Thursday, August 17, 2017
 

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon The Geology of the Church ]

THE GE0LOGY OF  THE CHURCH

 

 

In Matt. 16:18 is  recorded this famous saying of Jesus, "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." Jesus informs us that he was going to build his church on solid rock and that nothing could stop the building of it, not even death itself. Jesus propounded a question to his disciples, "Who do the people say I am?" As is always the case, when matters are left to public opinion, the opinions greatly differed. He was told that he was thought to be John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Putting the question directly to them he said, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" The outspoken Peter immediately replied, "You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus congratulated him for knowing such a profound truth and informed him that he learned it from God and not man. Then follows the text on which I am speaking, "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock ,1 will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." This text literally says, "Upon this rock I will build my called out", for the literal meaning of church is "the called out." Taken literally it does not make sense. It is a figurative statement and was never intended to be taken literally. The church is God's temple, and it is the only temple which God has on the earth today; he no longer dwells in material temples made with hands. He expects you to know that his church is God's spiritual temple; hence he speaks of building it.

One of the principal thoughts in the text has to do with the geology of the church. Geology is that science which treats of the history of the earth and its life, especially as recorded in the rocks. The first part of the word means earth and the last part of the word means word or thought. Geology literally means the study of the earth. Its etymology thus suggests a treatment of the beginnings or foundations, especially as such has to do with the rocks. Since Jesus said that he would build his church on a rock, it suggests that there is a geology of the church. He spoke of the church in terms of its sub-structure and the rock foundation which supports it. The foundation of the Lord's House or God's temple is a matter of frequent mention in the Bible. The one true God has had only three temples in all of human history. The first first temple was built by Solomon about 1000 B.C., and it was made of stone. The second was built about 535 B.C. and was beautified by King Herod in the first century B.C. It too was made of stone. The third temple was built in 33 A.D. in the Christian age, but it was not made of stone. It was made of living stones, living human beings redeemed to God by the lood of Christ. God's third temple was a spiritual temple, and it was the church which Jesus said he would build in our text.


Hundreds of years before Christ was born Isaiah uttered this prophecy, "Thus says the Lord Jehovah, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone of sure foundation" (Isa. 28:16). Solomon's temple was still in existence when God made this prediction, but it is a clear prophecy that God was going to build another, different and greater temple in Jerusalem. God himself had selected the chief cornerstone for the foundation of his new temple. The meaning of this prophecy and the identification of this new temple was clearly revealed by the apostle Peter. The apostle Peter declares that Christians worship in this new temple, and Christ is in this temple. He says when they come to this temple they come to Christ, "As a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious. You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in scripture, Behold I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on him will by no means be put to shame" (I Pet. 2:4-8). We thus have Peter's inspired comment that the precious cornerstone of God's new temple, predicted in Isa. 28:16, was not a literal stone in a literal temple, but that stone was a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.


There was another important Old Testament prophecy regarding the precious cornerstone of this new temple. David said in Psalm 118:22, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." What a remarkable prophecy! God selected the cornerstone of his new temple to be built in the Messianic age, and behold we are told that the builders would reject the divinely selected cornerstone in the foundation of the temple. Jesus said that the builders in this prophecy referred to the Jewish Sanhedrin who rejected him as the Messiah. In Matt, 21:42 Jesus said, "Did you never read in the scriptures, The Stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." All that I have said thus far is background information on the statement of Jesus, "Upon this rock I will build my church..." His church was the new temple of Old Testament prophecy.  What, then, is the rock on which Jesus said, "I will build my church?" This statement has been interpreted to mean that Jesus would build his church exclusively on the apostle Peter. The basis of this interpretation is that the word Peter means "a rock" and thus Jesus meant he would build the church on Peter. We reject this interpretation because it contradicts the clear teachings of the New Testament. The Greek word petros, translated "Peter," is a different word from the Greek word petra, translated "rock," on which Jesus said he would build the church. According to Liddel and Scott's Greek Lexicon the word petros simply means a single stone or fragment, but petra means a ledge or shelf of rock such as found in the sea. Hence the word Peter and the word rock in the passage do not stand for one and the same thing; the two words have a different and distinct significance. When Jesus said "On this rock I will build my church, he did not use Peter's name.



