by Mike Ratliff
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
My father-in-law went on to be with the Lord several years ago, but during World War II he was a U.S. Navy Pharmist Mate. In today’s Navy, they are called Corpsmen. These are the medics who hit the beach or land in the choppers with the Marines or Navy Seals when they go into real combat. My father-in-law hit the beach with the U.S. Marines in the Pacific on the Island of Okinawa not long after they had gone through the holocaust of Iwo Jima. He was about 20 years old at the time. He hit the beach as a boy and left that island at the end of the battle with a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He rarely talked about it. I asked him to describe the battle in which he won the Bronze Star. He had volunteered to go in under fire to treat several wounded Marines then wait for a tank to come in as the means to take them out. That was where he earned that Bronze Star and the second of his Purple Hearts. He had already been wounded before he volunteered. He described the combat as men falling all around him.
There are times as we observe the carnage in the visible church and it feels very much as if we are in a fight to the death battle with men falling all around us. I know this because I see it myself and I get your emails. The evil forces of apostasy seem to be winning on every side. If we claim to hold to God’s Word as absolute truth then we are very close to coming to that point of being laughed to scorn as Josiah’s men were who attempted to get the survivor’s of the Northern Kingdom’s capture to come to Jerusalem in repentance for Passover. Truth, it seems, has become relative to most people, that is, to those who think within what has come to be known as post-modernism. This disease seems to claim a major Christian leader nearly every week or so. Church after church is found to be consumed with pragmatism or perhaps the leadership has decided to move the focus of the church to become missional or the Pastor has changed his views on “same sex marriage”. The problem is that these are fuzzily defined words. To some, the word “missional” is not offensive at all and in the context of “missions” decades ago it certainly was not, but now, it has taken on an entirely new focus that includes global Dominionism.
The point of this post is not to define these things. No, that is for another time. In this post, I want us to concentrate on why it does not matter how Satan attacks the Church or what weapons he uses, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. God’s firm foundation stands regardless of anything our enemy and his seed do.
19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19 ESV)
What is this “foundation,” this θεμέλιος? This Greek word simply refers to the underlying “foundation” that holds up a structure, but notice that Paul refers to it as a “firm” or στερεὸς θεμέλιος. A στερεὸς object is one that possesses the qualities of solidity, steadfastness, or sureness. In other words, Paul is telling us that the Church has the qualities given to it by God that will keep the gates from Hell from ever prevailing against it. It is not only solid, but it bears the following seal: “The Lord knows those who are his!” We may look at the visible church and view those who once looked solid, but who are now apostatizing and it causes us much anguish and pain, but we must never forget, God knows those who are His and He is not the least bit worried. In fact, we are called, in the very next sentence to depart from iniquity, that is, to walk in repentance, if we are truly in Christ.
This foundation is that upon which our faith rests and it is solid indeed because it rests in this, that in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). Faith that does not apostatize, genuine faith, relies on the great fact that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) and that Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). He became our propitiation. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). This propititiation, Christ our Lord became our substitution. Even though our Lord was sinless and perfect he was the vicarious sacrifice for the guilty.
Even though our enemy is working very hard to refocus the Church from these truths to make something other than the gospel that primary focus, we who do know these truths must not only stand firm, but also take heart that God’s firm foundation stands. It not only has stood and is standing now, it will stand forever. Yes, God may allow the enemies of the Cross to appear to triumph at times, but that changes nothing. All that means is that the Church is moving from a time of light in the world to a time of darkness. The Church has been there before. Look at the condition of the Church prior to the Protestant Reformation and during those awful years of persecution with saints going to the stake for their faith refusing to recant while the enemies of the Cross appeared to be in control.
There are exceptions to be sure, but I know from hearing from many of you that you have taken stands in your churches for the truth and it has cost you. I know about that, for that has happened to me as well. It is painful. However, God takes these things and humbles us, cleansing us, and making us more dependent upon Him and His grace. We come to the throne of Grace when we suffer don’t we? What a great place to be! In any case, our God is Sovereign. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and immutable and these things happening in the church right now that we must stand against are no surprise to Him. What we must do is take our concerns to Him, to come boldly to the throne of grace to seek wisdom and discernment. Our job one is obedience, to line up our lives to His will in every part. We do that through prayer, devotion, and sharpening the mind of Christ, which all in Him have, through communing with Him through the means of grace. When we do this, we become living sacrifices who live for His glory not ours. Then these things that cause us so much stress and heartache may still grieve us, but we will know that our foundation is still as solid as our God and our enemy has no power to come between Him and us.
Soli Deo Gloria!