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The Church That Jesus Built.

Matthew 16:18

A series of messages prepared for the 2018 Conference of Mount Hebron Baptist Church, Pucallpa, Peru


By Raul Enyedi

Introduction. The study of ecclesiology, of the Lord’s church, is very important for our spiritual lives. We were saved to serve God worship Him and bring glory to Him. In Ephesians, 3:21, we read that God is glorified in His church and in Christ Jesus. The church is the place of public worship and service. It is the revealed will of God that all the saved ones, all his children be part of one of His churches. Not doing so is disobedience toward God. We cannot serve Him in our terms, but in His terms. Sincerity is not enough. Sincere obedience to God’s word is required of all of us. Satan sowed much confusion in God’s kingdom and it is his purpose to destroy the Lord’s church. He tries to do it through persecution, and also by sending his ministers (wolves in sheep’s clothing) in the midst of the flock, to cause division and draw disciples away from the The Lord’s church. Satan was active in producing false churches that imitate the Lord’s church, to keep the disciples away from the true churches. The study of ecclesiology helps us identify the true churches, the characteristics of the Lord’s church, its functions and mission. It will help us, as members of a true church, serve God according to His will. We will enjoy God’s blessings when we do this, at a personal level as well as collectively, as a church. We will be spared of many spiritual failures and we will be more healthy and more mature spiritually. The study of ecclesiology is not about salvation. Salvation is in the Lord Jesus, in a personal relationship with Him, not in the membership of a church. A church cannot save you. Only the Lord can! But a true church is where God wants all the saved ones to serve Him!

So, let us look at the Church that Jesus Built. Our passage is from Matthew, 16:18, and it is the first passage where the word „church” appears. We will attempt to take each phrase and analyze it.

  1. I will build my church.

    1. First time the word „church” appears in the New Testament is in this passage. It is a common word, used 115 times in the New Testament. What does it mean? Today, there is a lot of confusion regarding the meaning of the word „church”. But this confusion is not due to the fact that the term itself is ambiguous, but because the term was redefined in order to justify departures from the truth. An example of the re-interpretation of the word (adaptation from a book written by a famous presbyterian, R.C. Sproul about the church): „I am glad to be here, at the conference hosted by this church in Pucallpa. As I entered in the church, I felt the wonderful atmosphere of being among God’s elect and singing His praises. We gathered here from three continents and I felt that I united my songs and prayers with those of the whole church throughout the world and with all the elect, the entire universal church. The fellowship of the saints is sweet, and it is great to be among those that believe and preach the Gospel of the Grace of God, the precious truth that we have in common with the Evangelical churches and, more importantly, with the apostolic church. It is great to know that the church in South America believes the same things as the church of North America and that of Europe.”

I used the word in 7 different ways in just one paragraph.

  1. Local church

  2. Church building

  3. Apostolic church (a collective term designating churches of the first century)

  4. Denominational church (denomination of Evangelical/Reformed faith)

  5. Universal visible church (all the saved throughout the world at one given moment)

  6. Universal Invisible Church (the totality of the elect)

  7. Regional church (church of South America: all the saved in a certain area or all the true churches in a certain area).

How many meanings does this word have? One that is unfamiliar with the Bible might think that you find all these meanings there. But it is not so. Many think that the Bible speak about some dualism: local church and universal church, and they interpret in different ways the relationship between them. We believe this confusion is caused my the Arch-enemy of Christ and of His church, and not by the poor choice of words by the Author of the Bible. The fact that there are about 40,000 kinds of „churches” today is a direct result of the confusion Satan has created.

      1. The word chosen by the Author of the Scriptures to define what He established is „ecclesia”. It is the translation of the Hebrew „qahal”.

        1. The word ecclesia is not invented in the New Testament. It is used in the classical Greek. It is used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) quite as many times as in the NT. It is a clear word, with precise meaning. It means an assembly, a congregation, a gathering together. It comes from two greek words, „ek kaleo”, which would be translated as „the called out ones”.

          1. Looking just at the etymology of the word, some theologians tried to define the ecclesia as the total number of the called out ones, without them being gathered together. But an ecclesia is not just a multitude of called out ones, but the gathering together of those that are called out from their daily business to attend to the specific business of the ecclesia in which they are members.

          2. In order to have an ecclesia, you need:

            1. Members (kletoi, the ones that are called out);

            2. the ability to gather together on a regular basis to carry out specific business;

            3. a form of organization.

These conditions must be met if you were to have an ecclesia.

        1. There are three kinds of ecclesia mentioned in the New Testament:

          1. the assembly of Israel in the wilderness (Acts, 7:38);

          2. The civil assembly of the Greek city of Ephesus (Acts, 19:32, 39)

          3. The Christian assemblies.

All of them have in common a membership that has to meet certain conditions, a form of organization and ability of the members to assemble together. You cannot have an ecclesia that cannot assemble. This is where the modern definitions and usages of the word „church” fail. Whether you talk about the Universal invisible church composed of all the elect, the universal visible church composed of all the saved that are alive now on earth, or a denomination, what they have in common is the impossibility of all their members to gather together in one place and have a meeting. So, the very first condition for being an ecclesia is not met.

        1. Family, Kingdom, Church. It is true that the universal church cannot meet in one place in this day and age, some one told me, but we need a plenary concept to include all God’s children. What is wrong by calling them „Church”?

          1. Well, because they are not an assembly, so that would be a misuse of the term. If you don’t have a word to designate all the elect, then make up one that is not in the Bible, don’t create confusion by taking a biblical word and giving it another meaning. God is not the author of confusion! Neither should we! But, is it really true that the Bible does not have a plenary word that includes all the elect? No, it is not!

          2. The Bible speaks about the Family of God (Eph. 3:14) and presents the covenant relationship between God and man as a Father-children relationship. All His children, all His elect make up His family. We call one another „brothers” and „sisters” and Jesus is the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Some of his children are already in heaven, and some are on earth.

