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Message 13, I Will Build My Church:

Scripture tells us that the church is the body of Christ, the entity through which God works to proclaim His gospel to the world. In our day, this magnificent calling for the church is often neglected, and the good news of the gospel is exchanged for a sales pitch that fills seats at the expense of the clear preaching of the one message that can save us from sin and darkness. Dr. Godfrey shows how the church is a community brought into being by the living God for the purpose of bringing His light to the nations, and he will beseech the Lord to revive us from a low view of the church.

Message Transcript

Chris is just a little nervous because usually I begin every address by criticizing the title I’ve been given. Over the years, he’s given me a remarkable number of really bad titles. The worst of all was “Part Two.” But, actually, this is a great title. “I Will Build My Church.” What a wonderful promise. It’s part of what church historians do.

They try to trace how Christ has been building His church through the centuries, ad around the world. And, I don’t know who that guy was on the screen, but he looked really enthusiastic. He didn’t seem that Reformed to me. And, I’ll try to just play it down today, and — what is Jesus doing today? Do you ever ask yourself that? Do you ever think about that?

We confess that He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. And in some sense that’s true because He’s finished His work. Certainly, He’s finished His great work of redemption on the cross. But we know that He remains active in glory. What is Jesus doing today? Well, we know that the Scripture tells us that today He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Today, He is the ruler of the kings of earth.

And so today He’s in control. Today He’s directing all things. Today He’s bringing temporal judgements into the world because He’s King of kings and Lord or lords. We know that for us, individually, as Christians, He remains an advocate with the Father. Don’t we? “If you confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father in heaven,” Jesus said to each of us who are Christians.

But today our subject really is — do you notice how much more elegantly the British put that? Sinclair Ferguson had a remit. And Alistair Begg had a brief. I only have a subject. The British have always been so much more distinguished. But our subject today is, that today Jesus is building His church. And that should be the most wonderful encouragement to us.

I don’t have to build Jesus’ church. I have to be a responsible instrument in His hand, but I don’t build His church. You don’t build His church. And all the powers of hell can’t stop Him from building His church. That’s our subject for today. Jesus’ promise, “I will build my church.” And where we ought to start, I think, is with a recognition that there are some people who don’t think the church is very important to Jesus.

There are some people who seem to think that they can connect with Jesus just individually, one-on-one. Or, that they can connect with Jesus through other sorts of organizations or activities, so that the church isn’t very important. There even have been voices in our time that have said the age of the church is over. That’s actually not a brand new idea. There’ve been others who’ve said that before.

But most famously in our time, Harold Camping, said the age of the church was over.

The church was false, through and through, and we should desert it. This was an extraordinary pain to me because Harold Camping was my Bible teacher in high school, at the church I attended. And at that time, seemed to be the most wonderful, godly, and knowledgeable man. But the voices that say that the church isn’t important, or that the church age is over, are ultimately voices that haven’t listened to Jesus.

And so I want to think with you today, not just about Jesus’ promise to build His church, but the context in which He makes that promise in the Gospel of Matthew. The broader context there in Matthew really begins at the beginning of chapter 15 of Matthew, where we read, “Then the Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem.” Matthew 15, verse 1, “The shadow of Jerusalem begins to fall on Jesus.” Jesus, whom Matthew has presented as a king in exile in Galilee, now is beginning to turn His face towards Jerusalem.

And the authorities in Jerusalem are beginning to turn their face to Him. And the Pharisees begin to examine Him and question Him. And Jesus displays before them in His teaching, and in His miracles, who He really is. And yet the Pharisees don’t know, and don’t want to know, who He really is. And it’s that context that causes Jesus then to turn to His own disciples.

Verse 13 of chapter 16 of Matthew, and say to them, “Now, when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea of Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist. Others say Elijah, others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am? You’ve seen the miracles. You’ve heard the teaching. You’ve seen the confrontation with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ. The Son of the living God.” And we rightly see this as one of the most important moments in the gospel accounts. This confession of Peter, that this Jesus, whom he has been accompanying through months, probably years, of ministry. This Jesus, who in some ways seems perfectly ordinary. There was no halo spotlight on Him as He moved around. This Jesus who showed how extraordinary He was in His teaching and in His miracles.

