Prayer For Christ to Build His Church
10 Prayers to Pray Before Church
Going to church is not a trip to the grocery store, visiting a friend, or a Christian task to complete.
It is a declaration that worshiping the risen Christ is more important to you than sleeping in, eating brunch, playing sports, or working around the house.
It is celebrating the uniting of our broken world under the headship of Christ (Ephesians 1:10) and a proclamation to the spiritual realm of God’s manifold wisdom (3:10).
As such, we should not enter church any other place, but should prepare our hearts in prayer. Let these 10 prayers set your mind on God’s purposes for church and prepare your heart to worship the King:
1. Lord, help me worship you with an undistracted heart
Heavenly Father, this morning—and all of history—is about you. Please help me worship you with an undistracted heart.
You know how my mind wanders to my upcoming week, present worries, and thoughts of others and other things. Help me put those thoughts away and focus on you and your glory.
Would your Spirit cause my heart, soul, mind, and strength to exalt your Holy Name in my singing, listening to Your Word, and interacting with your people.
2. Lord, reveal to me the wonders of your Word
Father, you spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1). You speak new life into your children to give us the light of the knowledge of your glory in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Give us the grace to receive your Word and rejoice in it (Psalm 119:18).
Convict us of our sins and Christ’s sufficiency so that sinners would be converted (John 16:7–11), the weak strengthened, and Christ’s body built up.
3. Lord, deepen my faith and joy in the glories of your gospel
Father, you know the multitude of sins I have committed in my life and even this past week. Help me hate my sin more and grow in grace as I contemplate what Christ has done to forgive me and free me from sin’s death grip.
Open the eyes of my heart to see the glorious hope we have in Christ, your love for all of the saints, and your power at work in us who believe (Ephesians 1:18-21).
Cause my heart to burn within me as we celebrate the gospel in song, learn and apply the gospel through the preached Word, and see the gospel in baptism and communion.
4. Lord, cause me to treasure your bride as you do
Father, your Son’s bride often gets a bad rap, and assembling together can seem a drag. But physical appearances not only betray spiritual reality, they fail to grasp the centrality of the church in your eternal purposes for this world.
From men and women who were your enemies, you are assembling a community of born-again worshipers from every tribe, tongue, and nation to proclaim your matchless wisdom to the world and spiritual realm (Ephesians 3:1–10). All of history will culminate in your Son’s wedding to his beautiful bride (Revelation 21:1–2).
Oh, Lord, help me treasure your bride as you do and pour myself out to build her up.
5. Lord, lead me in building others up with the gifts and opportunities you have given me
Father, forgive me for long having a “me first” consumer mentality at church. Help me put others first and seek to use the spiritual gifts you have graciously entrusted to me to build up others (Ephesians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 14:12).
Guide me in my interactions so others are blessed and you are glorified. Show me who to talk to, where to sit, and how to encourage others with Scripture. Help me be a channel of encouragement as we see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24–25).
6. Lord, may our love greatly adorn the gospel
Father, your Son said that the love we have for our brothers and sisters will proclaim to the world that we are your disciples (John 13:34–35). Deepen our love for one another and make us eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-3). Help us care for all, not showing favoritism.[Tweet “Open the eyes of my heart to see the glorious hope we have in Christ.”]
May love compel us to strengthen the weak, bind up the injured, and serve patiently as we remember our service to others is service to you (Matthew 25:31–46). Help us model your unfathomable love for us in our honoring of one another, and so prove to the watching world Christ has risen and reigns.
7. Lord, protect us from evil men and evil ideas
Lord, since the beginning, the enemy of our souls seeks to destroy your glorious purposes for the world and your people.
We pray for your protection against all powers and principalities seeking to sow division, anger, envy, greed, and lust among your people. Keep evil men with destructive intent and unsound doctrines far from us.
Expose our culture’s ugly lies and the lies we want to believe by setting our hearts on truth that leads to love, a good conscience, and sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).