          3. Another concept is that of God’s Kingdom. It is a complex one, but simply put, we are brought by God in the Kingdom of His beloved Son by regeneration (Col. 1:13). Yes, even when we are born physically, we are born in a family and in a state, becoming citizens of it. It is true also spiritually.

            1. Now, you have Peruvian citizenship, I have a Romanian one and bro. Nate has an American one. Have you ever met all the citizens of Peru? Does all the country have to be gathered together in order to be a state? No, it does not. So, the ability to assemble together is not a necessary condition for a kingdom or a state. And neither for a family. Back in Romania, I have a big family and we are scattered all over Romania. Regarding my immediate family, my brother lives in Germany, my sister works in Austria, my mother goes back and forth to Italy. Only my youngest brother lives in Bocsa, where I live. We don’t get to meet often. My larger family has never met in one place. But we’re still family. My brother from Germany is no less my brother than the one that lives in Bocsa, whom I meet weekly in church. The fact that we are not gathering together does not dissolve family ties. So, ability to gather together is not necessary for a family to be a family.

            1. This is also true for the biblical concepts of Family of God and the Kingdom of God. But it is not true for the concept of ecclesia, the church of God. You cannot have an unassembled assembly. The ability to assemble together is fundamental to the notion of ekklesia. So fundamental that the Greek language has a verb derived from the noun „ekklesia”, „ekklesiazo” , to gather together, to assemble (Lev. 8:3). Do you have a verb derived from „iglesia”? What would it be? Iglesiar? It it would exist, it would mean „to assemble”. Therefore, „iglesia” is an assembly.

            2. So, there is no need to apply the word „church” to something that already has an inspired word defining it. It is wrong, too, because it creates confusion. But this confusion is intentional because the fact that today there are about 40,000 different kinds of churches has to do exactly with the confusion created around the word „church”.

            3. So, how does the Bible define the word „church”? It has one meaning, used consistently: A church is a local, visible assembly of disciples, properly called out from their daily lives to perform the public duties given to them by the Head and Founder of the church. Such an assembly is organized according to a given model, there are conditions for membership and she has specific functions that only she is authorized to perform.

            4. The Bible knows only one meaning for the word „church”. Not 2, nor 7. Just one. The church cannot be both universal and local, both visible and invisible. It is either one or the other. And since a universal church cannot assemble, we must conclude that this doctrine is not biblical, but it is an invention of men, a seed of the enemy planted among the Lord’s churches to sow confusion.

      1. Therefore, when Lord Jesus Christ said that He will build a church, He means He is going to build a local visible assembly, not a universal, visible or invisible entity. Whatever is spoken about the church, its nature, its functions, its perpetuity, is spoken of a visible, local assembly. Every time the word „church” appears in the New Testament, it refers to such an assembly. Lord Jesus used the word 21 times, and every time He means a local assembly (3 times in Matthew and 18 times in the book of Revelation).

        1. But, some may object: Doesn’t apostle Paul refer to all the elect, not just to local churches when he says in Eph. 5:25 that Christ gave Himself for the Church? It is true that He died for all the elect, whether members of churches or not. He died for His church as an institution, purchasing it in a special way to be His Bride.

          1. In Acts, 20:28, Paul clearly refers to the local church of Ephesus (the same church to which he writes the words quoted above) and says that the Lord gained the church through His own blood. It is not a universal church there, but a local one.

        1. All the usages of the ecclesia, all the metaphors that describe it are visible, concrete, localized. A body is a local, visible organism. If we have body parts spread throughout the world and throughout history, if we have a hand in Romania, an ear in Peru, a mouth in America, a leg that died 2,000 years ago and an eye that was not born yet, can we say that we have a body? No, we cannot. But in the case of the local church, we can, the church being composed of members that are assembling together in one place.

        2. The importance of rightly defining the words: If we believe in a dualism of the church (local and universal), we will apply to the universal church (actually the Family of God) some of the verses that God attributes to the local church. This causes confusion and apostasy among the Lord’s churches and the establishing of false churches that imitate the true one. It will lead to an active opposition from nominal Christianity to the true churches and to apostasy on the part of the true churches. There are two doctrines that produced more damage to the Lord’s churches then all the errors put together: 1. the doctrine that man is a co-worker with God in his own salvation and 2. the doctrine of the universal church. Both are serious errors that we must avoid at all costs.

        3. What church did our Lord Jesus build? A local visible church, whose members are believing, baptized disciples, that meet together on a regular basis to fulfill the duties that Christ gave His church.

        1. I will build. This is construction language. The verb in Greek is oikodomeo and it means literally to dome up a house, built it to the roof, finish building it. Several metaphors are used in the New Testament for the church in reference to a building: God’s house (1 Tim. 3:15, God’s building; God’s Temple (Eph. 2:21). The church was built as God’s new Temple, to replace the old one. There are many similes between the church and the Temple. Both are built by an authorized builder. They are built after a divine pattern. Both are God’s inhabitance on earth, enjoying His special presence. Both were authenticated by God at their dedication. Both have the purpose to gather in them God’s sons and daughters for the purpose of public service and worship.

          1. Though there are many similarities between the Church and the Temple in Jerusalem, one striking difference is the building itself. The Temple is made of literal stones. The Church is composed of living stones. 1 Pet. 2:5. The materials used by the Lord to build His church are persons that are spiritually alive, that have been regenerated by the Spirit of God. Only they are the proper material for God’s new Temple, the Church.

            1. A lost person in the membership of a church will weaken that building, because it is not the same material as the rest of it. A lost person does not fit in this spiritual building, no matter how moral that person is. Why? Because he is spiritually dead and the stone must be a living one. Because the building is spiritual and he is carnal. Because the purpose of the building is to contain a holy priesthood that brings spiritual sacrifices accepted by God, and he is neither holy, nor a priest, and therefore, his sacrifices are not acceptable before God any more that Cain’s offering was. A church must be composed of regenerated persons in order to fulfill this function.

