By Gerald Cowan
What do people think of me? That question often finds its way into our thoughts. We may seldom ask anyone directly what he thinks of us, but there are times when it important for us to know. On one occasion Jesus asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I am?" (Mt. 16:13). He was not satisfied with the answer, so He asked again, "But whom do you (disciples) say that I am?"
Jesus was not usually bothered by the kind of reception He got, and it may seem strange that He was so concerned at this particular time. But His concern was not about what people thought of His character or His attitude. He was concerned that they know who He was and what He had come to do. More than that, He was not concerned so much about what people in general thought of Him as He was about whether certain things had registered on the minds of the twelve disciples. It was important that they understand what His ministry was all about. The church was in the mind of Christ, and these men were to play a vital part in bringing the church into existence. When Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus assured them this answer was from God. Then He added, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." (Mt. 16:15-18).
Upon this rock! What rock? What did He mean? Some claim that the “rock” is Peter, that somehow the Lord would found His church upon Peter. This is a bit awkward though, since very soon after that He called Peter Satan. "Get behind me Satan" (Mt. 16:23). Others believe that by "this rock" Jesus meant the confession that Peter had made concerning Him. But this has led to the idea that the church is built upon the foundation of men and women who believe and confess that Jesus is the Son of God. Actually, both views are wrong. Scripture plainly says that Jesus Christ Himself is the rock, the only foundation upon which the church is built (1 Cor. 3:11 and 10:4, 1 Peter 2:4-8).
If the church were built upon any person or group of persons, it could be only as strong and durable as the person or group. Even if such men were inspired by God, if the foundation of the church is human, there can be nothing final about either the religion or the church of Christ. Only if it is established upon the unchanging Lord can the church be considered essentially unchanging and permanent. If Jesus is indeed the Son of God, sent into the world to achieve redemption, then there is a certain finality about the church and its faith. God’s act of redemption in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be repeated. It was done "once and for all" (Heb. 10:12, 18). So then Christ’s indestructible church is founded upon Christ Himself, the living revelation of the living God, and not upon the shaky foundation of any human.
It might hurt our pride a bit to be told that, though the church consists of faithful Christians, it is not built by us or upon us. Nor does its future depend upon us. Man cannot destroy what God Himself has established. The persecution of the Roman Empire, the despair of the "dark ages," the attacks of rationalism, the devastation of global warfare, and the present efforts of liberalism and political correctness to secularize the church and take it away from God – all those things and more have failed and will fail to destroy what the Lord built. Death and hades could not prevent Jesus from building it, and hell itself will not be able to destroy it. Christ, who established the church upon Himself as God’s Son, will continue to add to it every day all who are being saved by their obedience to Him. He will do it as long as the world stands (Heb. 5:9, Acts 2:47). He does not add to your church or mine – no church is founded upon any or all of us, and no church belongs to us. The Lord’s church, the church of Christ Himself, is the only church which belongs to Christ and is the only one to which He adds the saved.
- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in Dongola, IL. He may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com