8. Lord, guide our leadership in faithfully shepherding the flock
Thank You, Lord, for the gift of pastors and leaders. Strengthen our leaders’ faith and joy in the gospel and help them faithfully and unashamedly fulfill their ministry of shepherding the church and equipping the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4:11–13; 1 Peter 5:1–4).
Give them great wisdom and direction in every aspect of ministry, and may their example show the church and the world who you are (Titus 2:7). Bless the wives and families of leaders with great gospel joy in the ministry.
Help us honor them as your undershepherds who sacrifice much for our sake (Hebrews 13:17).
9. Lord, equip us for our mission on earth
We are not saved by our good works, but for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Focus our hearts on the mission you have for us to share the gospel and make disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:18–20).
Remind us how our marriages, family lives, work, and hobbies can be avenues to adorn the gospel through our proclamation and Christ-exalting lifestyles.
Use our time as your gathered body to build us up and send us out for ministering your gospel, in the power of your Spirit, to our broken world.
10. Lord, deepen my longing for Christ’s return
So often I pursue comfort and earthly joy in this sin-bent world when my heart should long for the return of Christ, our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
Help my time among your people draw me into your holy presence and show me the glories of a sin-and suffering-free eternity where we will worship you face-to-face (Revelation 21:1–4).
Oh, Lord, I long for your presence and perfect restoration! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
[This article originally appeared on Anchored in Christ.] [Photo Credit: Unsplash]
On What Rock Did Christ Build His Church?
Matthew 16:18 has been used to claim Peter and those considered his successors were given nearly unlimited spiritual authority. Is this what Jesus said?
Jesus had posed a question to His disciples: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Peter spoke up first—eventually giving the right answer (verse 16). Instead of just complimenting Peter for speaking correctly, Jesus Christ made a statement about rocks.
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (verse 18).
Peter, Christ, rocks, church, gates of Hades. Christ packed a lot into this short statement! So what exactly was He talking about?
The Roman Catholic Church essentially believes that Christ was saying this:
“And I also say to you that you are Peter (the rock), and on you, Peter, I will build My one Holy Catholic Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
This interpretation forms the basis of the doctrine of the primacy of Peter, the idea that Christ founded the church on Peter. He was the foundation and was given the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19)—supreme authority to establish doctrine and govern the church.
This theology leads to the connected doctrine of papal succession. The Roman Catholic Church believes Peter moved to Rome and led the church from Rome for about 25 years until his martyrdom in A.D. 67.
They believe Peter started a succession of popes that continues unbroken to this day (from Pope Linus to Pope Francis I), and that each of these succeeding popes carries the same authority that Christ supposedly gave Peter in Matthew 16:18-19.
Believing that Peter and those they claim are his successors are truly “the rock” on which Christ built His Church and are the possessors of the “keys,” the Roman Catholic Church has therefore claimed the authority to declare doctrine—even changing or adding to biblical doctrines. Catholics maintain that when a pope speaks ex cathedra (Latin for “from the chair” of St. Peter), he is exercising this power in its fullness.
Ex cathedra asserts that “when the pope in his official capacity, with the fullness of his authority, as successor of St. Peter and head of the Church on earth, proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals binding on the whole Church, he is preserved from error” (John A. O’Brien, The Faith of Millions, 1963, pp. 110-111).In fact, one of the pope’s primary titles is vicar of Christ, which implies “his supreme and universal primacy, both of honour and of jurisdiction, over the Church of Christ” (Catholic Encyclopedia). The idea is that the pope stands in place of Christ as His representative on earth—endowed with Christ’s own authority—which was originally given to Peter.
The Roman Catholic Church has used this authority to change or proclaim many doctrines that are not taught in the Bible. Some include:
- In A.D. 190, Pope Victor I declared that all Christians should abandon the biblical Passover, and instead observe Easter to represent Jesus’ resurrection. The Council of Nicaea later confirmed this and made it binding on the entire church (A.D. 325).
