The Architect



Matthew 16:13-20

What picture comes to your mind when I say, “The Church?”

I remember people. From my childhood, names like Willard Hooley, Paul Miller, Amos Shenk and a whole lot of others come to mind. They were my family, not my relatives, although there were plenty of those, but the people who mattered in my life.

I can picture the small building we met in every Sunday, but the building is not what comes to mind when I think of church. Because I have very fond memories of church, it is easy for me to love the Church with all my heart. I learned to love the people and was accepted and loved by these same people. It follows that when I have met “bad apples” in the Church, I have naturally assumed that the problem was not the Church, but the “bad apple.”

However, each person’s experience is different, and each church is different. Bad churches leave some people with bad experiences and memories. Some people carry deep wounds and scars from their experience with “church.”

Do you know that God does not approve of all churches?

Consider Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In these chapters, Jesus writes letters to 7 churches. A few of the churches receive sharp rebukes and warnings that Jesus will remove His Holy Spirit from them. (“Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” Revelation 2:5 NLT)

The church in Corinth had lawsuits between members, heretical doctrines and even known incestuous relations among its members.

Because of the brokenness of sin and its influence in our churches, none of us can assume that we have the right image of the Church and what a church should look like. We all must be open to relearning some things and unlearning other things about the Church.

Some churches practice a congregational form of government, while other churches practice a more top down authority structure. Some of us have strong opinions about which is the “right” way to do church. AND... let’s not EVEN talk about music.

My aim is not to answer or address these issues. My aim is to lay a foundation for our thinking about the Church.

Things like music, building and service style are strongly influenced by personal taste. However, there is a core of non-negotiable truths that lie at the foundation of the Church.

First, to understand the Church we must define what the Church is.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says:
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. (Matthew 16:18 NLT)

With these words, Jesus introduces the idea of the Church.

Up to this point, Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God was near and built His disciples’ confidence in Him as the Messiah. He spoke of the Kingdom of God and likened it to a mustard seed. He showed them He is the good shepherd, and taught that the shepherd would leave the 99 safe sheep to seek out the one lost sheep. Now, He says, “I will build my church.”

Of course, He did not use the word “church.” He was speaking Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew. The word recorded in our New Testament is the Greek word “ἐκκλησίαν” (ekklesian). This word is built from two words: ek, which means out from, and kaleo, which means to call. From this it came to mean: “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly.”[1]

The Kingdom of God and the Church are not the same thing. The Church is part of the Kingdom of God and belongs to the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom of God encompasses more than the Church.

In teaching about the Kingdom of God, Jesus said:
How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade. (Mark 4:30-32 NLT)

This truth about the Kingdom of God is also true of the Church. The Church started out as a mustard seed, and has become the largest of all garden plants. It is an assembly that will gather together all in one place when Jesus returns, but not before then. It consists of those who are “called out” from among the world to be followers of Christ.

Being called out is an essential part of our identity as the Church. Individually, we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. Romans 8 tells us:
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29 NLT)

The Church is made up of these “chosen” people. The New Testament also compares it to a body, saying:
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NLT)

This passage brings up baptism and the working of the Holy Spirit, which involve questions that divide us, but it makes clear that we are all members of His body. No one is independent and no one is unnecessary. Each member of the Body is necessary to the well-being and health of the whole.

This “Body” is made up of those who are “called out” from the world. This is the assembly of those who believe in Jesus for salvation. Whatever image we have when we hear the word church, we need to make sure that what Jesus spoke of when He said, “I will build my church” does not conflict with that image.

When Jesus introduced the idea of an assembly or gathering, He also said that He would build it upon a rock. This rock is one of the non-negotiable truths of the Church.

This statement comes at a critical juncture in Jesus’ ministry. Up to this point, He has been carrying on a public ministry, preaching and healing the sick. When Matthew 16:13 tells us that Jesus took His disciples to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He is signaling a change. He has moved away from the territory of the Jews and is in Gentile country. He has retreated or withdrawn from His public ministry. After asking them what men were saying about Him, Matthew tells us that He began teaching them clearly that He was to be crucified and raised from the dead. Jesus is clearly preparing them for what is to come. Soon ministry was to shift from Jesus ministering here in His own flesh to Jesus ministering through the Church. Therefore, what He says about building His Church is very important.

Without going into all the arguments, let me just state that the rock the Church is built on is the confession of Peter. The foundation of the Church is:
You (Jesus) are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16 ESV)

I want to speak more to the scope of the Church’s ministry or service, but anything that takes away from this foundational truth is the antithesis of what the Church is about. This truth leads to statements like this one from the book of Ephesians:
Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22 NLT)

As this passage says, Christ Jesus is the cornerstone. The foundation of the apostles and the prophets is the truths they taught. Notice though that the foundation is singular. There is only one foundation. Everything is built upon this foundation.

This brings us to another non-negotiable truth about the Church. It will be opposed. We are in a battle. The battle centers on attacking the Church’s one foundation. Jesus said:
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. (Matthew 16:18 NLT)

Included in this statement is the fact that the powers of hell will try to conquer the Church. Not just some of the powers of hell, but ALL the powers of hell.

We see an example of this in Peter; Peter who had just won a tremendous victory and the praise of Jesus Himself. Look at the account that follows.
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:21-23 NLT)

In this confrontation, we see the focus of the battle. Peter is not Satan, but he has fallen prey to the trick of the devil. The problem is he was looking at things from a merely human point of view.

This is the source of many, most and perhaps all of the problems in the Church, the human point of view.

We must pray to have the Divine point of view. We must seek for His will to be done and not our own, because inevitably when we look at things from a human point of view, we end up eroding the foundation.

We can learn from Abraham of whom the Scriptures say:
For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10 NIV)

We are looking forward to the city as well, but more to the point, the builder and architect of the Church is Jesus Christ Himself. He said, “I will build my Church.” He is building His Church using us as living stones by conforming us to His image, making us like Himself.

I have been reading a book titled “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. One of his major themes is that more than setting goals, we need to establish our identities. For example, if one is trying to quit smoking they might say, “No thank you, I am trying to quit,” when offered a cigarette. However, if you change your identity you say, “No thank you, I am not a smoker, I don’t smoke.”  Or, for another example, if you want to be physically fit, you need to become or identify yourself as a person who exercises regularly. Identity based habits stick.

We as a part of the Church must build our habits based on our identity. Our foundation is: “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and our builder and architect is Jesus Himself. Everything we do is to be built upon these non-negotiable truths of our identity.


[1] https://biblehub.com/greek/1577.htm (accessed November 15, 2019)

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