“I Will Build My Church”

 

The true gospel of Christ is seldom preached today. Instead, what do we hear? Moral lessons, interesting anecdotes, self-esteem psychology, personal testimonies, and worse—jokes, dramas, puppet shows, and other gimmicks. Thus, you who are in these kinds of churches are denied the hearing of the true gospel, and thus, you are being shut out of the kingdom of God.

May 20, 2012 Download this sermon (PDF)

 

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 22:20-25; Matthew 16:13-20 (text)

At the entrance to the city of San Pedro, Laguna, there is a welcome arch saying, “Welcome to San Pedro.” On the front of the arch is a rooster each column, and a key on the top part of each column.

Welcome Arch, San Pedro, Laguna

Welcome Arch, San Pedro, Laguna (click to enlarge)

All Filipinos know the symbolisms built into this welcome arch. The rooster crowed after Peter denied Jesus three times on the night he was arrested. And being a majority Catholic country, most Filipinos recall that Jesus said to Peter—they imagine—“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Thus, most Filipinos imagine that Peter stands guard with the keys to open or close the gate of heaven, allowing only those who have enough merits to enter in.

Our text today is one of the favorite passages of Roman Catholics, because the foundation of their view of apostolic succession through the papacy is based on Jesus’ declaration, “On this rock I will build my church.” Rome teaches that Jesus here refers to Peter (Petros) as the rock (petra). And with the authority of “binding and loosing in heaven,” they believe that the Pope is infallible. But is Jesus really referring to Peter—and to his fancied successor the Pope—when he said this?

Our text begins with Jesus and his band of disciples coming to Caesarea Philippi, a district of Palestine about 40 kilometers north of the Sea of Galilee. It was a major city in the area, populated mostly by Syrians who worshipped their god Baal, and Greeks who worshipped their god Pan. In addition to many temples for pagan worship, the Roman tetrarch Philip also built a temple for worshipping Caesar. The city therefore was a major center of pagan worship.

After he was baptized and tempted in the desert, Jesus spent much time in Galilee (Matt 4-15), preaching and performing many signs and wonders. But even so, his ministry there did not bear much fruit, except for a few disciples. Most of the Jews rejected him and his teachings in unbelief, at times even violently.

In withdrawing to Caesarea Philippi, he and his disciples now faced not only hostile Jews, but now also Gentile pagan worshippers. So, as if to prepare them for the great task ahead of preaching to Gentile pagans, Jesus asks his disciples for their profession of faith in him, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” To his disciples, Jesus does not hide his title “Son of Man,” the “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, a being who ascended into heaven who would rule over the nations forever. This claim netted Jesus the wrath of Jews as it is the title of the Messiah.

The disciples have heard many speculations about who Jesus actually was, especially with the authority of his teaching and the miracles that he had performed. He must be John the Baptist, because he preached repentance. He must be Elijah, whom Malachi 4:5 promised would come in the last days. He must be Jeremiah or one of the prophets, because he always preached judgment and was rejected despite performing many mighty works. Could it be that he was the great prophet that Moses prophesied would come after him? (Deut 18:15-18)

It is no different today. Most people have a great regard for Jesus because of his words of wisdom, great therapeutic counsel, and delicious food for thought. Most religions regard him as a prophet, or at least a moral teacher, but obviously, not divine. For liberals, he was a revolutionary. For homosexuals like Elton John, he was “a super-intelligent gay man”!

But Jesus pressed his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” The only thing that has eternal significance is who you believe Jesus is no matter what kinds of things others say about him. And this was understood by Peter, whose confession in Matthew 16:16 is the turning point in the three Gospels: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In Mark 8:29, he says of Jesus, “You are the Christ”; in Luke 9:20, Jesus is “the Christ of God.” Matthew’s Gospel has Peter’s most complete confession of who Jesus is.

From Peter’s confession, we read Jesus’ announcement, “I will build my church.” From this point on, Jesus’ public ministry of publicly calling sinners to himself ends, while his private ministry of training his disciples in building his church begins. In a sense, this conversation between Jesus and his disciples marked the founding of his church. Today, we meditate on the theme “I Will Build My Church” under three headings: (1) “On This Rock”; (2) “The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail Against It”; and (3) “The Keys Given to Bind and Loose.”

