The Scriptorium

The Lord's Agenda

Watershed. Matthew 16.18-20

Matthew 16: Turning Point (4)

Pray Psalm 122.1, 2
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Sing Psalm 122.1-4.
(Nettleton: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing)
I was glad when they said to me, “To the Lord’s house let us go!”
Holy City, let our feet be firmly planted in your soil.
Jesus builds His Church forever, where His people sing His praise!
As Your Word decrees forever, we will thank You all our days.

Matthew 16.1-20; meditate on verses 18-20.

1. On what did Jesus say He would build His Church?

2. How strong would His Church be?

This is a watershed moment in the gospel of Matthew. A corner is turned; a direction is indicated; and a promise is given, which brings together everything Jesus has taught and done to refine the focus of His mission.

Peter and the others have just passed the crucial test: They recognized and confessed Jesus, the Son of Man, as the Son of God and the Christ of Old Testament promise. Jesus heartily endorsed Peter’s confession, assuring him that he had not come to this understanding on his own; rather, God the Father had made it plain to him (v. 17).

Jesus then solidified Peter’s faith by permanently changing his name to “Rock” (Πέτρος, Petros, v. 18). Then Jesus used Peter’s name in an expansive way to affirm that it is on the bedrock (πέτρᾳ, petra) of that confession that He will do His most important Kingdom work. We’ve seen that word before. In Matthew 7.25 πέτρᾳ is the word Jesus used to indicate the foundation of those who trusted in Him and not in their own works. Peter’s confession – not Peter himself – is the bedrock of Jesus’ great Kingdom work in time.

And what is that work? Given all that Jesus had taught thus far about the Kingdom, we can imagine that the disciples might have been a little confused when He said He would build His Church, rather than His Kingdom, on the bedrock of confessing Jesus as Son of Man, Son of God, and Christ. But the Church is the in-time agency through which the Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. The Kingdom is a spiritual realm; the Church is a physical entity, but also a spiritual one; thus it partakes of two worlds at once, and is able to channel the spiritual into the physical where the spiritual works to make all things new. The Church is both the sign that the Kingdom has come and the outpost from which the Kingdom advances in the world.

Jesus says the gates of hell cannot stand against the Church. We should not think of this as is often taught, as if the Church were battering down the gates of hell to occupy that dark terrain. The gates of a city were where the officials – in the case of the Jews, the elders – sat to watch over the city, protect its citizens, make judgments concerning right and wrong, and develop counsels and plans for the prosperity of the city. The Church has more wisdom, more power, more energy, and more light than all the counsels and schemes of the devil and his minions. Nothing they might contrive to stop the Church can succeed.

From this point forward, building the Church becomes the Lord’s agenda, the cornerstone of which will be laid in His own death and resurrection.

1. The word church means something like “called out ones.” Why is this a good way of thinking about the church?

2. What does it mean to say that the local church is the agent of the Kingdom of God?

3. How do the members of local churches contribute to the church being the sign and outpost of the Kingdom?

This is not the property of Peter alone, but it came about on behalf of every human being. Having said that his confession is a rock, he stated that upon this rock I will build my church. This means he will build his church upon this same confession and faith.
Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428), Fragment 92

Use me today, as a member of Your Body, to show and advance the Kingdom as I…

Pray Psalm 122.5-9.
Use today’s psalm to intercede for your pastors, church leaders, and fellow church members, that the rule of King Jesus would come increasingly in and through them, and the peace of Jesus would spread throughout your community.

Sing Psalm 122.5-9.
Psalm 122.5-9 (Nettleton: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing)
On the throne of David, Jesus sits to judge the nations all.
As our holy peace increases we are safe who on You call.
Grant us peace, Lord, by Your favor; for Your people’s sake we pray.
For the Church’s sake, O Savior, we will seek Your good today.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore