The Certainty of God's Church

Great Certainties for Uncertain Times  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Church under attack - moral direction of society; laws outlawing the gospel; rise in liberal ideology and left-wing politics.
Living in the last days - apostasy; apathy; lukewarmness

1. The Foundation of the Church

Matthew 16:18 KJV 1900
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Our NT was first written in Koine Greek.
Petros = rock or stone, as in a piece broken off
Petra = rock, as in bedrock or cliff
Claim by RC - Peter the rock and the keyholder
Based on Aramaic
John 1:42 KJV 1900
42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
Kephas = rock, stone
Assumption Jesus spoke to Peter in Aramaic. But also Hebrew, Koine Greek.
But, a stronger argument that I haven’t seen used.
The original conversation - Peter wasn’t speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - revelation, but not inspiration.
Gospels written some time after the ascension of Christ, when all notes and recollections and accounts were compiled by Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn.
The source material may have been in Aramaic or Hebrew, but the gospels were compiled and written as inspired whole works in Greek.
Those written gospels were written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and under that inspiration, Matt used these two Greek words, petros & petra.
On that basis, we can confidently say that the Holy Spirit wanted us to understand there was a difference, and an important one at that.
So, what is the petra, the solid rock, that the Church is built upon?
Well, not Peter - he was a stone broken off the bedrock. He became Peter rather than Simon after his confession of faith.
And that’s the rock - not just that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, but the repentant sinner’s confession of that truth by faith.
Faith in Christ is the rock upon which the church is built.
Matthew 7:24 KJV 1900
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
Hear and do - faith at work.
1 Corinthians 3:11 KJV 1900
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Christ is the foundation and personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the basis upon which the church is built. Each new stone is added according to their confession of faith in Christ.
Romans 10:9 KJV 1900
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Peter’s confession of faith is contained within this verse written by Paul.
“Thou art the Christ” >>> “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus”
“the Son of the living God” >>> “believe in thise heart that God hath raised Him from the dead”
And so the foundation rock upon which the church is built is each repentant sinner’s confession of faith that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
By the way, Peter’s confession of faith was brought about the same way any of us are saved today.
Matthew 16:17 KJV 1900
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
I as a preacher, or any of us as sharers of the gospel, cannot make someone see the truth in their heart. We can’t convince the unsaved of the truth in their soul.
That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
Only God can make sinners see the truth, and we can praise God for the day our eyes were opened by God to the truth of our sin and of the Saviour who saves from sin. We can rejoice that God revealed the truth to us and in response we made our confession of faith as we repented of our sin and accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Look a bit closer at Peter’s confession.
“Thou art the Christ”
The anointed One - Jews = Mesheach, Messiah
Only times the term is used:
Daniel 9:25–26 KJV 1900
25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
John 1:41–42 KJV 1900
41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. 42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
John 4:25 KJV 1900
25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
Messiah >>> bringer of truth and deliverer from sin - the way, the truth, and the life
“the Son of the living God”
Heb. “the Son of the living the God”
= “the Son of the living God, the Father”
i.e. Jesus is not separate from God but is God in essence - Jesus Christ is the Son of God = Jesus Christ is God the Son.
Many testified to this:
Luke 1:35 KJV 1900
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
John 1:49 KJV 1900
49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
John 11:27 KJV 1900
27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
Jesus Himself
John 11:4 KJV 1900
4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.
The demons
Matthew 8:29 KJV 1900
29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
Mark 3:11 KJV 1900
11 And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.
Matthew 4:3 KJV 1900
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
Matthew 4:6 KJV 1900
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Matthew 14:33 KJV 1900
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
High Priest, with Chief Priests, Elders, & the council
Matthew 26:63–66 KJV 1900
63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. 64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. 66 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
Ethiopian Eunuch
Acts 8:37 KJV 1900
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Acts 9:20 KJV 1900
20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
1 John 4:9 KJV 1900
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
1 John 4:15 KJV 1900
15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
1 John 5:20 KJV 1900
20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
No doubt that the title of Son of God is synonymous with deity.
And so Peter’s confession - Jesus is the Way, Truth, Life, God in flesh, come to save sinners.