            2. Open the membership door to wide, let goats and wolves and foxes to come into the sheepfold and you end up with a spiritual zoo. The sheep will suffer and will eventually have to leave that church. The building must be spiritual. Otherwise, the Lord will withdraw His presence from it.

            3. Let us ask ourselves: Am I a living stone in God’s Temple? Am I truly saved by His grace? Is my past life truly buried with Christ, as I professed in my baptism and do I live this new life in obedience to Him? Am I a living stone, whom God shapes and places in His House?

          2. As to the time of building, we have here the future tense, „I will build”. What does it mean? It could mean that Christ did not start the building project in the moment of speaking, that the building of His church was yet future at that time, or it could mean that He will finish building it to the roof, that is, He will finish what He has already started.

            1. Many people believe that the church was born on Pentecost, in Acts, 2. But there is no proof of that. On the contrary: Jesus started gathering His church immediately after He was baptized by John the Baptist. John looked at His group of baptized disciples and called them „the Bride”, a metaphor used later only for His church (John 3:29). Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that God set in the church first apostles. Where were the apostles set? In the church. When were they set? The only place is in Luke, 6:13, 17/Mark 3:13. We have in this text all the requirements of an ecclesia:

              1. Jesus calls out his disciples from among the multitudes. He separates them.

              2. After spending the night in prayer, he elects from the midst of the disciples 12 apostles.

              3. Lord Jesus, together with the 12 and the rest of the disciples, come down the mountain and re-unite with the multitude.

              4. All the conditions for having an „ecclesia” are met in these texts. And Paul says that the apostles were set „in the church”.

            2. But, some object that the church is founded on the work of the cross, therefore she could not have existed before the cross. It is true that the work of the cross is foundational for the new covenant and for the church, but that is not a sufficient argument. The ordinances of the church (baptism and the Lord’s Supper were established before the cross), and they are church ordinances that point to the work of the cross.

              1. Note also that the Great Commission, which represents the authority we have for preaching the Gospel, for baptizing and teaching disciples, is given before the Pentecost (the alleged date of birth for the church).

            3. The nature of the building of the church, like that of any sanctuary before (Tabernacle and Temple) required a process of building before its dedication for public usage. The building of the church started with the calling of the first disciples of John and continues for the space of the entire public work of Jesus Christ. He gave the Great Commission to His already built church in view of what the immediate event that would follow His ascension: the baptism in the Spirit at Pentecost. The church did not begin its existence then, but it was dedicated and authenticated as the New Temple of God. It fully started its public function at Pentecost, but if functioned according to the way it was organized and taught previously, during the Lord’s earthly ministry.

        1. I will build”. The builder of the church. We greet people in the services of the church by welcoming them to the house of the Lord. We do not or should not mean by this the physical building, but the spiritual one. But false churches say the same thing, they also welcome their members and visitors „to the house of the Lord.” Are false churches „houses of the Lord?” Who can build a house for God? Anyone, as long as he is sincere? Will God accept any habitation?

          1. The authorized Builder. From the Bible we find out that God’s house must be built under His initiative by a person authorized by Him. 1000 years before Lord Jesus Christ, his ancestor, king David wanted to built a house for God in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 7:1-3). David was sincere. He loved God more than anything. First, he brought the Ark of the covenant in Jerusalem. He wanted to dwell close to God, in His presence. But then, He felt bad because he was living in a palace and God was still dwelling in the Tabernacle. He wanted to make Jehovah a permanent resident in his city, in Jerusalem. Nathan the prophet tells him to go ahead and do all that he has on his heart. Building a house for God sounded like a good idea. But God sends a message to David through Nathan (v. 5): „Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?” You are not the one! I refuse to let you build me a house. Why is that? For several reasons, but one of them is that man cannot manipulate the presence of God. If God was to dwell somewhere, it would be a place of His choice, and He would take the initiative. He would choose and appoint the builder of His house. You cannot just build a house for God and expect God to come dwell in it because you invite Him. It doesn’t work this way. God chose Solomon, whom He called His son, to build that house.

            1. When Lord Jesus says: „I will build my church”, as a new Temple, He tells us two things: 1. He is God (If he was just a created being, he should have said: I will build God’s church) and 2. He is the authorized builder. I will build it. I, myself. Not through intermediaries, but personally and directly. This means that His church/churches have no human founder. Their trace in history go all the way to Judaea, when God incarnate walked on that land and gathered his disciples around Him. Joseph Hooke, an English Baptist said it well in 1701: That religion that is not as old as Christ and his Apostles, is too new for me.”

            2. Last year was the anniversary of the Reformation. 500 years since Martin Luther, an augustinian monk, nailed the 95 theses on the door of the catholic church in Wittenberg, Germany. That act brought the Protestant churches into existence. 500 years is a respectable age, but those churches are not old enough to be the Lord’s churches. Neither is the Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox church. They are 1,700 years old. Still too young. If any denomination has its beginnings anywhere else but the land of Judaea and at any other time than Christ’s earthly ministry, that church was not founded by God’s only authorized builder, and therefore, it is not God’s church.

            1. God’s house has to be built according to the divine blueprint. The Tabernacle was built according to the plan given by God to Moses. The Temple was built according to the plan given to David. The church is built according to a plan, too. That plan reflects God’s purpose for it. When I read the description of the building of the Tabernacle, or the measurements of the Temple in Ezekiel, for example, I am amazed at the attention to detail that is given to these buildings. Some things are repeated over and over again. This is not to make our Bible reading boring, but to show us that God’s house has to be built exactly as He wants to, to the smallest detail. If something was off or missing from the Temple, do you think that God, who gave the blueprint would still have approved it with His glory? No, certainly not! What does this tell us about the church as his House, His Temple? Everything that we do in church must be done according to His will. We serve Him and worship Him as He tells us, not as we think would be pleasing to Him!

            2. Why are there today so many kinds of churches? They are different one from another, from foundation to the roof. They are built after different blueprints. All of them claim to be the house of God. Some even call themselves Church of Christ. But just because you claim a name, it does not mean that God approves it. Lord Jesus built His church according to the divine plan. What is God’s blueprint for a church?