“On This Rock”
In Luke, immediately after this interaction, Jesus and his disciples started making their way to Jerusalem, as he revealed his mission three times to them, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:21). Then, in the same chapter, Luke tells us, “he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (verses 51, 53).

Jesus was determined to accomplish his mission from eternity. This is why Peter’s confession was of such eternal significance: it was a declaration of Jesus’ person and work.

Who was this person Jesus? Peter says he is the Christ. In Greek, he is christos, the translation of the Hebrew word mashiach—anglicized to Messiah—which means “the Anointed One. From the time of the Babylonian exile, the Jews have longed for this Messiah who would come and restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory.

Israel always anointed its prophets, priests and kings with oil. Jesus, this one Messiah, will be anointed with the Holy Spirit to all three offices. As our Chief Prophet, he “has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption.” As our Great High Priest, ”by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father.” And as our eternal King, he “governs us by His Word and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 31).

Not only did Peter confess the messiahship of Jesus; he also professed that Jesus is “the Son of the living God.” To some, Jesus was a great prophet and priest. The Jews even wanted to make him their earthly king. He was merely another great man, just as many religions make him to be.

On two occasions—at his baptism, and at his transfiguration—God was heard thundering from heaven, “This is my beloved Son” (Matt 3:17; 17:5). But only a few disciples acknowledged God’s declaration. Mary the brother of Lazarus, confessed his Sonship (John 11:27). All New Testament writers also confessed the same for eternal life, including John, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1John 4:15). “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of Goddoes not have life” (1John 5:12).

Many people today find it hard to confess Jesus as the Son of God. But the Bible says that even the devil and his wicked angels know him. When Satan tempted him in the desert, he acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God. And demons know Jesus as God’s Son (Matt 8:29). During his last few hours of suffering, the authorities, the Jews, and Roman soldiers mocked him as “the Son of God,” not knowing that they were confessing the truth.

Peter’s great confession is the only ground of our salvation. Without confessing that Jesus is the Christ—the Messiah and Savior—and the Son of God, there is no salvation. A person can make him a role model, do many good works in his name, heap praises upon him to the high heavens, but if there is no such confession like Peter’s, there is no salvation and eternal life for him. In writing his Gospel, John makes this clear, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

How would an unbeliever, unable and unwilling to believe in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God, be saved? Jesus tells Peter how anyone would be able to confess this and be saved, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (verse 17). Only those who have been born from above by the Holy Spirit is able to make Peter’s confession. It was not through his fellowship with Jesus, not through logic or scientific investigation, and not by any earthly wisdom, that he came to his confession. But only through God the Father’s revelation to him through the words and the signs performed by Jesus that his heart was transformed by the Spirit to believe.

This means that all who deny the Messiahship and Sonship of Jesus—Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, pagans, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostals, liberals, great philosophers and scientists—have no Spirit in them. No matter what they think of Jesus, no matter what good works they do, they have no eternal life.

This also means that all the earthly and worldly means that many churches do today are to no avail in trying to bring about Peter’s confession. One way by which pastors try to seduce the youth is by encouraging them to blasphemously call Jesus as their chum, BFF, pal, homeboy, or co-pilot who will “take the wheel,” in addition to the old-fashioned “man upstairs.” All the entertainment, gimmickry, and psychotherapeutic manipulation will fail in bringing about saving faith first confessed by Peter. The only means God ordained by which an unbeliever will confess Jesus is through the preaching and teaching of God’s holy Word (Rom 10:17), written by the Holy Spirit himself.

The Great Promise After the Profession of Faith
With this confession, Jesus responds with a great promise, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (verse 18). This statement has caused one of the great divides in Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church claims that Jesus promised to Peter that his church will be built upon Peter alone. But is this what Jesus was telling him?

The Catholic view is far from Scriptural truth. Even if Jesus used a play on Greek words in his promise—Petros for Peter and petra for rock—there is no evidence that Jesus was pointing to Peter as the founder of his church. How do we say this? Because the Catholic church base its view solely on their traditions, not on the Bible. The reason for this is that there is absolutely nothing in the New Testament connecting Peter with the first-century church in Rome.

