It is not unusual to have someone call on the phone and say that they are looking for a New Testament Church. I have been known to answer with, “What type of New Testament Church are you looking for? Are you looking for one like the New Testament Church of Sardis, or Laodicea? Maybe you’re looking for a church like the church in Pergamos? Perhaps you are looking for a New Testament Church like Corinth or possibly you are looking for a church similar to the one at Galatia?” There is no New Testament Church listed in the Bible that we would really want to pattern a church after. A few of those New Testament Churches had some very good qualities. For the most part, they were laden with problems which we should try to avoid, rather than follow. When someone asks such a question, it could have a variety of meanings all the way from -- “Do you have elders”, to “Are your services emotional or charismatic?”, etc. After the questioner recovers from the shock of my answer, and realizes that any answer to the question “Is your church a New Testament Church?” would not be a valid answer to what they really want to know, then we can get down to business discussing whether our church has the features the questioner is looking for.

It is a chronic problem of some people, including many of the clergy, in that they feel the Bible lays out a structure for a church to follow, and even an order of service for the morning worship. Anything less than their imagined perfect Biblical church just won’t cut it. This perfect church, in the imagination of some people, often does not even come close to the Biblical perspective set forth by Christ and amplified in the Epistles. If we are to understand what a Biblical church is to be, we must know and understand the marching orders for the church given by Christ while He was on earth. We will endeavor to start that process in today’s lesson.

Before we begin that project, let’s quickly review some of the information we have already looked at.

This spiritual maturity is twofold:

There are several qualities that should be present in the members of a church. Three of those qualities are absolutely needed if the church is to progress and function in a Biblical manner:

The church is a spiritual organism that is to operate in a an orderly manner. The major function of the church is edification of the Believer within the church.

Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
edifying = (Greek) Administration of a household through teaching, laws and principles.
edify = (Greek) Architecture i.e. structure or edifice; To be a house builder. Denotes the act of building or constructing according to a plan.

Over and over again, in this portion and elsewhere, Paul says and demonstrates that the major effort of the Church, both local and universal, is the edification or building up of saints according to the plan or blue print of God. Biblical edification is not just helping a person to have a good self-image, or to be self-assertive and self-confident. Proper Biblical edification may be a blessing in all of these areas, plus a lot more. Through Biblical edification, instead of finding our resources and strength from the human nature, our self-image and confidence will come from and through God.

Philippians 4:12-13 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Just before Christ’s ascension, He gave some very clear directives as to the purpose and function of the church. Most of the mechanics of how that purpose is to be carried out, and how that function is to be implemented are given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the Epistles. We need to make sure our study of these things is both in context and in harmony with all Scripture if we are to understand what a local church should be like.

Matthew 16:13-18 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Peter (stone) = (Greek) a piece of rock; a detached stone that might be thrown or easily moved.
rock = (Greek) a mass of rock that can be used as a sure foundation.

The foundation of the church, either universal or local is the reality that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He is Deity! Upon Him, Christ, the church is founded. It’s interesting that the testimony of Peter to this fact came by inspiration of God, not from Peter’s own knowledge v.17. It was from this testimony that Christ chose to teach a great truth about the coming church. We need to see the structure of the passage if the message is to be clear. Peter, by inspiration of God, has just revealed the very character of Jesus. Christ returns the favor by giving the character of Simon, whose nick-name was Peter. It’s too bad that we need to take time to establish the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ is not built on Peter. However, there has been such sloppy exegesis of this passage, even by many fundamentalists, that it makes it imperative to establish that fact, negative as it my be, before we can clearly understand Christ statement, and thereby have confidence in our Foundation.

Peter was not Peter’s real name given to him at birth. Peter’s real name was Simon.

Matthew 4:18-20 Now Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20 Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him.

It is not clear in this text, but it was Christ Who gave Simon his nickname of Peter.

Mark 3:14-17 Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: 16 Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, "Sons of Thunder";

Notice that Christ gave others nicknames, also. In our last lesson, I ask you to find out who Zebedee’s children were. Being the kindhearted person that I am, I’ll give you the answer in this passage. The giving of nicknames by Christ was not necessarily a form of compliment, but instead, a statement of their character or personality. Sons of Thunder was not exactly a complimentary title, but a description of their manner of action. Likewise the nickname of Peter or little moveable or unstable stone.

Remember Simon’s nickname of Peter meant a detached stone that might be thrown or easily moved. Peter was not very stable. He operated by the seat-of-his-pants. He was sort of thrown or moved from one thing to another without giving thought to consequences. Nor did he bother himself with careful planing. There is certainly nothing in his nickname indicating that he was suitable as a foundation for any type of organization, to say nothing of being the foundation of the Church. Not only was there nothing in his nickname indicating stability. His life and action also indicated that he was not suitable as the foundation of the church. Christ did not use him as the foundation of the church.

Matthew 16:22-23 Then Peter took Him (Christ) aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" 23 But He (Christ) turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

There was Peter, that little piece of rock, being thrown around from one thing to another. Just verses before, Peter has declared Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Then like a small stone, he flings himself in the opposite direction. In effect, Peter says to Jesus that He, Jesus, really didn’t know what He was talking about. Peter rebuked Christ for talking about things that just weren’t going to happen, according to Peter. "After all, I, the little stone, know more about what is going to happen than You do." It’s interesting that Christ did not say something like, “Thank you, Peter! You great foundation rock of the church. I should have checked with you before I made such a foolish statement.” No, Christ did not mention anything about Peter being the foundation of the church. As a matter of fact, Christ said, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." That doesn’t sound much like a commendation of Peter as the foundation rock of the church.

