|The Church An Extension of Christ
by E.H. Jack Sequeira
If you were to build a house and you wanted to make absolutely sure that this house was earthquake proof, what part of the building would you concentrate on the most? Yes, the foundation. We as Adventists know that, during the Time of Trouble, the church of the last days, the days in which we are living, is to be shaken to its very foundation by the Great Tribulation.
For the church to stand the full force of Satans attack during this time, our foundation has to be absolutely solid. That is why, in this very first study of our series of studies on the church, which according to the New Testament is an extension of Christ, we are going to begin with the foundation on which our faith is built. Our starting point is a correct understanding of our Scripture reading, Matthew 16:13-19:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say the Son of Man is?
They replied, Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am?
Simon Peter answered, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus replied, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but my my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
In this passage Jesus raises a most important question. Who do people say the Son of Man (meaning Himself) is? According to the disciples, the answer was varied. Some said He was John the Baptist come back to life; others said He was Elijah who the Old Testament claimed would return; again others identified Him with Jeremiah the prophet; and still others with one of the other prophets. All these answers were based on human speculations.
So Jesus turns to His own disciples and asks the same question. Who do you say I am? And Simon Peters immediate answer was, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. In other words, you, Jesus, are the Messiah, the promised Saviour. While Jesus was pleased with this reply, He wanted to make sure that Peter did not figure this out on his own but this truth was revealed to him by God: This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
Having said this, please note what Jesus added in verses 18 and 19:
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
His first statement was that on this rock His church is to be built, and no power human or Satanic will be able to destroy it. Secondly, He said that to you, referring not only to Peter but to all who belong to His church, will be given the keys of the kingdom of heaven so that what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven.
The big question is: to whom was Christ referring when He used the phrase on this rock? Was it Peter or Himself? The Roman Catholic Church insists it was Peter; the typical response we Adventists have given is that Peter was only a small, moveable stone while the solid Rock on which the church is to be build is Christ Himself. Besides, Peter himself referred to Christ as the rock. 1 Peter 2:7-8:
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the message which is also what they were destined for.
While both these are valid answers, we must keep in mind that the Greek word for Peter is Petros, while the word Christ use for rock was petra. Petros is masculine while petra is feminine. Therefore, petra, which does mean rock, cannot refer to either Peter or Christ since neither of them are feminine. Who then was Christ referring to by on this rock?
The only valid answer is that the rock or petra must refer to Peters confession:
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
It is on this confession, Jesus said, that He would build His church and which the gates of hell will not overcome it. It is this same confession that gives the church the right to accept or reject individuals into the church by baptism. Read the Ethiopian eunuchs experience in Acts 8:34-38, including verse 37:
As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, Look, here is water. Why shouldnt I be baptized? Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. The eunuch answered, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
Therefore, the foundation on which the church is to be build is this confession, that Christ, the Son of God, is its Saviour, its Lord and Master and its only hope of salvation. It is on this rock Gods people are to build their house and none of the forces of the evil one can shake this foundation. However, this confession, to be unshakable and indestructible, has to be based on the full truth as it is in Christ. Ephesians 2:19-22:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with Gods people and members of Gods household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
This brings us to the real problem. In the days of the New Testament, the big question, especially in Judaism, was: Is this man who calls Himself Jesus Christ really the Messiah, as He claims to be? While this may still be the question the non-Christians are asking today, the real question that Christians are to ask is: Which of the many Christs that are being proclaimed today within Christendom is the true Christ?
If our allegiance or confession is to the false Christ, no matter how honest or sincere that confession may be, it will not be enough to stand the storms of life. Our foundation is only solid and unshakable if our confession of faith is to the true Christ.
Today the liberals are preaching one Christ while the conservative are preaching another. The Calvinists are preaching a Christ who saved only some on the cross, while the Armenians are preaching a Christ that actually saved no one on the cross but only made salvation available to mankind. Some in our midst are preaching a Christ whose human nature was spiritually like Adam before the Fall, while others are preaching a Christ whose human nature was exactly like ours.
Again, some are preaching a Christ who came to be our example, so that by following His example we can be saved; while others claim that Christ came to be the Saviour of mankind and by His life and death actually reconciled the whole world to God. I can go on and on. But whatever Christ we confess, one thing is clear: our confession will be tested by fire. 1 Corinthians 3:9-13:
For we are Gods fellow workers; you are Gods field, Gods building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, this work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each mans work.
All Christians confess that Christ has saved them from sin. However, some are limiting this salvation only from the guilt and punishment of sin, our egocentric concerns. But the Christ of the New Testament is a Christ that saved us from every aspect of sin its guilt and punishment, its power and slavery, as well as its very nature. In Romans 7, sin is defined as a law or constant force that has us in its grip. But in chapter 8, we are told that Christ has set us free from this power so that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us who, like Christ, walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:2-4:
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
In Philippians 3:20-21, we are told that Christ will one day redeem us from the very nature of sin:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under this control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
All this leads us to a very important conclusion: That all Christian experience, when it comes to this matter of salvation, must be based on the finished work of Christ. This is the foundation which the church must confess and which the gates of hell cannot overcome.
The peace we have in Justification by Faith is because we confess that, in Christ, we stand complete or perfect. Colossians 2:10:
...And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
Sanctification is within our reach because we confess that, in Christ, we are already sanctified. 1 Corinthians 1:2:
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ their Lord and ours....
Finally, we believe that this mortal will put on immortality and this corruption put on incorruption in Glorification because our redemption in Christ was full and complete and we are seating in heavenly places in Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54:
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.
[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....