- On Dec. 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception,” which proclaimed that the Virgin Mary was “preserved free from all stain of original sin” and throughout her life was “entirely perfect, beautiful, most dear to God and never stained with the least blemish” (Ineffabilis Deus).
- On Nov. 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII announced the doctrine of the “Assumption of Mary,” declaring that the Virgin Mary’s body never died and saw corruption, but was “assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Munificentissimus Deus).
Now, if you are a Protestant Christian reading this article, you may disagree with some of these Catholic proclamations. But don’t be too quick to disconnect your own faith from this topic. The fact is that Protestantism retained (and still believes and practices) many doctrines established by the Roman church using the authority they claim to derive from Matthew 16:18-19!
Let’s look at one example.
Does your church hold services on Sunday—believing that it is the “Lord’s Day”? Did you know that Rome was responsible for changing the biblical day of worship from the seventh-day Sabbath to Sunday? The Catholic Church itself is the first to admit it used its authority to make the change. Furthermore, Catholics have logically claimed that Protestants who observe Sunday do so only by recognizing the universal authority of the Church of Rome.
James Cardinal Gibbons, a Catholic cardinal, wrote:
“Now the Scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe, nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practice.
Not to mention other examples, is not every Christian obliged to sanctify Sunday and to abstain on that day from unnecessary servile work? … But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday.
The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify” (The Faith of Our Fathers, 1917, pp. 72-73).
The Catholic Universe Bulletin published this statement in 1942: “The Church changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday by right of the divine, infallible authority given to her by her Founder, Jesus Christ. The Protestant, claiming the Bible to be the only guide of faith, has no warrant for observing Sunday.”
If you go to church on Sunday, you are tacitly recognizing the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to change and add to biblical revelation.
If this makes you uncomfortable, you may want to read more about the biblical Sabbath in our booklet The Sabbath: A Neglected Gift From God.
What Jesus really meant
So, was Jesus really building the Church on Peter (and his successors) in Matthew 16:18? Let’s look more closely at the verse.
Understanding this passage in its original language, Greek, provides the key to understanding what Christ meant. Jesus used a wordplay that isn’t clear when read in English.
First, Jesus used the word Petros when referring to Peter: “I also say to you that you are Peter [Petros].” He then used a similar-sounding word to describe what He was building His Church on: Petra.
“And on this rock [petra] I will build My church.”So, Christ’s statement actually reads this: “I also say to you that you are Petros, and on this petra I will build My Church.”
Peter’s given name was Simon Bar-Jonah, but Christ had given him the nickname Cephas—an Aramaic word meaning “A Stone” (John 1:42). Petros in Matthew 16:18 is the Greek form of the nickname.
The meaning of both Cephas and Petros is the same: “a fragment, a stone” (Zondervan Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, pp. 537-538).
The closest English words to petros would be pebble, stone or small rock.
The second word Christ used was petra. This word also means rock, but it represents “a mass of rock” (ibid.). This word could be translated as boulder—an immovable mass. Had Christ intended to describe Peter, all He needed to say was: You are Peter and on you I will build My Church.
But He didn’t say that.
He distinguished the rock (petra) He was building the Church on from Peter (petros). The rock He was building His Church on was a rock big enough to serve as the chief cornerstone in the foundation; it was large, strong and immovable. This describes none other than Jesus Christ Himself!
The rest of the Bible clearly identifies Jesus as this rock. Jesus is called “the chief cornerstone” seven times in the New Testament (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7). In 1 Corinthians 10:4 the apostle Paul refers to Christ as “that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
Jesus was not only the chief cornerstone, He is still the active “head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18; see also Ephesians 5:23).
Christ did establish offices in His Church (Ephesians 4:11), but the Bible instructs those who hold offices of leadership to remain faithful to Christ’s teachings (1 Corinthians 11:1).Even Peter himself—far from claiming the authority some believe he was given—taught plainly that Christians “should follow His [Christ’s] steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
5 Prayers to Pray for Your Church
“Prayer meetings were the arteries of the early church. Through them, life-sustaining power was derived. The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings.
