“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
There’s no actual command here. The verse reads as a confident statement of fact; a calm and settled conviction about future events: “…I WILL build my church…the gates of Hades WILL NOT overcome it.”
As in John 20:21, “…As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”and Acts 1:8, “…you will be my witnesses…” the command is implied in the greater context of the four gospels: Jesus will build his church as we, his followers, storm the gates of Hades by proclaiming the gospel to a lost world.
It’s an awesome, aggressive, violent picture. We bring the message of Christ to those who are the Devil’s children, members of his kingdom, enslaved by sin, trapped behind his walls and gates. By God’s mighty grace, some who hear are born again and believe. They are made citizens of Jesus’ Kingdom, they are set free and made living stones in the ever-expanding Church of Jesus Christ.
Please consider these five reasons why churches must see themselves as bands of brothers, joining together to storm the gates of Hades:
1. It’s God’s plan for us. Clearly, he left us here to depopulate the Devil’s zip code. The church was made for action. It was born for battle. It’s not a support group, it’s a working group.
Every congregation is a mission station on the mission field known as “the world.” When Jesus said that we would go to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) he was standing about as far from where I’m sitting right now (Minnesota) as he could get.
2. It advances Christ’s Kingdom. Do you need a vision statement? The predominant vision for the people of God in both testaments is the Kingdom. World-wide. Glorious. Righteous. Peaceful.
This one, great, Kingdom is built one citizen at a time. Every Christian can participate in building it. Every church can participate in building it. What work could possibly be more meaningful than this?
3. It rescues people from a terrible future. None of us deserves to be rescued from a terrible future. The moral distance between the best human and the worst human is not worth measuring compared to the moral chasm between the best human and God.
We are called to dispense the same delicious grace which we ourselves have received. What a privilege!
4. It makes our churches positive and exciting. There are few things that are better for the Christian than to share his/her faith. There are few things that are better for a church than to share its faith.
5. It focuses our energies in the right direction. Church members are like my grandsons: with their energies focused outward, together, they are a joy. With their energies focused inward, at each other – as when they’re buckled into safety seats in the backseat of a car – they are miserable.
Truly it is our joy and privilege to do what we were made to do: to build the church by storming the gates of Hades.
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