    1. The essential characteristics of the church: 1. Christ is its Founder, Head, Captain, Lawgiver; 2. The Scriptures are its final authority. 3. All members are equal, no hierarchy among them; 4. a spiritual building composed of regenerated persons; 5. She has only two ordinances (baptism and the supper that she keeps exactly as they were delivered by the Lord). 6. The church fulfills its duty as the Lords representative body on earth, as the administrator of the Keys of the Kingdom. 7. She carries out her work, her spiritual warfare with spiritual weapons, not carnal ones. She never persecutes or imposes her faith on others by force.

    2. The main role and functions of the church: 1. to glorify God; 2. To proclaim the Gospel; 3. To be God’s Temple on earth; 4. To be the pillar and ground of the truth; 5. To be the salt and light of the world

    3. The church’s method of perpetuity: by succession of churches. A new church is organized out of a previously existing one. This is the clear pattern of the Scriptures.

      1. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) was given to the churches, not to saved individuals. It is the pattern of perpetuating the Lord’s churches.

      2. Baptism is a church ordinance. We become members of a local church by our baptism. This is why only those set apart by the congregation can baptize others. If any one can baptize and by it add members to the church, it would be chaos. There would be no unity, no order and discipline.

      3. Why is it that we don’t have woman-pastors and evangelists? If the commission was given to every saved individual, then both men and women could preach the Gospel , baptize and pastor churches.

      4. In the New Testament, we find the churches multiplying according to the Great Commission pattern: churches sent out missionaries to preach the Gospel, baptize the converts and gather them together in church capacity for teaching all the commandments of Christ. Those that have been taught continued from step 1, sending out missionaries, baptizing and teaching others...

        1. In the New Testament we find 4 generations of churches (1. Jerusalem; 2. churches of Judea, Samaria and Antioch; 3. churches in Galatia, Ephesus, Phillipi, Thessalonic, Berea, Corinth; 4. Laodicea, Colossae). These churches were not self-organized, they did not appear by schism from other churches, but came into existence according to the Great Commission pattern: Christ established the first church that later settled in Jerusalem; preachers from them went out, preached the Gospel; those that believed were baptized and later organized as distinct churches. The church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas and through their work new churches were formed. Those churches sent out missionaries and organized other churches, in areas where the apostles didn’t come. So, we have the principle of church perpetuity set out in the Great Commission and we see it put into practice. Church perpetuity is accomplished, therefore, by an orderly succession of churches.

    4. In order for a church to rightfully claim that she is a true church of Christ, His spiritual Temple, she must be built according to God’s blueprint. She must have the same doctrine, the same practice and the same origin with the first church that came out in existence.

  1. I will build my church. God’s house is unique. Once the Tabernacle was built, you were to bring your sacrifices and offerings there. No more private altars (Deuteronomy, chapter 12). Once the Temple was finished, God’s presence left the Tabernacle and filled the Temple, as a sign that from then on, anyone who worships him has to come to Jerusalem. When Christ built His church as God’s earthly house, its purpose was that in any place a true church exists, the true believers should gather to it for public worship and service.

    1. The alternative way of Jeroboam (1 Kings, 12:28-31). „It is too much for you to go to Jerusalem.” It costs you too much. It is too inconvenient. Here is a simpler alternative. Go to either Bethel or Dan. You don’t have to go to Jerusalem to the altar for God to receive your sacrifices and offerings. You can worship Jehovah at these altars as well. This is the way of Jeroboam, whom God condemned as a great abomination. Their rituals looked similar to the ones practiced in Jerusalem. They worshiped Jehovah, not a pagan god, they burned incense like in Jerusalem, brought their offerings and sacrifices in a very similar manner. They had horned altars that looked exactly like the one in Jerusalem. Yet their worship was rejected and their religion was a sin.

    2. The way of Jeroboam took a hold in Judah, as well. They started erecting altars in their cities. 350 years after Jeroboam, Judah had many such altars with their own Levite priests that were performing religious activities dedicated to Jehovah. They were closer to truth than those in the north. They had no golden calf, their priests were levites and they kept the right feasts. Yet, we read in 2 Kings 23:8 that King Josiah broke down those altars and brought all the priests to serve in Jerusalem in order to reestablish the unicity of that altar.

    3. There are many churches today like the alternative altars of Jeroboam. They were erected by men that were not sent by God. Their pattern or blueprint may look very similar to the true one, they have varying degrees of truth and their worship and service may resemble the one in the true churches or even exceed it. But they are nothing but alternative altars. God authorized one altar, one Temple, one church. It is the duty of all God’s people to be part of one of His churches. If they do not, they are disobedient. Do not take membership into a true church lightly. It is a great privilege and responsibility to be a living stone in God’s building. Treasure this blessing. Do not trade Jerusalem for Dan, Bethel or Beer-Sheba. Serve Him faithfully in this Jerusalem!

    4. Do not alter the blueprint! Don’t change the doctrines, nor the practices, but be faithful preserving them as they have been left by Our Lord and handed down to us.

  1. God’s house is authorized by Him. That means that God approved that habitation to be His house, He put His Name in it. After Israel built the Tabernacle in the wilderness, God filled the new house with His Glory, authenticating it before the people. When he moved from the Tabernacle to the Temple, He did the same. When he moved from the Temple to the Church, on the day of Pentecost, He authenticated the building that Jesus built, by a visible and audible manifestation of His Spirit. The Church did not start at Pentecost any more than the construction of the Temple began when God’s glory filled it. On the day of Pentecost, the church was a building already finished, waiting to start serving its purpose before the world.

    1. The baptism in the Spirit, which was prophesied by John and promised by Christ, was a unique event. It does not mean what protestants say today, that it is the act of regeneration by which an individual is added to the Universal Invisible Church. It is the baptizing of God’s new house, the dedication of it, God showing His approval of it and that He takes residence in that sanctuary!

