16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also 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. (Matthew 16:16-18)
How do you feel about His church? What is the church anyway? Lest any should forget, it is not a building or a denomination. Peter isn’t the head of the Church - the head of the church is Jesus. The rock Jesus is speaking of is the confession Peter made, that Jesus is the “son of the living God, which is the foundation of the gospel. He holds the church in place, solid, and strong. Understand this, gates do not attack, gates defend. This doesn’t say that the gates of the church can withstand the attacks of the devil, although we can withstand them, that is a fact. It says that the gates (the defenses) of Hell cannot stand against the church. We are the conquering army that cannot be stopped. The gospel smashes the strongholds that bind men and women and imprison them until the judgment day. The church has the power to set them free. The gospel does not play defense, we are on the offense. The church is to go into all the world preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, assured of the fact that “greater is He in me, than he that is in the world.” The true church, the body of Christ, are all who believe that Jesus is the Christ (promised from before the beginning of the world) the Son of the living God. People, a number that cannot be numbered, from every kingdom and from every background make up Jesus’ Bride, the Church. Paul stands in awe at what God has allowed him to do on behalf of this “new thing” that is called the Church. The world system originates in the flesh, but the church of God lives by the Spirit of God. We are “more than conquerors, because the gift of the gospel extends beyond our existence here, a secure reality now and in eternity to come.
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
How is Paul a prisoner? It is not in the sense that God removed from him the ability to choose, but in that being purchased with the precious blood of Christ and having been born again by receiving the Holy Spirit of God, Paul is bound in obedience to the great commission of Jesus. He belongs to God, and God has placed him in the ministry to spread the good news that the blood of Jesus cleanses all sin and is available to all men. Why is it a mystery? Because “salvation is of the Jews” scripture tells us. Many believed that God had chosen the nation of Israel only as his own. But the mystery is, that God has and does desire to make of all nations “one body” of believers. God’s grace, unmerited favor, came through the Jewish people in the man Jesus Christ, but the truth of his sacrifice and resurrection are applied to everyone, because Jesus is the son of God. This new covenant, the promise of God made possible by the blood of Jesus, is bigger than whatever or whoever seeks to divide it.
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Through the spirit of God, Paul shares the previously hidden revelation of the Church in the Old Testament which had long been a mystery to Jewish scholars. They struggled to reconcile the suffering servant in Isaiah with the coming King from the lineage of David. It was as if they had been carefully studying the underside of a Persian rug. Memorizing the thousands of colored strands, marveling at the tangles, taking account of ever not and woven thread. They were in awe of the workmanship, yet unable to recognize the pattern or purpose. Then the stone was rolled away, then the Holy Spirit rushed in on the day of Pentecost, and in His power the rug was turned right side up and all the work, all the individual lives were pieces of thread that came together in a glorious picture of the Church, God’s masterpiece.
That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
Me! Paul says, I am the minister, the teacher, the one chosen by God to share with Gentiles this good news! Me! The persecutor of the church. Me! One who has received this grace who has been given the Spirit to help me to understand the forgiveness and the unsearchable riches of God. Paul knows that terribly he misunderstood Jesus before his conversion,, he has been chosen for a very special calling, and he is overwhelmed by the honor. The redeemed sinner is not disqualified by his past, it is the platform from which he proclaimed the Victory in Christ. God chooses whomever he wants, and uses whomever is willing. He knows us to the “very intent of our hearts.” Paul’s perspective regarding his calling was hard-earned, imprisoned for preaching the gospel, he had learned to trust that if beatings, bonds, and trials brought glory and attention to the message of Christ, then they were worth it. He may have preferred, as we all would, to continue traveling and preaching unhindered, but God in his wisdom knew the best use of his time would be in the writing of these letters that have instructed and emboldened the Church of God for thousands of years. If he had been free, he could have made it to Spain and possibly farther, but shackled to a Roman guard, his written words have traveled the globe countless times over. His letters, penned under the direction of the Holy Spirit, contain the simplicity of salvation, the power of the cross that applies to the rich and the poor, Jew and Greek, beggar and Caesar exactly the same. Paul probably didn’t understand why things happened the way that they did, but just as in the case of the Old Testament men and women of God, Heaven had a plan and it was beautifully fulfilled. How about you…what are your excuses? What is He calling you to do, and are you allowing your inability to see the whole picture to keep you from acting in obedience to His will?
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
It was always the intention that there be a unified family of God. Starting with Abraham, God began to form a family of faith through a man living in a pagan city who willingly obeyed His voice. Over thousands of years, prophets and servants of God shared what they received, they acted in faith that God reveals himself to those who love HIm. There were provisions made in the Old Testament for the “stranger” should they choose to want to come to the God of Israel, to be fully embraced as a brother if they desired to put God first and obey his word. The created beings of heaven, the angels, as well as all of mankind, were clueless about the story God was writing throughout the ages, a story that ends with universal access to our Savior. We can through faith, come boldly to him without aid of a human high priest, without a mediator, through Christ alone. The most holy place is no longer a room in the temple in Jerusalem, but within the deepest reaches of the human heart submitted to God through the sacrifice of Christ. His Holy Spirit abides in us, teaching of Jesus and leading us in His footsteps. Don’t faint. Don’t fall away. Don’t forget the goodness of God. Celebrate the mystery of serving a God who is always in control, whose plan is perfect, and who makes the roughest threads and knotted struggles of our lives into beauty, honor, and eternal glory. Turn toward him and not away. Bow your heart and your knees to God, the Rock on which we stand.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!