So is the prayer meeting a grace-o-meter, and from it, we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God is near a church, it must pray.
And if He is not there, one of dying first tokens of His absence will be a slothfulness in prayer!” Charles Haddon Spurgeon
When is the last time you prayed for your church body? What about your pastor? Staff? Leadership? Have you prayed for your Sunday School teacher? Have you interceded on behalf of issues taking place in your church or decisions that need to be made?
Our churches are under the attack of the enemy never before. Our leaders and each of our brothers and sisters in Christ need our prayers. We are the Body of Christ and we must lift one another up! Let's use these prayers for the church — both your local church and those around the world.
A Prayer for Good to Prevail over Evil
“‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Genesis 50:20
Lord, what the enemy means for evil against our church body, we believe You can use for good. Remind our hearts of this.
When we are being attacked and crushed from all sides, remind us of Your faithfulness to use everything for Your good and Your glory. May we not fear but trust in Your provision for our church family.
May we not only be readers of Your Word but believers and doers. Increase our faith, Lord.
A Prayer for Unity as a Church Body
“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
God, help our church body to walk in a manner worthy of the calling You have given us. Help us in all our interactions with one another to have humble and gentle hearts. Grant us patience for one another, bearing with one another in love. Grant the Body of Christ unity. May we walk humbly with You, God, allowing You to show us our wrongs.
A Prayer to Seek the Lord
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.» 2 Chronicles 7:14-15
Lord, You have told us in Your Word that You hear our prayers. We are crying out to You, we are humbling ourselves before You and seeking Your face. We come together as a church body to seek You. We repent and turn from our wicked ways, thank You for hearing us. Thank you for Your forgiveness and healing.
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19
Father God, You desire peace and unity and encouragement for our body of believers. Help us, Lord, to pursue what makes for peace and for building one another up. To pursue the things You will lead to peace and unity.
Give us discerning hearts to know Your will and give us the courage to be obedient. Lord, we know that without You and Your Holy Spirit indwelling each of us, we cannot do any of these things.
But, with You and for Your glory, grant our body peace and unity.
A Prayer to Follow Jesus
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
Lord, You have given us what seems an impossible task with this passage. You have asked us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow You. Even when our spirits are willing, the flesh is weak. You know our hearts, Father.
Help us, with Your Holy Spirit, to examine our hearts and hear from You. The longer we walk with You, the more we look You. We desire to become more and more You, less selfish and more selfless, willing to deny ourselves in any and all situations.
You have told us that when we lose our life for Your sake, we will save it. Save us from ourselves, God.
As we lift up these words for our churches, let us come before God with humility and a willingness to obey. Let us put others first and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we seek God first, putting aside our own desires. May we become intercessors for our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we pray more and criticize less. May we be encouragers and uplifters.
Candace Crabtree is just a broken mama thankful for grace and new mercies every morning. She and her husband live in East Tennessee where they homeschool their 3 kids.
Candace also enjoys teaching piano, coffee, good books and blogging at His Mercy Is New.
On her blog, she shares encouragement for weary women from God's Word along with resources for learning to pray the Scriptures.
Publication date: July 7, 2016
This article is part of our larger Prayers resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.
Prayer for Healing
Prayer for Strength
Prayer for Protection
Good Night Prayers
Prayer for Forgiveness
Prayer for Guidance
Prayer for Peace
Prayer for Faith
Prayer for Love
Bible Verses About Church: 17 Top Scripture Quotes
Ecclesiology is the study of the church. The New Testament church began at Pentecost in Acts 2. This is often referred to as the Church Age.
The definition for a church is a group that meets regularly (Hebrews 10:24-25) under organized leadership (Hebrews 13:17-18) and practices the purposes that are seen in the early church in Acts 2:42-47. There are many different churches out there today with all kinds of different practices.