    2. It is a unique event. It was repeated, however, in the house of Cornelius, in a smaller scale, to prove that Gentiles and Jews are added equally in the new House, which has no middle wall of partition, like the Old Temple.

    3. Why is this important? Because the baptism of the Spirit, if it is a unique event, testifies that the Church that Jesus Built will last for the entire period of time between His ascension and His second coming.

      1. When God approved a new place of worship, it meant the end of the old place of worship. When God’s glory filled the Temple, He showed the people that He put His name, His presence in that sanctuary. In a sense, He moved form the old Tabernacle to the new Temple. What happened to the Tabernacle? Was it left standing? Did it become a museum? No, most probably it was dismantled.

        1. When God moved from the Temple to the Church, what happened with the Temple from Jerusalem? It was eventually destroyed. In both cases, the previous habitation of God ceased to exist after He moved His name in a new one.

      2. The first Temple, built by Solomon and authorized by God, was destroyed in 586-87 BC. After the 70 year captivity, the Jews returned to Jerusalem and started building the Second Temple. The building was commanded by God. While it was smaller and a lot more modest than the First Temple, it was still an approved habitation of God. But the Second Temple never had the glory of God filling it like the first one, when it was inaugurated. Why is that? Not because God refused to acknowledge it, but because the Second Temple was built on the same place, according to the same pattern as the First Temple. No new authentication was needed.

        1. If they have built the Temple on a different location or have made significant changes, then God would have needed to approve it in the same way He approved the first Temple and the tabernacle. But, because the Second Temple was the same kind of building as the first one and was built according to the same pattern, no new authentication was needed.

        2. Let’s apply this principle to the new Temple, the church. God approved the church that Jesus built during His earthly ministry, by filling it with His Spirit in a visible and audible form. As long as individual churches are being built according to the authorized pattern (The Great Commission model, which is a succession of churches), you don’t need another baptism of the Spirit to authenticate each new local church. The first church was authenticated, and by it, all the churches that descend from it. If the baptism of the Spirit is unique, it means that churches of the same kind as the one baptized in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost will exist until the end of the age.

        3. If there would be any break in this chain, if churches that perpetuate themselves by the Great Commission model would cease to exist, if all the local churches would be destroyed at one time by persecution or apostasy, then God would need to approve the first new church that would come into existence the same way He approved the one that Jesus build, by another baptism of the Spirit.

        4. Also, if churches would come into existence in a different way than the one we find authorized in the New Testament (by church succession), if unbaptized people could start baptizing others, for example, and organize new churches, or if new churches could come into existence from schisms from other true churches or if believers could organize themselves into a church, with no connection to a previously existing church, if all these methods that we can’t find in the Bible would become lawful means to organize new churches, then God would have to approve such churches in the same manner He approved the first one.

        5. The uniqueness of the baptism in the Spirit tells us that the church that Jesus built will continue until He comes and also tells us that there is only one authorized way to perpetuate for the true churches, and that way is by obeying the steps of the Great Commission, by a succession of churches organized in the same way as those in the New Testament.

  1. upon this rock” - The Lord is not referring to Peter. He didn’t build his church on Peter, as Rome says. The word rock, „Petra” is a massive block, while „Petros” (Peter) is a smaller one. The Rock is not even Peter’s earlier confession, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, as the Protestants try to say in order to make everyone that make such a confession to be part of their universal invisible church. There is no such thing. The Rock, the foundation, is Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The church is built on Him. He is the Rock of our salvation.

    1. Peter Himself makes this clear enough in 1 Peter 2:4-10. He uses the same construction language that our Lord was using in Matt. 16:18. The church is a spiritual building. Each member is a living stone. The nature of each stone is the same as the nature of the Rock, because believers are a new creation, made after the image of the Son of God (v. 4-5). The Rock is Christ Himself, presented by Peter as the angular stone (6-8) and a Rock (v. 8; same word used in Matt. 16:18 for Rock, „Petra”).

      1. In the book of Psalms, we often read about Jehovah God being the Rock, a name that refers to salvation, shelter, protection (Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 19:14, etc.)

      2. In other books of the Old Testament, we find the name „Rock” applied to God (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 31; 2 Sam. 23:3, etc.). He is a true Rock, providing true salvation, unlike false gods who offer false protection (Deut. 32:38).

      3. In the Old Testament, the word „rock”, when used figuratively, never refers to a human being, because it is a salvation metaphor. And it never refers to a confession, a statement of faith. It refers to false gods, as people put their hopes of salvation in false gods, who cannot provide real salvation and protection, and it refers to the True God, Jehova, who is a real rock for those who trust Him.

      4. The New Testament is consistent representing Christ as a Rock, even the antitype of the Rock struck by Moses in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:4).

      5. Therefore, the interpretation that the Rock upon which the Church is built is Peter is false. And so is the interpretation that the confession of Peter is the Rock. Jesus Christ is the Rock, the foundation and the corner stone of the Church.

    2. The fortresses built on rocks or mountain cliffs were hard to conquer. It was easier to defend them than those built out in the open. He is the Rock, the Foundation, the Protector of His church. The whole building rests on Him and will collapse only if He will collapse. Until that happens, His Church will remain standing.

  1. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. The Tabernacle lasted for about 500 years. Solomon’s Temple for about 500. The second Temple lasted for almost 600 years, until it was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. How long will the church last? It has existed continually for almost 2000 years. How long will it last? Until He comes! He promised that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against His church. There never was a time and never will be that the Lord did not have a true church on earth since he built the first one.

    1. The Gates of Hades was the name of a cave where pagans built a Temple dedicated to Baal. They believed that the cave was the door to the underworld, used by the fertility gods to go in during the winter season and come out during summer. It is a metaphor for the kingdom of darkness, the realm of Satan.

    2. This is a promise of victory for the Lord’s church. It speaks of its perpetuity. Not just survival, as the powers of darkness would attack the church but she would survive. It is more than that. The words our Captain uses show the church as being on the offensive. The image the Lord uses shows His church marching, advancing into the realm of darkness, attacking those gates, which cannot hold us back.