Peter now is able to confess, “You are the Christ. You are the Messiah. You are the promised one. You are the anointed one. You are the Son of the living God.” And of course, we all recognize that this is the heart of the gospel revelation. This is the heart of the Christian message. Who is Jesus? He’s the Christ. He’s the Messiah. He’s the Son of the living God.

And we might’ve thought that with this confession of the person of Christ, Christ would just pause to let that truth, that reality, enter in to their hearts and minds to be refined there by the Spirit of God. But Jesus, in light of this confession of who He is, of the person of the Christ come in the flesh. In light of that confession, Jesus immediately goes on to talk about the church. To connect the confession of the Christ with the building of the church.

Because Jesus wants us always to think of His person and work together. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. But He’s not that just as an abstract idea. He is that to accomplish the work that His Father has given the Christ to accomplish. He wants us to reflect on what the Son of the living God has come to do.

And so He responds to Peter, saying (verse 17), “And Jesus answered him, blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. I’ve known you a long time, Simon. I even knew your father. Simon Bar-Jonah. Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. And whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus has moved immediately from the confession of the truth of who He is, to make clear the great work that He is undertaking as the Christ, the Son of the living God. And that’s the great work of building His church. That’s how important the church is. Jesus, when He thinks of Himself as the Christ, thinks immediately of what the Christ will do. Build a church. Now, some might be tempted to say, “Well, the church is not all that important to Jesus because the word ‘church’ appears only three times in all the gospel accounts.”

One of them here in Matthew 16, two in Matthew 18. If church were that important, why didn’t Jesus talk about it more? And, of course, part of the reason for that is the word ‘church’ has synonyms in the gospels. Disciples. Community. Kingdom on earth. In a variety of ways, Jesus is talking throughout the gospels about the new covenant community that He will create amongst His people.

And so the importance of the church shines here, and should shine in our hearts, and in our minds as we think about, “What is Jesus doing today?” He’s still fulfilling that promise that He will build His church. And what’s that mean? What is the church that Jesus is building? What is the characteristic of the church that Jesus is building? Because our word ‘church’ is used in all sorts of ways. Isn’t it? It’s probably mostly used to refer to buildings, in English.

Jesus is not building a church building. I’m sorry to all of you engaged in fundraising projects to build buildings at home. It’s a good thing to build a church building. If you live in Florida, where you always need air conditioning — Except for this weekend. It’s very nice to have a building to meet in, to get away from the mosquitoes and the alligators. And if you live — I was talking to a lady from Rochester, New York.

If you live in Rochester, New York, it’s very nice to have a building to worship in, so that the snow is separated by a roof. The roof may come down on you. But at least there’s separation. Building are important. Buildings are useful. But the church is not a building. The church is never a building. It’s not a building that Jesus is building. So what is the church that Jesus is building? What is the church that Jesus loves? What is the church that ought to be important to us as it is important to him?

And this passage really illumines that for us beautifully and brilliantly. What is the church that Jesus is building? Well, the first thing this text tells us is, it is a community of confessors. It is a community of those who stand with Peter and recognize Jesus for who He is. Who recognize Jesus and believe in him, and confess him before the world. Because Jesus says to every one of us, as participants in His church, “Who do you say I am?”

And we should all be able to say with knowledge, with understanding, and with passion, “You are the Christ. You are the one promised. You are the great king. You are the faithful High Priest. You are the true prophet. You are the son of the living God. You are the eternal Word of God come in the flesh to dwell among us and save us.” That’s at the very heart, isn’t it, of what the church is all about. We must be a confessing people.

We must make that confession publicly before the world. We must make clear before the world what it is we believe. To whom we are committed, whom we serve. There were a group of people in France in the sixteenth century who were persuaded by the Reformed preaching in France. But recognized that if you identified publicly with the Reformed church in France in the sixteenth century, you would likely be persecuted.

And so, they said in letters to Calvin, “Wouldn’t it be alright for us just to be Reformed secretly? We’ll still go to mass. We’ll still participate publicly in the Roman Catholic church. But in our hearts we want you to know we’re really Reformed.” Calvin labeled them Nicolaitans. He said, “You’re no Christians at all if you’re not Christians publicly. If you don’t confess Christ before the world.”

And that’s the calling for us today. To know who Jesus is, and believe Him as He has been taught to us in the Scriptures, and to confess that lovingly, but also boldly, before the world. Some of the Reformed tried to find a kind of middle ground on how to do this. And one of the ways they would testify to their presence in French towns, and later in Dutch towns, was to go through the streets singing psalms at night.