The Bible gives many words about the church and things that need to be part of a church according to Scripture. Whenever we look at words about the church in the New Testament we need to be careful in our evaluation. What I mean by this is that there are 2 types of passages about the church.
The first is when the church is described in “prescriptive terms.” This means that these are things that God says need to be part of the church. Baptism and observance of the Lord’s Supper would fall into this category. The second type of passages are “descriptive” passages about the church.
These are passages that merely describe what the church did but we are not necessarily commanded to do the same. Cultural passages such as women wearing head coverings would fall into this category. It is important that we understand what God teaches us about the church so that we (the people) can “be” the church. Consider the following…
Acts 1:41-42 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Verses About The Church
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:23, 25 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
1 Timothy 3:15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
Verses About The Building
Haggai 2:9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.
Matthew 16:18 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.
1 Corinthians 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Verses About Church Unity
Ephesians 1:22-23 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
Colossians 1:17-20 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
Verses About Serving in the Church
Acts 6:1-2 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.
Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae
1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
When you stop to think about it, isn’t it amazing that God wants to use us (Christians) to be and to build His church? Think about it. Even in spite of our sins and our shortcomings God allows us to be part of His church. He even says that each member is so important in building the body of Christ.
The picture that He gives of the church members being parts of a physical body vividly show this teaching. That is how much God loves us. That in spite of our sin, He sees something beautiful that He can use. Friends, I hope you know the God of the Bible.
He is an amazing God and He wants and desires a personal relationship with you and in doing that, we can bring Him glory. Hallelujah!!
How to find a Bible-believing Church
Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”; “If we are the body” by Casting Crowns
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Now when Jesus came into the district of CaesareaPhilippi, He was asking His disciples, «Who do people say that theSon of Man is?» 14 And they said, «Some say John the Baptist; andothers, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of theprophets.» 15 He said to them, «But who do you say that I am?» 16Simon Peter answered, «You are the Christ, the Son of the livingGod.» 17 And Jesus said to him, «Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Fatherwho is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and uponthis rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will notoverpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven;and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, andwhatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.» 20Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that Hewas the Christ. 21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciplesthat He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from theelders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raisedup on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebukeHim, saying, «God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.»23 But He turned and said to Peter, «Get behind Me, Satan! You area stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God'sinterests, but man's.» 24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, «Ifanyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take uphis cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his lifewill lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world andforfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for hissoul?»
I listened to Oscar's message last Sunday by tape as soon as Igot home from England.
It was, as I knew it would be, a powerfulcall to make disciples and prepare elders for new churches in theage of Jihad, by avoiding unnecessary controversy, being saturatedwith the Bible, and throwing yourself into difficult ministry whereboldness in the Word is necessary. He said the outrageous truththat Jihad is a gift to the American church. Why?
- Because it forces the nominal Christian bluff; either we getmake disciples and plant churches or we will be converted. Islam isout to take the world.
- It produces economic instability so we are pressed toward thewartime lifestyle we should have been living all along.
- It helps us identify with the church in the rest of the world,which has known this threat and instability all along. Now we canlearn how to prepare elders for the real church.
- It presses us to center the discipling of our children in thehome, because the church building and Pastor John may be blown upanyway. You can't lean on the building or the preacher.
- It wakes us up to the glorious truth that in the end whatmatters is the resurrection with Christ. To live is Christ and todie is gain.
I pick up where Oscar left off and hope I can hold the coursethat he set. My aim this morning is to be an ambassador for therisen Christ and call all of you to a serious engagement withtaking the gospel to unreached peoples either as goers or senders.
No neutral people at Bethlehem. No bystanders. No mere spectators.
And when I am done I hope to issue a call for all of you whobelieve God is at work in your lives to lead you into missions as agoer to come forward for prayer and for a plan to pursue thistrajectory for your life.
Now let's turn to three focuses related to this text: 1)Christ's triumphant commitment to build his church (v. 18).2)Christ's unwavering commitment to gather his church from all thepeoples of the world, not just Westerners or white or red or blackor yellow – but all peoples, every shade, every language,every tribe.
