The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail – Matthew 16:13-20

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 were a set of recommendations for changes to the churches 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 choose 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 principal.  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 member 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 are reinforcing our bunker. 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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mattvaughan
mattvaughan
8 years ago

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!

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago

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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