The invincible church
“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.” (Mt. 18:16)
Did Christ die for the church, or for the work of the church? We must ponder that question in our hearts, each one of us. He came and ministered unto men as an example of our work as a Christian, but did he die for the work? Those who are “church builders” would be interested to know. We see an invincible church, and not an invisible church.
In Matt. 16:18, He told Peter “…Upon this Rock I will build my church…” and for ages, good men have asked “What Rock is Jesus speaking of?” My friends, we have all heard different ideas as to what this means, but letting the Bible explain itself is always the interpretation. In the verses previous to this, we see the answer as to what is “The rock?”
It begins in verse 13, where Jesus questions the disciples as to who he is. Peter responds with a wonderful answer, and a great truth for each of us to remember: “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. “ (Mt. 16: 16) My friends, this is the rock that Christ built his church on, that Christ is the Son of the Living God. It is built on principle, and not on persons. The fact that Christ is the Son of God, yea, God Himself, is our Rock; it is as solid as you can get. The winds of time, trials, or tempests will not prevail against it, because it is built on a rock. That, my friends, is what the church is built on.
There are 79 references to the church in the New testament, and all but a few were written to a local church; this includes the seven churches of Asia, in the Book of Revelation. A few of those seventy-nine churches were spoken of before the day of Pentecost, including the common passage we use for church discipline in Mt. 18 17. What did Christ mean when He said to take it before the church?
The church was not established at Pentecost.
The Inception of the Church
The dispensationalist says that when Christ said “Upon this rock will I build my church”, that He meant He would build it (future tenses) at Pentecost. They focus on the words “will I” being a future act, which it was, partially. The church was not yet established, but at Calvary He also said “It is finished”, meaning that work which he set out to do, which could include the building of His church. To claim Pentecost as the inception of the church is a haphazard guess at most; we do not know for sure when the church actually was finished, although we do know from Scripture, that it began with Christ.
As I have already stated, Mt. 16:18 was a future event at the time Jesus spoke it. He could not have built His church before the redemption of man at Calvary lest it be built of unbelievers! “Pentecost” means “fifty”, or, some say “fifty days” which we believe took place fifty days after Christ’s resurrection. If the church did not come into being until Pentecost where was the body of Christ for those fifty days? Where was the “bride” of Christ? There would have to be a gap of fifty days in the building of the church to make that possible. No, the church was “born” at Calvary, when Christ said “It is finished” so was the foundation of the church.
What gives the dispensationalist the right to predict when the church began at Pentecost just because it was a future event? They apply it to Pentecost, with no scriptural support, except that there was “added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2: 47); you cannot add to something until it already exists! The church needed to precede Pentecost before it could be “added to”. It does not take much thinking to realize that the church had to come into being sometime between Mt. 16:18 and Acts 2; the greatest event in history took place between these times--Calvary. I believe that the church was finished at Calvary, and in full swing going into the Book of Acts. In Acts, men added to the church, but the church itself was already established on Christ and Calvary. The work of men was not finished as of yet, but it was “in the making” in the Book of Acts. This is where the controversy lies, I believe, in the establishment of the church according to mans view of it. Mans work in, and on the church is never done until we all get to glory, but the foundation has been laid, and the true church has been built, on the precept that “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Two verse later, Jesus told Him that He would build His church on this--the rock of truth, and the fact that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God.
A universal, invisible church has no shepherd.
A church must have a leader. Someone must step up and take the reins, and God has seen to it that it will be so. He provided men for the task; men of His choosing, pastors, evangelists, teachers, etc. (Eph. 4:11) for the edifying of the church. Without a shepherd we are as sheep having no shepherd. Isa. 53:6 comes to mind: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Without a shepherd, we have chaos, and anarchy; we will have “turned every one to his own way”, and found the way of destruction. Where is the leader of the “invisible” church? Who can lead them as one body? (See Acts 28:28)
A church must have unity
How can a universal, invisible church be one unit? They do not have fellowship with one another; they have no inkling of the existence of the other, no personal communication or communion; they cannot be “one body in Christ”. the arm may be in one place, and the leg in another; the nose may be sniffing out souls, but the feet are not led to go to them. Even though one may sow and another may water, they are not unified in the effort, they are as one person doing whatever suits them.
