He gave His life for them in order to present them gloriously. Therefore, He also has a special relationship with His church and they with Him.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus makes a significant statement, “I will build My church.” The attentive reader will notice at least three revealing facts which can be discerned from this simple statement:
– Jesus is speaking here of only one church.
– He clearly confesses Himself to be the founder of this church.
– He promises that He will build it.
When Jesus made this statement, the church was not yet visible. Jesus, however, was already in His official ministry and was seeking the first “stones” for this special spiritual building.
According to Matthew 4:18-22, He had already called Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John, from their nets by the Sea of Galilee to follow Him. They, and many others, believed Jesus was the Son of God and followed Him. But only as the time of His suffering approached did He reveal to His disciples that He wanted to build His church. Although Jesus already had many followers, the actual visible church was yet to follow, therefore: “I will build My church.”
Jesus taught His disciples about His sufferings, His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His return to the Father. He made it clear that as the Lamb of God, He was destined to be the sacrifice and atonement for the sins of mankind. The disciples were very sad about this declaration. Jesus compassionately comforted them, telling them about the promised Comforter. We read: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost and ushered in a new era – the age of the Holy Spirit. With this moment, the church of our Lord became visible. Since then, the church’s literal and historical path through light and dark periods of time began. From that time, the Church is continually mentioned in the Book of Acts, as well as in the apostles’ letters.
Acts 2 reports the great revival that occurred right on the first Day of Pentecost, brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit. Many people accepted the Word, repented, were baptized, and continued in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer! In Acts 2:47 we read: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” This states the following important facts:
– The church was visible and became the first local church in Jerusalem.
– The Lord added the people – He Himself built it.
– Those who were added believed, repented, were baptized, and remained in the biblical teaching and fellowship of the redeemed.
These facts clearly show us the true nature and character of this church. It came out of the redemptive act of Jesus. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” For this reason, it is His church. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24). The church is truly the fruit and consequence of Jesus’ sacrificial death.
Since Pentecost, the church became the place where the Bible was proclaimed. The church that Christ built has gone through dark and light periods. Acts 9:31 says, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” The church went through stormy periods and also through times of peace. The church had to endure many tribulations, but the Lord also blessed them with His nearness and His healing comfort.
More important and far more crucial than external circumstances is the inner status of the church. If it really wants to be and remain the congregation of Lord, it will always depend on its position toward Christ: its love for God, its purity and holiness, its state of faith, its prayerfulness, its fear of God, its devotion and faithfulness in service, its separation from the world, and its unity in spirit. Regarding the above statement, Paul expressed his deep concern: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). But Paul had the firm intention to bring a pure virgin (church) to his Lord (see verse 2). May the Lord also give us this state of mind!