LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT THE CHURCH
The above passage of scripture contains some little known facts about the New Testament Church. It speaks of the foundation of the church, the correct name of the Church, and the indestructible nature of the church. We are for the first time introduced to one of the most famous words in all of Christendom; it is the word, Church.” It has a most interesting origin.
The first fact that should be noted in this passage is that Christ did not build His church on the apostle Peter, and He did not make Peter the head of the Church on earth. Jesus made this statement to Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” The Church of Rome uses this passage to justify their doctrinal belief that Christ made Peter the head of the church on earth during his lifetime, that Peter was the first Pope, and that he also authorized the church to elect successive Popes until Christ comes back. One of their traditional beliefs is that Peter founded the church of Rome and was “the Bishop” of the Church in Rome for twent-five years or more. They believe this by tradition and not fact. The Protestant scholars find no evidence for this claim in the New Testament. The truth of the matter is that Peter is given little prominence in the history of the church. The apostle Paul had a much more prominent part in the spread of New Testament Christianity.
In the organization of the New Testament church, each congregation had its own religious leaders, and there was no one over them but Christ Himself. There were Bishops, plural, but no one was ch known as, “The Bishop” over and above any other Bishop. They wore the titles of Elders, Bishops, and Shepherds. All were equal in authority. A plurality of Church officials were required, and authority was never placed in the hands of any one man. As a fact of history, there were no Popes in the first, second or third centurys A.D. The title of Pope was first applied to the Bishop of Rome in 296 A.D.
Jesus did not say, “Peter, I will build the church on you.” Jesus said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church.” What was that rock? Just before Jesus made that statement, Jesus had asked the Apostles who the people thought He was. Immediately, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That Divine truth, supernaturally revealed to Peter by God, is the foundation truth of the Christian religion. When Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build the church,” he meant this great truth Peter had just spoken, . Christ built the church on the foundation
truth that He was the Messiah of the Jews and the Divine Son of God sent f rom heaven. Every person who becomes a Christian must confess this great truth publicly before they can be baptized. This is affirmed
in Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from he dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The confession Peter made, and the confession you made, if you are a true Christian, is the rock on which Jesus built His church. He built His Church on the truth that He was the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy and the Divine Son of the one true and living God.
Another little known fact about the church is that Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christians never used the English word “Church” to refer to Christians, God's New Testament people. No such word even existed at that time. Morever, Jesus did not use the word “Church” in this passage. So far as I now the Greek language did not have a word that would correspond to our English word, “Church.” The word church is a very unusual word and has more than one meaning. Webster's Dictionary gives several definitions of this word. Among them are the following:
1. A building set apart for Christian worship.
2. A formally organized body of Christian believers worshiping together.
3. The collective body of Christians.
4. A denomination, a body of Christian believers, holding the same creed..
According to Webster, the church is two entirely different things. For one, it a church building, set apart for worship. For another, it is Christian believers. Which is right?. Clearly the church is the worshipers and not the church building. When Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build My Church,” He didn't mean,, “Upon this rock I will build My church building.” Jesus, the apostles and the early Christians never had this problem. They never called the buildings in which they worshiped, “the Church.” What terminology then did they use? We have an example in Colossians 4:15. Paul said to the Christians in Colosse, “Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house.” In early times Christians worshiped in homes. Paul spoke of the church(Christians) who worshiped in the house of Nymphas. The church is always the worshipers and not the house or building.
What then did Jesus mean by this word “church” now found in all
Bibles?. What word did the apostles and early Christians use to identify the Christian family? The word Jesus and the New Testament writers used to
describe God's New Testament people was the “ Ekklesia,” a very commonly used word among the Greeks. The word simply means a “gathering” of people, called out by an official of the government and rightly called an assembly. Thayer's Greek dictionary says, “In the Christian sense, it means an assembly of Christians gathered together for worship. He also says the word refers to, “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth, collectively all who worship and honor Christ in whatever place they may be.” Therefore the correct meaning of Ekklesia is “the called out.” The actual meaning of the word church then is people whom God has called out of moral and religious darkness , into His marvelous light, through the gospel. The word church signifies no more than people whom God has called out of the world to serve Him and His Son Jesus Christ. Thea correct name for God's people is “The Assembly or Congregation,” and not the church. The word church is a man- made name. You will find this expression in the New Testament, “All the Churches of Christ salute you”(Romans 16:16). What it really says is, “The Assemblies of Christ salute you.” Another phrase found in the New Testament is, “Unto the Church of God at Corinth” (I Corinthians 1:1). What it really says is, “Unto the Assembly of God at Corinth.” The apostles allowed no man-made names to be given to the church, as is common in the denominational world.
