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OPINION

A Quick Bible Study, Vol. 155: What the Bible Says About the Church

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Photo courtesy of Myra Kahn Adams

Author's Note: All previous volumes of this series are here. The first 56 volumes are compiled into the book "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible." "Part Two," featuring volumes 57-113, was published in December. 

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Event Alert: My friend, Rabbi Aaron Allsbrook, is hosting a Messianic Jewish Passover Seder on April 6 (the night of the Last Supper) at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The keynote speaker is Dr. Michael Brown – well known to Townhall readers. Buy tickets before this event sells out

Thanks for joining our study about “the church” — a topic that is rarely discussed. After reading, perhaps you will garner a new perspective about its original meaning that could positively impact where, why, and how often you attend.

Now let’s open our Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. Remember, Apostle Matthew’s purpose in writing was to convince his Jewish brethren that Jesus was their Messiah, which explains why the first verse traces the genealogy of Jesus.

Relevant and consequential to our study is Chapter 16, where the word “church” is mentioned for the first time in the New Testament. For context, starting at 16:13

[Jesus] asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (A Hebrew Bible name referring to the forthcoming Messiah, see Vol. 53.) “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets ’ ” (Matthew 16:13-14).

To Simon Peter, Jesus asked: “ ‘But what about you?’ ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ ” (Matthew 16:15-16).

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Simon’s answer is significant, but Jesus’s reply is epic and changes the history of humankind:

“ ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’ ” Matthew 16:17-18.

For believers in Jesus, verses 15-18 are faith statements carved in stone: 

First, Jesus informs Simon that he is blessed for believing and understanding that He is the Messiah, unlike the other disciples. Second, Jesus renames Simon to be “Peter” —  a symbolic change. The name originated from the Greek word “petros” meaning detached stone, and “petra,” meaning bedrock. Third, Jesus tells Peter that because of his rock-like faith in Him as the Messiah, Jesus will build his church on this rock (Peter) strong enough that “Hades will not overcome it.” 

Note that departed spirits went to “Hades.” My NIV Study Bible says, “The ‘gates of Hades’ may mean ‘the powers of death,’ i.e., all forces opposed to Christ and his kingdom.” That explanation is compatible with the foundation of all Christ-centered traditions: Christ died but overcame death on Resurrection Sunday. 

Today a myriad of problems and scandals face “the church” caused mainly by “believers” falsely acting in His name — along with the popular culture turning against belief in Christ. However, know that ultimately He always prevails over darkness and death because “the church” is Christ, built on a “rock.”  

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Believers trust that Lord Jesus will continuously bring forth “Peters” —  those with rock-solid faith in Him derived from “my father in heaven” who will sustain and carry forward the church even in the harshest circumstances. (For example, read about Christians in North Korea and Iran.) 

Moreover, I see the Hand of God in my extended family with an 11-year-old who loves reading, studying, and discussing the Bible. Praise God as He raises the next generation of believers! That “rock” is eternal.

I love what Peter wrote mirroring the verses in Matthew 16:17-18 that speak to us:

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).

And Paul, in Ephesians Chapter 3, wrote a memorable passage about “the church”:

“His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3: 10-11).

Although Jesus is “the church,” churches are run by humans who are flawed, sometimes corrupt with their own agendas and warped interpretations of “church.” Paul’s warning rings true: 

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“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (Acts: 20: 28-31).

I have barely scratched the surface of all the verses about “the church.” But here is our takeaway, again from Paul:   

“And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy (Colossians 1:18). (Also See Vol.153 “In the Beginning.”) 

The church is a building, but the church is Jesus. Therefore, it is with a mission to know Him whenever you enter. And to know Him, you must praise, glorify, pray in His Name, and read His Word. So here is a church exercise:

Try this the next time you are in church (or if you don’t regularly attend, please go to do this exercise.) As you walk through the door, imagine that He enters with you. When you sit down, He is sitting next to you. When you look at the cross, allow Him to remind you how He shed His blood for you. If you have any reason to believe that the church you are attending is a church NOT built on the “rock,” ask Him. And during your time in church, pour out your heart to Him. 

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This exercise refocuses the meaning of “the church,” which can easily be lost amidst social clutter. Although the church is usually a building, never forget that it is a “rock.”

Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, "Bible Study For Those Who Don't Read The Bible," reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. "Part 2,” with the same title, reprints Vols. 57-113. Order it here.  

Myra is also the Executive Director of SignFromGod.org and the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit. Both are donor-supported ministries dedicated to Shroud of Turin education. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com and Twitter @MyraKAdams.

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