Because, of course, there were no lights in those streets. But the sound would testify, and would actually be fairly unnerving. And people would say, “There’re Reformed people in this town. Where are they? Where do they live?” So, we have to be a confessing community if we’re to be the church. We have to recognize we’re a blessed community. That is, we’ve been given a blessing.

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. You didn’t dream this up on your own. You didn’t come to by your own strength. You didn’t choose it by your own free will. Simon Bar-Jonah, you’re a confessor only because God has blessed you with His grace. Only because God has revealed this to you. God has made this clear to you.” Here’s a great teaching of grace alone. The church rests on grace, alone.

None of us who are here today believing, believe because of our wisdom, our strength, our insight, our goodness, our cleverness. Every one of us is here because Jesus said, “My Father has blessed you with His grace.” That’s what the church is. It’s a community that recognizes God’s grace. And then He says, verse 18, “And I tell you, you are Peter. And on this rock I will build my church.”

These words have been somewhat controversial in the history of the church. And, I went back and reread what Calvin had to say about these verses. I thought, “Oh, this’ll be good stuff.” And it was good stuff, but not really what I expected. Calvin, initially, doesn’t pretend there’s any controversy about these words at all. He says, really they’re perfectly straightforward.

What’s happening here? Jesus is turning to Peter, and He’s giving Peter a new name to indicate that, by grace, He’s a new person. And this new person of Peter has character. He’s steadfast. He’s a rock. We don’t have to worry a lot that Peter doesn’t mean ‘rock.’ Peter does mean ‘rock.’ And that new person, with that new character, is essential to what Jesus is doing in building His church.

And Calvin says, what this passage is teaching us is that everyone one of us, as part of the church, has to be a new person in Christ. And we have to take on this character of being a rock in Christ, and for Christ, and on Christ. We’re all living stones that are being built on the foundation stone into a spiritual temple to serve Christ. Calvin says, that’s what’s going on here. That’s what’s being said here.

And then Calvin goes on to get a little controversial. He says, it doesn’t mean at all what some people have claimed that it means. Namely, that Paul — that Peter is being established here, somehow as singly and individually the rock of the church, and being made the absolute head of the church on earth, so that unless you’re built on Peter on earth, you’re not part of the church at all.

That’s what the Roman Catholic Church was saying in Calvin’s day. That this statement of Jesus to Peter defined the church as being in fellowship with Peter and his successors, as the bishops of Rome. And you were no part of the church if you weren’t part of that church. And that’s what the Roman Catholic Church continues to teach to this day. Now, they may not say it quite as pointedly and publicly as they used to say it.

But this is what the First Vatican Council wrote in 1870. Still, the official binding teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. First Vatican Council said “Therefore if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the Lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole church militant; or that it was a primacy of honor only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction. That he directly and immediately received from Christ Jesus our Lord Himself: let him be anathema.”

Anyone who does not accept the primacy of Peter and his successors is anathema, is cut off from Christ, is cut off from life, and cut off from heaven. Calvin knew that teaching in his day, and he says, it’s just not what’s in the text. Peter isn’t named a prince here. Peter isn’t named a single foundation here. Peter certainly is given no authority to pass that kind of office on to his successors.

What do we actually find in the New Testament about Peter? He was an apostle. He was an elder, he says in his first letter, a fellow elder. He warns against the danger of being domineering to his fellow elders. Peter wasn’t always right, was he? Jesus rebukes him in about three versus. Paul rebukes him. The Council in Acts 15, does not recognize his primacy or his authority. There’s no hint of infallibility to Peter in the New Testament.

But beyond that, beyond the New Testament, church history also testifies against Rome on this point. No pope claimed that he was the successor of Peter, as far as the historical record exists, before AD 250. Now, AD 250 is a long time ago. But it was also a long time after Jesus, and after the apostles, and after Peter. What exactly did your relatives think about things 250 years ago? You probably can’t name very many relatives from 250 years ago.

Two hundred and fifty years is a very long period of time. And no pope that we have a record of claimed to be the successor of Peter until AD 250. No ecumenical council of the church, down to AD 550, recognized a connection between the bishop of Rome and Peter. So, the pope in Rome is claiming things between, say AD 250 and AD 550, but the rest of the church isn’t listening by and large. Now, it is true that, in about AD 400, a document was found called the Clementine Recognitions.

