I. CHRIST’S PROPHECY ON BUILDING THE CHURCH
A. Building the Church on This Rock
[The Lord prophesied in Matthew 16 that He would build His church, which is His Body, upon this rock. On the one hand, this rock signifies Christ; on the other hand, it signifies the revelation seen by the apostles. The Bible shows us that, on the one hand, the Body of Christ is built upon Christ Himself, with Him as the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11). On the other hand, it is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20). The foundation of the apostles and the prophets is the revelation they have seen, which is the whole New Testament, from Matthew to Revelation.
The church is mentioned for the first time in the whole Bible in Matthew 16. Although there are several types in the Old Testament typifying the church, the word “church’’ is not found in the Old Testament. Therefore, in the Old Testament the church is a mystery hidden in God. None of the ones such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, or Isaiah knew about this. The Old Testament saints did not know why they were fearing and worshipping God and why God was caring for them; they only knew that the Messiah, the Christ, would come. They earnestly expected Him to come to establish the kingdom of the heavens on earth. They did not know that God wanted to obtain a church as the Body of Christ. In the New Testament, John the Baptist appeared, calling people to repent and to believe in the gospel. The Lord Jesus continued what John had preached, and as a result, Peter, James, John, and many others received it. Of these, the Lord appointed twelve as apostles and sent them out to preach the gospel, but none of them knew that all this was for the church. I believe by the time they came to Matthew 16, the disciples had been following the Lord for about two to three years. At that time the Lord brought them out of Jerusalem and the land of Judea, away from the holy city, the holy temple, the sacrifice, the incense, and the places full of religious atmosphere, to the region of Caesarea Philippi in the north, at the foot of a mountain by the border of the land of Judea. There the Lord asked them, “Who do you say that I am?’’ Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’’ (v. 16). This time he did not say foolish things; his sky was clear, without clouds. He received the revelation and saw that according to His ministry, the Lord Jesus is God’s Anointed for the fulfillment of God’s purpose, and that according to His person, He is the Son of God, the embodiment of God. Here Peter uttered some stunning words. Immediately the Lord told him that this was not revealed to him by man but by God the Father. Furthermore, the Lord said, “On this rock I will build My church’’ (v. 18). In this word the Lord showed Peter that it is not enough just to know Him as the Christ; Peter must also know that upon Him He will build the church. Christ is only the Head; He needs a Body, which is the church, to be His match. The Head and the Body cannot be divided; Christ and the church is a great mystery (Eph. 5:32). Not only must we know Christ; we must know the church as well.
It has now been nearly two thousand years since the time of Christ’s ascension. The greatest thing that has happened during this time is the producing of the church. What we are doing here today is to “stir up’’ churches. To say that we are building up the church means that we are “stirring up’’ churches. What were Peter and Paul doing? They were stirring up churches! What were the Western missionaries doing when they left their countries and kinsmen and crossed the ocean? They were stirring up churches! At present, Christ on the throne in heaven is sending His seven Spirits to enliven us. For what purpose? For the purpose of stirring up churches everywhere, until the whole world is so stirred up that it is filled with churches! The Lord said that the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole inhabited earth and then the end shall come. Today the end has not yet come, because the gospel has not yet been preached in the whole inhabited earth, and the whole earth has not yet been filled with churches.]
(Lesson Book, Level 5: The Church—The Vision and Building Up of the Church, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)