"Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18).
I. The Foundation of the Church. The text declares the foundation of the church. "Upon this rock I will build my church." What a battle has raged and is raging about the meaning of "this rock." On what did Christ found His church?
a. Founded by Christ. The text declares that the church was founded by Christ. "I will build my church." He built it in the days when He was here on earth. The church was not built at Pentecost. It had already been built. To it Christ had already given the two ordinances, the only two ordinances, of Baptism and The Lord's Supper. To it Christ had already committed the authority to announce the condition of salvation and the rules of Christian conduct. Before Christ left the earth there was at least one church as a model, the church at Jerusalem. To this church assembled together in one place the Holy Spirit came in the power of Pentecost and energized it for spiritual service.
b. Founded upon Christ. The text declares that the church was "founded upon Christ." "Upon this rock I will build my church." What is "this rock?" Let the text's Scripture answer: Christ has just asked His disciples "Whom say ye that I am?" Simon Peter, speaking for the disciples, replied, "thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Christ declared that this was a comprehension divinely revealed, a conviction heavenborn, and then said, "Upon this rock I will build my church," - that is "Upon this divinely comprehended and confessed Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my church." The foundation is Christ Himself and "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ."
c. Forwarded by Christians. The church built by Christ, built upon Christ, is to be forwarded by Christians, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." What a responsibility is committed to Christians; what a trust is given them to forward the church which Christ has built upon Himself. The church is to preach the faith that opens heaven's doors to believers and to lay down the law of conduct to Christian men.
II. The Function of the Church. The text is supplemented by Scriptures which declare the function of the church. The Baptist concept of the New Testament church is declared by George W. McDaniel, in The People Called Baptists to be a "distinguishing principle of the Baptists." "We believe," says he, "that a church is a body of baptized believers, equal in rank and privilege, administering its own affairs under the headship of Jesus Christ."
a. Given the Commission. To the church was given The Great Commission, His final commission to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
b. Given the Ordinances. To the church was given the Ordinances, the only two ordinances, of Baptism and The Lord's Supper which picture the Gospel of the death and burial and resurrection and coming again of Christ. We must be true to the Commission and to the Ordinances which have been committed to the church to propagation and protection. Only a New Testament church member can partake of the Lord's Supper. There can be no such things as alien immersion and open communion.
III. The Fallacy of Church Union. The text makes answer to the fallacy of church union.
a. Its Conception. The text makes answer to the fallacy of church union in its church conception which confuses the Kingdom of heaven with the Church of Christ. "The kingdom," says George W. McDaniel in The People Called Baptists, "is larger than the church.... A church is visible, the kingdom is invisible.... Not all members of local churches are in the kingdom.... Not all members of the kingdom are members of local churches."
b. Its Constitution. The text makes answer to the fallacy in its church constitution which magnifies sentiment above Scriptures. Church union would make Ordinances matters of human sentiment and would change The Commission to suit human sense. Church union would make The Ordinances saving rather than symbolic and would make salvation a thing of works rather than of grace alone.
c. Its Concern. The text makes answer to the fallacy of church union in its concern to unite Christendom in an outward union rather than in an inward unity. Christ pled for unity of His followers and not for union of His churches. To Baptists there can be union only upon the authority and direction of Scriptural faith and practice. For Baptists there can never be union of church and state and never unionism of various denominations. The future of Baptists must be in the identity which has marked them in the past and helped to make them great under God.
IV. Founded and Faithful. The text brings a message of founded and faithful. Christ declared that the church was founded by Him and followed with the statement of the cost of being faithful in it. He called on His disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. What a record of fidelity to the faith. They were willing to suffer imprisonment and even death in order to be true to their faith. Shall we, their sons, ask to escape by being unfaithful to Him and to His church?
Paul was devoted to Christ and to His church. To him it was an inseparable devotion. Because he loved Christ he loved His church which is His body. Paul's inseparable devotion ought to be our inseparable devotion, "Unto whosoever much is given..." and much has been given to Baptists "...of him shall much be required." May the Lord help us to be more true to Him and His church than ever before.
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, December 18, 1992, p. 3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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