Why do so many Christians cooperate with the devil? Are you shocked by such a question? Our Savior is doing the mighty work of building His church. He is actively opposed by the devil, the cunning serpent and roaring lion, who seeks to devour unprepared Christians. When we act in disobedience to our Lord we are, in fact, playing into the enemy’s hand and joining forces with him—albeit without realizing it—to mar what God is building!
Shouldn’t we instead focus on cooperating with the Lord who is building something of infinite and eternal value? We needn’t fear that any such effort will be wasted. The church will endure the enemy’s attacks because of the rock solid foundation on which it is built.
A sure foundation
The rocky peaks of Mount Hermon in northern Israel, surrounded by pagan temples, provide the backdrop for a fortifying truth. First, in Matthew 16:13, the Lord Jesus probed His disciples with the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered that the consensus of the people was that He was a prophet of some sort. Next, He asked His closest disciples for their answer, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response was a revelation from God Himself: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16).
This declaration of who their Master was answered the question posed by the Samaritan woman in John 4:29: “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” Yes, He was! The Christ, the Messiah, long anticipated by the Jews, had finally come! From the very first pages of recorded history, God had predicted His coming, in ever-increasing detail. Messiah would destroy Satan’s power (Gen. 3:15); would be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:18-19); would rule as king (Jer. 23:5-6); and He would suffer for the sins of the people (Isa. 53).
In addition, He would be given the divine titles of Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), be eternal (Mic. 5:2), and have the seven-fold Spirit rest on Him (Isa. 11:1-2 ; Rev. 5:6). As with Peter, we can only realize who Jesus Christ is when God Himself opens our eyes. He is the Messiah whom God had promised would come to redeem and reign. He is God come in human flesh!
Why did the Lord ask His disciples who they thought He was? Because what He was about to explain absolutely depended upon it! “I also say to you that you are Peter” (v. 18). Peter now understood who his Master was, the expected Savior and King. Now he needed to properly understand himself in two ways.
First, the Lord called him Peter, which means “a stone.” Peter would be like Christ, the large rock, in that he would have the same nature or life, so he could later write that believers are now partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). We have within us the very life of God! Second, however, Peter was still just a small stone and was insufficient in himself to accomplish anything for God. Messiah would have to work through Peter, empowering him to serve effectively: “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).
Nothing will stop Him
While Peter was the stone, his Master was the Rock of Ages: “Upon this rock I will build My church” (Mt. 16:18) Here, rock means large rock or bedrock. It is not Peter upon whom the church is being built, but Peter’s confession of who Jesus is: the Christ, the Son of the living God. The church is being built on the rock solid character and work of Messiah. He died to purchase her as a bride for Himself. Now He lives in the power of an endless life to sustain and cause her to grow.
The words “I will build” express a certainty and confidence that the church is on a solid footing. When God says “I will,” we have no doubt whatsoever. And He is building it! Today, the church of the living God is being built, one living stone at a time. Every day, hundreds, perhaps thousands, are added to this called-out group of people purchased by the blood of the Lamb, brought from spiritual death to resurrection life, destined to forever live with, serve, be like, and adore the Head of the church, our Lord Jesus Christ!
Even before the church began, the Lord promised it would be victorious: “the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (v. 18). Put another way, “all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (NLT). No human resistance to the church’s progress is mentioned. This tells us that the real threat to the growth of the church is not human, but spiritual. Satan and his unseen forces would like nothing better than to destroy the work of God. Yet not even satanic powers can conquer the church of the Firstborn! Satan will try to use people, even believers, to weaken and damage the church, yet even he can be resisted when believers first submit themselves to God (Jas. 4:7). The solid foundation of the church is infinitely more powerful than anything the devil can do. Praise the Lord for the Rock of our salvation!
Let’s get practical
A number of practical implications arise from the truths we have just examined. First, God is doing an important work and He is leaving it to no other. The success of the church depends not on me (a stone), but on Him (the Rock). The work of creation took six days, but the work of building His church has taken our Lord almost 2000 years to date. And He will not stop until it is accomplished! He is faithful. We can trust Him.
Second, the church is being irresistibly built on an absolutely solid foundation. The church will one day be complete, perfect, and holy, as a bride ready for her bridegroom (Rev. 21:2). Each believer will one day be totally transformed to be like our Savior: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Php. 1:6).
Third, even Satan’s power cannot overcome the Lord’s building of His church. Satan is already defeated and he knows it (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 20:20). The Lord wants each local church to flourish and grow. There are always difficulties and discouragements, but the bottom line is this: will I cooperate with Satan in bringing down the church by my disobedience or will I trust the Lord’s promise to build His church and cooperate with Him?
Think of the example of the Israelites about to enter the promised land (Num. 13-14). Before Moses sent the spies out, God had already assured them possession of the land: “so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel” (Num. 13:2). Sure, there were giants and well-fortified cities, but God said they would have the land. It was a done deal, as long as they trusted Him. The same principle applies to us. He has promised the church will be victorious, even over the forces of hell. Will we believe Him? When a whole local church trusts in this promise from the God who cannot lie, there is no telling what the Lord will do in and through His people for the blessing of others!