Monday, August 17, 2009

My Church

The first place the church is mentioned in the bible is Matthew 16:18. In this familiar exchange between Jesus and Peter, Jesus says the following (in Greek and then English translations):

"καγω δε σοι λεγω οτι συ ει πετρος και επι ταυτη τη πετρα οικοδομησω μου την εκκλησιαν και πυλαι αδου ου κατισχυσουσιν αυτης."

"And 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." (ESV)

"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." (NASB)

"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (NKJV)


I find it interesting and informative that in this first place in scripture where we hear of the church, Jesus refers to it as, "My church." In the original Greek, the word for "my" is emphasized.

It is clear that Jesus is making a point. He does not say, "the church." He explicitly tells Peter that He will build His own church. The wording of Christ indicates ownership, rulership, and sovereignty. To put it bluntly, it tells us that Jesus gets to say what His church should believe and what His church should do.

Far too often I catch myself saying, "the church." In fact, I should be saying, "Christ's church," or "Jesus' church." That would be much more biblical. When I say, "the church," it is as if I am implying that the one in charge does not matter. Too often we in the evangelical church act as if the church is run by the people. I sometimes hear folks say that the church is a democracy.

The church is not a democracy. The church is Christ's church and is therefore ruled by King Jesus. The church is rightfully a theocracy, with Jesus as the head. He is the ultimate benevolent dictator.

When we correctly view the church as belonging to Jesus, then we will look to Jesus for direction is all we believe and do. I wonder what the church would look like if we looked to Christ for direction in all things.

What do you think?

7 comments:

witwaw said...

I agree.

I still remember the faces of my fellow students in Exegesis in the Epistles, when Dr. Walt Russel, translating through 1 Peter 5, got to verse four and said something like, "And when the senior Pastor appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." You could have heard a pin drop. Then, just to clarify, he verified that, yes, Jesus is the only Senior Pastor. I tell you, there was a bit of a paradigm shift that day.

I think if folks realized that Jesus is the only Head of the church (and that the Spirit is God, not spiritual Santa, but that's another issue), things would be quite a bit different.

Eric said...

Laura,

The church (at least the biblical church) is certainly Christ's church. How easily do we see in the scriptures what we want to see.

I like your example from I Peter 5. Thanks.

Alan Knox said...

Laura,

I also translate that phrase in 1 Peter 5 as "senior pastor"... and Jesus is the Bishop in 1 Peter 2. :)

-Alan

witwaw said...

Eric, Our biblical/theological blinders make interactions like this one (but especially ones with disagreements) so critical. We need so desperately to see Scripture with communal eyes.

Alan, I like!

Eric said...

Laura,

This is a real-world struggle for me in that what am am seeing scripturally and how I am serving in the church are not aligning. Scripture certainly doesn't change, so there is only one clear conclusion - I must change. It is the "how?" part that I am trying to figure out right now.

witwaw said...

Eric,

I hear ya. Even those of us not on staff deal with this issue. I have found dealings with our pastors to be a struggle (especially since the 1 Peter 5 revelation). I mean, how should I interact with a senior pastor when I know the Bible teaches no such thing? It's tough.

I could leave, but I believe God has called me where I am, maybe to bring the church closer to a biblical structure. So the same question arises: how?

Alan Knox said...

Eric and Laura,

How? Patience, love, service, acceptance, peace,... oh, and patience.

-Alan