“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.” Matthew 16:18
“And I tell you, you are Peter!” Peter had just made a great confession: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). In the second part of our verse Christ calls the content of this confession a rock (in Greek ‘petra’). By expressing his faith in Christ Peter places himself on this rock. And in response to his confession Christ calls him a “rock-man” (Petros), a person who is faithful to Christ and whom Christ will acknowledge before the Father (Matt. 10:32). Every Christian who is rooted in Christ and believes what Peter believes about Him is a “rock-man”.
“And on this rock I will build my church.” The rock is, as mentioned above, Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ builds His church on Himself! For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). Christ does not build His church on man nor on the ideas of people. This would be like building on sand. Because Christ had made the decision once and for all on which rock He would build His church, we dare not preach a gospel other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Children need to be built up on Jesus! When they belong to the church of Christ the great promise in this verse is theirs.
“The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is a promise for the worldwide church. It’s a decree of God from the foundation of the world (Matt 25:34). The church is eternal! True, the gates of hell, which is the devil and all his evil companions, fight against the church. They do everything they can to destroy what Christ builds up. This can lead to a lot of suffering of the visible church. Church buildings can be destroyed. Church congregations can be scattered. Christians can be marginalised, persecuted and killed. The suffering of the visible church may become even greater the more we approach the second coming of Christ. However, the invisible church, the actual body of Christ, cannot be destroyed! In Christ we are already seated in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), safe and secure! Satan cannot reach into that sphere. He is engaged in a war that he cannot win. After all the church is built on a mighty rock, namely Christ, the Son of the living God!
Rejoice in this promise and treasure it in your heart! The more indifferent and hostile against Christ and the gospel our time may become, the more we need to remember this great promise. Instead of allowing Satan to frighten you, rejoice! Instead of withdrawing, make use of the opportunities Christ gives. “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). The church of Christ is invincible!
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
This article first appeared in our Summer 2020 National Newsletter.