Does the Church that Jesus Built Still Exist?
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matt. 16:17-18
It seems that an increasing number of people with whom I talk believe that the visible church that Jesus built does not exist anywhere on the earth today. They believe that the church only exists today in a spiritual form. Some of this confusion could come from people failing to make a distinction between the spiritual kingdom of God and the church. The church is made up of people who have the kingdom (rule of God) in their hearts so they are members of the kingdom, but they are not the whole of the kingdom. The kingdom of God is made up of the whole family of God seen and unseen, those in the heavenlies, and those on the earth. The territory or the realm of His kingdom is the entire creation.
The church is the physical manifestation of those who have the rule of God in their hearts and have accepted the call of the Gospel to come out of the world and into Christ. In the Bible, the church is never a building, but is always a people. In this, you could say that the church is the vestibule of the kingdom. It is made up of those who believe and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38-41). Its chief characteristic is that it looks like Christ, and it has a passion for Christ and for all in the family of God. Therefore, it does not imagine or image itself as an institution, but rather as a loving family. From a worldly point of view, it is a rag tag group of nobodies. Like its Lord, it has no form or comeliness that would cause worldly men to seek it, i.e., it is not big, powerful, or ostentatious (Isa. 53:2-3). It quietly does the work of God on earth without bringing any attention to itself or its work. It works like leaven in dough, doing its work but unseen by the world. It points people to Christ and bears witness to Christ as the Spirit in it does. “The Spirit and the bride say come.”
The visible church understands through the Spirit which Christ breathed into it, that for it to be the church which Jesus built, it must model Christ in loving one another the way Christ loved His disciples. It works continuously to build itself up in love by expressing the love of Christ to each other. It also speaks the truth in love and has a passion for the truth of God, through the spirit of truth that dwells in it.
It worships the Father in spirit and truth by serving one another in love. It gets together to build each other up in love so it can in turn bear witness to Christ by doing good works that bring praise and honor to Christ and His Father (Eph. 2:8). In this, its worship is always God-centered and at no time self-centered and never ostentatious. It seeks to win people to Christ through living and speaking the love of Christ and not through entertainment or using the marketing methods of this world.
It understands that the true love of Christ can only grow and be expressed in community and fellowship. Therefore, it seeks out other believers to share and grow with. There are few “lone ranger” Christians in it for it loves all those whom Christ died for and by its very nature seeks them out. It is constantly getting together to celebrate Christ and the birthday of the new creation as commanded by Christ. The Bible and history tell us that the early church did this every first day of the week (Acts 2:42, 20:7, 1 Cor. 11:20).
It is often confused with the Christian religion, which shares some of its outward characteristics but lacks the inward essence of the Spirit of Christ. It has often been persecuted by what might be called mainline Christian churches. However, it is protected by God and is hidden in the wilderness of the Christian religion. It has no earthly head or mediators that stand between it and Christ; each of its members is a priest and serves God directly through Jesus the Christ (1 Pet. 2:9, 1 Tim. 2:5). In this, it has no separate class of holy men or clergy for all its members are holy men. Remember, it is not an institution but rather a family and like all families, it has its elders and children, but it has no clergy or separate priesthood.
Does this church exist? Yes, but it is hard to find for it is hidden by all the religion that surrounds it. However, those who are diligent can find it or plant it by sowing the seed of the kingdom, which is the Gospel of Christ. When the seed is planted in good ground, it will spring unto life, and there you will have the Church. It may not be large or powerful in the eyes of the world; it may only have two or three people, but in the eyes of God, it is precious and for Christ, it is His bridge. What else matters? LD