Invulnerable

"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God . . . upon this Rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:16).

I want to speak to you of the absolute stability of that which God does, and to show you that nothing can fail or be shaken which is established in and by Christ. Everything else in which we may be tempted to trust will most certainly give way, fail and bitterly disappoint us, but if our confidence rests on what is of God there will not be, there cannot be, any disappointment for us either in time or eternity.

Here for the first time in Scripture the Lord speaks of His church — of the body that is being "called out" of the world by the gospel for His own special pleasure and glory. It is not the first time that there had been a church on earth. Stephen in Acts 7 speaks of "the church in the wilderness" — of Israel separated from the nations and called out of Egypt — but this of which the Lord speaks with such affection was something new, something that was to be for Himself, His own peculiar treasure, that should compensate Him for all the contumely and sorrow that He suffered when in this world He was cut off and had nothing. Consider the way He speaks of it, "MY CHURCH," He says. Let the emphasis rest upon the possessive pronoun and you will begin to realize what it means to Him; then rejoice, dear Christian, and give thanks unto God that you are part of that of which your Saviour speaks in this touching way. Yes, you, a young, inexperienced, and perhaps untaught Christian, are part of that which is infinitely precious to your Lord and Saviour; but so also is every other Christian, and how precious this will make them all to you. It will increase your love to all the saints if you look upon yourself and them in this holy and blessed association.

Notice that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church. The gates of hell represent all the power and subtlety and scheming of the devil and the powers of darkness. Do not think lightly of these — there are forces of evil under the direction of Satan that are greater than anything else in the universe but God and what is of Him, and they are in perpetual counsel to thwart and overthrow the work of God. Their efforts are all in vain, they may seem to gain a temporary advantage, they may congratulate themselves that they are breaking up and destroying the church of God; they have yet to learn in bitter experience that it is invulnerable; it will come out of all the storms and buffetings of its nearly twenty centuries' history on earth unscathed, a glorious church, holy and without blame. Throughout these centuries the triumphant Christ has been building, building, and the work is nearing its completion. He will finish it as once He finished the work of redemption; then shall Satan be bruised beneath our feet. Glorious prospect! Christian, rejoice exceedingly and with exultation. You belong to that which is infinitely precious to Christ, your great Saviour, and which in and through Him will triumph over Satan, your great foe.

The Lord asked Has disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" And this is the great question. Everything for God depends upon it: there could be no triumph, no impregnable building for God, apart from the truth of the person of Christ, and this had to come out definitely and clearly before He could speak of His church. They answered, "Elias . . . Jeremias, or one the prophets." Men did not know Him, but these disciples of His, did they know Him? He would ask them, "But whom say ye that I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Did Simon Peter exult as he made that confession? I feel that he must have done, even though he may not have grasped the full meaning of it; but whether or not, we may exult today, for on this confession there is told the story of His triumph. He is God's Anointed, "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1). The confession was anticipatory — the title belongs to the One who has triumphed over death, it is Christ triumphant who has said, "I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH." He had to dig deep to lay the foundation, He had to go down into the depths until beneath Him there was nothing. Let us with hearts profoundly moved recall His words, "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me" (Ps. 69). "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Ps. 22). Every power that could challenge His right to build had to be annulled by Him, every question had to be answered; there must be nothing left beneath the foundation that He would lay that could shake His building, it must stand in everlasting righteousness. He must take up and settle to God's glory the question of sin, and this He did when He was made sin for us. And by dying He annulled the power of the devil who had the power of death, that out of the quarry of sin and death He might raise up stones that should be living stones — stones having His own life, a life that death can never touch again.

He has won the right to build and to build with whatsoever material He may chose, and what He builds is invulnerable. He is building now unceasingly and victoriously, for in Him all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord. No power of evil can stop that blessed work, and who shall challenge His right to complete it? And you may rejoice, Christians, with exceeding joy, that you are, each one of you, a stone in that building, and that even now in Him "ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2).

I beseech of you to look upon this side of the truth, and cast off the depression that comes from occupation with the failure of the churches in their responsibility, which Scripture has so plainly foretold. We rightly grieve about this failure, for our Lord's Name has been greatly dishonoured by it; but let us rejoice in that which is above all failure: the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church, of which you are part, and God is to have glory through it by Christ Jesus to the ages of the ages.

