What should mark a faithful church and christian? As I have pondered the question inevitably my mind comes back to who builds the church and by what means does He build it. Christ's means of building His church and our lives as His followers should give us an idea of the materials that should mark genuine followers of the Lord Jesus. Jesus, in response to Peter’s confession that He (Jesus) is the Christ, the Son of God says the following: “7 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19)
Jesus tells Peter that HE will build the church and He tells Peter upon this “rock” He will do it in verse 18. What is the rock? Many Protestants have said it is Peter's confession of Jesus as the Christ. The Roman Catholics have interpreted that rock to be Peter himself, however it is clear in Peter’s writings that he did not share their view (1 Peter 2:7). Nor did any of the other apostles view Peter in such terms (Ephesians 2:20). So…..who or what is the rock? I believe the key to unlocking that door is what follows in the rest of the passage with the reference to a key to the gates of God’s kingdom. In verse 19 Jesus tells Peter that He gives to him the keys of the kingdom and those keys unlock and bind. What are those keys? It is clear that those keys let people into heaven and keep people from heaven. Therefore…. it is not Saint Peter sitting by some heavenly gate for that would contradict all of inspired Scripture (Ephesians 2:8-10, John 14:6, Romans 10:9, etc.), rather it was what Jesus entrusted to Peter and all the apostles. For Jesus entrusted His Gospel and all its implications in the New Covenant procured by Christ’s sacrifice (which revolves around what Peter confessed - Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God) to the apostles. Jesus is saying on His Word, which He entrusted to the apostles, He was going to build His church. Think of it, for a book to be included in the New Testament it has to have an apostle or an associate of an apostle as its source. Jesus inspired the apostles by His Spirit to convey His teachings entrusted to them. That is the point Paul makes in Ephesians 2:19-22, “19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” In this text Paul describes what the household of God, which is where the Spirit of God indwells per verse 19 and 22, is built on. The household of God with the Spirit of God indwelling (temple imagery) is Paul's depiction of the church for only the people of God are indwelled by the Spirit of God. Notice he says the church is built, it is made on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the cornerstone. The cornerstone was the chief stone all the other stones lined up with. All of Scripture from the apostles to the prophets, both New and Old Testament, points to Jesus. The Scripture preached, taught, explained, and applied is what Jesus uses to bring forth His people out of this world and build them up in the faith and holiness. Jesus builds His church through the apostolic teachings He entrusted to His disciples. He builds His church through the faithful sharing and proclamation of the Bible.
If this is true than a faithful church and Christian will be marked by Biblical soundness and faithfulness. A faithful church (a group of believers that assemble not a building) will Sunday after Sunday examine the Scripture in light of its literal historical context to mine out of it God’s timeless truths, which exalt the Gospel of Christ. A faithful church will conduct itself per God’s Word rightly interpreted and proclaim God’s Word rightfully divided. A faithful church will proclaim the Word of God to the world and engage in the mission of God the way the Word of God communicates. A faithful Christian and church will not be marked by what I/we think or I/we have always done it this way. A faithful Christian and church will be marked by examining all things in light of “what does Scripture say rightly interpreted?”
If you have made it this far perhaps God is stirring the question in your mind: “Am I a faithful Christian?” Am I marked by a desire to know Scripture in order to know God through His Son, Jesus? Do I fellowship with others who demand the Word be rightly divided and explained Sunday after Sunday? Do I love to grow in my knowledge and obedience to the Gospel as I hear and study Scripture? Do I belong to a group of people who love the Gospel and truly explain verse by verse the Word of God? In essence am I person who has built my life on the shifting sands of topics (even professed Christian ones), opinions, and cultural philosophies of my context or is my life built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, namely the Word of God. Only one foundation will keep the house standing in the storms of life. Get to know God’s Son, the Lord Jesus, in His word and find everlasting joy. Find a church that truly teaches His Word and grow in grace with them. The Word of God rightly interpreted conveys the Gospel and builds God's people. Has it built your life and mine in the Lord Jesus?