Is Your Home Safe?
March 15, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. The services each week commence with "the invocation or the call to worship." This is a statement of invitation. Then, at the conclusion to the service, we have the benediction. Upon receiving the blessing we are sent into the world. Then after an entire week, again, we hear the words for the call to worship. This is the cycle of our faith life practice. We're sent off then we come back in. As the weeks accumulate one after the other, it turns into our life [times]. Sent out, then back in. [Sent out, then back in.] And so it is; the church is a place to which we come back. Therefore, "On Sundays we go to church" is not an accurate expression. On Sundays we come back to church. In that sense, church is "the home" we can come back to. It is "the home sweet home" where our lives are placed. Today, our message is on "the home" called the church.
The Foundation Of The Church
2. Jesus said this about that church. "I am building my church on this rock. Even the forces of hell cannot go against it," (verse eighteen).
3. I stated that the church is "the home" to which we come back. In that sense, I think we can call it "our church," but that doesn't mean the church is ours. The church is Christ's church. Jesus says, "my church." "I am building my church on this rock."
4. Jesus desires that his church be on the solid rock. He doesn't want for it to be built on sand. A house that is on sand will simply collapse. The house upon a rock will not collapse. "I am building my church on this rock." That's what the Lord says. What kind of rock does Jesus consider good? What does "this rock" mean, which serves as the foundation of the church that Christ is building? Actually, Jesus spoke these words to the disciple Simon. "You are Peter. I will build my church upon this rock."
5. Jesus gave the name Peter to the disciple Simon. In the Aramaic that Jesus was using, that would be "Cephas;" [in Latin "Petra."] "Cephas" means "the Rock." And Jesus said, "I am building my church on this Rock "Cephas." Therefore, in a direct way, "this rock" which is the basis of the church of Christ stands for Peter.
6. However, when Peter was spoken to in the following manner, Jesus had prefaced it with "I am saying it for later." "I am saying it for later" after we have the announcement from Peter just ahead shortly. Peter's announcement is in verse sixteen. "You are the messiah. You are the son of the living God." This is the faith confession of Simon Peter in regard to the one named Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, in referring to "this rock" it does not just point to "Peter the human," but it points to "Peter confessing the faith." Were he only speaking about the human named Peter, it would be fine even if this scene did not exist at all. In fact, if we looked only at the human named Peter, even though he was called here "the rock" which is the foundation of the church, he would also be rebuked right after that with "Satan, get back!," (verse twenty-three). He is both a rock as well as a stooge for Satan. That is Peter the human being. Therefore, the main thing is the faith confession that Peter had expressed, rather than the very man himself. In short, the foundation of the church is the confession, that "You are the messiah. You are the son of the living God," which Peter expressed to Jesus.
7. The church is a home. It is the home Christ is building. The foundation of that house is the faith. We do not make the ideologies of this world, which change along with the times, as the foundation. Nor do we make territorial or blood lines as the foundation. Nor do we assemble [in church] making the foundation the various worldly connections [we have], which would kind of wash away, were the tidal waves of this world to wash against it. The foundation of the church is faith. We make the faith, in which we believe Jesus to be the messiah, the foundation. We live by making the house called the church of Christ, upon whom we make faith the foundation, our own house. That is the faith life in practice.
8. Let's take another step further and think about the faith in which one believes Jesus as the messiah. When we look at verse twenty, something curious is written. "After that, Jesus commanded the disciples not to tell anyone that he is the messiah,' (verse twenty). Although they believed Jesus was the messiah and expressed faith in him after so much care, he stopped them from communicating that faith. They were still not supposed to. Why is that? It is because the disciples still did not see what they were supposed to see. It is because they did not [yet] know what they were supposed to know.
9. The disciples said, "You are the messiah," but what in the world must they [still] see? Next in the text in verse twenty-one it says, "Jesus confided in his disciples that after this hour, he must go to Jerusalem, undergo much suffering and be killed by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes of the law, then he will raise from the dead on the third day," (verse twenty-one). This is what they were supposed to see. They said that "You are the messiah," but they must see that that messiah will experience suffering and be killed and then raise from the dead on the third day.
10. I stated that the foundation of the church is the faith in which one believes that Jesus is the messiah. But, with that alone the matter is not sufficiently expressed. It matters what kind of messiah he is. You are the messiah. But even more, you are the messiah who will be crucified and die, then be raised from the dead on the third day. It is the faith that puts it like that about Jesus. This, indeed, is the foundation of the church.
11. Jesus is the messiah. He is the messiah who experienced suffering for our sins, and performed the atonement for sin upon the cross for us. And he is the messiah who came back from the dead and lives for ever and is able to save completely those who draw near to God through him. The church is being built upon that faith. Christ himself is building the church upon that faith.