    3. The term „prevail” is a word used for a total war between two armies, and one, no matter how much it tries, is overwhelmed and will end up in total defeat.

    4. When we preach the Gospel, when we witness, we are on the offense. The Gospel goes forth and His Word will not return to Him without fruit. The Gospel of the grace of God is the banner under which the Lord’s churches march and storm the Gates of Hell.

      1. The Gospel speaks of the glorious work of our Lord and Head and Bridegroom. By the preaching of the Gospel, our Father pulls people from the kingdom of darkness and brings them into the Kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13). The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes (Rom. 1:17)

    5. Why are we involved in this great struggle, greater than ourselves? Because our Lord is involved in it. He is our Captain. Satan failed to defeat Him in temptation or death. He was crucified, but His death was no defeat. Christ’s death was totally under His control. He had power to give up His life, and power to take it back. He died the death He chose, at the time He chose and in the place He chose. He died that death because it was the determined way to procure our salvation from eternal death and ruin.

      1. Christ died according to the Scriptures. Was buried according to the Scriptures. But he rose again, the third day, according to the Scriptures. His death was not a defeat, but the seal of His victory against Satan. Through His death and resurrection, He spoiled principalities and powers (Col. 2:14-15), as a victor removes the armor and the signs of authority from his defeated enemy.

      2. Our Lord left His church to represent Him on earth. The church acts in His Name as His authorized representative. But this means that the powers of darkness have turned against us, too. Satan roars like a lion and throws his fiery arrows toward us. We are involved in this total war against Satan because our Captain is. And he orders us to follow Him. The closer you are to Him, the more you will be attacked. But there is no place safer or better to be than near your Captain. So, don’t compromise! Don’t break the lines, do not desert! Be faithful until the end! You may feel sometimes the burden of doing His work. Opposition, needs, suffering. There is a price to pay for being His disciple. It is far better to pay the price than compromise and betray the Lord.

  1. The perpetuity of the Temple. The church, the institution that Christ built, will never perish, will never be defeated by Satan and his forces. It will exist continually on earth, through local churches that have been organized according to the Great Commission pattern and who descend from the first one that Jesus built. There never was a time since the organization of the first church in which true local churches did not exist.

    1. Biblical proofs of church perpetuity:

      1. In Matthew, 16:18, Christ promised His church victory of the Gates of Hades (the powers of darkness). Since the church is a local assembly, if Satan have destroyed all the churches at one time, through persecution or apostasy, then the promise of Christ failed. While many local churches perished or were lured into apostasy, our Sovereign God always preserved a remnant of faithful churches.

      2. The church, as an institution, being the Temple of God for this age, will not perish as long as His presence is in it, just as the Old Temple did not perish until God left it. Christ promised His church that He will be with them until the end of the age (Mat. 29:18-20), which means that He will not depart from His churches. His presence among His churches guarantees their perpetuity.

        1. Christ is seen by John, in Rev. 1-3 as walking among the churches. This is a confirmation of Christ’s promise from Matt. 28. He warns the local church of Ephesus of removal their lamp stand if they do not repent, which is a removal of a church from His presence. It means the apostasy of that particular church. While local churches may fall in apostasy and have their lamp stand removed, there never was a time that all the churches fell in apostasy, so that there was no lamp stands left for Christ to walk among.

      3. Paul says in Eph. 3:21 that God is glorified in the church „throughout all ages”. This implies a continual presence of the church on earth, century after century, until He comes. This agrees with Christ’s promise to His church to be with her every day until the end of the age.

        1. But if all the churches fell in apostasy from the fourth or sixth century until the sixteenth (the time of the Reformation), then for that period of time, God was not glorified in any church, unless we will say that the Great Harlot glorified God by being drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs (Rev. 17:6).

      4. Our Lord instituted the Supper as a church ordinance, not a private or individual practice. The apostle Paul teaches this in 1 Cor. 5, 10 and 11. The loaf of unleavened bread symbolizes His body that was broken for us, but it also symbolizes the church as a body (1 Cor. 10:17), which must purge herself to celebrate the Supper as a lump free of leaven (1 Cor. 5:6-8). So, the Supper does not symbolize the communion of an individual believer with His Lord, but the communion of the local church, as a body, with her Head. This is why the Supper is taken by the whole church, not by smaller fractions of it (1 Cor. 11:17-20). The Lords Supper is celebrated continually, until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). By whom? By His churches. The continual practice of the Supper until He comes implies the continual existence of His churches until He comes.

        1. Since baptism is a prerequisite for church membership and for participation in the Supper, and since the valid administrator of baptism is a true church, then it means that for the ordinances to have a continual existence, it requires that churches that practice them must have a continual existence. If true churches ceased to exist for any given time since Christ founded the first one, then the authority for performing the ordinances ceased with the last true local church that died or fell into apostasy.

      5. 1 Tim. 3:15 teaches us that the church is „the pillar and ground of the truth”. „The pillar” and „the ground” are two figures of speech also borrowed from construction language. The pillar and its foundation have the purpose of upholding the upper part and the roof of a building. If they fail, then the whole building will cave in and be destroyed. The church has the responsibility to uphold the truth. „The Truth” is the teachings of Christ, everything that He commanded His church to teach the new disciples (Matt. 28:20).

        1. The teachings of Jesus Christ are not some abstract, theoretical doctrines, but practical. They are the truth that set us free from the bondage of sin. They sanctify us. They glorify Him and help us grow spiritually. The more an individual and a church know of the teachings of Christ, the more mature and holy and useful they will be.