There are two sides to this great subject and we must use diligence to understand them: the first is what Christ is in the glory of His own person and the great victory that He has gained in and over death and the devil who had the power of death; and the second is the revelation of what Christ is to the soul, that transforms it from dead and unstable dust into living stone. Man after the flesh — that is, man of Adam's fallen race — was utterly unreliable and useless. There was no good in him that could be developed and fitted for an imperishable building; if there had been, Elias, Jeremias, or one of the prophets would have discovered it and there would then have been no need for the New Testament and its revelation; but these faithful men of God were broken-hearted men, for all their labours were in vain, in spite of them man got worse and worse, until from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet all was wounds and bruises and putrefying sores. The material upon which they laboured was rotten to its centre. Theirs was the day of testing of men, and the testing proved that God and faith must look elsewhere for material if the church which was in the mind and counsels of God before time began was ever to be built. The material has been found, not through the advance of civilization or by scientific research, but by the revelation of Christ to the souls of men. This is God's way of producing the material that is needed for His building. It is the Father's work — a work of sovereign grace. How blessed are those who are the subjects of it! Every one who has tasted that the Lord is gracious and has come to Him stands with Simon Bar-jona in this blessedness. Blessed be God!

Here we come to that which surely must move our souls profoundly, for here the Lord joins together "My Father" and "My church." He could not have had a church at all if He had not given Himself for it, neither could He have had it apart from the Father's work. I wish we knew the Father better, for then would our joy and confidence in Him be greater. It is He who has revealed Christ to our souls. When you felt the intolerable burden of your sins, and cried out as a conscience-stricken sinner for relief, and were drawn to the feet of the Saviour and found Him to be gracious, most accessible; when He received you and did not cast you out, but blest you and gave you rest and peace, it was the Father's work. He drew you to Jesus, for no man comes except the Father draws him. The Father wished you to know the blessedness and all-sufficiency of His beloved Son, and so the light shone in your darkness and you were drawn to the Saviour, but you owe it to the Father's grace. And He had a great purpose behind this work of grace, and that purpose was that you should be part of this impregnable church. This was not an afterthought of His, and the grace with which He blest you was the means to this end.

You have come to Jesus, who is raised from the dead, the Christ, the Son of the living God, and having come He has imparted to you His own life. Listen to these wonderful words "Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee: As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." Eternal life which has been given to us is His own life, it is invincible, triumphant life. Could the gates of hell prevail against Him? The prince of this world came but found nothing in Him. Jesus was the object of the personal attacks of Satan, and He yielded not an inch to the great foe. Satan was baffled, foiled, defeated, and the life in Jesus that was always victorious is the life of every living stone. Christian, you are in Christ Jesus, and if any man be in Christ Jesus there is a new creation, a new life and nature, and these are indestructible, they are superior to all the power of sin and Satan. Again, let us say, Blessed be God!

My desire in speaking of the church invulnerable is that in faith we may take our stand in definite identification with it, that we may no longer be depressed and pessimistic but triumphant and full of hope. We cannot ignore the condition of things in Christendom — we must own that we are in Laodicean days, and the perilous times of which Paul wrote and prophesied, and we do well to feel and mourn all this, and to be watchful lest we are led away from our steadfastness by the spirit of the day, but we shall not be preserved by dwelling on failure, nor do we gain the strength to meet it by talking about it. It is the truth that sets us free, only what is positive will help us. And the Lord's first words about His church will be the last, for who can speak after Him, or alter a word that He has uttered; heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word cannot fail, and this is His words "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Rejoice, dear Christian, with exceeding joy, you are part through grace of that which is invulnerable. How keen men are in their allegiance and labours for this political party or that! What sacrifices they will make for the furtherance of their special movements and schemes for the building up of the world that they love! All their labour is in vain. The world system has no foundation, and will collapse at last under the judgment of God. We may labour under the Lord's direction for the building up of His church — His one church — and know that our labour is not in vain in the Lord.