PROMISE AND PROPHECY
BY KEVIN J. CONNER
Scriptures: Matthew 16:15-20; 18:15-20.
When it comes to the revelation of the Church in the New Testament we discover that there is a threefold progression as to its origin and establishment; first in the Gospels, then in the Acts and then in the Epistles.
The principle of the Kingdom Seed could be applied to the revelation of the Church also. It is “first the blade” (The Church in the Gospels), “then the ear” (The Church in the Acts), and then “the full corn in the ear” (The Church in the Epistles) (Mark 4:28).
In our first chapter we consider The Promise and The Prophecy of Jesus who said that He would build His Church, which building is seen both in the Acts and the Epistles.
The Gospels-Promise & Prophecy
The Acts-The Church
Which is His Body
The Full Corn in The Ear
Acts 13-28; I Cor. 12:13
It is significant to note that in the Gospel three major words are used; these being (I) The Kingdom, (2) The Disciples, and (3) The Church. In the Acts it is also (I) The Kingdom, (2) The Disciples and (3) The Church. In the Epistles it is (1) The Church, and (2) The Kingdom, while the word “disciple” is not used once! The disciples of the Gospel who came into the kingdom now find their place and function in the Church!
A. The Church In the Gospels
There are only two specific references to the Church in the Gospels, and these are both found in Matthew, the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 16:15-20; 18:15-20). Neither Mark, Luke nor John mention The Church.
The background of Christ’s promise to build His Church is significant. The Gospel of Matthew is distinctly the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham and of David, the King of the Kingdom, came to His own people, Judah, and presented to them the Kingdom of God.
Jesus preached, taught and demonstrated the power of that kingdom but Jewry generally hardened their hearts to the king and the kingdom He came to establish. It was not the type of kingdom they expected. They looked for a nationalist, carnal, earthly, political and materialistic kingdom. They looked for the kind of kingdom that would overthrow the Roman yoke of bondage. They looked for a Davidic kingdom like unto David’s, of military might and power and subjugation of all Gentile enemies.
Jesus, however, presented a spiritual and heavenly kingdom that could only be entered by repentance and faith (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14, 15).
Hence blindness and hardness of heart and spiritual deafness settled upon Jewry as a nation.
The Sanhedrin took counsel together to crucify their Messianic King (Matthew 12:14).
The Kingdom of God was then to be taken from them and given to a nation that would bring forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:43).
It is with this background and setting at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus prophesied of the building of His Church (Matthew 16:15-20).
The Old Testament Church (Acts 7:38), represented in the religious leaders of the nation and in the people of Judah, had become “old wine skins”. They were hard and dry and inflexible to the “new wine” of the Kingdom that Jesus came to bring. The ”new wine” of New Covenant truths could not be put by Christ or His apostles into the Old Covenant wineskin Church. New Covenant truth and Old Covenant wineskins would not stay together. The one would burst the other (Luke 5:36-39).
Therefore Christ promised, and the promise becomes the prophecy, that, “Upon this Rock I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18). It would no longer be the Church built by and upon Moses (Acts 15:21). It would be the Church that was built by and upon Christ, to whom Moses pointed. It would no longer be the Old Covenant Church of the chosen nation of Israel, but the New Covenant Church chosen out of every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation.
B. The Church Universal (Matthew 16:18-20).
In this passage of Scripture we have the first specific mention by Christ of the Church He was going to build. “Upon this Rock I will build MY CHURCH” (Matthew 16:18). It will be noticed that the word “Church)’ is in the singular, not “Churches” in the plural.
This is the first basic concept that the Head of the Church teaches concerning His Church. That is, there would be one universal Church!
He would build His Church–NOT Churches!
It is for this reason that, out of the many references to the Church in the Acts and the Epistles, the word is so often used in the singular. It is so used to denote the unity of the Church worldwide, regardless of locality.
God has given Christ to be Head over all things to the Church (Ephesians 1:22).
Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23).
Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it that it might be a glorious Church like unto Himself (Ephesians 5:24-32).
The Church is the Body of Christ (Colossians 1: 18). It is the Church of God (Acts 20:28). It is also the Church of Christ (Ephesians 5:32).
There is but one Church and Christ Himself is the builder and the Head of this Church. The Church “catholic” is the Church universal.
The believer needs ever to keep this fact in mind that he belongs to the ONE TRUE UNIVERSAL CHURCH.
C. The Church Local (Matthew 18: 15-20).
The second use of the word “Church” is that found in Matthew 18:15-20.
A consideration of the concept therein reveals that here it speaks more particularly of the Church local, or the Church in a given locality.
The passage has to do with the discipline of any member who refuses to come to reconciliation with another member. The end result is that the matter is brought before the Church and if he neglects to hear the Church, then he is to be excommunicated.
It would be difficult and impossible to tell this to the Church universal but it could be done to the Church in a given locality, or the local Church.
The local Church is a small replica and yet a part of the universal Church. There is no such thing as a Country Church, or National Church, or Provincial or District Church in the Scriptures.
There is but the Church universal and the Church local.
We see that it is upon these two basic concepts as set forth in the Gospel of Matthew that all New Testament revelation in the Acts and the Epistles concerning the church, the Body of Christ, is built.
Matthew 16: 15-20 speaks of the Church Universal. Matthew 18: 15-20 speaks of the Church Local.
It is for this reason that we have the plural use of the word ”Churches” in a number of places in the Acts and the Epistles.
The Churches in Judea, Galilee and Samaria (Acts 9:3 I.RV.) The Churches in Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:41).
The Churches of Asia (I Corinthians 16:19).
The Churches of Macedonia (11 Corinthians 8: 1).
The Churches of Galatia (Galatians 1:2; I Corinthians 16: 1). The Churches of Judea (Galatians 1:22).
The Churches of God in Judea (I Thessalonians 2:14).
The same is true when Christ speaks to the Churches in Asia. Though spoken to each local Church, yet together they constituted the local Churches (Revelation 1-2-3 chapters).
What the Spirit says to the Churches must be heard by all, though He may address but one in a given locality. They are locally responsible to Him. He is universally responsible to all.
The Churches were established (Acts 16:5).
Paul was the apostle of the Churches of the Gentiles (Romans 16:4), which were the Churches of Christ (Romans 16:16). They were also the Churches of the saints (I Corinthians 14:33).
Read also I Corinthians 16: 19; II Corinthians 8:1; Revelation 1:4, 11.
The risen Lord spoke by the Spirit to the Churches in Asia, yet each was a local Church (Revelation 2:11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 22:16).
There was a Church in each place. They were united by the Spirit of God and the life of Jesus Christ, not by organizational unity. They were one Body. Neither Jerusalem nor Rome could be the ”Mother” Church to govern, organize or control any Church in any locality. Fellowship and instruction could be given but not control from any central headquarters, or central government.
IN SUMMARY the Gospel of Matthew speaks of the Church universal, “His Church”, and yet within this one Church there would be numerous local Churches, each of which would be a replica and part of the whole. The local Churches together would comprise the universal Church.
The Church local would be in plurality, in many places (I Thessalonians 2:14).
The Church universal would be in unity in many places (I Corinthians 10:32).
The Church local would gather in the one geographical place. The Church universal would gather in every place around the world.
The Church is only separated or divided on the basis of geographical locality, but it is one in Spirit and life.
The ”seed” thoughts in both of these passages in Matthew’s Gospel will be developed more fully in the Acts and Epistles in our subsequent chapters. The promise and prophecy of Christ shall be fulfilled. God watches over His Word to bring it to pass (Jeremiah 1:11-12). His Word will not return unto Him void but will accomplish that which He sent it unto (Isaiah 55: IO, 11).
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, AND PUBLISHED BY BT PUBLISHING, 1982, PAGES 1-3. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.