“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” (Matthew 16:18).
PETER HAD JUST CONFESSED THAT HE BELIEVED JESUS WAS THE MESSIAH. When Jesus had asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (v.15), Peter had spoken up and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v.16). Following Peter’s confession, Jesus said He would build His church on this “rock” — not Peter himself, but the truth confessed by Peter. This truth, that Jesus is the Son of God, is the secure foundation on which the church is built.
In the New Testament, the word “church” is a translation of the Greek ekklesia, which meant an assembly or gathering. Literally, it meant a “called-out” group, a convening of people who left whatever they were doing to answer the call to come together. So in Matthew 16:18, the Lord said that He would have a group of people who would be His church, His assembly — they would be separated from the world in order to belong to Him. We read in the Book of Acts about the fulfillment of this, where after the gospel was first preached following Jesus’ resurrection, many people were baptized and began living as members of the Lord’s church (Acts 2:1–47).
So the Lord did just what He promised He would do: He built His church. The very word “build” signifies solidity and permanence. The church’s foundation is the truth about Jesus — the truth that He loved us and died to forgive us so that we could become His people. And because this truth is indestructible, the church built upon it is indestructible. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Satan could not prevent God’s Son from accomplishing His mission, and he cannot destroy the church which the Son has built.
We err tragically when we minimize the church and fail to appreciate it. Shame on us if we think the church is nothing more than a topic that unbalanced preachers of a bygone era felt they needed to stress. If Christ built His church, it deserves our awe. Let us not “damn with faint praise” (to use Alexander Pope’s expression) that which ought to be gloriously and joyously exalted.
I love thy church, O God!
Her walls before thee stand,
Dear as the apple of thine eye,
And graven on thy hand.