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The Institutional Church

Posted on February 7, 2019 at 12:30 AM

Dear Saints;

The first words Jesus spoke concerning the church are recorded in Matthew 16: 17-19, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Jesus blessed Simon declaring that Simon had received a personal revelation from the Father concerning his true identity as a prelude to what he was about to reveal to them about his church. The true identity and nature of the church is a matter of divine revelation just as the true identity of Jesus. 

The words that Jesus spoke to Peter concerning his church are an important foundation for our recognition and understanding of what the church Jesus is building is like today. However, the misinterpretation of these words has had serious consequences. The most dangerous interpretation is that Jesus promised to build his church on the man, Peter. While a cursory reading of the verse seems to support this idea and the subsequent history of Peter’s ministry may be used to validate the notion, the idea that Jesus would build his church on a man has led to the extreme abuse of authority and persecution throughout church history. 

Although they have been used to support a false notion commonly accepted by the religious world, these words do reveal important information to consider if we want to know what the church is really like. The literal translation of Jesus’ statement to Peter reveals the opposite of what was commonly thought. Rather than promising to build his church on the man, Peter, Jesus actually promised to build his church on himself. His statement directed through Peter to all his disciples literally points out the difference. The Greek word translated Peter is “petros” meaning a rock or stone while the Greek word translated rock is “petra” meaning a massive rock formation. The literal translation would read, “Thou art “petros” (a stone) but upon this “petra” (a rock formation) I will build my church” which signifies a vast difference between Peter and Jesus. Peter is a stone while Jesus is the “rock formation”.

The nature of the church will be radically different depending on its foundation and builder. If it was founded on a man and built by human effort, we would expect to see all the dysfunction, abuse of power, and corruption visible throughout church history. But if the church is founded on Jesus and built by him it will look and function radically different from what history reveals. The church Jesus promised to build on himself is not the manmade institution we commonly recognize as the church today. Despite the lack of a clear vision of the church Jesus is building it is encouraging to know that he has no part in the religious institutions that are oppress, abuse, and persecute humanity. 

The first step in understanding and recognizing the church Jesus promised to build on himself is to reject that which is manmade. This is not to say that such institutions have no value or place in our culture. No doubt God has used them despite their weaknesses and flaws. However, the church Jesus is building is not accurately defined or restricted to the religious institutions of man. It is what Jesus is building, not what man has built, that I want to see. Continue to pray for divine revelation.

John 

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