Sunday Sermon: ‘Why is There a Church?’


Please take your Bible and turn once again to Matthew 16. Last week we began a series of messages on the church. I have entitled this series ‘The Church: Rediscovering Who We Are and Why We Exist.’ There is a great need for sermons like this these days because more and more Christians are viewing the church as being outdated and irrelevant. Do we still need the church, and if so, why? What is it about the church that makes it worth our time and energy? 

Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I – the Son of man – am?” 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, “But whom say ye that I am?” 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

At this point, Jesus is into His third year of ministry. By now, He has preached a lot of messages, performed a number of miracles, and had more than one confrontation with the Pharisees. More and more, Jesus is beginning to speak of His death and perhaps that is why He asks His disciples, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? Or in other words, ‘What is being said out on the street? Where are the people at in My ministry? Who do they think that I am?’”

I think that you could divide the people of Israel into three groups:

Group A contains those who are totally opposed to Jesus. Leading this group are the Pharisees and other religious leaders who are eventually going to begin plotting Jesus’ death.

Group B contains men like His disciples and certain women who are committed to following Him.

Group C contains those who are following Jesus, but for the wrong reasons. They’re not following Jesus because they want to be changed spiritually. They’re following for what they can get out of Him. Look at John 6.

John 6:1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

Notice, this great multitude was following Jesus, not because of His message of salvation, but because of His miracles. Matthew 14 says that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion toward them’, and healed their sick and afterwards performed the miracle of feeding them by using only a boy’s lunch.

John 6:14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” 15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

For centuries, the Jews have been waiting for a Messiah that would restore Israel back to its rightful state. What better man than this Jesus who can perform such mighty miracles?

John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”

In other words, “You’ve seen these miracles, yet you have no interest in discovering Who I am and why I am performing these miracles. You’re not interested in the fact that I am from God. You’re only interested in another free meal.”

27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life… 

Jesus is not opposed to taking care of them, but He realizes that what these people need is more than a physical meal. They need to feast upon a spiritual meal of salvation.

John 6:28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

“What do we need to do to make ourselves righteous enough to be approved by God? How can we get on God’s good side?”

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Like the woman at the well, Jesus tries to tell them that He has something for them that is much greater than a loaf of bread or a drink of water. Jesus is offering to them eternal life.

John 6:34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

Jesus wants to satisfy not only the hunger in their stomachs, but also the thirst in their souls.

John 6:41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

John 6:47 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.”

 “That miraculous manna didn’t sustain their lives. They still died.”

 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

Now it’s really getting sticky. Jesus begins speaking of ‘eating his flesh and drinking His blood.’ Yet He’s not saying that we must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood, but that through faith we must believe that He is God’s Son, sent to die on the cross for our sins. We must receive Jesus into our lives, just like we receive bread or water into our bodies when we eat or drink it.

John 6:52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”       

John 6:60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”… 66 “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

To be honest, I’m troubled over the fact that scripture calls them ‘His disciples.’ Were they true disciples? The title ‘disciple’ does not mean that they were true followers who had been converted and were now following Jesus as their Master. It means that they were a part of those who had been sitting under His teaching. They were the shallow soil Jesus spoke of in Matthew 13 that received seed quickly and appeared to be filled with joy, but when the sun came out and truth was revealed, they wilted and died. They were a part of those John referred to when he said, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19) The sad truth is, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian. There are those who make shallow professions of faith with their mouths, but fail to possess saving faith in their hearts.

Now notice what Jesus said to His disciples –

John 6:67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

The real question that everyone of us needs to answer is: ‘Who is Jesus? or, ‘Who is Jesus to me?’ Is He a good man? Is He a religious teacher? Is He an example for us to follow? Or is He God’s Son, sent to be our Savior?

Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

People are often willing to accept a ‘social Jesus’ who feeds the hungry and cares for the poor, but reject a ‘sovereign Jesus’ who calls upon them to turn from their sins and to follow Him as their Lord. Men want the kind of Jesus who meets our physical needs, but not the kind of Jesus who had to die on a cross for our sins.

Question #1   WHO IS JESUS?

Question #2  WHAT IS HIS CHURCH?

Matthew 16:17 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. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 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.”

Last week I began sharing three important truths with you about Jesus and His church. Last week I covered only the first point. Today I want to cover the other two.

I. The Church Belongs to Jesus

Jesus referred to the church as ‘His church.’ It’s not man’s church. It’s not my church. It’s not your church. It’s not Peter’s church. The church belongs to Jesus. He is the one who died on the cross and purchased the church with His own blood.

