Monday, March 30, 2015

The Preservation of the Church

Almost every Christian is familiar with Matthew 16:18: "I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." We know that it has been perverted by the Catholic Church, which claims it as justification for their assumption of the infallibility of their church organization. Well, first, it doesn't say anything of the sort, and, second, I deny that they are a true branch of the Church of Christ, so they can make no legitimate claim on it, regardless of what it actually teaches.

Rather, it teaches that the Church of Christ - that mystical, invisible body of all true believers down through history, without regard to their respective organizational affiliations - can never be overcome by the evil forces that would seek to destroy her. This is the doctrine of the invisible church, as opposed to the visible organizations of Christians in denominations and individual congregations.

I am writing on this topic, because it was an underlying theme in my own church yesterday, the Lord's Day. Apparently, the Holy Spirit had a point to make.

In Sunday School, my class, one of three adult classes, is studying Zechariah. Yesterday, we were in chapter 12. Three verses stand out in my mind:

Verse 3: "On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it."

Verse 8: "On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them."

Verse 9:  "And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem."

Since I don't believe that God has a special concern about a plot of dirt, I don't believe that this passage is about physical Jerusalem, but rather about the heavenly Jerusalem of such passages as Galatians 4:26 and Hebrews 12:22, and the new Jerusalem of Revelation 3:12 and 21:2. So, in each of these three verses from Zechariah, their significance can be seen by making them literal, that is, by inserting "church" in each place where the prophetic imagery says "Jerusalem."

Then during worship, one of the passages read was Psalm 118, which reads, in part (verses 6, 10-13): "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?... All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me."
The church is surrounded by her enemies, all of whom are serving her greatest enemy, Satan. Here in the United States, we are attacked by secularists, who hate her prophetic voice. In other countries, her persecutors may be Muslims, or Hindus, or Communists, or even enemies claiming to speak for her God, such as the Inquisition in the past. Yet, Jesus promises His presence (Matt. 28:20), that we are in His hands (John 10:28), and that His power surrounds us (Zech. 2:5). While there have certainly been times when she was at a low ebb, there has never been, and never can be, a time when she cannot be found, for her survival isn't a matter of her own strength, but rather that of the God who gave His blood to purchase her (Acts 20:28, Col. 1:20, Rev. 5:9), of which we are reminded each time we receive communion (Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, and Luke 22:20).

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