Be the Church
The church is mentioned for the first time in Matthew 16:18-19:
"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”
When Jesus used the word church (Greek: ekklesia), the disciples weren’t hindered by our contemporary preconceived ideas as to what it meant. Their paradigm of an ekklesia differed greatly from what it has become. To us today it is (1) a worship service; (2) a building used by Christians; (3) a local congregation of Christians; or (4) for those who tend toward a more literal meaning, the people of God, “called out” from the world. The last concept is the most accurate, according to a strict translation but it still falls far short of communicating what an ekklesia was when Christ made His stunning announcement.
To the Greeks in Christ’s day, an ekklesia was an assembly of people set apart to govern the affairs of a state or nation - in essence, a city council, a parliament, a congress, etc. To the Romans, it was a governing body sent into a conquered region, not only to govern but to alter the culture until it became like Rome. Realizing this was the ideal way to control their empire - discipling conquered regions until the people lost their previous identity and began to think of themselves as Romans - they accomplished this through government, social structure, language, schools, etc.
When Jesus said He would build His church, He was without question speaking of a body of people that would “legislate” spiritually and disciple for Him, operating in His Kingdom authority on the earth. They would bind and loose, forbid and allow, when dealing with demonic forces; their extension of Christ’s Kingdom authority in/with people would be through the power of the gospel, and by teaching and demonstrating the principles of His Kingdom. His statement that “the gates of Hades will not overpower the church” makes much more sense when we understand this. These “gates” are not physical, but rather are the authority, plans, and schemes of hell.
In World Vision magazine, John Robb writes:
Several years ago, a giant tree stood on the banks of the Awash River, in an arid valley about two hours’ drive southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It had stood there for generations, seemingly eternal.
For years, the people who lived in the surrounding district had suffered through famines . . . In their suffering, the people looked to the tree for help. Believing a spirit gave it divine powers, they worshipped the towering giant. Adults would kiss the great trunk when they passed by, and they spoke of the tree in hushed, reverential tones. Children said, “This tree saved us.”
In 1989, World Vision began a development project there, including an irrigation system . . . But even as they labored to build the system, the great tree stood like a forbidding sentinel of the old order, presiding over the community, enslaving the people through fear. Spirits needed to be propitiated with animal sacrifices and strict observance of taboos.
When World Vision workers saw how the villagers worshipped the tree, they knew it was an idolatrous barrier to the entrance of God’s Kingdom and transformation of the community.
One morning as the staff prayed together, one of Jesus’ promises struck them: “If you have faith, you can say to this tree, ‘Be taken up and removed’ . . . and it will obey you.” In faith, they began to pray that God would bring down the menacing goliath.
Soon the whole community knew the Christians were praying about the tree. Six months later, the tree began to dry up, its leafy foliage disappeared, and finally, it collapsed like a stricken giant into the river.
The people of the community were astonished, proclaiming, “Your God has done this! Your God has dried up the tree!” In the days and weeks afterward, approximately 100 members of the community received Jesus Christ because they saw His power displayed in answer to the Christians’ prayers.
What a wonderful story! This is the ekklesia in action. Why aren’t stories such as this more common? How have we missed this truth?
If I were satan and wanted to stop evangelism, the spread of biblical morality, or the rule of God on the earth, I would try and deceive Christians regarding the meaning of being Christ’s ekklesia. My first priority would be to keep the church from truly being the church, representing Christ’s authority on the earth. While we absolutely are not to spread our faith or God’s rule on earth by physical force or domination, as some religions teach, we MUST use this authority when dealing with the spiritual forces of darkness. Bind and loose spiritual forces; love, serve, and disciple people. That is the assignment of the church.
Pray with me:
Jesus, You said You would build a church in which the gates of hell could not overcome. You gave us your authority as the King of the kingdom - authority to bind and loose, forbid and allow. Awaken the church to these “keys.” Give us a greater revelation of Your authority, and that You delegated this authority to us. Remind us that the church is not a building or an organization. It is not a worship service. It is functioning as Your authority on the earth.
As we move in higher levels of this, bring an increased manifestation of it through signs and wonders, healings, and deliverances. May we truly preach the gospel of the Kingdom, which includes Your dominion over demons, disease, oppression, and sin. We know earth’s greatest revival is now coming, and we know it will be infused with Your love and power. We ask for this release of Your life.
We also ask for the ability to disciple nations. Give us greater insight and revelation in this regard. Show us how to take the principles of your Kingdom and introduce them to a world where hate, deception, and sin rule. This will take great wisdom and revelation, but You promised us You would equip us to accomplish this task. So we ask for an abundance of understanding to now come to the church in this regard. We ask in Christ’s name, amen.
We decree that Christ is building a church that the government, plans, and schemes of hell will not prevail against.
Portions of today’s post were taken from my book Authority in Prayer.