Matthew 16:13-28 Part 5

In our text this morning we have our Lord Jesus using the term Ekklesia for the first time.  The word is translated “Church”.  Jesus has said that His Church would be built upon this “Rock”.

Having expended a goodly amount of time and energy in understanding the term “Rock”, we now know that Jesus was not referring to the man – Peter – when He said “upon this Rock I will build My Church”, and neither was He referring to his confession, or his faith!  But He was referring to Himself as the Chief Cornerstone and His disciples – the apostolate – as the remaining stones in the rock foundation which would never be moved.  And the elect of God are all “living stones” in the structure; and, at the same time, holy priests serving God in His Temple “made without hands”.  The picture is made complete as we saw “rivers of living water” flowing into all the nations of the world from underneath this new temple of God where the “Rock” foundation is.

As you know, in the coming months we will continue to search out all that God will reveal to us from His Word concerning Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone.  And we will be aware of the apostolate and its role, as the remainder of the Rock foundation is laid.  But this morning, since Jesus has spoken the word “Church” for the first time, I think we ought to inform ourselves, as much as we can, as to what He meant when He said, “upon this Rock I will build My “Ekklesia”.

Hades, that mighty fortress from whose portals come forth Satan and his angels and all his children, has, as an objective, to snatch away the Kingdom.  And in order to do so the Church must be destroyed.  As the “abomination of desolation” occurred to the old temple as it was desecrated and disassembled, the same objective is envisioned for the New Temple!  But as the portals of Hades pour forth its hellish objectives, the Church built by Christ is pouring forth the rivers of living water which flow to every corner of the Creation – bringing into submission all tribes and tongues and families.  The Father has unveiled (revealed) His Son.  The “Living Temple”, built on a rock foundation, is impregnable and unmovable.  And it pours forth life to all the nations.  The portals of Hades cannot stand against it, for it is built on the revelation of the Christ – the Son of the Living God.  The apostles were the first – the rock ridge upon which all is built – and then, stone laid on stone, fitly framed together, a living temple of those joined in Christ – a new man, a new humanity, a new Temple, a new creation!

Now.  As with most passages of Scripture of a parabolic or analogical nature, we as sinful men tend to misunderstand them, not understand them at all, or, having been enlightened to them for the first time, we try to do too much with them!  We’ve spent a good deal of time with the first two of those, (misunderstanding and lack of understanding), but what of the third?

If misunderstanding and lack of understanding (of the hidden parabolic and analogical portions of Scripture) lead men to establishing non-Biblical and unspiritual institutions, then what happens when men – having experienced the great joy of “seeing” for the first time – attempt to do too much with what they see?

For example, when God said to Abraham that the promised “seed” would flow from his loins, what did Abraham do?  Well, he did too much!  Having seen the coming Kingdom and the new, eschatological humanity in Christ, and, knowing that his wife, Sarah, was beyond the age of bearing a child, Abraham took Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, in order to produce the holy child!  In other words, Abraham did too much with the Revelation from God!  He took upon himself the nature of sovereignty and divinity!

Now, certainly, we can’t allow “caution” to drive us into a slovenly and inactive Christianity; but it was the sin of our first mother – Eve – to want to be as God!  And just like a brand-new Christian who sees the salvation of God for the first time, we older believers who are shown some spectacular truths from some heretofore hidden and parabolic sections of Scripture, tend to take on to ourselves a form of divinity and do more with the Scriptures than was intended!

Another example.  There is a great tendency among new Christians, upon reading of the sale of properties and the bringing of the proceeds to the apostles (a common treasury) there in Acts chapter four, to do more with the passage than is required.  With great joy, having read it, many sell all they have, enter monasteries or convents, or form “Christian” communes in order to comply with Acts four!  (They think they’re getting back to the apostolic Church!)

And make no mistake about it, there is always a form of blindness when we do too much with the Scripture; and there is a gross misunderstanding of Acts chapter four when it leads to this kind of action on the part of excited Christians wanting to do right!  But Acts four has to do with Jewish Christians selling their properties – getting ready to abandon Jerusalem before the Day of the Lord!  Christ had told them, Matthew twenty-four, that they were going to have to flee the awful wrath to come, so they acted in faith and sold their property, and gave the proceeds to the apostles in order that poorer people of Israel were able to flee the area for the wrath to come!  But seeing this new and wonderful lifestyle of early Christianity, reading it out of context, some modern believers want to take on aspects of divinity and do more with that passage than is intended!  And in doing so they separate themselves from society, they exist out on the edges, and they, therefore, abdicate their Kingdom / dominion mandate!