3) Christ's radical way of winning the nations,namely, by the death of himself and the death of his people. Thegates of Hades will not prevail. They will be unlocked from theinside.
1. Christ's Triumphant Commitment to Build His church
In Matthew 16:15 Jesus asks his disciples, «Who do you say thatI am?» Peter answers in verse 16, «You are the Christ [theMessiah], the Son of the living God.
» To this Jesus says in verse17-18, «Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood didnot reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (18) I alsosay to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build Mychurch; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
» In otherwords, «On you, my authoritative apostle, and my inspiredproclaimer of the gospel, I will build my church. I will build mychurch on the apostolic word.»
What I want to drive home here is the triumphant authority ofthis promise. World missions is not ultimately dependent on humaninitiative or human wisdom or human perseverance.
It is ultimatelydependent on the power and wisdom and faithfulness of the risen andliving Christ to keep this promise: «I will build my church.» Not,»You will build my church.» Or, «Missionaries will build mychurch.
» Or, «Pastors will build my church.» But, «I willbuild my church.»
So Paul was jealous to give this glory to Jesus. In Romans 15:18he says, «I will not presume to speak of anything except whatChrist has accomplished through me, resulting in theobedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.» Christ accomplishedit. Christ brought about the obedience of the peoples. Yes,missionaries are crucial.
Pastors and elders are crucial. But weare not ultimate. Christ is ultimate. «I will build mychurch.» One missionary plants. Another missionary or pastorwaters. Yes. But Christ gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6).Christ builds the church.
Church planting and church establishingis supernatural work, or it is not the church that gets built, butonly a human organization.
This was the point of the way Matthew ended his gospel in28:18-19, where Jesus said, «All authority has been given to Me inheaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all thenations.» I have authority to do it – over all the powers ofdarkness, over death and hell, over government and terrorists– and I will do it. I will build my church. So go! I will bewith you.
Was Jesus Building His Church on September 11?
So to put a point on it: Was Jesus building his church onSeptember 11? Remember well: God's ways are not our ways, and histhoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). «How unsearchable areHis judgments and unfathomable His ways!» (Romans 11:33).
What ifChrist saw these planes heading for the destruction of thousandsand the upheaval of nations? What if, at the same time, he saw 200million Hindu untouchables in India, the Dalits.
What if he sawthat his centuries-long work of dislodging them from Hindu bondagewas about to come to consummation and they were contemplatingembracing Islam or possibly Christianity or Buddhism to escape thecaste system? And what if he foresaw that this Islam-driven terroragainst civilians in New York would have the mass effect of tiltingmillions of Dalits away from the falsehood of Islam toward thetruth of Christianity? What if he withheld his power from stoppingthe terrorists because, along with 10,000 other hope-filledeffects, he had a view to the everlasting life of thousands ormillions of untouchables in India? Was he building his church onSeptember 11?One thing is sure. «This gospel of the kingdom shall be preachedin the whole world as a testimony to all the nations» (Matthew24:14). The Christ who rules earth and heaven said, «I will buildmy church.
» Do you hear God's call in that on your life? Do youwant to pursue something absolutely certain? Do you want to giveyourself to something invincible? Nothing done for this Christ isever done in vain.
Give yourself to his cause.
2. Christ's Unwavering Commitment to Gather His Church from AllPeoples
My second point is that Christ has an unwavering commitment togather his church from all the peoples of the world, not justWesterners or white or red or black or yellow – but allpeoples, every shade, every language, every tribe.
This is plain from Matthew 28:19, «Go therefore and makedisciples of all the nations.» It's plain from Matthew24:14, «This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the wholeworld as a testimony to all the nations.
» It's plain fromRomans 15:11 where Paul quotes Psalm 117:1, «praise the lord allyou gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him.
» And itis plain from Revelation 5:9, «You were slain, and purchased forGod with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and peopleand nation.»