Even The Forces Of Hell Cannot Go Against It
12. In consequence, Jesus made the following pronouncement in regard to the church which he is building. He said, "Even the forces of hell cannot go against it." How strong of a house is that? How safe of a house is it? The Lord says it is so [strong] that even the forces of hell cannot go against it, even the powers of Hades cannot shake it.
13. "The forces of hell." Literally it is the expression, "the gates of hell." "Hell or Hades " is the [unseen] world of the dead. Therefore, this could just as well be put in different words as "the power of death" or "the gates of death." We all know quite well how mighty are the powers of death, the doors to death. Death is certainly the greatest enemy at the end. And no person, no matter who, is a match for the powers of death. Regardless of how influential one may be, how fit one may be, how affluent one may be, how excellent one may be, or how confident one is in his or her health, ultimately, nobody is a match for the power of death. The gates of hell will certainly swallow down every single person. Throughout my life I have heard many persons, with great power in so far as this passing world, speak words of fear and sorrow before the sucking force of the gates to the world beyond. But Christ said, "Even the forces of hell cannot go against the church."
14. Why can the powers of hell and the powers of death no longer go against the church? -- Because the keys to the kingdom of heaven are already given to it. Christ said to Peter, "I grant you the keys to the kingdom of God." If we suppose that the kingdom of heaven is locked, it is locked because of human sin. The kingdom of heaven is locked to sinners. Therefore, if we suppose that the kingdom of heaven is opened to sinners, it is not apart from being dependent upon forgiveness of sin. The kingdom of heaven is opened to those who have been forgiven of their sins. In that sense, the keys to the kingdom of heaven are nothing other than the forgiveness of sins. Christ gave the forgiveness of sins to the church. Through his being crucified and accomplishing the atonement, Christ has granted the forgiveness of sin, the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
15. In addition, we can put to "grant the keys to the kingdom of God" another way, as follows, "What you bind on earth will also be bound in heaven. What you unbind on earth will also be unbound in heaven," (verse nineteen). It is not necessarily an easy expression to understand. To cut to the chase, it is stating that what is done in the church on earth is valid or effective even in heaven, even in the sight of God.
16. Unless [the church] has Christ's words, what the church has done to this day for over two thousand years will barely have any meaning. I really mean that. Pastors give sermons. They declare the atonement for sin on the cross of Christ. They declare forgiveness of sin and new life. With that, some people may feel a sense of guilt removed from their hearts. Some may find peace in their hearts. However, unless forgiveness of sins is truly valid in heaven and in the sight of God, unless God has truly forgiven us, it is only a mere soothing feeling. We can say the same thing about the sacraments or the church ordinances. The church performs the baptismal ceremony. And it pronounces forgiveness of sin upon a person. But, unless this is valid in heaven as well, unless God truly sees it that way, what the church is doing is no more than playing in water. The Lord's Supper is the same way. We share the small [bits of] bread and the cup. We share this as the body and the blood of Christ who gave himself for our sins. But, unless this truly has meaning in heaven, unless God truly sees it that way, what the church is doing is no more than actually playing house.
17. But, Christ said, "What you bind on earth will also be bound in heaven. What you unbind on earth will also be unbound in heaven." What we take in with our eyes in the church on earth has decisive significance even in heaven and in the sight of God.
18. Since Christ grants forgiveness of sin, what's more, since he grants a forgiveness of sin valid in heaven and in the sight of God, the powers of hell and the powers of death can no longer go against this. When we stand in Christ's church, which Christ is so graciously building, we stand upon the rock which the powers of hell cannot shake. When we stand in the church of Christ, who makes the foundation out of the faith in the crucified messiah and in the risen from the dead and now living messiah, there is no longer any need to fear the power of hell or the power of death; for, nothing can separate us from the love of God or destroy us any more.
19. The sermon title for today has been "Is Your Home Safe?," but this is a catchphrase from the advertising for a free check of the earthquake resistance [of a building]. Why's that? You can be sure it is important to put yourself in an earthquake resistant house. But this matter of the kind of home your very life itself is in should be even more important. As for that, it needs to be a house stronger than the powers of death; because the powers of death attacking [you] is more of a certainty than an earthquake taking placing in Kantoh, [the eastern half of Japan, including Tokyo]. The other day, a person received baptism in a sickbed. The person was trembling and quaking with fear, but [the individual] was placed in the house of Christ. "Is your home safe?" If this [ill person] were asked that, that person could have undoubtedly answered, "My home is safe."