References: Matthew 16:17-19; Romans 8:30
Given by God to Christ
Scripture gives us a clear picture of the church standing on God’s Word. We begin by looking at Eph. 2:19-20 (ESV):
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone…
Peter writes similarly in I Peter 2:4-6 (ESV):
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’
Consider a church building. What gives its structure stability? In ancient times the cornerstone played an indispensable role. Similarly, the living church must be based on the word, which is Christ himself, and the revelation given to the apostles.
Remember, the Father sent Christ for the purpose of giving him the church to save and to keep. This church is precious. It has been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus.
The first thing that must be absolutely clear — our basis for trusting what the catechism says as a promise, given to you by Christ, that He preserves the church — is that it is the church of God, given to Christ to preserve. That is the basis for absolute hope and confidence.
This is the reason Christ said, On this rock, meaning this confession — it is a play on words, since Peter means rock in Greek — I will build my church. The confession, which is the word of Christ, is the church’s foundation.
It is the church of God.
The means of perseverance
All right, but what about the powerful, dominant forces around us? How can the church fight against such forces? Again, looking at the confession here, Jesus does not just promise a personal protection. Instead, he says, “and the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it.”
We are talking about a force, a struggle, or war and a power, that is a kingdom. Christ gives us a picture of His kingdom and the kingdom of Satan.
The reality of a kingdom
Remember, Christ is the son of David. He is the king; this is the kingdom of God. Now the kingdom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom. It is not a political, geographical kingdom. It is not about who has more money, or more people, or who is more popular.
Instead, it is about the truth revealed by God through His Son. It is about the people who embrace and believe that truth. Remember the illustration of a stone building in I Peter. There we have Christ as the cornerstone, and the apostles’ teaching as the foundation, but don’t miss the fact that you, the believer, are also a part of this building. See vs. 4: “You also as living stones, being built up a spiritual house…” This is the kingdom, a living building, begun with Christ, including the apostles and you the believer. It will not be washed away by the floods which attack.
But these precious assurances do not mean Christ promised that everything will be glorious and easy in the church. Read what the same Apostle Peter says in chapter 4:12-14 (ESV):
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Peter says that the very church he is writing to, built on Christ and apostles, will suffer persecution. Thus it is also the church militant, the church in struggle… until the Lord returns.
In opposition to the kingdom of the world
In opposition to the church, Jesus speaks of Hades, the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of this world. As we speak of preserving the church, we must also be fully aware of the kingdom of Satan. The stuff going on out there right now, the things we find unbelievable, are real. It is not just something that happened in the past.
Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 (ESV): “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
That is Hades. That is real. That is the kingdom of Satan.
Paul also writes in Romans 1:22-25 (ESV),
Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
We should not be surprised by the turmoil in our world. If you think the beliefs and practices of the world today are convoluted, upside down, just plan unbelievable… yes, they are. It’s the natural consequence following the prince of darkness.
Blog post content taken from a sermon series delivered by Dr. Maynard Koerner, President and Professor of Ministerial Studies at Heidelberg Theological Seminary.