“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.” Here is a very short statement from the lips of our Lord, and yet it is immensely informative about the nature of the church. Consider that Matthew 16:18 teaches us a least the following five truths about the church (adapted from Alan Highers, “The New Testament Church”):
- Jesus is the builder of the church. “I will build my church.”
- The church belongs to Jesus. “I will build my”
- Jesus has only one church. “I will build my church” (singular).
- The church was then to be built in the future. “I will build my church.”
- The church would be built on the rock, i.e., the truth that Jesus is the Christ. Peter had just said in verse 16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
As we continue to read in the New Testament, it is easy for us to identify the church of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 16. The church was established in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to preach baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Those who were baptized were added to the kingdom, or the church (Acts 2:47; Acts 5:11; Mark 9:1; Colossians 1:13).
The apostle Paul taught that there was one body (Ephesians 4:4), and identified that one body as the church: “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23, emp. added).
Notice that contemporary people may have great difficulty understanding the implications of what Jesus taught in Matthew 16:18, because they often think in denominational concepts. For example, many assume that the word “church” refers to a particular denomination. But the idea of denominationalism is foreign to the Bible. If someone were to ask you what you are religiously, and you were to answer, “I am a member of the church” (a biblical response), then the quester might immediately ask, “Which church?”
Perhaps if we sometimes used another designation for the church, such as “the body of Christ,” then our friends might be led to think outside the denominational box. For example, have you ever heard anyone ask, “Which body?” I have not. Or, if we said, “I am a member of the bride of Christ,” probably no one would ask us “Which bride?” Nobody would suggest that Christ had many brides.
We are thankful to be members of Christ’s church.