“THE STATE OF THE CHURCH” Matthew 16:13-20
CWBC – 7/1/18
INTRO – There’s a lot of talk these days about the state of the church, & much of is not good. Many people are saying that the SBC is dying. We decreased in members for the last 11 years, & have decreased in baptisms in 8 out of the last 10 years. We’ve brought some of it on ourselves through our own sinful actions.
Some of the negative talk comes at us simply b/c of who we are & Who our Savior is. You can talk about God all day long & no one will get upset. But the moment you mention Jesus Christ, the ravenous wolves come out.
But you know what? Today, we are not going to worry about the naysayers & the negative critics. We are going to celebrate the Church today! And we are going to start by hearing about some of the cool things that happened to our youth last week at youth camp. Gunner is going to come share w/ us.
This passage in Matthew 16 is an important passage in our understanding of the place of the Church in God’s Kingdom work. One commentator said this: “This passage serves as a transitional section in Matthew’s Gospel. Peter’s confession summarized Jesus’ ministry up to this point. And Jesus’ announcement of the church began Jesus’ preparation of the disciples for their leadership roles in his absence. Jesus’ intention to build his church marks a major transition in God’s pursuit of his great plan of the ages. The old wineskin of Israel had been set on the shelf temporarily, while the new wineskin of the church was introduced.”
The Bible makes it clear that the Church is God’s plan for His work to continue in this world. It was His idea. It is endued His power. It bears His name. It is the Body of Christ.
The Bible also makes these 3 things clear about the Church. It makes it clear:
…what the message is – v. 16 – What are we supposed to be proclaiming to the world?
- “Our church is better than all the other churches”?
- “Just live a good life & do the best you can & in the end, everything will work out”?
- “Jesus will make you wealthy, healthy, & influential”?
- “We hate anyone who is different from us or disagrees with us”?
- “Sinners are not welcome”?
Unfortunately, those are some of the messages that the world is getting from the church. One of the main reasons that so many young people are leaving the church today is b/c they don’t feel that the church is a safe place to come w/ their doubts about God & their questions about faith. They’re afraid that, if they voice a doubt or pose a question about why we believe the way we do & why we insist that everyone else believe this way, they’ll be judged & pushed aside, or that no one will care enough to listen & try to help them. The church has got to think hard about the messages that we are sending, & make sure that we are sending THE message that we need to send. And that message is what Peter said about Jesus:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
THAT is our message! Everything flows out of that foundational truth. B/c Jesus is the Son of God, He is our Savior that was sent to us to rescue us from our sin.
- John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten SON…”
- Romans 8:31-32 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not graciously give us all things?”
- 1 John 4:9 – “To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him.” (Phillips)
The message that we have that no one else has is that God has come to us to save us. We don’t strive to get to God. We don’t hope we’ve made it. We trust in the One who has come to us to show us the love of God & save us for eternity when we trust Him alone. What an awesome message! Everything we do is based on this message,
…who the members are – A person doesn’t join the church the same way they might join a club or a hunting camp or a civic group. There may be some similarities, but the church is so much more than any secular club or organization.
The Church is the living Body of Christ. Col. 1:18 tells us that He is the Head of the Body. Those who have trusted in Him alone for their salvation are the members of His Body, placed there in the Body by the Lord Himself. 1 Cor. 12:18, 27 – “But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted…Now you are the Body of Christ, & individual members of it.” (HCSB)
So you see, your church membership is not just here at CWBC, but it’s much, much bigger than that! You are a vital, necessary, critical, important, crucial member of the Body of Christ! We are connected to one another, & all of us are connected to the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ Himself. You don’t “un-join” the Church. You can’t disconnect yourself from the Church any more than my ear can decide on its own to disconnect itself from my physical body. You are in the Body forever & have a HUGE responsibility to honor the Body of Christ.
- 1 Cor. 12:24b-26 – “…God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there my be NO DIVISION IN THE BODY, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
Listen, we don’t get mad at another member of the Body other when they sin – or we try not to. We don’t get mad, but we do hurt b/c their sin hurts all of the Body. We don’t hate them, but we do grieve over another’s sin b/c it affects so many other people. We don’t judge them, but we do have a responsibility to call sin what it is & to help that person to repent & get back into fellowship w/ Jesus & w/ His Body.
– Galatians 6:1 – “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression [sin], you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…”
…what the mission is – v. 18 – “…on this rock I will build my Church, & the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Caesarea Philippi – very pagan city. Very immoral city. Worship of the Greek god, Pan, happened here in a temple built for that purpose. Here’s a pic of that area I took when I was in the Holy Land (show pic).
“Interestingly, Jesus chose to deliver a sort of “graduation speech” to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi. In that pagan setting, he encouraged his disciples to build a church that would overcome the worst evils.
The Gates of Hell
To the pagan mind, the cave at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld, where fertility gods lived during the winter. They committed detestable acts to worship these false gods.
Caesarea Philippi’s location was especially unique because it stood at the base of a cliff where spring water flowed. At one time, the water ran directly from the mouth of a cave set in the bottom of the cliff.
The pagans of Jesus’ day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves.
To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld – i.e., the gates of hell. In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.
When Jesus brought his disciples to the area, they must have been shocked. Caesarea Philippi was like a red-light district in their world and devout Jews would have avoided any contact with the despicable acts committed there.
It was a city of people eagerly knocking on the doors of hell.”
Jesus stood just across the way from this immoral cesspool & gave His disciples these marching orders: Build my Church!
So what does this mean for our mission? It means that you & I are called & commissioned to take the message of Jesus to those who are banging on the gates of hell right now. Just as He told His disciples, He tells us: BUILD MY CHURCH! Don’t get sucked into the temptations of the enemy & this world. Keep your eyes on me, your mind on the Gospel, your heart on those who are lost, & BUILD MY CHURCH!
We can’t hide from evil; we need to storm the gates of hell w/ the overpowering truth of the Gospel! We are to take back the ground that Satan has claimed & build the Church on that very ground w/ Jesus Christ as the foundation!
- What a task!
- What a dangerous thing to do!
- What an opportunity to see God do something that only HE can do!
- What a privilege for us to be used by Him to build HIS Church!
- What a mighty, mighty Savior we have!
- What a mighty, mighty God we serve!
 Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, p. 248). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.