Do You Know What The “Church” Is ?
Is the “church” a building? Is the “church” a group of people” Exactly what is the “church”? Many people really don’t understand what is being referred to, by the term “the church”. I think that the majority of people think “the church” refers to the building that people come together in for worship.
But that’s not what the “church” is. At least that is not what God says that the “church” is. As a matter of fact, The word “church” is an incorrect translation of the original Greek New Testament. The Greek word used here is “ekklesia” which means “A calling out”, in the sense of people who have been “called out” of the world, and added to God’s “congregation” of followers. These “called out” people, make up His “assembly”. And so the word “ekklesia” really means a “congregation”, or an “assembly” of God’s people.
We’re told in Colossians 1:18, “He also is the head of the body, the church, and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.” Christ has preeminence, He has first place in everything; Therefore to the church, He’s the “Head”; The head of the body, the congregation of His people.
Jesus Promised to Build His “Congregation”
In Mathew 16:18 , Jesus said to His apostle Peter; “And I also say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this the rock, I will build My “church” (or My congregation)
And so we see that the “church” is something that belongs to Jesus, and it’s something that He said that he would build! And as I’ve already said, a more perfect translation for the word “church”, would actually be, “congregation”, or “assembly”. And so I’ll use that wording often as we go through this study. Just remember that every time I use the words “congregation”, or “assembly”, I’m referring to the word that our English bibles translates as “church”.
Jesus said, “..upon this the rock, I will build MY congregation”. Upon what rock? What “rock” was He talking about? Was Peter the rock? Is Christ’s called out assembly, Christ’s “congregation”, built upon the “foundation” of Peter?
No.. Peter wasn’t the “rock” that Jesus was referring to. Peter isn’t the foundation of Christ’s body. Christ is the “head”, but He’s also the very foundation upon which His congregation stands. 1 Corinthians 3, verse 11 says; “For other foundation can any man lay, besides that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus has all preeminence, He’s the “head”, but He’s also the foundation upon which we stand.
When Jesus said; “Upon this the rock..” He was making an analogy, a comparison, between Peter, who’s name means “rock”, and the “foundational rock” that His church would be built upon.
To see what Jesus was referring to, we need to go back to Mathew 16, verse 13; Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered and said, “Some say John the Baptist, and others, Elijah, but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets”. They thought maybe one of these great men of God had come back to life again.
Then Jesus asked, in verse 15; “But who do YOU say that I am?” And Peter answered, and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
And Jesus said to Peter, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”.
That was verse 17, now we come again to verse 18, where Jesus said; “And I say to you, that you are Peter..” and we need to pause here to understand what the name “Peter” means. The names of people in those days always had a meaning, and the name Peter, comes from the Greek name “Petros”, meaning.. a rock, or a stone, or even a boulder. But it refers to the kind of rock, that you’d find along a primitive roadside, or maybe even in the middle of the road. Not unlike a lot of the unimproved roads that we have around here.
Here’s another verse that uses that same word. This scripture speaks of Jesus as a “rock” which people would come across, and stumble over, as if they didn’t see the rock in their path. That’s how it was, especially with the Jews of Jesus’ day, who didn’t understand, they didn’t “see” that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, which of course is the Hebrew word, for the Christ. And so they “stumbled” so to speak, over Jesus, even denying that He was the Christ.
And so the bible speaks of Jesus in this fashion, in 1 Peter 2, verse 8, where it refers to Jesus as; “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, (the word of Christ) being disobedient..”
People today stumble over the word of Christ. I guess they don’t really believe that the word of Christ, the bible, has the authority that it does; And so they don’t obey the word, and the “stumble” in their faith; And so many completely fall; They fall away from any chance of being saved, because they don’t believe in the authority, of the word of Christ! And so in that respect, Jesus Himself was called a “Petra” which is simply another form of the name “Petros” which was Peter’s Hebrew name.
And so it would go without saying, that Jesus was not promising to build His called out assembly of the saved, upon a rock, that people would stumble over. What kind of a congregation would that be? No, Jesus was promising to build His congregation of the saved, upon something much more substantial than a mere “rock” or a “stone” that you trip over.
A Piece of Rock, or a Stone, as Compared to a Ledge Rock
But now listen to what Jesus promised to build His church upon; His congregation; Jesus said, in Mathew 16, verse 18; “..and upon this the Rock, I will build My congregation!” And I would put an exclamation mark there.. “Upon this the Rock!”
The word Jesus used here, which is translated “Rock” means “a mass of rock”, “a ledge rock”; A “ledge rock” that would serve as the greatest foundation ever. And so we have gone from a stone, a piece of a rock, to a ledge rock! Here’s the point to all this. Jesus was making a comparison. He said to Peter, your name means a piece of rock, (even the kind someone might stumble over) but I am going to build My church, upon a “ledge rock”. And the ledge rock that Jesus is referring to, is the “Truth” that Peter had just stated, and confessed, in verse 16.. that “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
That’s quite a statement, and it’s the greatest “Truth” of all time! The whole bible is based upon that “Rock”. Our very salvation is based upon the “Fact”, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God! There’s no more important “Fact”, and no more important “Truth”, than that.