Where then did this word church come from? How did it get in the Bible? That is a good question. Like the word baptism, it is a mistranslation. Our English ancestors had a part in giving the Christian world this famous word, but in all fairness it is not a good translation. Ekklesia means assembly, not church. Our English ancestors liked this word church, and they liked to call their places of worship churches. This word appeared in the Old King James Bible(1611 A.D.), and it has been in all other translations of the Bible ever since. All Christendom loves this word church, even though it is an incorrect translation. People love the word today as much our English ancestors did. So the word is here to say, and we must live with it, and with all the confusion the word has today in the Christendom. It is difficult today to know who true assemblies of Christ are and who are not true assemblies of Christ. The Old James Version was made ate the request of the Clergymen of England. King James appointed 54 of the greatest scholars in Great Britain to translate the Bible out of Hebrew and Greek into English. However, I understand 47 ended up doing the work. It is my understanding that King James demanded this translation be done under the followomg regulations:
1,That they keep as close to the Bishop's Bible as possible.
2. That the name of the holy writers be retained according to common use.
3 .That the old Ecclesiastical words be kept, such as church, not to be
4. That when a word has divers significations, use such as has been most
5. That the division of the chapters be not altered. And several other regulations were made.
It would appear that the word church was placed in the Old King James version because the King of England did not want the word church removed and replaced it with such words as congregation or assembly. We don't know exactly why the king made these regulations, but since clergymen requested him to make this translation, it is very possible that the clergymen insisted on these regulations. It is not certain why they didn't want the word church removed from earlier translations.
We may have a clue from Webster's dictionary which indicates the word church may have been derived from the word “kirke.” Webster defines the word church to means the place of worship as well as the worshipers themselves. There is evidence that our English ancestors called their places of worship kirkes, and this word may very well have been changed to the word church. They called their places of worship churches as well as the worshipers, and people today like to call their places of worship churches. This was helpful to distinguish Protestant churches from the Catholic church and distinguish one Protestant church from another. The word church is used today in the same way to distinguish one church from another among hundreds of different churches. Apparently, the Biblical names for the church, such. as assembly, gathering, or congregation were too general, too undenominational. The word church solved the problem of many differing Protestant churches among our early English ancestors, and it solves the problem for hundreds of denominational churches today. Today the word church can describe any church of any belief, and yet be accepted as one of the assemblies of Christ. It is my considered opinion that the denominational concept of Christ's church is responsible for the universal use of the word church instead of assembly or congregation.
Finally, there is one more little known fact about the church in this passage of scripture. After Jesus said that He would build His assembly, or congregation on the truth that He is the Messiah, the Divine Son of God, He made this amazing statement, “And the gates of hades shall not prevail
against it.” I agree with those who think this statement declares the indestructability of the church. Jesus is saying the church will be on the earth so long as time shall last, and nothing or no one can destroy it. His
church will have a permanent existence on earth. It is another way of saying that the Christian religion is an indestructable religion. Religions come and go, but the religion of Christ has come, and it will not go or come to an end.
However, Jesus expressed this truth in an unusual way by saying, “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” The word Hades literally means “Unseen,” and is the general location where all souls go at death. It is divided into two regions, one for the good and righteous and the other for the bad and unrighteous. One region is called “paradise.” Jesus and the thief He saved on the cross went into the region of Hades called paradise
(Luke 23:43). In the first gospel sermon Peter informed us that the soul of Jesus was not left in Hades, but returned to His body in Joseph's tomb before His body saw corruption(Acts 2:31). Peter further commented on Hades by saying that the angels who were cast out of heaven were cast down to a place called Tartarus(( 2 Peter 2:4) This is the other region in Hades. The gates of Hades, therefore, is a figure of speech for entrance of souls into Hades, the unseen world. It is really a metaphor for death.
I agree with those who think Jesus is saying here, “Upon this rock I will build My church and even death will not prevail against it. The religious leaders of Israel thought that when they killed Him that would be end of Jesus and His entire religious claim and movement. Therefore, the death of Jesus was first danger of death prevailing against the church. At the crucifixion the soul of Jesus entered the gates of Hades, but that did not prevent Him from building His church. He arose from the dead on the third day, and ten days after His ascension to heaven He established the church in the city of Jerusalem. Even His own death did not prevail against the church.
Another danger that death presents to the church is the death of Christians. One generation of Christians passes away, and another generation comes. The church will not fail even though generation after generation of Christians yield to the power of death. Each new generation will perpetuate the church. The church will continue until it completes its mission on earth. There is nothing in history quite so remarkable as the way the church has survived all the catastrophic changes of the past twenty centuries. The church has seen hard times such as the falling away in the Dark Ages, but it continued to live. It cannot b e destroyed because it can continue to exist in family churches. The New Testament speaks of Nymphas and the church in his home. Since 1800 the church has re-emerged from the Dark Ages in all of its glory.