“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolised community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly. It is not we who build. Christ builds the church.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Life Together
We would be wise to take a careful look at this statement: “I will build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18). The first thing that strikes us about this thing called “Church” is simply that it is that which Jesus is building upon his own foundation. More specifically, the word “church” is the word “ecclesia”, the called-out assembly. It consists of those to whom God has chosen to reveal his Son. This revelation of who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us is the key. Without this firm foundation we cannot know, understand or experience being part of the Church. Quite frankly, our religious head knowledge or creed is of virtually no significance. Even the repeating of the “Sinner’s Prayer” or understanding “The Four Spiritual Laws” means nothing apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to give us a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ” (Ephesians 1:17-23). Then, our prayer and confession will be based on “Spirit and Truth” revelation, not “flesh and blood”, second or third generation “knowing”
Matthew 16:17 “Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
The Church is not built upon Peter, but upon those who have been given revelation (the secret of the Kingdom - Mark 4:11 “And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables.”).
Jesus builds his Church through revelation to individuals - the revelation of himself. This revelation is sufficient to qualify us as members of the Church that Jesus is building. When we understand that revelation is the only thing which matters we will cease trying to grow the Church or gain members through better preaching, musical entertainment, great facilities, demographic studies, and marketing techniques. Instead, we will simply come to rely upon revelation and trust the Father to reveal the Son through the Spirit who brings illumination to our hearts. We are the Temple of God, his habitation, and this Church grows as a living thing.
Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.
Jesus is not building a denomination or founding a movement. The Church is not a denomination; stated simply, the Church is a spiritual house of living stones, invisible to the naked eye, but clearly seen and known in the Spirit. It is not an organisation, but an organism whose members are those who have the revelation of Jesus Christ. They are scattered in all directions, both inside and outside of what we see as the Church. Since the Church comprises individuals who have the revelation of Jesus Christ, how or where they meet together is of little consequence. In Jerusalem, or in this mountain (the woman at the well - John 4:20-24). Where we gather doesn’t matter to him, but WHY we gather is of extreme importance to him. If it is due to the revelation of Jesus Christ, we will worship in Spirit and Truth because the revelation of Jesus Christ draws us together. Why? Because our testimony is other-worldly, peculiar, spiritual. We are the called-out assembly, the ecclesia of Jesus. We are his particular treasure.
What we have, both within the ‘traditional’ Church and within what some people describe as the ‘New Church Streams’, is a mixture of people. Some of them have the revelation of Jesus Christ, and some do not. This revelation is the foundation the Church, regardless of the outward appearances. Where this revelation exists, THERE is the foundation of the Church that Jesus is building. Since it is an inward revelation, a spiritual seeing and entering into, we cannot classify everyone as being the Church merely because they are within a system of ‘Church’, or even if they have come out of a system. Nor can we include or disqualify them because of where or how they meet. Meeting together is only a small part of the whole picture. The question is not whether we are in or out of a human system, or how we meet, or what doctrine we emphasise. The question is, have we seen the Lord? Do we have the revelation of Jesus Christ? We may be correct in outward appearance but have no inward revelation. Therefore, not all who say, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of God:
Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”
Similarly, we may be politically or spiritually incorrect and offensive outwardly speaking, that is, according to what human beings value as good, acceptable, moral, and religious; yet the revelation of Christ is sufficient to bring us into the Kingdom with or without the support and approval of people.
Jesus said, “I will build My Church.” The Church exists where individuals have the revelation of Jesus Christ and when this revelation takes hold of a person, because it is his Church, and we are the sheep of his pasture, all any of us can do is co-operate with him. Anything done apart from him will fall apart. We may acknowledge with our mouth that it is his Church, but apart from revelation these are empty words. The Church that Jesus is building cannot be overcome by the gates of hell. Since it is built upon the revelation of Jesus Christ, nothing can stop it.
What is my point? Simply this: the Church that Jesus is building will be the only thing which remains.
- The visible will make way for the invisible, the temporal will give way to the eternal, mortal will put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15).
- A new heaven and a new earth will be made and the New Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, the Church, will be completed (Revelation 21).
- We are that Building of God, built upon the revelation-foundation of Jesus brought by the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).
- We are the Temple of God, therefore we need no earthly temple, we seek no earthly kingdom, and we expect no earthly reward (1 Corinthians 3:16,17).
- We look for a City whose Builder and Maker is God, and we are that City (Hebrews 11:10).