Now, the reason for this discussion – and for the examples – is that the Ekklesia is a prime example with regard to this issue of “doing more with it” than is intended!  But what we’re going to do this morning – and maybe next Lord’s Day – is to examine the Scriptural data and proclaim what it says.  And we’ll try to hold ourselves back from doing more with it than what is intended.  Our purpose is to know what Jesus meant when He said, “and upon this Rock I will build My Church”.  He builds it, and it is His!  It is divinely instituted and divinely constructed, and it belongs to Him; so we aren’t to make of it less than it is, we aren’t to make of it something other than what it is, we aren’t to make it more than it is – and we aren’t to force it into a mold of human conception!  It is what it is!  “I AM THAT I AM says that the Church is what it is!  And He, Himself, is the Chief Corner; and He with His apostles form the Rock foundation upon which the whole structure is built with living stones.  And those living white stones operate within the structure that Jesus builds from which flows living water.  And everywhere the living water flows the desert wilderness is subdued and cultivated.  Therein lie the subtle differences between Church and Kingdom, which we’ll have more to say about as time goes on.  But first, let’s go back to the beginning and just see what the word “Ekklesia” means and where it came from.  And this may be all that we have time for today.

Now, I’m going to say a number of Greek words in the preaching today, but I don’t necessarily expect you to remember the words – but just to hear the sounds of the words.  English words like “Church” have become pretty generic, and have no origin and very little history.  But when you hear the Biblical languages, the murky generics begin to disappear.  And things begin to appear to us in much more specifics.

The word “Ekklesia” comes from the root word “kalein”, which means “to name”, or “to call”.  A good example of the use of it is back in chapter four of this Gospel, verse twenty-one, when Jesus was walking by the sea.  He saw James and John with their father Zebedee on board ship mending fishing nets, and He “ekalesen” them.  He called their names.  Matthew says that they immediately followed Him.

When the angel appears to Joseph, Mary being pregnant and unmarried, the angel said to Joseph, “You shall ‘kaleseis’ His Name Jesus.”  “You shall call His Name Jesus.”

And in addition to, but not exclusive of, the “naming” aspect of this word is the more “commanding” usage.  For example we say that God “called” the creation into being from nothing.  One of the best known verses of Scripture which includes the term is Romans chapter eight, verse thirty, which says,


“…and whom He foreordained, these also He ‘ekalesen’; and whom He ‘ekalesen,’ these also He justified; and whom He justified, these also He glorified….”


Now, from that verb comes the noun – klesis – the “calling”.  (You can already hear the word “Ekklesia” in the noun “klesis”!)  A prime example of its usage is in Ephesians chapter four and verse one, where it says this, “I, the prisoner in the Lord, therefore beseech you to walk worthily of the ‘kleseos’ (the calling) of which you were ‘eklethete’.” (called)  Hear the Ekklesia?

Now, I don’t want to labor over Greek words with you, but just to hear the sound of it, let’s do just one more – the verbal adjective, “kletos”.  The called ones.  And of course the most famous passage of Scripture having this term is Romans eight, twenty-eight which says, “And we know that all works together for the good to those loving God – to those ‘called ones’ (kletois) according to purpose.”  Again, I know you can hear the “sound” relationship between kletois and Ekklesia.

There are a few combination words using the terms “to call”, such as epikaleo –which is used to “call” upon God, as in prayer; and proskaleo – to “summon”.  And even a word which is given to describe the Holy Spirit comes from this word – Paraclete, or Comforter, which means to call to His side.

Now, the seventy translators who gathered in Alexandria, Egypt during that period between the two testaments and translated the Old Testament into Greek, used the Greek word “Ekklesia” to translate the Hebrew word “Cahal”.  To them the two words were interchangeable.  The Hebrew word means assembly; or assembly of God.  And it is used with relation to the congregation or the community of God!  And during that period when there was no more temple, the synagogue, or assembly place, was founded; and it became the center of local Jewish religion and culture.  And for a long time, the synagogue and the Church were interchangeable words!  It wasn’t until much later that a clear-cut distinction between the two was made!  But then Ekklesia became the word which described both Jewish and Gentile gatherings of Christians.

So I think we could venture a definition, or translation, of Ekklesia as the “called out assembly of those who are duly summoned.”  And we ought to take note of the fact that the New Testament makes no distinction between the whole body of believers and the individual house Church!  Ekklesia is used indiscriminately for both.  However many local congregations were meeting in Jerusalem in the early chapters of Acts, it was called the Church at Jerusalem. And those new Jewish Christians were called, by the inspired author Luke, the Church – just as the Jew and Gentile Christians at Antioch were called the Church!

As an example, Luke says in Acts two, at verse forty-seven that the Lord was adding to the Church daily….  In Acts five, eleven, when Annanias and Saphira were killed, Luke says that a great fear came upon all the Church.  In his account of Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin, Luke quotes him saying that this Jesus was the same one who was in the Church at Mount Sinai when Moses received the Law!

So the issue is who “gathers”?  Or who “assembles”?  And the answer is given by Jesus in Matthew chapter eighteen:  “Where two or more are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.”  The Church is – those who assemble at the calling of God!  And as many as there are, each one represents the whole.  And they are all connected to each other and obligated to each other!  Paul told the Corinthian Church that he took from other Churches to be of service of the Church in Jerusalem, which was under siege!

