It is easy for followers of Jesus in our day to be unsettled by the advances of a secular culture. Our freedoms are eroding. We find those who hold to a biblical standard of marriage and sexuality are portrayed as oppressive bigots. But when we are tempted to be depressed or defensive, we should remember what Jesus said about the true situation of the church—“on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
First, the is church is being built. People are being gathered and formed into a grand structure. A construction project doesn’t happen overnight. We are getting ready to embark on some significant facility renovations and it will be a 7-8 month project. And Jesus is building something infinitely bigger! And we ought be encouraged to know that Jesus is doing the work. It does not depend on our power or ingenuity.
Second, the church is being built on an unshakable foundation. The church is being built on “this rock.” It is being built on something that will be endure. In the context, Jesus is referring to Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. It is on the rock of Jesus that the church is built. Paul expounded on this when he says that the church is built “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). Even the most powerful of human governments come and go. But Jesus will outlast them all!
Third, the church is being built to prevail. Up to this point, Jesus has spoken of the church as a stationary structure. He uses construction terminology and speaks of a strong foundation. But he then declares that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Gates are defensive mechanisms. The sense is that church will move against the gates of hell and the gates of hell will not be able to withstand.
The church should not be characterized by depression and self-pity. When the final chapter is written, it is the church that will prevail. J.C. Ryle captured it well when he wrote, “It is not so much the thought of going to Heaven, as of Heaven come to us, that should fill our minds.”
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