The Church (a 19-part study)

The church is many things to many people. Some think of it as an institution. Others think of it in terms of a building or a place where people go to worship. These are common misunderstandings of what the church is.

The parting words of our Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples are as follows: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 18-20)

What did Jesus mean when he said, "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church." (Matthew 16:18)?

A survey of the New Testament gives us a picture of the church that can still be produced today - a church that preaches the same gospel and commits to the apostles' teaching. The church is presented as all those who believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and who have been baptised in his name.

Several metaphors describe the church: the family of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, a holy nation, etc. Rated among the most popular is "the body of Christ." This description provides rich teaching on how the church should function.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ … Now the body is not made up of one part but of many … Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

A Solid Foundation

The first requirement for a permanent building is a solid foundation. The church of Christ is built upon a foundation of solid rock. "Upon this rock," Jesus said, "I will build my church." The rock being referred to is the confession made by Peter by divine revelation – "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:13-18) This eternal truth is the foundation of the church. It is solid ground for all God's people to stand upon.

After giving Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus delegated authority to him to carry out his ministry. "Whatever you shall bind on earth," Jesus said to Peter, "shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:19)

What did Jesus mean when he gave Peter the "keys of the kingdom"?

The most prominent statue in our local church was that of Saint Peter. He was an austere figure seated upon a throne, with one hand raised toward heaven and the other holding two large keys. I seldom passed that statue without being reminded of Jesus' words to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." How are we to understand these words? By putting a number of questions to the problem we are trying to solve, we can arrive at the correct answer.

Celibacy is a gift from God, but not everyone has this gift. Jesus said, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." (Matthew 19:11-12)