"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" (Matthew 16:18).
Whenever this verse in the Gospels is discussed and debated, it's usually over the meaning of the "rock" upon which Christ pledges to build His Church. Today, I actually want to ask, "what," or "who," did Jesus mean when He used this term "Church" (Gr. ekklesia)?
I'm sure when the disciples stood around Jesus, and heard these words, that many of them scratched their heads and thought to themselves, "what's a church?" That pondering aside, we must consider why Jesus chose this time to introduce the idea of the "church," and what it meant.
I like to think about this in these terms -- if Pentecost was the figurative "birth" of the church, then Matthew 16:18 was the conception of the church. It was during this time, as Jesus was in His last year of earthly ministry, and He'd already begun to look to the cross, that He opened this subject to His followers.
As I mentioned earlier with regard to this subject, the Greek word ekklesia means "called out," or "assembly." We can first conclude, then, that this "church" that Jesus introduces to His somewhat confused disciples must refer to a group of people who are called out.
That's right. People. Not buildings. Not denominations. Not institutions or organizations. Not even parachurch ministries or 501c3's. People. The implications of this word, ekklesia, which we understand to be "the church," are profound...and will be controversial.
My next post, I'll beginto explain from my perspective the true meaning and nature of the Church.