        2. These teachings the Lord left to His churches. The Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20 is given to His church, not to individuals as disciples. If the Commission was given to everyone as disciples, then anyone can preach, baptize and teach the converts. This has several implications that will throw the Lord’s work into total chaos:

          1. It means that not just men, but women, too, can preach, baptize, teach and pastor. They are disciples, too. Why discriminate if the Commission was given to all the disciples, men and women alike? While we find many women working and helping in the churches in the New Testament, we find none that baptizes or pastors. It would be quite difficult for a woman to meet the condition of being the husband of one wife, in order to qualify to be a pastor, wouldn’t it?

          2. If anyone can baptize, it means that baptism is not a condition to enter into the membership of a church. It would be impossible for a church to know its membership if everyone would be out there baptizing other people. Baptism is not just a public confession of our faith in the Gospel, it is also the means of entering into church membership (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor. 12:13, literal translation), the place where the baptized are taught all that Christ commanded.

          3. If the Spirit leads us to be baptized into a body, a local church, where we function as members; if we become members of the church my baptism, then baptism is a church ordinance and not an individual one. And only those that are set aside by a true church can properly fulfill the Great Commission.

        3. If Christ entrusted His Gospel, His baptism and His teachings to His church to uphold and proclaim, then they will last as long as the institution of His church will last, that is, until He comes. So, 1 Tim. 3:15 is also a verse that proves church perpetuity.

      6. Jude, v. 3, „earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints”.

        1. the faith” means the things believed, as in Eph. 4:5. It refers to the same teachings and beliefs called „the truth” in 1 Tim. 3:15 and „all things whatsoever I have commanded you” from Matt. 28:20.

        2. Notice that „the faith” was delivered „unto the saints”. This is a usual expression in the New Testament to refer to the disciples gathered as a church (Eph. 1:1). So, this verse enforces once again what 1 Tim. 3:15 said, that „the faith” or „the truth” was entrusted to His church.

        3. This „faith” was given once. They need to „earnestly contend” for it because if they lose the faith, if the teachings become corrupted, they won’t be restored by some prophet. It is given but once and it is their duty to defend it and protect it.

          1. If God would keep restoring „the faith” by some reformer or modern prophet if churches would go totally in apostasy, then this verse loses it force altogether. Its clear meaning is that defending the faith is urgent and of utmost important, because it was delivered only „once”. There won’t be a second or third delivery if they won’t stand for the truth immediately.

        4. Since the faith (the teachings of Christ) were delivered only once and were delivered to the saints, to the church that is „the pillar and ground of the truth”, it means that for these teachings to survive until Christ comes back, we need a continual perpetuity of Christ’s churches that defends and proclaims the faith.

      7. These are the most important verses that speak about the perpetuity of the church that Jesus built, of the Temple in this current covenant. The promise of Christ that the Gates of Hades will not prevail against His church makes sense only if His church will exist continually until He comes back, to attack and storm those Gates. If at any time the institution of His church was obliterated from the face of the earth, the Gates of Hades won the battle and prevailed against the Church and against Her Founder. But Christ promised victory, and in that promise we have the promise of perpetuity of the church that He built until this very day.

    1. But, even though the church as an institution will never perish, local churches die. This is a fact. Some fold up. Some grow extinct, some are wiped out or scattered by persecution, some fall into apostasy. Today this is the greatest danger.

    2. Lord Jesus warned against apostasy. All the authors of the New Testament warned against it. Acts, 20:28-31. Apostasy of some churches is predicted just as much as the perpetuity of true churches is promised. Looking at the warnings in the New Testament and to the history of those churches that did not heed them, we can identify certain signs of apostasy. It is good to know them, because we can always verify ourselves by those.

      1. Going beyond that which is written. Going beyond the Scriptures. 1 Cor. 4:6. People will always want to take out, relativize or allegorize what they don’t like from the Scriptures. People think the Scripture alone is not sufficient. But it is. Going beyond it is the beginning of apostasy.

      2. Changing the Gospel of the grace of God into a message of salvation by works.

      3. Accepting unregenerate persons as members in the church. Numbers are important for false churches, not for God. When this happens, the church is no more a flock of sheep, but a spiritual zoo.

      4. Perverting the ordinances. Changing the form, the meaning and the conditions for baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

      5. Change of church government from equality of all members to a hierarchy.

      6. The presence of a spirit of persecution

      7. Collaboration/union with the State. This is spiritual adultery. Israel in the Old Testament was guilty of it. The Great Harlot of Revelation, 17 and 18 is seen as a woman who committed adultery with the kings of the earth. Christ’s bride must be a chaste virgin, faithful to Him, depending on Him for protection and nourishment, not on Caesar (the State).

      8. False worship is also spiritual adultery. Israel was accused of adultery because of worshipping false gods and for trusting in other kings to save them, not in their God/spouse. The pleasing worship is in spirit and truth. Satan perverted true worship and created in the false churches a system of worship based on carnal desires and lies.

        1. Let us take the examples of the holidays that most Christianity observe. What is their origin? They did not originate in the Bible, but in the apostate Christianity. Take Christmas, for example. Was Christ born on December 25th? No, he was not. But the pagans had a holiday dedicated to the birth of their Sun-God on Dec. 25th. When the pagans were „Christianized”, they wanted to keep their holidays. So, the apostate church allowed them to keep them, but change the names. Christ became the Invincible Sun that the Romans celebrated on Dec. 25th.

          1. All the things that people do today in celebrating the „birth of Christ” were in existence in the time of Jesus and the apostles. The feast on Dec. 25th, the exchange of gifts, the caroling, the rich meals, everything. But they existed among the pagans, not among the Lord’s churches.

          2. Paul told the elders of Ephesus that he preached to them all the council of God and he did not hide anything that was useful to them. (Acts. 20:20, 27). Did he preach or teach the keeping of holidays? No, he did not, even though he taught them everything that was useful for their spiritual life.

          3. If we really believe that the Bible is the final authority and is sufficient for all our spiritual good, we will not add to it man’s inventions as means to worship God. This is Satan’s method of deception and true believers and true churches must avoid it.

