I am preparing for some upcoming teaching and have really started reflecting on a couple of truths. The first one is found in the statement by Christ in Matthew 16:18, "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." Let it be known upfront that I do not affirm that Jesus meant He would build His church on Peter. Rather, I think He's referring to the truth that Peter had just professed in verse 16, "Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'." Anyway, what I want to mention is the promise that Jesus says He will build His church. This is a great promise. In a time and age when we are constantly bombarded with all kinds of ideas and gimmicks to 'build the church' or 'grow the church', I find it refreshing that Jesus didn't ask us to build the church. Jesus promised that He would build His church. There is no way to stress enough that we must rest assured that Jesus is sovereign and able to do all that He has proclaimed.
The second truth, however, helps us to see the means by which He will build His church. When you look at Matthew 28:18-20 you will read what has become known as The Great Commission. In this passage the emphasis is on making disciples of all nations. That is the command from Christ. We are called to make disciples. But doesn't that put the emphasis on us doing the work? How is it that Jesus can say He will build the church AND tell us to be the ones who go and make disciples? This question misses a very important connection. First of all, making disciples (verse 19) is rooted in the fact that Jesus has all authority (verse 18). So, Jesus has the authority to send us out to make disciples. Now, if we think that it's our going out that will enable us to grow the church, we have once again mistaken. I say that because Jesus has already stated that He would build His church, and then at the end of the Great Commission He promises that as we go and make disciples that He will be with us! We are not the ones building the church with our creative ways of reaching the culture. We are the instruments used by Christ, but He is the One building His church! Beloved, may we not ever think we can build His church. May we trust that He will build His church trough us and that we are simply called to be faithful in the proclamation of the gospel (which is how we make disciples!).
Now, more could be (and needs to be) said for what it means to 'make disciples of all nations.' For this post, however, I will mention just a couple of things. First of all, it does not mean that we need to get someone to pray a prayer. That is nowhere to be found in Scripture. Secondly, we do not need to get people to 'do' something for their salvation (in terms of any kind of work for their salvation). Finally, we do need to proclaim the gospel and call people to repent of their sins and thrust themselves completely on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. We need people to know that Christ has all authority over them. We need them to see that they've offended the Holy God of the universe. We need them to see that apart from Christ they have nothing to offer God. And we need them to see that becoming a disciple is about becoming a follower, or pupil, of Christ. That is why we teach them to observe all that Christ has commanded. He is Lord! He builds His church by His power and authority. We are simply instruments or tools in the hands of the redeemer.