July 10, 2011
INTRODUCTION – Everyone has an opinion about Jesus. For instance John Lennon said, ““I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.”
Jesus Christ is not the only thing folks seem to have an opinion about. They also have an opinion about the church. For instance the comedian George Carlin once said, “I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.”
Opinions about Jesus Christ and the church are rife. But the kingdom of God will never be experienced, built and expanded by opinions. Opinions change with the wind, and are often passed down by one fool to another. Convictions based on objective truth are unsinkable. And only convictions bring about the transformation that the kingdom of God is known for, and designed for.
As our passage for today (Matthew 16:13-20) implies, and many other passages in scripture explicitly state – – the church of Jesus Christ has a vicious and supernaturally powerful enemy, who hates the church, and is always seeking to undermine if not destroy it. Only convictions grounded in truth and practice will enable the church to withstand these attacks, and fulfill its purpose on the earth.
This morning I want to share with you three foundational truths or convictions that we must embrace and proclaim and live out if we are going to be a part of the last days victorious church that Jesus spoke of. And they come from one of the most debated and misunderstood passages of scripture. Matt. 16:13-20
Here’s the first foundation truth or conviction… I. Jesus Christ alone is Messiah, Savior, and Son – vs. 13-17
Jesus Christ didn’t ask His disciples what the buzz on the streets about Him was – because He really cared what the average uninspired person thought. He certainly wasn’t the kind of leader that led by the polls as so many of our politicians seem to do.
He wanted to know first of all if His disciples were in the real world – – that is – – are they learning to watch and listen and observe contemporary culture; were they in touch with real, every day people and what they were thinking about Jesus Christ.
And secondly, He wanted to see how affected His disciples were by these widely diverse opinions.
And most importantly He wanted to know whether any of them had graduated from popular opinions to divine revelation. And if so, whether they could spit that out in front of others?
I sometimes hear people say, “when I get to heaven, I’m going to ask Jesus this or that.” Well, your opportunity or ability to ask Him your questions will depend on how you answer His all important question of Who He Is.
Please note that Jesus Christ does not say to His disciples and thus to you, “Who am I to you?” as if He can somehow be something different to different people. He wants to know if you know who He really is.
Well Simon Peter might have been rough around the edges, … but when it came to who Jesus was, He was all ears; and at least in front of his fellow disciples – – he was willing to confess – what the Father Himself had revealed to him.
Brothers and sisters, if you and I are going to be part of the victorious church that Jesus Christ is building – we must be crystal clear on this issue of who Jesus Christ is. He is not just another religious teacher or even a prophet like Elijah or John the Baptist. He is not one of many sons of God like two Jehovah witness men tried to tell me yesterday in my front yard; He is the Christ, the Messiah, the long awaited Savior of the world, who was sent by God to do what no one else can do; and He did what no one else could do – because He was the Son of the living God – indeed He was God Himself – God incarnate – as the theologians put it.
Is this an unpopular conviction in our popular culture today? Absolutely. We live in an increasingly pluralistic society that foolishly believes every belief is equal, and every path to God is equal; and every concept of God is equal, and no one should ever believe or especially proclaim anything that might cause someone else to feel less good about themselves and what they believe.
Please note that Jesus says in this passage that there is great blessing for those who get beyond what only flesh and blood can convey – to what only Father God can reveal. If you have come to know Jesus Christ as the savior and lord and master and God/man that He is – – you are one blessed individual. Because God Himself chose to reveal that to you – – and apart from His deciding to do that – – you couldn’t have gotten there in a million years on your own or with the help of college textbooks or whomever or whatever else.
Well that leads me to the second conviction that we must have if we are to be a part of His victorious church, and be used by Him to expand His glorious kingdom here on the earth.
II. Jesus Christ is the Head and Builder of the Church – vs. 18 Many of you are probably aware that one of the doctrines of the Catholic church that led to the reformation was their take on vs. 18. Specifically they have held all along that when Jesus said “upon this rock I will build My church” that the rock is Peter, and thereafter until the Lord returns – Peter’s descendants are that rock – – and thus the modern day Pope. We could talk for hours on this one issue, but I’m going to try to be as brief and concise as I can. Here are some reasons why I believe that what Jesus meant instead was that the rock upon which He would build His church is the revelation of Himself, which He had just affirmed and commended Peter for having.
1. Matt. 21:42, Acts 4:11, I Cor. 10:4, Eph. 2:20, & I Peter 2:6-8 all unambiguously state that Jesus Christ is the rock. Paul explicitly states in I Cor. 3:11 “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” It is the revelation and knowledge of Jesus Christ Himself that the true victorious church will be founded upon.