          4. Our worship, as well as our doctrine, gives us our identity. Is our identity derived from the Bible or from Catholic apostasy? Do we worship God in the simplicity of the original Christianity or after the model of the perverted Christianity? Let us realize that God told us in the Bible, not through the pope, how He wants us to serve and worship Him!

        1. God did not leave the worship to us, either. In His church, as His sanctuary, things must be done according to His rules, not according to ours. So, let us not change the worship, let us not pattern it after the world or after apostate churches. Let us serve Him in spirit and truth, bringing pleasing sacrifices to Him! Anything else will lead to a rejection of our worship, to apostasy.

      1. The ecumenical movement is the ultimate sign of apostasy. It is something modern. It basically is recognition of false churches as true churches. All the signs of apostasy mentioned above are present in the ecumenical movement. It is a movement of cooperation between the harlot and her daughters, and true churches should stay away and remain separate from false churches.

        1. Cooperation among sister churches is scriptural and beneficial for the work of expanding the Kingdom of God. Churches helping churches in their missionary efforts and when one is in a time of need (requiring financial or spiritual assistance) bonds the churches together and makes them stronger and more efficient in the propagation of the Gospel. Every church is independent, but that does not mean that it should be isolated from all the other true churches. Satan wants us divided and quarreling among ourselves, because this way we will grow weaker. if we are too busy fighting among ourselves, we will miss fighting the great fight and storming the Gates of Hell, as our Captain commands us.

        2. So, while cooperation among sister churches is desirable and beneficial, we need to draw some lines, some principles of cooperation, which will be our limits. Satan will also try to make us compromise our churches for the sake of a false unity and love. This is ecumenism.

        3. Some churches don’t set clear boundaries regarding their cooperation and recognition of other churches. They may believe the true doctrine, but in practice they deny it, by associating themselves with churches that deny their faith. We may compromise the testimony of Christ among us by associating ourselves with false churches. We may not practice what they practice, but if we associate ourselves with them, we validate them before our sister churches.

          1. If a virgin will hang around prostitutes, others will naturally assume that she is one of them. And eventually, she will begin to dress like them and have the same habits like them. It is the same with churches. If they cooperate with false churches, what testimony will they have before the world and before other churches? Don’t they actually send out the message that they are the same with those with whom they cooperate?

        4. Ecumenism is essentially recognizing false churches as true churches. If we recognize the baptism and the ordination of another church, if we receive members from another church by letter, not by baptism, if we invite preachers from another church to preach in ours, by this we give a formal recognition to that respective church that she is an authentic church, as true as ours is.

        5. True churches are the Bride of Christ. They need to keep themselves pure and chaste until He comes. The great false religious system, the mystery Babylon, is a prostitute and the mother of prostitutes. Even though there are saved people in those false religious systems (Rev. 18:4), this doesn’t mean that their churches are true. You can have saved people in false churches. They are called to leave those systems and to join a true church.

        6. A true church must not cooperate with one that is involved in the ecumenical movement or has obvious signs of apostasy that she practices continually.

    1. What is the practical result of apostasy? The existence of alternative altars, of several kinds of churches. An apostate church, one that forsook the faith and made compromises with the world will most likely continue its existence. The church of Rome exists even today, but it has been apostate for a long time. Apostasy creates confusion, breaks the unity and the peace among churches and weakens their testimony in the world. Apostate churches will always try to justify their departures from truth and will turn against the churches that remain faithful. They will try to claim our history and our identity. At one point, it was against the law for our churches to be called „Christian”. The name was reserved to the official churches, who were apostate.

    2. Apostasy is the greatest danger of our generation. Satan persecuted the true churches and could not destroy them. He tries now to lure them, to deceive them as he deceived Eve, so that they would become unfaithful to their Bridegroom.

    3. Every single local church is one generation away from apostasy or extinction. If we do not guard the faith, if we do not proclaim the Gospel, our church will die. How can we prevent this? Acts, 20:28-31: Watch and beware of the danger. Follow the example of Paul, stay faithful to the teachings of the Bible. Congregations need to be taught all things that Christ have commanded, not just parts of them. This is a continual work. Constantly prepare and train disciples. 2 Tim. 2:2. The next generation must be prepared to continue in the same truths.

    4. We have the tendency to say that apostasy can happen to anyone except us. We are not immune to it. The Israelites thought that Jerusalem will never fall, the Temple will never be destroyed by the Babylonians because it was the house of God. They despised, persecuted and killed the prophets that said otherwise. They began to neglect the worship and the service, they even brought pagan symbols and rituals in God’s house (2 Kings. 23:4, 6, 7). At one point we read about „hangings” in the courts of the temple. Those were tabernacles in which they practiced sacred prostitution. The Jews betrayed God, desecrated His house and therefore God abandoned it and left it to be destroyed.

      1. They looked upon the Temple and may be thought that God wouldn’t leave such a nice building to be destroyed. God doesn’t care about nice buildings. Some might have said: „But we paid such a great price, we sacrificed so much to build this expensive gold covered Temple.” God doesn't care about how much money it was worth.

      2. What does He expect then? Obedience to his Word! Faithful, love driven service to Him! Worship that comes from a heart that is totally devoted to Him. Do we serve Him with all our hearts? If not, we may find ourselves in the same danger as the Israelites in the time of Jeremiah.

Conclusion. It is a great privilege to be one of the Lords churches. But we have great responsibilities, too! Let us be found faithful in the great work with which Jesus Christ entrusted us!

Ps. 93:5: Holiness becometh thine house, o Lord, for ever. We are a holy people. We have been separated from the world, we live differently, dress differently, worship differently. Our standard is not to be a little better than the world or a little better than false or apostate churches. Our standard of holiness and separation is found in His Word. It alone regulates our life. It has the final say. Let us not forsake the assembly, but treasure Gods Temple, His church. Let us keep it pure from all uncleanness and paganism. Let us come joyfully before our God and bring ourselves and the fruit of our lips as an acceptable sacrifice to our Savior. And let us diligently advance with the light of His Gospel into the kingdom of darkness, for they cannot prevail against us!

Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726

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