Many Catholics, and even evangelicals, do not know that there is no mention of Peter as the founding pastor of the church in Rome. If there is any church that Peter founded, it was the church in Jerusalem where the first Christian sermon was preached in Acts 2. Who heard his preaching? It was mostly Jews who came from all over the Roman empire for the Feast of Pentecost. And some of them came from Rome, and like the others who believed, went back to Rome and founded the church there (Acts 2:10). But in Paul’s letter to the new church in Rome, he never mentioned that he or Peter had been there. And in all his greetings in his letter to the Romans, Paul did not mention the name of Peter even once.

As well, when Peter made his confession, he was a spokesman for the other apostles. At the beginning and end of this event, Jesus was talking to all of them. In verse 13, “He asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And in verse 20, “Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.” Peter, being the most outspoken and impulsive among the Twelve, was always at the forefront of their conversations with Jesus.

The Catholic church also teach that the Roman Pope is the Vicar of Christ and the direct successor to the Twelve. But the New Testament rejects this Catholic invention. From the day of Pentecost, all the apostles started building the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20). Paul says that no other foundation except for Christ was laid by the apostles. Once this foundation has been laid, there is no more foundation work to be done—the work of the apostles is accomplished (1Cor 3:10-11). Therefore, there are no more Apostles after the first Twelve. In fact, all other people, except the Twelve, are disqualified to be Apostles, since the requirement is that he must have been an eyewitness of the risen Lord (Acts 1:22). Is there any Pope who had been an eyewitness of the risen Christ?

Saint Peter by Peter Paul Rubens, 1611-12 (click to enlarge)

Saint Peter as Pope by Peter Paul Rubens, 1611-12 (click to enlarge)

The New Testament record also tells us that Peter was not exalted above any of the other apostles. Immediately after this conversation, Jesus foretold his death, but Peter rashly vowed that this will never happen under his watch. Jesus then rebuked him very harshly, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (verse 23). In fact, the impulsive apostle was not true to his word, when in fear for his life, he denied Jesus three times. At the Jerusalem Council, Peter spoke about his work with the Gentiles, but it was not him, not even Paul, who presided over the great council; it was James (Acts 15:7, 13). And years after Peter witnessed to Gentiles (Acts 10), he refused to eat with Gentiles, and Paul rebuked him (Gal 2:11-15). How can a fallen man be the foundation on which Christ will build his church? Christ will not be able to build his church on the foundation of any man, even his apostles.

What “rock” then was Jesus referring to? The foundational rock that Jesus was talking about is Peter’s confession. Everyone who would confess Jesus in his work as Christ the Savior and in his identity as the Son of God, the second Person of the Triune God, would be saved. And everyone who comes to this saving faith will be living stones that will form the church.

Upon this great profession of faith originally confessed by Peter and then by all true believers for the last 2,000 years, Jesus promised to build his church. It is not a promise to use church growth programs, evangelistic pyramid schemes, and gimmicks, but a promise based on the confession and teachings of his apostles. This is the apostolicity of the church: that these teachings are not found in Rome’s traditions or the edicts of the Pope, but in the Word of God written by the apostles. This is “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Neither did Jesus promise fame and fortune to his apostles and all his ministers who have labored in the past and are laboring today until he returns. He did not promise grandiose megachurch buildings, media empires, and celebrity status. Instead, the building of his church will be fraught with many dangers and sufferings.

This is why coupled with his promise to build his church is a second promise: “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

“The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail Against It”
When Jesus mentioned the “gates of hell,” he used hades, the Greek translation of the Hebrew word sheol. In the Old Testament, sheol usually refers to the grave or death in general (Isa 38:10; Job 38:17; Psa 9:13; 107:18). Since hades or sheol is the realm of the dead, in one sense, Jesus was saying that death and hell will not be able to overpower the church.

But “gates of hell” is a more accurate meaning in our text. In the Old Testament, sheol may refer to the place of destruction of the wicked (Psa 9:17, 49:14-15; Job 24:19-20). Elsewhere in the New Testament, “hell” as a place of torment and destination of the wicked is obviously the meaning of hades (Luke 16:23; Matt 11:23; Rev 20:14).