2. The greek word for Peter = petros, which is in the masculine gender has the idea of an independent rock or stone which implies instability, though some strength; the greek word for rock is petra, which is of the feminine gender and has the idea of a large mass of rock, thus more stability and immoveability.
3. Peter did not have infallible authority from Jesus, which can be seen most clearly in Paul’s rebuke of him after Pentecost, and well after his ministry began to flourish – as recorded in the book of Galatians ch. 2 vs. 11.
Jesus Christ was always meant to be the living head of the church. Please note that He says in vs. 18 “I will build My church”. And please note that He promises to build it. As we believers get to know our Savior, and learn to submit to Him as Lord as a way of life; as church leaders learn to humbly depend upon Jesus the Head through the Holy Spirit, and not lean on their own devices, Jesus’s church will invade this world of darkness like a brilliant light, and neither Satan nor his hordes of demons will stand in our way.
He will use many men and women along the way. But He would never allow any one man to take His place and assume His role. The only person who can empower and lead the church in such a way that she with all her warts can withstand all the attacks of satan and his demonic hordes – – is the Living Christ Himself. He is aggressively, strategically and persistently building His church as we speak. And the apostle Peter was just one of many living stones like yourselves that He chooses to use in the process. I find it interesting that of all the New Testament writers, it was Peter who wrote of us all as being living stones.
That leads me to my last or the third bedrock conviction that we must believe and practice if we want to be a part of the victorious church He is building and leading in these last days.
III. He has delegated His authority to His servants/sons – vs. 19 The church belongs to Jesus. He is its head, its Lord and Master. He is absolutely committed to building it. But He chooses to do it by delegating His authority to His servants or to His sons and daughters. Some say He is only giving the keys of his kingdom to Peter, some to the 12, and delegating this authority to bind and loose solely to the 12. But I see no reason to restrict the meaning to just the 12. In the book of Acts He clearly delegated it to others besides the original 12. As long as Jesus continues to build His church, He will have to delegate His authority to His sons and daughters or to His present day disciples.
I’ve often wondered – when I’m starkly reminded of how weak and feeble we His servants are – – of why He limits Himself to using the likes of us. But that is His only plan. He doesn’’t give the keys of His kingdom to angels or seminary professors. He gives them to disciples, men and woman, young and old, black, brown and white.
So what are these keys of the kingdom? If He has delegated to us authority to partner with Him in building His church and expanding His kingdom, how does that work – – and specifically – – what is this binding and loosing stuff?
A. The keys of the kingdom – – “I will give you” – First question to answer here is who is “You”? It appears to be Peter still. Jesus said to Peter that there are keys to unlocking the presence and provision and power of His kingdom; and that He promises to give them to him. But is He just giving them to Peter? I do believe He was speaking straight to Peter when He said this; but we know from the rest of scripture that we are all a kingdom of priests; and we have all been given the responsibility to pray for His kingdom to come; and to proclaim the good news of the kingdom; and again in the book of Acts we see many people being used to proclaim and establish Christ’s kingdom wherever they were.
And then What are these keys? Only one other time in scripture is the word “keys” found; and that is in Rev. 1:8 where Jesus says, “I have the keys of death and of hades.” So not a lot of specific help in scripture. There are a lot of theories out there, and we just have to look to the Lord for discernment – taking into account the rest of scripture – especially scriptures that speak of the kingdom.
Most obvious key would be the Holy Spirit, which Jesus oft promised He would give. Other keys would be qualities like: Brokenness = very first kingdom culture characteristic in sermon on the mount – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Another key might possibly be the proclamation of the gospel, since that is what unlocks the revelation of Christ and His kingdom. I do want to say, I do not think the keys are binding and loosing, because Jesus says “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind…..” The “and” implies that this is something additional to the keys.
Seems to me as I think back through Jesus’ and the apostles’ teaching on the kingdom, attitudes or truths about the kingdom are more emphasized than actions.
For instance, recognizing that the kingdom supercedes the church; and by that I mean that the kingdom can appear and expand anywhere where one believer who is a submitted disciple of Jesus is. The church always requires at least two, and usually speaks of more being together. The church is a people. The kingdom is the rule and reign and presence of Christ the King. And that can be in a business where only one believer works; but who walks in obedience to the King; and seeks to be His instrument there.
B. Binding in Jesus’s name – the authority to bind – – again all kinds of theories on what this binding and loosing looks like or how we do it. But I think we should first focus on the peculiar grammar involved here. 1. “shall have been bound in heaven” – – the future perfect indicative in the greek has the idea of a state of completion. So that we are not given a blank check to go around binding or loosing whatever we want, and then God responding to what we initiate. Rather we are expected to walk in such dependence upon the Holy Spirit and intimacy with God that we know what is on His heart and mind at any given moment and in any given circumstance. I’m reminded of the passage in Eph. 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we might walk in them.”