An invisible church has no authority:
Again, who is the leader of the invisible church? Name him if you can. God has established authority, and set guidelines for us to follow within the confines of His will, but the universal church has no one to unify them, none to exercise authority over them. You are prOBably thinking, “they answer only to God“, but I again remind you that each man will do “that which is right in his own sight“, and there will be chaos. There are some though who supposed themselves to be members of this “mystery” church, and we can read about them in Matthew 7; 22: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” Jesus attests that He "never knew them".
The epistles were written to local churches--real churches that were active in their community. Theses “local” churches, are local to their own vicinity; they are not a universal nor invisible church of all believers everywhere, because all believers everywhere are already the true church! The Body of Christ is wide spread, but not everyone who claims to be “of the body” can rightly say they are of “the church”. If all we did was ask the Lord to save us, then we could have an invisible universal church, but we must ask, believing. Truly the Bible says that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13), but isn’t that preceded by vs. 9-10 “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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.? Are there not many who, perhaps, had fooled themselves into thinking they were saved? Of course there are! (Mt. 7:22). These examples in Matthew have even prophesied in Christ’s name; they have cast out devils, which seems to be a privilege of the elect of God, and done “many wonderful works”, but they did not have the heart for Christ. Though they shined as premier Christians among the brethren for their works, they were lost, and Christ had to tell them to depart from Him, attesting that He never knew them. They were not of the church. They no doubt could have furnished witnesses to great deeds they did; no doubt they had a time that they verbally called upon the name of the Lord, but they had an evil heart of unbelief which no man could see. They were not a part of the church; the universal church could claim them, because it has no shepherd; it could claim them because it has no authority; it could claim them because they had met the qualifications of the “church”, but they were lost, they were not of the true church.
The Unified Church
What is the church?
The “Body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27)
The “Bride of Christ”
The “House of God”. (1 Tim. 3:15)
The “General assembly” (Heb. 12:23)
One body (Rom. 12:5) (1 Cor. 12:20)
Who makes up the church?
Believers. All believers, everywhere. (1 Cor. 12:13, 14)
Jewish believers in Christ (Eph. 2:16)
Facts to consider:
79 mentions of “church” in the New testament;
Nearly the entire New testament speaks of local churches;
Almost all the Epistles were written to local assemblies.
Church is “in God” and “In Christ“ (1 Thess. 1:1 and 2Thess. 1:1)
“Church” means “called out assembly”; (assembly can also be translated as “church”)
The church is the “Pillar and ground of the Truth” (1 Tim. 3:15)
Churches sometimes met in houses; (Philemon 1:2)
--Out in the open; (Acts 7:38)
--In regular buildings. (Rev. Chapters 2,3)
Church established before Pentecost. (Mt. 16: 18)
The church had to exist before Pentecost, else there was no church between the crucifixion and the introduction of the Holy Spirit.
Twice Christ mentions the church during His earthly ministry, (Mt. 16:18 and 18:17) and goes as far as establishing the order for discipline in the New Testament church. (Spoken in present tense).
Every church was a “local assembly”.
“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth”…1 Cor. 1:2~ 2 Cor 1:1
“Unto the churches of Galatia”…Gal. 1:2, and etc.
Seven churches of revelation, etc.
Every church has a shepherd: (Eph. 4:11)
They are as sheep which have no shepherd, scattered and confused.
They have no leadership, no authority.
There must be authority in the church, for it is God-ordained.
Every church has ordinances:
Who does the Baptizing in the “invisible” church?
Who takes the communion supper, and who passes it out?