Gates were essential for an ancient city’s security, to let citizens enter in but keep out unwanted people. But why did Jesus say the “gates of hell” instead of the gates of heaven? Who is the defender and who is the attacker? To be sure, Satan is always on the prowl, never ceasing to attack the church and its people from every side. He has attacked the church with physical violence throughout the ages, even to this very day. But he also attacks believers in the spiritual realm, sowing unbelief, division, and worldly philosophies, as well as deceiving them with false teachings.

But notice that Jesus said “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Remember the Trojan War in which the Greeks tried to conquer the city of Troy? The Greeks tried in vain to break down the walls and the gate of the city, but it was too strong and massive to be destroyed or scaled. So they deceived the Trojans by withdrawing all their ships and soldiers from the battle, but they left a “peace offering” in the form of a wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers. The Trojans did not see the deception and pulled the Trojan horse inside the city. That night, the Greeks came out of the horse, defeated the Trojans, and destroyed the city.

When an ancient city or fortress is under siege, the attackers usually try to destroy the gates. So Jesus was saying to his disciples that the church he would build will attack the gates of hell. While Satan will always attack the church, the church in turn will also never cease to be on the offensive. This is war!

God’s people might look puny in the eyes of powerful empires, but God leads them in the war. Moses destroyed the Egyptian empire with a staff. Joshua and the Israelites brought down the walls of Jericho with a shout. The undersized David killed the battle-equipped giant Goliath with a slingshot. And Hezekiah destroyed tens of thousands of Assyrian troops with a prayer.

And how did Jesus conquer Satan and his demonic host? It was through unconventional warfare. He willingly offered his life, and by dying on the cross, he conquered Satan, sin and death. The great war prophesied in Genesis 3:15 was practically won by Christ as he hung dead on the cross. Even while the serpent “bruised his heel,” the Seed of the woman “crushed the serpent’s head.” From that day on, Satan the “strongman” was bound so the Church is now able to plunder his house. Satan’s house is full of captives, those who are enslaved to sin and death, and they are the plunder of war that Christ has won. The gates of Satan’s house has been brought down, and now his captives are being set free from the power of sin and Satan.

In building his church, Jesus promised victory over Satan, and it was not an empty promise. He also promised to give the Twelve the means through which they will build his church.

“The Keys Given to Bind and Loose”
And what are these means? In verse 19, Jesus tells them, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

This is another verse that is disputed between Rome and Geneva. This is the reason why the welcome arch in San Pedro, Laguna has two keys hanging from its columns. Catholics imagine Saint Peter as a doorman at the gates of heaven, having the power to open them to those who have enough merits to enter in, and to shut out those who lack merits.

How did Catholics come to believe this? They think that Jesus’ pronouncements in our text were to Peter alone. It has been pointed out before that this is impossible. But verse 19 is another evidence that Jesus was referring to all the apostles. Only two chapters later, in Matthew 18:18, Jesus repeats his statement in Matthew 16:19, verbatim, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And to whom was he talking to in Matthew 18? Obviously, he was talking to all the disciples, not only to Peter, because the “you” here is in plural form.

Inscription from the Tomb of the Royal Steward

This inscription from the elaborate Tomb of the Royal Steward may have belonged to Shebna the corrupt steward of King David. It was discovered outside Jerusalem in the village of Silwan (click to enlarge).

But what does Jesus really mean by “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”? To understand this, we must go back to Isaiah 22 for Jesus’ source of his words. This chapter tells of a man named Shebna who was the steward in the house of King David. The steward had the responsibility and power to grant or deny people’s request for an audience with the king. But he was a corrupt man who used his high position to enrich himself, even building a royal tomb for himself. God therefore judged him by removing him violently from his office, replacing him with another man named Eliakim (verses 15-21).

Then in verse 22, he lays out Eliakim’s authority and responsibility: “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Eliakim will be given the final decision on who may enter David’s throne room, and who will be shut out.

Eliakim is a foreshadow of Christ and his work. With his “key,” Jesus says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). Later, he also says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In his address to the church in Philadelphia, Christ says he “has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Rev 3:7). Because the Philadelphians were faithful to his word, Christ promised, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut,” referring to the door of the house of David, his everlasting kingdom (Rev 3:8). And to all the ungodly, Christ has the keys to cast into Death and Hades (Rev 1:18), which will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14-15).