2. while there are only a handful of verses with the word bind, and only two with the word binds (same passage in Matthew and Mark); there is some consistent usage of these terms in Jewish history and literature. A. T. Robertson the late great greek scholar states, “to bind in rabbinical language is to forbid, to loose is to permit.
So for Jesus’s church to be built, His disciples must learn to walk in His delegated authority to us – discovering as we go along – the keys of the kingdom – – and learning primarily in prayer; though also in decisions that the leadership of the church or of any ministry have to make from time to time, what we are to forbid, and what we are to permit.
One of the earliest examples of this was seen in Acts ch. 15 where a bunch of the leaders of the early church met in Jerusalem to decide together how the church should move forward now that many Gentiles were beginning to turn to Christ. Obviously these Gentile converts came from a vastly different lifestyle and culture than the Jews. So these leaders had to determine what to permit and what to forbid before the Lord.
I love the partnership and dependence upon the Holy Spirit they walked in – – listen to vs. 28, 29 of Acts ch. 15: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.” Because of the way they in unity made godly decisions on what would be permitted and what would be forbidden, the church advanced in power and purity.
What about binding and loosing in prayer? What might that look like? Let’s say you are the most mature or committed Christian in your clan. Maybe you were the very first person in your clan to become a Christian. You are 49 years old, and for years when your clan gets together on major holidays, there is a lot of out of control drinking, and loud coarse jesting; and inevitably someone’s feelings get hurt, and sometimes really embarrassing things happen – – people get offended, etc.; And you sense the Lord calling you to be a change agent in your clan, and specifically when your clan gets together next Sunday for your 50th birthday, you believe you are to help change the tone and the atmosphere. Now you and your wife are equally committed to prayer, but you don’t always pray in the same way or manner. You believe you need to actually say, “Father in Jesus’s name – I bind this drunkenness and coarse jesting (so that’s the forbidding part); and in Jesus’s name I loose self control and respect for one another (that’s the permitting part).
Your spouse on the other hand, doesn’t use the words bind and loose. But your spouse prays, “Father in Jesus’s name when we all come together on Sunday, I pray that you would cause people to not want to get drunk; to want to exercise self control; and in Jesus’s name I pray that people will control their tongues and speak to one another with more respect.
Now if this is a long standing pattern, and you only pray this once, I doubt you are going to see a massive change. Just because you use the words “bind” and “loose” doesn’t mean there is some magic involved. Jesus often taught that effectiveness in prayer comes from dogged persistence. And James says “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” You can use the words, bind and loose as much as you want; but if you are living an unrighteous life, you are not going to see much happen through your prayers.
Now as we saw with the example of the early church in Acts ch. 15, sometimes we can bind and loose by getting decision makers together and making godly and wise decisions. For instance back to your upcoming birthday party. Let’s say over the years you’ve noticed that uncle buck seems to hold a lot of just natural authority over the clan when it gathers. So you decide on Friday before the big gathering on Sunday to take Uncle Buck out to lunch at Hungry Fisherman. Uncle Buck loves to eat there. So you meet him there and during the conversation you prayerfully wait for the right opportunity and you say something like, “Uncle Buck, you know it’s my 50th this Sunday, and you also know that the last time we gathered for the 4th of July, things kind of got out of hand, the booze was flowing like a river, and Aunt Bertha really got her feelings hurt, and cousin Jimmy seemed to leave abruptly after Grandpa joked about his lakers always losing, and well … I was wondering if maybe this Sunday we could try to slow down the drinking and the joking and maybe do something a little more meaningful? Uncle Buck totally resonates with your concerns, so then you ask him – if he has any suggestions – so he has more ownership – – and 30 minutes later – – you have a game plan that only could have come from God Himself! That’s expanding the rule and reign of Christ in your clan, which will always be characterized by self control and respect for all, by going through designated authority in a respectful way, having bathed the way in prayer in the days leading up to your meeting with Uncle Buck. Brothers and Sisters, Jesus Christ is chomping at the bit to expand or establish His kingdom in every clan and every business and every school and every neighborhood – – only problem is – – He has chosen to do it through His servants – – His sons and daughters.
Three things will determine whether He can use you and I in this grand enterprise. First – we’ve got to be crystal clear in our understanding and in our confession of who He is. No more of this mushy universalism.
Second, we’ve got to know Him as the Head and builder of the church; and grow more confident in His ability to finish what He has begun; and get better at sensing and following His leadership.
And third, we’ve got to walk in the authority He has given us to see real change and transformation in our spheres of influence as we learn to look for His keys, and as we learn to bind and loose through prayer, through united and wise decision making and godly leadership, etc.
CONCLUSION – Prayer time