2. The Construction of the Church

Matthew 16:18 KJV 1900
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
We are not building the church. We’re tools in the hand of the One who is building it.
The great Builder of the Church is Christ Himself.
Through confessions of faith in Him, Christ is building His church.
Peter’s sermon on Day of Pentecost based around his confession ...
Acts 2:36 KJV 1900
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Call to make a personal confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ...
Acts 2:21 KJV 1900
21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Public confession and identification with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:38 KJV 1900
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The church was an identifiable group of individuals… need for public identification with the people of God locally.
NB Peter didn’t add to the church. He preached, but the Lord did the adding. It was faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that brought people into the body of Christ.
Acts 2:47 KJV 1900
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
It must be the same today.
A personal faith in the Lord Jesus is vital for being brought into the body of believers known as the church.
I know that some denominations have infant baptism, and as part of that ritual the pronoucement is made that the child is now a part of the church, the body of Christ.
Yet that child hasn’t even the ability to understand who they are let alone who Christ is. It’s impossible for them to exercise personal faith at that age.
Now I know that the argument will be made that that’s what confirmation is for - so that the child can confirm personally that they are part of the body of Christ.
But I must ask the question - did they, between christening and confirmation, confess their sin before God, repent, and personally accept Christ as their Saviour? If they didn’t then they’re confirming something that has never happened.
Please don’t misunderstand me - I’m not saying that those in such denominations are all lost and deceiving themselves. I know there are saved people, truly saved people, in such churches, and while I don’t agree with their rituals I willingly accept those who have repentend from sin and accepted Christ personally as my brother and sister in Christ.
But there are those in such places who only have their rituals, but have no personal relationship with Christ.
And there are those within our own denomination who may be relying on a different kind of ritual - a forced profession of faith brought about by habit and a fear of embarrassment, but that has no basis in personal confession of repentance and faith.
The church is not built upon rituals or upon habits or professions - it is built by Christ.
It is by personal faith in Christ as the only hope of salvation for a lost sinner that the church is built.
And the church is still being built today.
The church in China is growing exponentially, even as it is being persecuted by the state.
The church in Vietnam must meet in secret, but it’s still growing.
Thousands of Muslims in islamic countries are coming to faith in Christ every week.
In places of desperation and persecution and poverty the church is growing.
In fact, it seems that only place where growth has stalled is in the Western world, where the church has grown comfortable.
Perhaps COVID is the means God will use to shake the church awake again and revive us into a zealous, passionate, active body used by Christ to build His church, even in this area.

3. The Preservation of the Church

Matthew 16:18 KJV 1900
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
A much misunderstood verse.
Hell is NEVER presented as the domain of Satan or the seat of Satan’s power.
Satan fell from the throne of God in Heaven.
Isaiah 14:12 KJV 1900
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Yet He still, somehow, has access to God to accuse the saints.
Job - presented himself before God
Re 12.10 - “the accuser of the brethren”
At present, the physical heavens are his domain.
Ephesians 2:2 KJV 1900
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Time coming when he will be cast down to the earth
Revelation 12:7–10 KJV 1900
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
So “the gates of hell” - not speaking of satanic opposition nor opposition from Satan-motivation, demon-manipulated regimes. Not speaking of the difficulties caused by immorality or ungodliness in society.
Hell is “hades” in Gk or “sheol” in Heb. - refers to the unseen place where the spirits of the dead go.
In OT, it was understood that all the dead went into sheol - the grave - whether they were godly or ungodly.
The Lord seemed to confirm that the grave, sheol, hades, or hell, had two kinds of resident - the godly dead, like Lazarus the beggar, who resided in a place called Abraham’s Bosum, and the ungodly dead, like the righ man, who resided in the flames of torment known as Gehenna.
When the Lord died on Calvary His spirit went into the grave, but not into Gehenna.
Acts 2:27 KJV 1900
27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Acts 2:31 KJV 1900
31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
When we say that Jesus went into hell, we are technically correct, because hell is the grave, but the way we use the term hell introduces confusion - think of hell as only the place of torment.
So why did Christ descend into the grave? To release those in Abraham’s Bosum and bring them into Heaven.
Ephesians 4:8–10 KJV 1900
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
Righteous dead were held in the grave until Christ came to deliver them and conquered the grave through His resurrection.
Now, when we think of hell, it is aa place reserved for torment.
Important for understanding prophecy.
Revelation 6:8 KJV 1900
8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Only the unsaved will be destroyed by death when the fourth horseman rides.
Revelation 20:13 KJV 1900
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Only the unsaved are delivered up by hell to be judged at the Great White Throne.
None of the saved ever go into the unseen world of the dead, but into the presence of God in Heaven.
So how does this affect our understanding of the Lord’s words?
When he said “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” His building of His church, He meant that death would not hinder the building of the church.
1 Corinthians 15:54–57 KJV 1900
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The death of Christ wouldn’t hinder the building of the church. In fact, as we know, His death was the means by which the church would be formed, sin would be defeated, the works of Satan would be destroyed, and death would be defanged!
But it’s also true to say that the death of a believer will not hinder the building of the church of Christ.
I always remember Tom Orr and Sam Carson describing the church as having two separated parts.
The church militant - the church active in the world today - that’s you and me. We’re alive and active and serving the Lord in His army, fighting against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
The church triumphant - those saved in Christ and are now promoted to glory and are in the presence of their Saviour, and enjoying the glories He had promised them.
But whether part of the church militant or the church triumphant, we are one church and one body in Christ.
Day coming when the church trimuphant will rise first and along with the church militant will be given our new bodies, then as one reunited church we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Death cannot suppress Christ’s building of His church.
The blood of the martyrs are the seeds of the church.
The worst man can do only acts as fertiliser for the harvest of saved souls.
We are on the victory side.
As part of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ we are members of an undefeatable army whose weapons of warfare are the Word of God and the Spirit of God.
As we are faithful in preaching God’s Word and living in obedience to God’s Word, so The Lord will use us to build His church, stone by stone.
But He asks us to be faithful, and not to fear - not to be intimidated by the roars and the attacks of the enemy, but to stand fast, empowered by the Holy Spirit to work together for the sake of Christ and His gospel.
It’s true we live in uncertain times, and it would be easy to be overwhelmed.
But our studies have reminded us of the great certainties of our faith - the certainty of:
God’s Plans
God’s Word
God’s Son
God’s Salvation
God’s Rewards
God’s Church
…and I trust these certainties will strengthen us to endure in these uncertain days.
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