Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-19)
The idea of the church is very common to most people whether they are religious or not. When the term is used everyone thinks of a religious institution signifying some type of belief system with adherents and doctrines. Many names describe the thousands of churches that dot the landscape and fill the world in all four corners. Church has become such a common word it has come to mean a religious building for public worship or the followers of a religion, especially the Christian religion. The first time the word church is used in the Bible is when the Son of God declares to His apostles that He will build His church on the confession made by Peter. Inquiring who men thought Jesus to be, the disciples answered some thought Him to be John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Jesus pressed them to say who they thought He was and Peter answered that the man standing before him was the Christ, the Son of the living God. In fulfillment to the eternal plan of God established before the creation of the world, the Lamb of God uttered those ageless words of the divine plan of God: He was going to build His church. He was not going to build a building. It was not in the mind of God to establish a group of religious people divided into a thousand splinters of faith and practice. What Jesus intended on building was His church, His body, His saints and His people sanctified to one cause and one cause alone and that was obedience to the divine pattern of His Father.
It is not without design the first time the word church appears in scripture is when the Son of God declares that He will build His church. This promise will be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem just a few short years following this statement by Jesus. He will have finished His ministry, executed by the Romans on a cross through the hatred of His own people the Jews and then seen alive by hundreds of His disciples following the third day of His death. Three thousand devout Jews will be baptized for the remission of their sins and (according to Luke’s account) added to the church by the grace of God. The book of Acts will chronicle the rise of the early church from the early days in Jerusalem and then to the uttermost parts of the world bringing both Jew and Gentile together as one body under the banner of the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ. Paul, Peter, James and John will craft epistles showing the power of the brotherhood of saints that make up the New Testament church. Instructions will be given to the nature of the church, its worship and the foundation of truth that establishes the authority of the church. It will be called the kingdom of God, the Way, the churches of Christ, church of God, bride of Christ, house of God and a number of descriptive terms expressing the divine pattern of God’s will for saving men. The early church will autonomous in its organization without the headship of men ruling over the affairs of kingdom. Worship will be simple yet powerful in its design. Adherents to the gospel of Christ will share in the fellowship of brotherly love and benevolence sharing their lives and their possessions one with another. Many will try to destroy the church. Saul of Tarsus will wreak havoc on the infant church dragging off men and women to prison and putting many to death. This will come to no avail as the church thrives under persecution. Saul will become one of the most influential men of the early church as he comes to know the truth about Jesus of Nazareth. Later the Romans, Jews and the world will try to destroy the church but as the Revelation of the apostle John declares their efforts will be in vain.
Two thousand years have passed since the beginning of the church promised by Jesus. The great apostasy took place in the early years as prophesied by the Holy Spirit becoming the Roman Catholic Church. Holding an iron rule of oppression, the Roman church tried to wipe out the true church of Christ but failed in its efforts. In time protest arose against the authority of the Roman church and the Protestant movement was born. Churches began to take on the forms of human wisdom teaching as doctrines the traditions of men. Today many churches thrive in communities around the world but pale in any resemblance to the church promised by Jesus. He only promised to build His church and His church remains apart from the trappings of human reasoning. The church of the New Testament will stand until the coming of its King in the final day. Jesus promised to build His church. He did and it can still be found today. It is found on the pages of God’s word as described by holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit. There is only one church and that church belongs to Jesus Christ.