I told you I had a lot of junk in my mind, and I have to get it out. And the Clementine Recognitions claimed to be a letter from Bishop Clement of Rome, the second or third bishop of Rome, to James, Jesus’ brother. Saying that Peter had told Clement that Jesus had given Peter authority over the whole church, and that authority would pass on to his successors. Now, if Clement had actually written that in, say, AD 80, AD 90, it might be an impressive testimony.

But the Clementine Recognitions are a forgery, written about AD 400. But quoted thereafter for hundreds of years by the pope in support of his claim of being the successor of Peter. Now, you think, why don’t you get on with something interesting? Historians can seldom do that. I mean, we’re — we just have our stuff.

The reason this is important is because millions of people really believe, to this day, that the true church of Jesus Christ must be built on the apostolic foundation of Peter, and turn to this verse to tell us that. And we need to know, as confessing Christians, as Bible believers, and as evangelists, that that’s just not true. It’s not what the verse says. It’s not what the history of the church says. It’s not what the essential character of the church Jesus Christ is building is all about.

Now, we don’t want to use this information as a club to beat people over the head. But we do need to recognize what the Scriptures teach, what history teaches. And try gently to lead people into asking, what is Jesus really saying about the nature of His church? And what He’s really saying about the nature of His church is not that the church must be connected to the church of Rome. But that the church must be connected to and confess the character of Jesus.

The church must be the church where grace alone, is taught, so that it is blessed in the revelation of the Father. It must be the church of new people, renamed, to be steadfast in the service of Christ. You have a new name, don’t you? You have the name ‘Christian.’ And as a Christian you are to stand steadfast on Christ and for Christ. That’s what’s being taught here. That’s what we have to believe about the church that Jesus is building. That’s the essential character of it.

So, the church, the real church, is a confessing church, is a blessed church, is a new church, and is a succeeding church. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Do you ever get discouraged? I get discouraged. When I watch the news. When I read the newspapers. The world is a mess. You heard it here first. Write that down. The world is a mess. And even the people who, I think, are very well-meaning, and trying to make things better, often seem only to be making things worse.

And then we look at the church. And what are we tempted to say? The church is a mess. Now, come on, just you and me now, not all these other people. Just you and me. Is it not true that you have occasionally, maybe frequently, thought to yourself, “I could be doing better with this church building thinking, than the one in charge seems to be doing.” Come on now. Be honest just a minute.

You don’t have to do it publicly. You don’t have to be publicly honest about this. Come on. Occasionally, on Sunday morning, you drive to church. And getting out of the car you look around and say, “This is a mess.” And you’re the pastor. And we need at those moments, because we all have them — we need at those moments to say, “There’s a promise I can never forget. There’s a promise I can never let go of. There’s a promise I must never look away from. And that’s Jesus’ promise that He will build His church.

And he’ll succeed. The Devil may build the strongest fortifications imaginable to resist the advance of the church of Jesus Christ. But those gates will be overcome by the Savior in building His church. So that not one of the elect will be lost.” Do you believe that?

The world can’t stop the church. Now, come on, I’m Dutch Reformed. We don’t applaud. As Jay Adams used to say, “The most that we do is grunt.” Jay Adams used to talk about the Reformed grunt. If you really agree you can go — that’s the most expressive we ever allow ourselves to become. OK. The really important thing to remember is the world cannot stop Jesus.
And the church can’t stop Jesus. And Christians can’t stop Jesus. He’ll build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Thank you. I don’t know. This is the kind of enthusiasm — you know, no I can’t do it. This is the kind of enthusiasm we have to be careful about, you know? It’s like Winston Churchill when he got a memo during the second World War, and a sentence in the memo ended with a preposition. So, he shot back a memo that said, “This is the kind of thing in time of war, up with which we will not put.” That’s what won the war.

Jesus will build His church. We — for all that we look seriously at the weaknesses of the church, and the need of the church to repent — we must always look at that on the basis of the promise that Jesus has made to us. He will build His church. He will succeed in the purpose for which He has set Himself. We need to be assured of that, confident in that. And when that promise reverberates in our hearts. He’ll do it. He’ll succeed. Then we’re ready to take on the responsibility that He gives to us.

And that’s what He does to Peter here. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth with be loosed in heaven.” Now, if you think the church isn’t important, you don’t see this responsibility given to the church. And when we look at Matthew 18, we’ll see that it’s not given to Peter singly. It is given to the church as a whole.