Therefore, Jesus is saying that he has the keys to let only those who truly believe in him enter into his kingdom, and to shut out unbelievers from entering in. What then are these keys?

The Preaching of the Gospel
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his disciples that “not everyone… will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). And how can a person who is a slave of Satan and sin do God’s will? Again, Jesus explains, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). So one cannot enter God’s kingdom without being cleansed by the Spirit and given a new spirit.

This is why Jesus opened his ministry by calling on everyone, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” (Matt 4:17), and “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). And the apostle Paul makes the connection between salvation and entering the kingdom of God through faith in Christ, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:10). Then he asks a series of rhetorical questions to connect salvation with preaching:

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:13-17).

And what is preached? It is the “good news of peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36), which is “Christ crucified” for the sins of those who would believe (1 Cor 1:23). This is the “good news of the kingdom of God” that Jesus himself preached (Luke 16:16).

How does this key of preaching the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven? It is by believing or rejecting Jesus as Christ the Savior, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 84 explains:

as often as [believers] accept with true faith the promise of the Gospel, all their sins are really forgiven them of God for the sake of Christ’s merits; and on the contrary, to all unbelievers and hypocrites, that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation abide on them so long as they are not converted.

What must be preached in the church of Christ? Christ himself! Christ the crucified Savior, Christ the risen Lord, not Christ as a good moral teacher. Christ the object of all “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44-45). Never get tired or bored with hearing Christ crucified preached every Lord’s Day, because he has the words of eternal life, not merely words of wisdom.

But the true gospel of Christ is seldom preached today. Instead, what do we hear? Moral lessons, interesting anecdotes, self-esteem psychology, personal testimonies, and worse—jokes, dramas, puppet shows, and other gimmicks. Thus, those who are in these kinds of churches are denied the hearing of the true gospel. The goats are not saved, and the sheep are starved of true food and drink. This means that these churches are not true churches, because they do not preach the true gospel. Beware, says Paul, of these churches, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8). Your church might actually be shutting you out of the kingdom of heaven!

Church Discipline
A second key to the kingdom of heaven is not as well-known as the preaching of the true gospel: church discipline. In some ways, this key works differently from the first. While preaching opens and closes, church discipline first closes, then opens. Preaching is always public, church discipline can be a public or private matter, depending on the specific case. And while preaching is to all who hears and is done regularly, church discipline is applied only to a few and not very often.

Why do we say that church discipline closes the kingdom of heaven to whom it is applied? Matthew 18:15-20 sheds light on this question. This passage is a general procedure on how to proceed with an erring member of the church. He is privately admonished repeatedly by the one offended, and then by the elders to repent of his sin. If he does not listen and remain in his sin, Jesus says, “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (verse 17).

What does Jesus mean by treating the unrepentant member “as a Gentile and a tax collector”? Gentiles, as Paul says, are those who are outside of God’s nation, “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). In Jesus’ day, tax collectors are some of the most despised people because of their corruption and their servitude to the hated Roman oppressors. This is why they are almost always mentioned in combination with “sinners” (Matt 9:10, 11; 11:19; Luke 15:1; 18:13). Therefore, Gentiles are outside of God’s nation, and tax collectors are citizens, but are corrupt sinners. According to Jesus, both classes of people are to be treated as unbelievers outside of God’s kingdom.

Then Jesus says in verse 18 that the decision of the earthly church is binding or valid in heaven.1 So Jesus’ words in verses 19-20 are often misapplied when it is used in prayer meetings, that God will hear the prayers of a group of believers better than those of individuals. Jesus is only saying that agreement between the pastors and elders of the church is required in their exercise of church discipline, because Christ is with them in their decision.

Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 are illustrated well by Paul in his explanation of what the church in Corinth must do with a sexually immoral man in their midst (1 Cor 5), “Let him who has done this be removed from among you” (verse 2), and “Purge the evil person from among you” (verse 13). This means that he must be regarded as an unbeliever, even though he “bears the name of brother” (verse 11). Since he is an unbeliever, he is therefore “delivered to Satan,” because all unbelievers belong to Satan’s kingdom (verse 5; 1 Tim 1:20). And it is not just the church that does this, but its judgment is approved by God, as the catechism says, they are “excluded from the Christian communion [by the church], and by God Himself from the kingdom of Christ” (HC 85). The key to the kingdom of God has locked him out.

