And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18 N.I.V.
G. Campbell Morgan points out that in the past this verse was taken to mean that the forces of death and hell were portrayed as attacking the Church and despite their efforts the church would remain intact. This is true and a comfort in these times of decline in morals and numbers of people attending church.
Morgan takes it as saying not so much the church being attacked but rather the church is to do the attacking and prevailing over the enemy. Perhaps instead of seeing a castle or fortress we should be thinking of a tank bursting through the gates of Hades or death.
Whether He is correct in its interpretation or not the fact remains that the Church for a long time has been for the most part on the defensive. Generally we have not been doing much to assault Satan’s kingdom and it is burgeoning out in all its baneful influence and actions.
We may deliver some from its thrall but mostly, Satan’s kingdom is untroubled by a church which no longer speaks out against wrongdoing, immorality and godlessness.
The fact that this is clearly prophesied in scripture does not excuse the Church and Christians generally, from doing their duty of proclaiming God’s hatred of sin and the need for repentance and faith in Christ. We fail also in not being examples and light bearers in a dark and getting darker world.
How can this be?
I wonder why Christ took the approach He did in speaking to Nicodemus. There is much in what Jesus says that even after all these centuries of study that are hard to pin down as to an exact meaning and interpretation.
If we look at another of our Saviours evening conversations, this time on the road to Emmaus, He deals with the doubt and incomprehension of these two disciples by, starting at Moses and the prophets, explaining the scriptures regarding Himself to them.
Perhaps it had more to do with Nicodemus himself. Did he come to Jesus to confirm His credentials as one sent from God, or was it to compare notes? This great Teacher of the law came to one who was far more than just another teacher.
Nor was Christ another miracle working prophet like Elijah or Elisha. Here was one who was not only from God but was God, though veiled in flesh.
This was indeed the Messiah the Jews long expected but not here to do what they expected. Nicodemus saw no further than the temporal salvation of the Jews. Christ came to bring eternal salvation which was to encompass the whole world.
For someone like Nicodemus and his mindset it would require no less than a new birth and a spiritual transformation to begin to understand Jesus, His teaching and the salvation which was to be accomplished by way of the Cross .
He needed to understand that the work of God’s Spirit is not something you can always predict and codify and tie up in a phylactery. It is invisible and powerful like the wind, but can be seen and felt by its effects .
However much of what Christ said that night was understood by Nicodemus, it was not without effect. He could no longer regard Jesus and his ministry indifferently. We see in the sidelights of John’s gospel that he ,in his quiet way, became a follower of Jesus and in the end followed him boldly and at the worst of times.
Sid Field was a famous commedian very popular in the 1940’s. . Many famous people were enormous fans of his. He was also very influential and a model to many actors and commedians by his unique manner and style.
Yet today he is virtually unknown and forgotten mainly due to lack of recordings of his act.
The believer will not be so forgotten by God. Christ will never lose any of His flock or forget their works in His name.