And what are these keys? They’re the keys of a steward. The steward serves a master. The master sets the agenda, the program, the purpose, and the steward carries it out. And he has the keys to open the storeroom for the master’s purpose. When the master wants a feast, the steward opens the larder, to bring out from the larder the food for the feast.

And Jesus is saying to His office bearers in the church, “You are stewards. You have a responsibility. You — I’m going to use you to accomplish my purposes. And my purposes are so important that what you declare on earth will be bound in heaven.” Now, that doesn’t say any crazy thing we might say on earth. Just because we speculate about Goliath’s skull doesn’t make it so.

So ministers can’t say crazy things and expect people to go along with them. Ministers have to say biblical things because they’re stewards. The great keys we’re given are the Scriptures to open, to preach. To lead the people of God in faithfulness. But Jesus is saying here, ‘Bear in mind, every Christian, that the faithful use of those keys by the stewards I appoint over my church bind things in heaven.” This is important. This is crucial.

And so the church is a church of confessors. It’s a church of the blessed. It’s a church of the newly made. It’s a church of those resting on the promises of Christ. It’s a church of those responsible. And it’s the church that seeks to fulfill the calling of Jesus. And the calling of Jesus is to be faithful to His Word.

That’s why Sinclair Ferguson’s address that began this conference couldn’t have more powerful, pointed, and appropriate for what we’re doing here. A church that won’t listen to the Word of God, that doesn’t desire to listen to the Word of God, is a church already lost. When the Pharisees came to Jesus what was the first thing they did? They complained that He didn’t keep the tradition of the elders.

And the response of Jesus was, “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition. So for the sake of you are tradition you have mode void the Word of God.” And that’s why Jesus, later in His ministry, would turn to them and say, “Your house has left you desolate.” It’s the Word of God that tells us who Jesus is and what He would have us do. It’s the Word of God that must be hugely precious to us.

In the parallel passage where Peter confesses Jesus in Mark, chapter 8, Jesus concludes speaking to Peter saying, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of His Father.” Ashamed of the words of Jesus? Unthinkable, right? Unimaginable, right? Unless you read two verses down.

Matthew 16, verse 21. “From that time, Jesus began to show His disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, and chief priest, and scribes, and be killed. And on the third day be raised.” And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke Him saying, ‘Far be it from you Lord. This shall never happen to you. Jesus, don’t you know what it means to be a Messiah? Don’t you know what it means to be a king? Suffering and dying is not what kingship is about. That’s no way to build the church. This will never happen to you.’

Do you notice how, how pastorally sensitive Peter was? He took Jesus aside. He didn’t want to embarrass him publicly. And Jesus gave Peter a new name: get behind me Satan. Suddenly, Peter has shifted sides.

He’s no longer on Jesus’ side. He’s on the side of the gates of hell. Who’s manning the gates of hell? Satan’s manning the gates of hell. Jesus is giving Peter, as a representative of the church, an absolutely crucial lesson. Jesus is going to build the church in His way. Now, if I were building the church, to return to an earlier theme. I would create a lot more R.C. Sprouls.

And I would have him pastoring a church in Florida that tens of thousands of people attended. Can you believe that Floridians are so stupid, that only 1200 or 2400, or whatever the number is, go to his church? I mean, really. Do you see the churches people do go to? And so Peter’s offering helpful advice. Calvin has a marvelous comment on Peter’s advice.

Calvin writes, “Though the lusts of the flesh as they resemble wild beasts are difficult to be restrained. Yet there is no beast more furious than the wisdom of the flesh.” If you think the lusts of the flesh are bad, the wisdom of the flesh is much worse. And that’s what Peter’s manifesting here. The wisdom of the flesh. “We are not going to let you die, Jesus. That’s no way to build a church.”

And Jesus says, “It’s the only way to build the church. Without the cross there is no church. And the servants are not greater than the master. And so it is by the way of the cross. It is by the way of weakness. It is by the way of suffering that I will build my church. That’s why I only give you a couple of R.C. Sprouls per generation.

It would go right to your head if you had more. You would think you’re doing it on your own. Sometimes I wonder if these conferences are a good idea. Is Chris Larson still here? I’ve got to be very careful now. They’re not a good idea if you go home from here and you say, “Boy, my preacher’s no R.C. Sproul.” No, he’s not.