Moreover, there is more evidence that the word Peter and the word rock differ in meaning. The two words differ in gender. Petros, translated "Peter", is masculine while the word petra, rendered "rock" is feminine. To indicate the force of the different genders this statement could be translated, "Peter, you are a he-rock, but upon this she-rock I will build my church." Thus understood, and correctly so, how could one ever reach the conclusion that the church was built on Peter. This statement was simply a play on words, but Jesus used words sufficiently different and of different gender in order that no one would confuse his meaning. Furthermore, I direct your attention to some scriptures which conclusively prove that Jesus did not build his church exclusively on Peter. It is a very important rule of Bible interpretation that we should never interpret difficult scriptures in such a way as to contradict plain scriptures. We should not formulate doctrines based on a single passage which would contradict clearly understood passages. For example, the apostle Paul said in I Cor. 3:10-11, "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." This passage distinctly says that Jesus Christ himself is the foundation of the church; he is the only foundation and he is the entire foundation. Stripping away the figurative language, the meaning is that the teachings of Christ constitute the only foundation of the church. Jesus Christ, our Lord, or what is essentially the same, the truth of his Deity and fundamental facts touching his Divine personality—this is the foundation upon which the church is built. This is what Paul meant when he said that no other foundation can be laid except that one which has already been laid, which is Jesus Christ. How could language be plainer? This is precisely what Jesus meant when he said, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."


Jesus made this statement because of the remarkable utterance of Peter, "You are the Christ the Son of the living God." That truth uttered by Peter is the rock, the foundational truth upon which Jesus built his church. Jesus built his church on this great truth which Peter uttered and not on Peter himself. Bearing in mind, then, the different significance of the two words, petros, Peter and Petra, rock—the meaning clearly appears. Jesus is saying, "Peter though you are a rock, your are a mere pebble, comparatively speaking. For upon this solid bed-rock, this great truth you have just confessed that I am the Messiah, the Divine Son of the one true and living God, on that truth I will build my Church."


Additional light is shed on the foundation of the church in Eph. 2:19-20. Writing to Gentile Christians Paul said, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God, and have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone." Here again the church is described as the Temple of God standing on its foundation composed of Jesus Christ, the inspired apostles and the inspired New Testament prophets. This completes the picture of the church foundation. No one belongs in the picture but Christ, all of his apostles and the prophets of the first century. If Christ himself is the entire foundation, why are the apostles and prophets placed in the foundation? The teachings of Christ alone constitute the foundation, but the apostles and prophets revealed the teachings of Christ to mankind for the first time. All of Christ's teachings have come to us from the apostles who were heaven-sent teachers. Their knowledge of Christ is now contained in the 27 books of the New Testament. You should believe no religious teaching, doctrine or tradition which is not found in the New Testament. All church building should be done by the teachings of the New-Testament alone. If anyone in later centuries claims to be a prophet or prophetess with a new or additional revelation from heaven, do not believe them. The church is not built on their teachings. The church Is built on the teachings of Christ as revealed by the apostles, who were supernaturally inspired teachers. Moreover, they placed their knowledge in the 27 books of the New Testament. 


Equally interesting and of equal importance is the latter part of our text which says, "Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." What did he mean when he said that the gates of hades will not prevail against the church? Please notice that Jesus did not say that evil would not prevail against the church; rather, he said that the gates of hades would not prevail against it. Hades is the unseen world, to which souls go at death. Moreover, it is death which admits souls into hades or the unseen regions. Hence, to say that the gates of hades will not prevail against the church is equivalent to saying that death will not prevail against it. After promising to build the church, God's new temple, on the foundation truth that he was the Messiah and Divine Son of God, he informs them that before he completes this work he must die. At his death the soul of Jesus entered the gates of hades, but he promised that even this would not prevent the building of his church. Jesus was going to build the church, God's spiritual temple, and even death itself could not stop it.


Immediately after announcing that he would build his church, he informed the apostles that he must go to Jerusalem, be killed and raised from the dead on the third day (Matt. 16:21). Thus it appears that the true meaning of the statement that the gates of hades shall not prevail against the church is that insplte of the fact he must die and pass through the gates of hades, into the realm of departed spirits, yet he shall come forth from hades and be raised from the grave and make good his promise to build the new spiritual temple of God, which is the New Testament church. The characteristics of his church are clearly set forth in the New Testament and are easily discernible. It demands that all who would become members of that church have a sincere faith in Jesus as Messiah and Lord. They must believe that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried and that he rose again on the third day. In addition they must turn away from their past sinful life in repentance and make a public confession of Christ's Deity. The conversion process is completed by immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins. The church which Jesus promised to build was built for the first time in Jerusalem, 50 days after the death of Christ. According to the way Western civilization reckons time, the church had its beginning in 33 A.D. After charging the people of Jerusalem with killing their own Messiah, the apostle Peter then offered them heaven's pardon because they did it ignorantly. He then commanded all who wanted God's mercy to "repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the pardon of their sins (Acts 2:38) 3,000 Jews became Christians on that first Pentecost day. Since that first day when Jesus built his church, he has continued to add to this church daily such as are being saved (Acts 2:47). His church meets every first day of the week, by his commandment, to partake of the Lord's Supper. This weekly observance commemorates his death and proclaims his death until he returns from heaven. If you have not done so, let me urge you to comply with the conditions of the gospel announced by Christ, and he will add you to the church which he built upon the rock. 

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