“Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not stand against it!” ~Matthew 16:18
Somehow, we’ve developed this idea that Jesus’ Church is about forming close little safe communities where we protect our innocence and ourselves from the ugliness of the devil and the horrible ways he works in the world. And we hide ourselves in our churches until the second coming. Or until we die. And our Lord says, “No!”
Jesus claims to be building his Church in the middle of all the sin and sickness, the evil and desperation. “My Church attacks it,” he says. “My Church destroys it.”
You ever thought about that? Are gates an offensive or defensive weapon? If Jesus says the gates of Hades won’t stand against Christ’s Church, who is attacking whom?
We don’t build a fort to keep Satan out; that’s backward. Christ has established his Church, his disciples, his body, to take on Satan himself. Jesus says he’s going to build his Church, and the gates of Hades, the gates of hell, the gates of death and evil and sin, everything that distorts God’s creation, everything that separates the Father from his beloved children, all the forces that oppose the Messiah and God’s Kingdom — none of that can stop it! By his Church, through his Church, through us, Jesus Christ storms the gates of Hades and he wins! Big time!
The Church is on offense, not defense.
Jesus is making a bold, radical, dramatic, world-changing, overthrow statement here. Peter makes the inspired confession — “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” — but Jesus tells him what that means.
It means we did not establish the Church, we did not build it; our Lord Jesus did. And his Church is not weak. It is not fragile or frail. It’s not irrelevant or insignificant. Christ’s Church is an extension of Christ’s power. His power! And the Church is on offense, not defense.
The power of the Church does not come from us; we don’t have to generate it or produce it. The power belongs to the Messiah and he has given it to us.
God’s purposes have already been accomplished in Jesus. What remains is an unfolding of what’s already been established. And our Lord is using his Church to do it. (And we think the Church is a place that puts on services!) The Church is created by and infused with God’s power. We live and we act in that power. We need to be aware of that power. We need to acknowledge it and feel it. The Church — your home congregation, my home congregation, each of Jesus’ congregations individually, all of God’s congregations corporately — is the means by which the glory and power of God beams out into all the world. Through the Church, your city and my city and the whole world is learning that God is sovereign, that Jesus is Lord, that the Holy Spirit is with us, and that the forces of darkness are in big trouble!
We’re on offense, not defense.