FacebookTwitterRSS FeedPinterest

By Elder Chin Hoong Chor

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am Service, 2006-01-15

Text: Matthew 16:18

Those who have been to the Holy Land may recall a key feature of Caesarea Philippi - a rock face dedicated to the Greek God Pan, on which are niches and carvings for various gods including Pan's father Hermes. As a result, Caesarea Philippi is known as Banias, the Arabic equivalent of Panias. One day, Jesus brought His disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asked them, 'Whom do men say that I [am] 'But whom say ye that I am?' Then to Peter's confession, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God', Jesus answered, 'upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Matt 16:18). It was not just a declaration to His disciples but also to the evil forces and the whole world. 

The clear will of God is to build the church (not the physical building but a body of God's people) and He will accomplish it with the same power He displayed in creation 'Let there be light: and there was light -Let us make man in our image' (Gen 1:3, 26). Various interpretations have been made of Christ's statement - Some believe the rock was Peter (Petros) as his name sounds like petra (Greek for rock), and that Christ gave him the keys to heaven; others believe the rock was Christ Himself. I believe it was Peter's witness of Christ at Caesarea Philippi, where stood another rock which 'witnessed'to Pan. 

But notice the implication of the statement: the Lord says, 'I will build', taking full charge to complete with or without anyone's co-operation and approval and indeed despite rejection from the builders (1 Pet 2:7), and that it will be accomplished despite opposition and resistance from evil forces, - they 'shall not prevail'. Afters years of spiritual attack on the Church, the Ephesian, Corinthian and Roman church buildings are in ruins and the Western church groups are now fizzling out, yet the Church of God at large has grown and God will continue to build His Church! 

At the time of writing 1 Peter, the Emperor Nero was persecuting the church and the Jews faced the threat of being burned. Peter wrote not just to encourage but also to remind the Jews of their calling. With the Romans about to destroy the church, its survival was at stake. He used the term 'stone' (vs 4) or 'lithos' (a refined rock specifically for construction and building). 

The fundamental need in church growth is not a well-designed program, a well-thought out structure or even a band of believers committed to obeying God, but God the Lord who will build up the church. The secret of survival is the Lord - Christ is the stone (Ps 118:22). We must come to Christ, the Living Stone (1 Pet 2:4), to be built by Him. We must believe in Him, the Chief Corner Stone (1 Pet 2:6), to be built on Him. Finally, we must show Him, the Head Stone of the Corner (1 Pet 2:7), as we are built for Him. 

He is the Living Stone (vs 4-5) To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 

Christ grants the growth for the church to be built by Him. Christ is the 'living stone', having life and the ability to give life. The church cannot exist without Him - He gave his life that we might have life. Christ is also the living word - God's Word to us that makes us alive. Peter declared in Caesarea Philippi that Christ is the Son of the Living God, unlike Pan (a dead god, son of the dead Hermes). Here is the Living Stone that initiates life and sustains life and we are to come near Him and be closely united with Him (v4). We are to abide in Him who is the vine (Jn 15:5)! We, in turn, become the lively stones, having the vitality and the capacity to grow spiritually! 

As living stones, we have been made alive by Christ and, being joined to the rest of the body that is alive. We will interact with the living and contribute to the overall body. A dead part of the body will separate from the body, sooner or later. Have you been made alive by this confession of faith? Have you turned to Christ or merely put on a Christian outfit? Peter exhorts those who are alive to crave for spiritual milk (1 Pet 2:2). You cannot be detached from the rest! It would be tragic that when the building is completed, when the Lord returns to take the Church and to find that you are not part of the building!

Life comes from the Living Stone and only God, not we, can build the church. We derive life from Him only, not from each other. 'Unless the Lord builds the house; they labour in vain that build it' (Ps 127:1) - we cannot bring growth and are only called to labour. '[Paul] planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase' (1 Cor 3:6). The church is and will be built by Christ the Living Stone. 

He is the Corner Stone (vs 6, 8) Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded'. And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 

Christ gives the direction for the church to be built on Him. In the construction industry, the corner stone, also called the benchmark, which is the stone placed on the firm ground, from which the surveyors will take reference from throughout the building process. It is a 'stone of stumbling' a 'rock of offence' because like the benchmark, once laid, it is cannot be moved. It determines the orientation of the building and every piece of structure is to be aligned to it. 

This is illustrated in the construction of the cooling towers of the Senoko Power Station. The cooling tower was constructed with concrete poured around the perimeter. To keep it upright, engineers look through a vertical scope towards the ground to keep the platform centred as it was raised a few centimetres each day. If they do not keep it aligned, the structure will be subjected to unnecessary stresses that may lead to a structural failure eventually. Similarly if we do not take our alignment from Christ but from any one else, we will introduce unnecessary stresses among ourselves. 

The word 'believeth' (vs 6) means to trust or rely on Him. We will not be confounded, i.e., ashamed or disappointed, if we look to Him alone. If we take reference from our neighbour, we reproduce our own weaknesses and this is unhealthy in the long run. How often the church is divided into different parties, 'I am of Paul; and I of Apollos (1 Cor 1:12). We need to train everyone to take alignment from Christ alone, for He is the unmoveable cornerstone. 

How can an orchestra play in harmony if everyone takes reference from his neighbour and ignores the conductor? We experience problems because we have the tendency to look to men (pastors, elders and church leaders), even godly ones. It is better to support our leaders, by looking to Christ as the only conductor. 

He is the Head Corner Stone (vs 7) Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner. 

Christ gets the glory as the church is built for Him. While the foundation corner is the first to build, the head (supreme) corner (Zech 4:7) is last to build. This crowning stone, the capstone, identifies the building. While the Greek word for 'precious' in verses 4 and 6 is associated with position and authority, the one in vs 7 is associated with value and honour. It is like the stone holding the logo of a building, e.g. CPF logo on CPF building. This last stone to be placed, signifies ownership of the building. Christ says 'I will build my church', not 'the Church', implying the building belongs exclusively to Him. 

It is easy to associate a church building to Christ, because of the cross on the steeple of the building, but what about the people within the building? Often we treat the people as belonging to a person - the pastor or an elder or a preacher or a deacon? We should not think the church to belong to an individual, no matter how much he has done. The Church belongs to Christ; He will not share His glory and honour with any other. 

Many today live as if the chief end of God is to glorify men. But the Westminster Confession of Faith rightly puts it as �the chief end of men is to glorify God.' The Church exists to glorify God not men. Our attitude should be 'He must increase, but I must decrease' (Jn 3:30). This is what we have to do: 'to shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light!' (v9). The Church is built for Him! 

Conclusion

As we follow the theme of building the Church this year, let us remember that the most important strategy in church growth is not a program, a secret formula, nor even a group of dedicated people, but the Lord Himself. He is the source, the means and the end. He initiates, He sustains and He claims. When we operate all ministries in tandem with this, the church will grow. 

For this reason, we have adopted the tag line 'Our hands united in the work, our eyes fixated on the Lord'for our Beulah Project - to remind ourselves that as we work together, we need to constantly look to Him. When we put Christ in His rightful place, the church will grow, and that is because He has promised to do so. Amen.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25