And here I have a special burden this morning to say Christ hasa commitment to gather a church from all the Muslim peoples of theworld – not with the sword or the bullet, but with the Spiritand the Word. Islam is not ethnically uniform or monolithic.
Thelargest Muslim country is Indonesia: 228 million people (Javanese,Sundanese, Madurese, Malays, etc.). Most of Northern Africa isMuslim. Indian peoples, Chinese peoples, Central Asian peoples.
Christ is committed to building his church of all the Muslimpeoples of the world.
The issue in the Muslim world today – as in every otherreligion and every other era – is Who is Jesus, and will wetreasure him and trust him and honor him for who he really is? Andthe reason the matter is urgent with the Muslim peoples is becausethey give the same wrong answer to this question that some Jewsgave in verse Matthew 16:14.
Who is Jesus? «And they said, 'Somesay John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others,Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.'» For Islam, Jesus is»one of the prophets.» He is not the Son of God. He is not thecrucified and risen Redeemer of fallen man. He is not the Creatorof the universe.
And every knee will not bow to him and confessthat Jesus is Lord of all to the glory of God the Father.Therefore Islam profoundly dishonors Jesus Christ and is not theway to everlasting joy in God. There is «one mediator also betweenGod and men, the man Christ Jesus» (1 Timothy 2:5). There is oneway, one truth, one life, Jesus Christ, and no one comes to theFather but by him (John 14:6). He who has the Son has life, and hewho has not the Son does not have life (1 John 5:12).
This is why missions is absolutely necessary. «He whobelieves in the Son has eternal life; but he who does notobey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him»(John 3:36). «How will they believe in Him whom they havenot heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?»(Romans 10:14).
Christ will build his church. But he will do itthrough the hearing of the gospel of Christ. He will do it throughthe word carried by human ambassadors. We call them missionaries.One of the most exalted titles in the world. People of whom theworld is not worthy – no matter how many struggles theyhave.
Which leads us to one last point. How will it be done?
3. Christ's Radical Way of Winning the Nations
Christ's radical way of winning the nations is by the death ofhimself and the death of his people. The gates of Hades will notprevail. They will be unlocked from the inside.
Consider verse 18b: «I will build My church; and the gates ofHades will not overpower it.» The gates of Hades are the gates ofdeath. Hades is the place of the dead in Jewish thought.
The gatesof Hades are the gates that make death look powerful and secureinvincible – as if what is dead is dead forever and can neverget death.
But Jesus says, «These gates will not stop mefrom rescuing people from death.»
How will he do it? He tells us in verse 21.
After he makes itplain that he is the Christ and the Son of God and that allauthority belongs to him in the universe and that he has the powerover death, it says, «From that time Jesus began to show Hisdisciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things fromthe elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and beraised up on the third day.» He will open the doors of Hades fromthe inside. He gets in by dying. He gets out by resurrection. Andnow the gates are his. Revelation 1:18, «I died, and behold I amalive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.» Thekeys were kept on the inside. That is why he went in. And when hecame out he brought the keys with him. Now he will build hischurch. Death will take none and keep none that he finally wills tohave.
And what about us? How do we figure in? He tells us in verses24-25, «Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to comeafter Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and followMe.
(25) For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; butwhoever loses his life for My sake will find it.» To follow Jesusmeans to join him on the Calvary road that leads into death andthen death.
«Whoever loses his life for my sake will findit.» Lose it to find it. Die so you can live.
We Win the Nations by Dying and Living with Jesus, byFaith
This is how we win the peoples with Jesus Christ. We do what hedid. «I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I wholive, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in theflesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gaveHimself up for me» (Galatians 2:20). We die with him and live withhim, by faith.
Jesus died and rose again to save his church among all thepeoples. «I will build my church.» Now he calls us this morning:Will we join him in dying to the world and living to Christ that wemay win the peoples in his name? Whoever loses his life for Christand the gospel will find it and will bring others through the gatesfrom death to life. Amen!