Robert H. Farish
“I will build my church” is the emphatic declaration of intention found in Matt. 16:18. It is the declaration of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God and thus is not subject to limitations which would apply to such an expression coming from mere man. The fact that the divine authority by which Jesus spoke had been demonstrated by the signs He performed, and revealed to Peter by the Father in heaven, needs to be emphasized. Some men said that He was “John the Baptist, some Elijah and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” but God revealed that He is “the Christ the Son of the living God.” It is the Son of God Who said, “I will build my church.”
The unqualified expression of intention would have been improper coming from mere man. Men are forbidden to express their purposes without qualifying them. “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that” (Jas. 4:15). In order for man to do, he must live. But not so in the case of Jesus and the building of the church. He says that He “will build” in spite of death. “The gates of Hades (death) shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18.) Not even death itself could defeat the immutable purpose of the Son of God to build the church. Such a positive expression of purpose would have been the part of a fool had Jesus not been the Son of God. The man who expressed his determination to “build greater (barns)” was prevented by God requiring his soul of him before he could build (Luke 12:18). But not so in the case of Jesus; Hades was unable to hold His soul. He was not “left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:31). Death, the great obstacle in the affairs of men, could not prevent Jesus accomplishing His expressed intention to build the church. Death was made the instrument by which His objective was achieved. It was by shedding His blood in death that Jesus purchased the church. (Acts 20:28.) Even though Jesus passed through those awful portals, they were unable to hold Him—“He was not left unto Hades.”
“This Jesus Did God Raise Up”
In the first sermon under the great commission, the same Peter who about six months before had confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” now announces this truth publicly when he announced that “this Jesus did God raise up” (Acts 2:32). This is the act—raising up Jesus—by which God declared that Jesus is his Son . “…who was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The gates of Hades were defeated; they were unable to prevail, but had God not raised up Jesus, they would have prevailed. “If Christ hath not been raised,” the gates of Hades prevailed and the purpose of Christ to build the church went down in defeat. To deny that Christ built the church according to His irrevocable plan is to deny the fact of the resurrection of Christ. When Christ declared that not even the gates of Hades could prevent His building the church, He was simply stating that nothing could defeat Him in that purpose. If the most formidable opposition is unable to prevail, then certainly lesser things will be unable to prevent the carrying out of the purpose of the Son of God. The intention expressed is the intention of the Son of God; hence, to doubt it’s fulfillment is to doubt the power and/or the integrity of God’s Son.
Church And Kingdom
Church and kingdom are different terms applied to the same thing. The two terms are used interchangeably in Matt. 16:18-19. In other places the two words are applied to the same thing When some in Ephesus opposed Paul’s preaching “the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8), the record states that they spake evil of the Way (Acts 19:9). From this we learn that the kingdom and the way are the same thing. In Acts 8:3 it is stated that Saul “laid waste the church,” and in Acts 9:2 his efforts of laying waste are described as directed against those of the “way.” Hence, as the way is the kingdom and the church is the way, therefore the church is the kingdom. If Christ did what He said He would do, He established the kingdom.
A denial of the fulfillment of the pledge to build the church involves a reflection on the power of God. For such a denial requires one to take the position that the gates of Hades or death did prevail, and Paul announces that the power of God was “wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead…and put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:20-23). Christ said, “I will build my church” and by the power of God He performed in harmony with His expressed intentions.
This divine utterance finds its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost after Christ was raised by the power of God. At the time Christ said, “I will build my church” the church was a future thing, as is seen in his use of the future tense. He said, “I will build,” thus exploding the theories of the church existing at any time prior to the time of this expression. If the church was already built at the time Christ made the declaration, then the language employed by Christ would be out of order. It would be a case of deliberate deception. We have already seen that the divine demonstration of the truth of Peter’s confession was the raising of Christ from the dead (Rom. 1:4). This foundation truth was not publicly announced until after it had been demonstrated by God. The resurrection of Christ was an accomplishment of divine power (Eph. 1:19-20) to demonstrate that Jesus was divine (Rom. 1.4).
On the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ the church had its beginning when the public announcement of the fact of the resurrection of Christ was made. Before this time, the church was spoken of as a future thing, but after Pentecost it is spoken of as existing. In giving the history of the body of people who had accepted the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 8:1 that “there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem” and in verse 3, “But Saul laid waste the church.” After Saul was conquered, we are informed that “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace” (Acts 9:31). A report concerning the “great number that believed (and) turned unto the Lord” at Antioch came “to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem” (Acts 11:22). Barnabas and Saul “were gathered together with the church” (Acts 11:26) for a whole year. Herod put forth his hand to afflict certain of the church” (Acts 12:1). “Prayer was made earnestly of the church unto God for him” (Peter) (Acts 12:5). “There were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers…” (Acts 13:1). Paul and Barnabas appointed “elders in every church” (Acts 14:23). Upon the return of Paul and Barnabas to Antioch from their first journey, they “gathered the church together” (Acts 14:27). Paul and Barnabas were “brought on their way by the church” (Acts 15:3) to Jerusalem about the question of circumcision and keeping of the law and “were received of the church” (Acts 15:4). “The whole church” at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22) entered into the plan to send Judas and Silas with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch with the decision respecting the question. Paul and Silas “went through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches” (Acts 15:41). “The churches were strengthened…” (Acts 16:5). Upon Paul’s return from the second journey, “he went up and saluted the church” (Acts 18:22). On the return from the third preaching tour Paul sent from Miletus “to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17). Paul charged these elders to “feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). These direct statements respecting the fortunes of the church, its trials and growth are overwhelming proof that the church—kingdom—was in existence from Pentecost.
The only conclusion possible for those who believe the Bible, is that Jesus did what He said He would do. He built the church.