The Small, Unnoticed Church
In the well known passage of Matthew 16, Peter answers Jesus’ question asking who the people say that He is. Peter replies that he knows that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus then said to Peter in Matthew 16:18; “… you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it ” (NASB). Jesus promised Peter, the apostles, and all who have read this scripture since then, that once his church was established, it would always be, that Satan could never eradicate His church. Those of us who have been in the Wednesday night study of Acts have had a recent reminder of when the church was established, in Acts chapter 2, 33 A.D. So has the Church Christ established really always existed all of this time, nearly 2000 years?
Not only ourselves, but Catholics also love this passage where Jesus responds to Peter, promising His church, yet they claim it has some different meanings. One aspect the Catholics favor, is that this was spoken to Peter, who they claim to be the first Pope. The other point they claim however, that is more relevant to this article, is that Jesus promised His church would always exist. The Catholic reasoning of this says; if the Church would always exist, then the succeeding church leaders could always be traced back to the very beginning of the church. This is exactly what they claim, taking great pride in their ability to trace their popes and bishops back to Peter and the Apostles. It is remarkable the history the Catholic Church has, but their error is revealed in the very early centuries, where the men they claim to be leaders of their church’s history, actually refute the structure of such an unscriptural church pattern. These early Christian men deny in their writings the authority that the Catholic church accredits to them.
So if the Catholic Church cannot trace its roots though forefathers back to the beginning, how could anyone else? The fact of the matter is that no one can trace their roots back to the establishment of the church by knowledge of all the saints who lived before them. Because the true church that Christ established, was not always the biggest church. The true church that has always-”followed in the apostles doctrine” (Acts 2:42), hasn’t been passed down in a continuous chain of a single denomination. The true roots of the church, that we can trace, is the teachings of the apostles through scripture, by following their teaching and traditions, we can know that we are the church that Christ established and died for (1 Tim 3:15). You see the church is built on the word, anyone, anywhere, anytime can establish a congregation by looking to God’s word and following the pattern we have there. We don’t see those congregations in history, because those congregations were too small, but we know they were always there. Maybe there would be one in a city for a while, one in the country, one meeting in a house, another meeting in secret because of persecution, but somewhere, no matter how small, there was always the church, and Satan could never overpower it.
That is exactly what we are at Valley, small. But if we hold fast to the standard of sound words (2 Tim 1:13), we can know that we are the church that is truly “of Christ”. I cannot think of any better fitting scripture than what Christ said in Matt 18:20; “For wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” We are small, when just a few miss because of work, travel, sickness, or just failure to be faithful to the assembly, it hurts us, and we really notice it then. But while we need to be here as much as possible, while we need every member we have, we also have to remember, that Christ never promised we would be the most popular, he never promised we would make the history books, but he promised His church would always exist, that Satan will never totally defeat His church. Let’s not give up because we are few, let’s not think that Satan has defeated us, let’s remember Christ and his promise, the great Kingdom that we are (Matt 16:19).