That Jesus is the Christ! Our faith, and our hope, and our salvation, depends, upon that truth, and that truth is the “Ledge Rock” that the church of Christ, the church that He built, is stands upon! Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, but upon this “Ledge Rock”, the “ledge rock” confession that I am the Christ, that’s what I’ll build My assembly of the saved upon” That’s the foundation that will outlast the ages, and still be standing when eternity comes.
And so Christ did it; He built His congregation upon the true confession, and the true fact, that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It’s one of the “steps” of salvation. Confessing your faith in Jesus Christ. Mathew 10, verses 32 & 33. Confess Me before men, and be confessed by Christ before the Father; Or deny Christ before men, and be denied before the Father who is in heaven.
The apostle John wrote in John 20:31; “And these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing, you may have life in His name”.
The “Church”, or “Congregation”, is Built On Jesus Christ
Christ’s congregation is not built upon a mere man, but rather, it is built upon the Truth of God, that Jesus is the Christ.
So there you go; The “church” belongs to Jesus, it’s His congregation. And it’s built upon the most important truth that God has ever revealed! And His church isn’t a building. It’s a congregation of saved souls! And the scripture calls that congregation, “the body of Christ”.
The bible says in Eph 1:22-23, “And He (God) put all things in subjection under His feet (under Christ’s feet) and gave Him as “Head” over all things to the congregation, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
Col 1:18 says, “He is also the Head of the body, the church..” So we can easily see that the congregation of His people, is Christ’s “body”. And of course the bible is speaking “figuratively” and “Spiritually” here. The congregation is Christ’s Spiritual body. Now let me add one more scripture here,
Romans 8:9, and it says, “But you are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit if Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
Now you can easily see from that verse, that the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ, are the same thing. And you can also see that those who have the Spirit of God and Christ dwelling in them, are said to no longer be in the flesh, but in the Spirit. God has told us, through the bible, that the congregation is Christ’s Spiritual body. And God has also told us that if we have His Spirit within us, then we are also in the Spirit.
Now listen please to 1 Peter 2:5, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a Spiritual house, for a holy priesthood, to offer up Spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ.”
Christians Are living Stones
Christians, are “living stones”, that make up a “spiritual house”, so that they can be a “holy priesthood”, for the purpose of offering up “spiritual sacrifices” to God, through, Jesus Christ.
1 Pet 2:9 says, “But you are a “Chosen Race”, a “Royal Priesthood”, a “Holy Nation”, “A people for God’s own possession”, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness, into His marvelous light”.
Christians, have been called out of the darkness of this world, into the marvelous light of Christ’s congregation. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, just before His crucifixion..
“My kingdom is not of this world”, and He said, “My kingdom is not of this realm”, John 18:36. Jesus’ kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, it’s not of this world. Just like Christians are not of this world; They are no longer “in the flesh”, but they are now “in the Spirit”. Romans 8, verse 9.
When Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this Rock, I will build My congregation”, He said in the very next sentence (Mathew 16:19), “I will give you the keys to the kingdom”.
Listen to that once more.. “Upon this ledge rock, I will build My congregation, and I will give you, the keys to the kingdom”
Jesus was going to build His assembly of believers, and give Peter the keys to the kingdom. It’s quite obvious that the “assembly” and the “kingdom”, are one and the same thing. To paraphrase Jesus, He said, “Peter, upon the confession of truth, that I am the Christ, the Son of the living God, which is the ledge rock of the Christian faith, I will build My congregation. And I will give you the privilege, of having the keys to that congregation, which is My kingdom”.
Peter used those “Keys to the Kingdom”, on the day of Pentecost, when he first preached, the terms of salvation in Christ, and the terms of entrance into that kingdom, as recorded in Acts 2:38-39. And here are those “terms of salvation” as specified in those verses; Now remember, the people listening on that day, were already believers in God, and now they had just become believers in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God. And so we have that “ledge rock” foundation already there. Now listen to the commands from God, the “terms of salvation”..
And this is for all who comes to believe in Christ..
“Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself” Acts 2:38 & 39.
The promise is for all of us. And what is the promise? The apostle John wrote of the promise, in 1 John 2, verse 25, “And this is the promise which He Himself made to us; Even Eternal Life”. Eternal life in the congregation of Christ, the church of Christ, along with all the saved, of all time, in the marvelous kingdom of His beloved Son.
And the bible says in Acts 2:47; “And the Lord was adding to the congregation daily, those who were being saved”. The Lord God Himself, added people to His Son’s kingdom, His church, daily, as He was forgiving their sins, and saving them, from the consequences of those sins. That’s the gospel of Christ.
What is the “church”?
The “church” is the Spiritual body of Christ, made up of those people that have been called out of this world, and into God’s kingdom. And how did they get into the congregation of Christ? And how do you get into the church of Christ? Upon your faith that Jesus is the Christ, and upon your willingness to confess that truth, and upon your obedience to the commands of repentance AND baptism.. Baptism is a burial in water, for the purpose of washing away your sins..
And so upon your fulfillment of those requirements, the Lord our God will Himself, add you to His congregation of the saved. No one can simply “join” Christ’s church; It doesn’t work that way. But the Lord Himself will add you to His body, when you’ve obeyed His commands.
Won’t you do so today?