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The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

Matthew 16:13-20

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A few years back, the church where I serve received an unsolicited letter. It was from an organization that warned us about the potential for lawsuits. Primarily from members, ex-members, and outsiders because of stands that we might take as a church. Included in this letter was a set of recommendations for changes to the church’s by-laws. These changes would make us more immune to those types of lawsuits. Although they also admitted that we were not really at much risk anyway.

But we chose to look into it, and a committee was appointed to make recommendations concerning changes to our by-laws. Changes that would further protect us from legal action.  That committee met and prepared their recommendations.  When I saw the proposed changes, my initial reaction was disappointment. But I initially had a hard time putting my finger on just why.  It is not that they were proposing changes that I really disagreed with in principle.  But something about the whole thing just didn’t seem right.

It Is Not My Church!

And then it finally dawned on me what it was. In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus first asks his disciples who others say he is and then who they believe him to be. Peter is commended for his response: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded with, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

The first thing to note about this is Jesus is talking about His church, not my church or our church. We often use those terms to refer to the local body of believers we’re a part of. And that is not inappropriate. But we do need to be careful to recognize that it is not our church. The church belongs to Christ. We are members of the church, the body of Christ. But it does not belong to us. At least not if we really are a church. 

The Gates of Hell Will not Prevail

Jesus here says something very important about His church: “The gates of hell will not have victory over it.” That is a pretty bold declaration. His church will win! All we need to do is be his church: reaching the lost, disciplining the believers, and worshiping the creator. We do not need to put special language in our by-laws to protect us from the “gates of hell.” We for sure do not need to withdraw into a defensive posture, climbing into our bunkers. Just be about the business of Christ’s church, and leave the rest of it up to him.

And I guess that is the problem I had with this proposal. It looked to me like we were reinforcing our bunker and keeping us safe within our walls. Rather than going out into the battle that rages around us. Might we suffer in the battle? You bet. But we will emerge victorious. That is his promise in this passage.

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Ed Jarrett

Just an old clay jar that God continues to see fit to use in his kingdom's work. I am retired, married with 2 children, and 4 grandchildren. I have followed Jesus for many years. And I love to share what He has given me from His word.

A Note to Readers

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

7 thoughts on “The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail – Matthew 16:13-20”

  1. Just stumbled across this blog – excellent post, really agree with it. So often we fall into a defensive posture, hiding away from the nasty world outside, when we ought to be out in that same world doing good. More power to you!

    • Mr. Jarrett, Hello. I know your feeling that something isn’t quite right about a process that seems unheavenly. It could be that the letter the church received steered the church wrong or prompted a response that wasn’t prayerful and faithful. Remember, the Bible says to be slow to respond. … But I think your conclusion is not quite right. I think that to deny a church as your own is as if to deny “my Jesus” (“Jesus is mine”). Faith is truly a personal thing, and it’s actually hard to reach the lost without a church “home” to invite them to. … Thank Heaven for your church home, the same as I know the disciples were thankful when the actual homes of believers were refuges for ministry, safe places that did hide from an unbelieving world, until Jesus gave them courage to see themselves as a city on a hill whose light cannot be hidden. … Happy New Year.

      • It is not my church. Jesus said he would build his church. The church is his. I am, however, a part of the church, a member of the body. It is, as you say, my home. But Christ is the head. It belongs to him.

        • My, how this worried me. I prayed, because you sound apart from the Jesus I love. It just sounds as if you consider yourself and your church auxiliary to something beyond you. I’ve known churches to end up compromised like that, giving credence to god in ways that only leave the body vulnerable to people in movements that think of themselves as god (without Jesus). … But thank God for His plan to give us Himself through Jesus. Jesus helps us know that we are one in God, that our pastors and deacons are gatekeepers who guard the flock, that they are one in Jesus. … Jesus says to abide in Him so that He can abide (live in) us. And what comfort that is. … That’s church: the church that’s governed (headed by) the New Testament Bible word: 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 John 4:13, Ephesians 2:10, Hebrews 12:2, Isaiah 9:6, Philippians 4:13 (www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Corinthians+13%3A5%2C+1+John+4%3A13%2C+Ephesians+2%3A10%2C+Hebrews+12%3A2%2C+Isaiah+9%3A6%2C+Philippians+4%3A13+&version=KJV)

          • Do not worry about me on that account. I am an active and participating member of a local church that is a part of Christ’s universal church. The issue here is not one of doctrine or relationship with the Lord. It is a matter of terminology. The church belongs to Jesus. If a local church does not belong to him, there is something seriously wrong with it. You can use the term “my church” if you wish. But I dislike it though. I prefer “Christ’s church”, to remind me of who it really belongs to. And to prevent me from wanting things to be done my way. He is in charge. I am his servant.

  2. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
    -Romans 16:17-20


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