What then did Jesus mean then when He said to Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church…”?

This verse has caused a lot of confusion and controversy down through the centuries. Some have tried to say that Jesus was making Peter the supreme leader of the church. They say that Peter was the first pope. The title ‘pope’ means ‘father’ and by calling certain men ‘pope’ they are saying that this individual is the chief bishop or leader of the church.

Some say that Jesus was establishing Peter as the first pope and others say that this passage has nothing to do with Peter at all. I believe that both are sort of right and sort of wrong. Let me explain.

Let’s take a moment and consider who Peter was. Apparently, Peter was a natural born leader. He was a part of the inner-three which included Peter, James, and John, and even of those three, he was always named first. Throughout the gospels we see that he was often the spokesman for the rest of the disciples. Peter walked on water. He was fearless. Perhaps you will remember that it was Peter who cut off a soldier’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus and many have said that Peter wasn’t aiming for his ear, but the middle of his head and fortunately the solider moved just before Peter struck him. Acts 1 shows us that Peter was the leader of the disciples, even before the Day of Pentecost. And on the Day of Pentecost, it was Peter who delivered the message that caused three thousand men to turn to Christ.

Peter was a great man, but he was just a man. Look at the next portion of scripture found in Matthew 16.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Who but Peter could go from being called the rock to Satan in just a matter of moments? Peter was a great man, but he was just a man. Jesus is the Rock upon which the church is built and at best we might say that Peter is only a piece of that rock. Without Jesus, Peter is nothing, nor are we.

I believe that when Jesus said, “on this rock I will build My church”, He was not referring to the greatness of Peter, but to the greatness of what Peter had just said. “Whom do men say that I – the Son of man – am?” “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

II. The Church is Built Upon Jesus

The church belongs to Jesus because the church is built upon Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote,

1 Corinthians 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed… 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Peter is not the foundation of the church, nor was Paul or any of the apostles. They were simply men whom Christ used to build His church. We read from the book of Ephesians –

Ephesians 2:21 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets… And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself…

A cornerstone was the first stone laid when someone began to build a house. It was the fundamental part of the foundation. It was often the largest stone that gave support to the rest of the foundation, and according to how it was set, the rest of the house was designed and built. When the Bible says that the church was built upon the foundation of the apostles, it means that it was built upon what the apostles taught concerning Jesus. The Apostle Paul said, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (see 1 Corinthians 1:1-4)

III. The Church is Blessed by Jesus

The church belongs to Jesus because the church is built upon the Jesus. In addition, we might say that because the church belongs to Jesus, the church is blessed by Jesus. Notice again what Jesus said in Matthew 16.

Matthew 16:18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 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.”

Christ’s church will prevail because Christ is still active in His church and working through it.  Sometimes we have the tendency to look at the condition of the church in America and think that the church is about to die. However, in other parts of the world, often in places where Christians are heavily persecuted, the church is exploding with growth. Just this week I read that ‘every day the average number added to the body of Christ worldwide averages 174,000.’ [1] ‘True Christianity has grown by more than 300 million believers in the past ten years. [2] ‘Over 30,000 conversions a day take place in China alone.’ [3] Even by a much more conservative estimate, it is believed that there are over 1 million new converts to Christ per year in China alone. [4] Consider how Jesus promised to bless His church.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

The primary purpose of the church is to help men receive Christ as their Savior, and then teach them how to follow Him as Lord. This is often referred to as the Great Commission. This is the Lord’s mission statement for His church.

Matthew 16:18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

What did Jesus mean by ‘the gates of hell’ coming against His church? Many think that it means the forces of evil. From day one, the church has been under persecution. Acts 2 records the Day of Pentecost when the church was born, and Acts 3 records the first persecution.

But notice that Jesus said, “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.” Keys can refer to two things:

* Keys are what unlocks doors

* Holding these keys represents someone’ authority to open and close the doors

Many believe that the keys to the kingdom of heaven is the truth found in God’s Word. It is the gospel that saves us from our sins and the truth that sets us free. Peter was the first to use these keys when he boldly preached the gospel on the Day of Pentecost. The apostles used these keys when they began to teach the new converts how to live in a way that pleases God. Men like Martin Luther used these keys when they boldly proclaimed that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Today, we as the church hold the keys. We hold the keys that unlocks the mysteries of heaven and we have Christ’s authority to use them. Never forget that Jesus said to His church, “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”



[1]  January 11, 2018

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

[4]   January 11, 2018


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