But the Lord is using your preacher to build His church. Some of you may go to big churches with a really good preacher. But many of you I suspect go to little churches with pretty mediocre church preachers. But that’s where Christ is building His church. And, especially, to you pastors, who are troubled that there’s not more response to your preaching. You’re walking after your master in the way of the cross.

And the Lord’s doing more than you recognize. More than you know, more than you will ever know till eternity. So don’t let the wisdom of the flesh control you. Let the wisdom of the master control you. That it’s in weakness, it’s in apparent defeat, that Jesus is doing the most that will count for eternity. Luther, in AD 1539, wrote a wonderful treatise. And he talked about this.

He said, “Now, when the Devil saw that God built such a holy church, he was not idle. And erected His chapel beside it. Larger than God’s temple. The Devil is always God’s ape. Trying to imitate all God’s things, and improve on them.” We live in a world that’s trying to improve on God, and trying to improve on God’s ways, and trying to improve on way of the cross.

And Jesus says to all of us, ‘I know you think you could do it better. But you actually can’t. I know what I’m doing. I will build my church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.’ The Church of Scotland, in the midst of its persecution adopted as its motto the Latin words that we find in Exodus 3:2, at the burning bush: Nec tamen consumebatur. And yet not consumed, burning, burning.

What’s burning all about? It’s about destruction. It’s about being consumed. And the church is always burning, but it’s never consumed. Because it’s the place where Christ is doing His work. Where Christ’s gospel is being preached. In that same treatise, Luther struck a theme that was more and more important to him as life went on. And it was the itching ears of congregations who always wanted something new.

He returned to that theme in his very last sermon that he preached just three days before his death. He could hardly breathe when he mounted the pulpit. But he returned to that theme, and he said, “Oh, people say what is preaching? After all, there’s preaching every day, often many times every day, so that we soon grow weary of it. What do we get out of it? Alright, go ahead, dear brother.”

If you don’t want God to speak to you every day at home, in your house, and in your parish church. Then be wise and look for something else, something new. In Trier is our Lord God’s coat. In Aachen are Joseph’s pants, and our blessed lady’s chemise. Go there and squander your money and buy indulgence and the pope’s secondhand junk. These are valuable things. You have to go far for these things. And spend a lot of money. Leave house and home standing idle.”

But aren’t we stupid and crazy? Yes. Blinded and possessed by the Devil. There sits the decoy duck in Rome with his bag of tricks. Luring to himself the whole world with its money and goods, and all the while anybody can go to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the pulpit. How highly honored and richly blessed are we to know that God speaks with us and feeds us with His Word. Gives us His baptism, the keys of the kingdom.”

But these barbarous, godless people say, “What, baptism, sacrament, the Lord’s supper? Joseph’s pants that’s what does it. It is the Devil in the world who makes the high personages, the emperor, and the kings oblivious to such things, and causes them to allow themselves to be so grossly duped and fooled, and bespattered with filth by these first-class rascals and liars, the pope and his tonsured shavelings.” He had a little breath left.

But these were his last preached words. “But we should listen to God’s Word. Which tell us that He is our schoolmaster, and have nothing to with Joseph’s pants or the pope’s juggling tricks.” And the church today is full of tricksters who have something new, something better, something more powerful, something more effective, something that will work. But the church of Jesus Christ has the cross.

The message of the cross. The truth of the cross. The salvation that flows from the cross, alone. And it’s there in the church. In the fellowship of God’s people. In the fellowship around God’s Word. That God is doing His work. That Jesus is building up His people. Where Jesus is destroying the gates of hell. So, go home, and look around, and say, “This is a mess. But God will do His work here.”

Let’s pray together. Oh, Lord, our God, it’s hard for us to believe your promises. And the better the promises are the harder sometimes it is for us to believe. It’s hard for us that the long awaited King came to die. It’s hard for us to believe that from the cross comes forgiveness of sins. It’s hard for us to believe that Jesus is wiser than we are. But we’re so thankful for your promise that He is wiser, and that He will build His church, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

And that when He returns in glory, not one of His own will be lost. But that He will have faithfully and effectively used His stewards to gather one here and one there. Sometimes tens, sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands, but usually, just one-by-one. And we pray that we would rejoice in the great work that He is doing. And that from our hearts we would always say, “Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Hear us for Jesus’ sake.” Amen.