The Church at Jerusalem was the original apostolic Church, and many of the apostles were still there when Paul was collecting the offerings for them.  He had a very high view of that Church and called the apostles the “pillars”.  The fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in the New Covenant is that a specific number of disciples of Jesus witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and were specifically authorized and called of Him.  The apostles are the bedrock foundation upon which the entire assembly of God in Christ Jesus is built!  The assembly, or the congregation, was not constituted by commission from enthusiastic pneumatics or charismatics or independants; it was constituted by Christ and His apostles!  And Paul writes to the Churches that if anyone comes preaching any other Gospel than apostolic Gospel, let them be anathema.  And he holds Peter to that same standard in Galatians chapter two.

So the foundation of the Church – the assembly of those called out by God – is that twelve men who were called by Christ also witnessed His resurrection.  The Father revealed to them the Christ, the Son of God the Living One, Who is now the Son of Man resurrected and ascended to the heavens.  And it is these men who constituted the Church.  And it is their preaching and their doctrine upon which the Church continues uninterrupted!  They are the foundation of the Church – built on the Corner which is Christ.  And the Church still rests upon that foundation!  It is the assembly of those called out by God, duly constituted on the Words of the apostles concerning Jesus Christ.

So wherever we see the “called out” people of God assembling together, and they’re holding fast to the doctrine of the apostles concerning Jesus Christ, there is the Ekklesia built on the Rock.

Now.  One last thing for today.  It’s also good for us to note that, on many occasions, the Church is that which is under discussion, but the word “Ekklesia” isn’t specifically used.  For example Peter, in his first letter, writes to the Jewish Church in the nations and calls them “refugees in dispersion”.  In Philippians three, three Paul writes, “for we are the circumcision….”  In Romans nine verse six he writes that we are “Israel”.  In Galatians six, verse sixteen – “the Israel of God”.  In First Corinthians ten, eight – “Israel according to the Spirit”.  In Galatians three, verse thirty-nine – the “seed of Abraham”.  In the first chapter, first verse of James he calls the Church “the twelve tribes”.  All of these are links to the Old Testament Church and “fulnesses” of the Old Testament shadows.

But, again the Church is those “called forth”; the assembled company which belongs to God – He has called us by name.  And we are fitly joined together upon a Rock foundation which is Christ; and we are edified and built up in the Gospel according to the apostles.

Next Lord’s Day we will look closely at the analogy of the “Body of Christ”.  And then, having already seen what the Church is, we’ll examine what the Church does – time permitting.  May God bless the Church today that we might be what He has constituted, and that we might do what He has commanded.  And God forgive us when we attempt to take on divinity for ourselves and do less, or more, or other, than what He intended.




And now, lastly, as we come to the table that our Lord instituted on the night in which He was delivered up, there are a few things that I would like for you to consider.

First, as we think about all the things we’ve learned about “the Rock”, and the “River of Water” that flows from that Rock unto all the nations of the world, it ought to be with great joy that our Lord has “joined together” many people from all nations in His new humanity.  By His grace and mercy Gentiles everywhere have received His salvation.  And we’re no longer members of that fallen humanity from which we’ve been so freely removed.

Secondly, our Lord’s instruction to His apostles was that, as the Gospel of Christ’s salvation was preached to the nations, they were to baptize them (including their children).  Place the “mark of Christ” on them.  It is the mark of the outpouring of His Spirit on the nations.  It is the River of Living Water which, if you drink, you shall never die.  Baptize them.  And, then, teach them to obey.  He is King of the nations; they are to receive His mark.  And they are to be taught to obey their King.  By the “mark”; and by their obedience, they are identified.

Thirdly, there is a “unity” in this new humanity.  We’ll speak about this next Lord’s Day, but Jesus said that all who belong to Him are “in Him”, and He in them, and we in God.  It is a brotherhood in Christ.  We are “His body”.  We are no longer the “body” of Adam.  We no longer belong to the race of Adam….  We are the body of Christ the Savior of humanity!  And all who bear His “mark” have access to His table, where we “remember” Him and receive “nourishment” in His body!

At the same time, the apostle Paul put some “stipulations” on that access.  Although all of us who are baptized are members of His covenant of salvation (which includes all of our children), the letter to the Church at Corinth chastises the Church for its sacramental practices.  Members who have more don’t separate themselves from those who have less; members of one race (Jewish members, for example) don’t separate themselves from others races (Gentiles, for example); and vice-versa!  There are no races in the body of Christ!

And you don’t come to His table in a party spirit either… gorging yourselves and drinking too much.  Paul said that if you’re hungry, eat at home!  This a solemn event!  This is to feast on the nourishment of His body… not to fill your own!

And also, even if you’re a baptized member of His covenant, you’re expected to examine yourselves (and your children).  If you’re out of accord with your brother; or if you’re in rebellion against His Commandments, then you need to get it straight before you come!  And that requires self-examination and repentance.  Otherwise you may be eating and drinking judgment unto yourself.