I'm fulfilling what God has promised 6,000 over years ago in the garden of Eden when He said, You, serpent, shall bruise His heel, but He will crush your head. By My death, I will defeat Satan and the powers of darkness.
For all friends who are here today, let me tell you the good news, the good news is that there is a Savior who can rescue you from sin's prison. There's a Savior today who can set you free from Satan. Don't you realize today that you are a slave to sin, a prisoner of Satan? And you are kept behind these gates of hell. But Jesus Christ, God's Son came to die and rise again that He may come and rescue you from the citadel and fortress of hell.
Today, would you join the called out ones? The assembly of God people, of God's people who profess, who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Would you repent of your sin and believe in Him, that you may be saved? Today, this is about Jesus building His church, today's Gospel Light we must remember the foundation is the Gospel of Christ. Our hope is in our Savior and let us be faithfully making disciples and see Him work in a wonderful way.
One of the joys I have in this church is I know I'm not responsible for the results, I'm responsible for my faithfulness to Him and I'm privileged to be in the front seat to see how God builds His church, it's a joy to serve Him. Let us remember today, therefore the church cornerstone, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Let us remember the construction is undertaken not by you or nor me, but by our Savior Himself. Let us remember that there is conquest, Jesus is victorious, the church is unstoppable. Serve Him with such confidence, give the Gospel to those around you. Remember Jesus said, all authority has been given to you, go make disciples. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.
Father we thank You this morning for a simple word from a simple but powerful verse. I pray that we would have such a convincement in this verse, in your promise that we would live our lives and stake our lives on this verse. We pray that Gospel Light will continue to be faithful to the Gospel, that we will have our eyes on Jesus, believing that He is the chosen One, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Help us today whilst we labor and live to make disciples, also have that contentment and assurance and composure that Jesus is the Builder. Lord, thank You that we are part of an unstoppable force and may we serve You with joy till Jesus returns.
We want to pray again for all our friends gathered here this morning, this might be a complicated sermon I understand but let this be clear for them that they are now prisoners in the citadel of Satan, of sin, of hell, but they can be freed, they can be saved, if they were to repent and believe in Jesus, Your Son, so please grant to them, understanding, repentance and faith. Lord, be pleased even on this day to save souls, continue to build the church. We pray in Jesus Name, Amen.
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