John 13:5-9 After that, He (Christ) poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, are You washing my feet?" 7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." 8 Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." 9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"

Here at the Last Supper, the little stone was hurling himself from one place of instability to another. Peter, the little stone, starts off by asking the Lord if He really knew what He was doing. “You think you’re going to wash my feet?” Then the little stone hurled himself even further without ever giving thought to what he was doing, and said “You will never wash my feet!” Then before he had time to take a deep breath, the little unstable stone hurled himself in exactly the opposite direction. “Well, for crying out, loud! Don’t just wash my feet! Get with it and wash my hands and head. Why not give me a complete bath?” Those weren’t quite the words he used, but that was the intent of what he said. Not exactly the shining example of a solid foundation stone upon which to build the church.

The little stone for throwing lived up to his nickname. In the Garden and at the trial of Christ, Peter continued to show his inability to be a foundation stone.

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11 Then Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?" In Luke’s account we are given another bit of information about this situation.
Luke 22:50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, "Permit even this." And He touched his ear and healed him.

The little stone, Peter, threw himself at the servant of the high priest. Peter’s aim was so bad that he almost missed the servant entirely, and only cut off his ear. ‘Ol Peter messed up so badly that the Lord had to take time out from His trial and crucifixion, and fix what Peter messed up.

You would think that by this time Simon Peter would have learned something and stop being the flighty little stone, but he didn’t.

Mark 14:66-72 Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. 67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth." 68 But he denied it, saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are saying." And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, "This is one of them." 70 But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, "Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it." 71 But he began to curse and swear, "I do not know this Man of whom you speak!" 72 And a second time the rooster crowed. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And when he thought about it, he wept.

After the ear fracas, the little stone threw himself from the frying pan into the fire at the trial of Christ. It sure doesn’t seem like this little stone is suited to be a foundation stone for the church to built upon.

Even after the resurrection of Christ, Peter, the little stone was throwing himself into other very unstable situations.

John 21:1-7 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We are going with you also." They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food?" They answered Him, "No." 6 And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.
John 21:15-18 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. 18 "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish."

Simon was still acting the part of the little stone. As the Lord tried to graciously bring him to the point of repentance and dedication, Peter began to be grieved with the Lord’s action instead of his own action. Then as all humans before him, even back to Adam, Peter tried to divert the attention, and find someone to blame.

John 21:20-22 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."

No! The little stone, Peter, certainly was not much of a foundation stone on which to build the church. Some would contend that Christ was referring to Peter as the “rock” on which the church was to be built, but Peter would not be that rock until after he received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. I’m afraid that even after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter was still not rock solid enough to be the foundation of the church.

Galatians 2:11 But when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 17 "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 "For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 "For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."

Long after the day of Pentecost, possibly 12-20 years after, Peter was still showing the character trait of vacillating back and forth like the little stone being thrown from place to place. He played the hypocrite and was leading others down the same road, even stalwart men like Barnabas. No only that, but by his actions he was setting aside the Grace of God, and in effect demonstrating, by his actions, that Christ died in vain. Not exactly actions befitting the foundation stone of the church. Paul had to publicly reprimand Peter and remind him of the very basics of church doctrine. It was in this little sermonette of Paul’s to Peter that we have recorded the wonderful passage of...

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Am I just bad-mouthing Peter? No, a thousand times no! However, we do need to see that Peter never claimed to be the foundation stone of the church. Nor did Christ have any intentions of presenting Peter as the foundation stone of the church. Peter was one of the founders, but not the foundation stone of the early church. Peter was considered to be one of the church leaders. However, he was not considered to be even the main leader, but one of several leaders.

Galatians 2:7-9 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

At that Jerusalem Council, the early church thought that Peter was certainly a pillar of the church, along with others such as James and John. However, he is never mention as being the foundation stone. It is important that we know that the Church of Jesus Christ is not founded in any way shape or form on some human, no matter how good that human might be. With all his faults, Peter was probably a better person that any of us. None the less, he did not qualify as the foundation stone of the Church.

Before we move along in our lesson, I want us to see a Biblical principle that we all need. The Word of God does not gloss over the faults and failings of those whom God used to do great spiritual things. I’m so glad the Holy Spirit tells it like it is. That gives me hope! We’ve looked at Peter and have seen that over and over he failed. He was not perfect. God has never, and will never use plaster saints. God always has, and always will use real people, warts and all.

James 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.

These saints of the past were not perfect. Many failed as often as they succeeded. What made them great and greatly used of God was they knew what to do with their sins. Great men and women of God have learned, that Christ took care of sin on the Cross. Therefore when they sin, they confess it, accept God’s cleansing, and move on. They neither wallow in their sins, nor do they allow those sins to continue to control their lives.

1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Back to our lesson of today. Christ alone is the foundation of the Church. That fact should be self-evident, but some have attempted to shake our confidence in our True Foundation.

Ephesians 2:19-22 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:10-14 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one's work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

The Foundation of the church, Christ, gave instructions as to how the church should be established.

Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The reason we can build Christ’s church today is because of the authority given to Christ by the Father. This is an interesting study, but for this lesson we need to see the extent of that authority. All authority, both in heaven and earth is the under-girding of this directive by Christ which has come to be know as the Great Commission. Therefore, we can go with confidence to do Christ’s bidding.

Mark 16:15 And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

There are four basic elements to the commission of Christ to His church:

Those are mechanics of carrying out that commission. The logistics of carrying out that commission are given in...

Acts 1:6-8 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
  1. Jerusalem
  2. Judea
  3. Samaria
  4. Ends of the earth
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998