But the ultimate goal of church discipline is not to cast out the unrepentant, or the “nuisance” or “troublemaker.” It is administered with love and compassion on the errant sinner. On the contrary, Paul says the purpose is “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (verse 5). If the person placed under discipline repents and turns back to God, he is restored to full fellowship in the church with joy and love. Again, the catechism says, “If they promise and show real amendment, they are again received as members of Christ and His Church” (HC 85).

Among members who are to be shut out of the church are those who commit “sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler” (1Cor 5:11). In the next chapter, Paul has a wider list of those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God”: “the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,2 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers” (1Cor 6:9-10).

Two of the most common sins today that even those in the church commit are sexual sins, which include sexual relations between unmarried couples, including homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is one of the hottest issues now. In addition to sex outside of marriage, homosexuality is being promoted as a normal lifestyle. But the Bible is very clear: they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Lady Gaga, Vice Ganda, and all those who are so proud of their sexual immorality that they promote it to everyone, including to young children, will not inherit the kingdom of God, and they are all under God’s wrath (Rom 1:18).

Beloved friends, let us be thankful that the church is being on a sure foundation: Jesus Christ himself, the Son of the living God. Let us be confident in his promise that his church will be victorious over the attacks of Satan and his kingdom. And let us be mindful that the church has been given the authority of the keys to open and close the kingdom of heaven.

The church’s responsibility is to preach the gospel, and to rightly administer the sacraments, and exercise church discipline. Without these, the church is not a true church. They nourish our souls so that we may be prepared for life in the kingdom of heaven. They also open the gates of heaven to those who believe in Christ as Lord and Savior. How would anyone know Christ without the preaching of the gospel? How would the church be kept pure from sin and error without church discipline?

But these keys are to be applied in a loving and compassionate manner. Preaching of the gospel brings about saving faith in a sinner. And church discipline is exercised to bring the offender to repentance and restoration to the church.

So, in spite of opposition to faithful preaching of the gospel and church discipline coming from the contemporary megachurch scene, we must persevere in these two keys appointed by Christ in building his church. The true church will be victorious because “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

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Endnotes:
1We frequently hear “deliverance ministries” commanding the binding of Satan in various contexts such as exorcising demons, or binding sickness or poverty. I have even heard someone saying they prayed that Satan be bound to release his stronghold on the traffic congestion in Ortigas Avenue! As we have seen, this idea of “binding Satan” is far removed from the context of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, indeed, from all Scripture.

When and how was Satan “bound”? He was “bound” when Christ died and rose again from the grave, when Jesus pronounced his verdict on Satan, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). When the 72 disciples returned from their mission saying that even demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name, he said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:17-18; John 16:11). Satan “was defeated” and was thrown down to earth, together will all his demonic host (Rev 12:8, 9). In his death and resurrection, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2:11-15).

It is striking that the Greek verb for “bind,” deo, is used in connection with Satan in Matthew 12:29 where Jesus says he will bind Satan the “strongman” first, and then “plunder” his house. It is also used in Revelation 20:2-3 where it is said that Satan was bound for a thousand years by a chain in a bottomless pit “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.” But he is not completely bound; only that he has now no power to deceive whole nations, as he did in the Old Testament. In this present age, the gospel is preached to all the nations, and captives in his house are freed. Then when “the thousand years [are] ended,” rebellion and apostasy will break out, because Satan “must be released for a little while.” Since Satan is a spiritual being, he cannot be literally bound by a chain and locked inside a pit. This can only mean that the images in these verses are symbolic, including the thousand years. Thus, Satan was bound when Christ died and rose again, and the thousand years represent the whole present age when the gospel is preached to all nations.

2 “men who practice homosexuality” in Greek is oute malakos oute arsenokoitēs. The word malakoi is the effeminate partner in a homosexual relationship, while arsenokoitai is the active male partner in consensual homosexual acts.

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