SDA Sabbath School Lessons
Sunday October 20, 1996

Jesus Establishes the New Testament Church
(Matt. 16:13-18)

Matthew 16:13-17 records that Jesus asked His disciples what others were saying about who He was. He wanted them to recognize and openly affirm His identity, for only then could they have complete faith in Him. Had Christ been no more than a teacher sent from God, He could not have been anyone's Saviour, let alone the Saviour of the entire world (1 John 2:1, 2).

But Christ was God come to teach, to save, and to restore human-kind through His atoning sacrifice. The disciples needed to know that His authority was unquestionably supreme, especially in light of what He and they were to suffer (Matt. 16:21-25).

Upon what did Christ declare He was building His church?  What is the significance of the symbol?   Matt. 16:18 (compare Deut. 32:3, 4; 1 Cor. 3:10, 11; 10:1-4).

As 1 Peter 2:6-8 reveals, Peter did not think of himself as the rock on which the church was founded. Jesus is the divine Rock, giving a sure and unshakable foundation to the church (Matt. 7:24, 25). And it is upon this Rock that the church maintains its integrity and identity. In a subordinate sense the collective testimony of all the apostles and prophets constitutes the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20-22), with Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone. Their testimony is foundational because it was the Spirit of Christ in them that inspired their teachings (1 Peter 1: 10, 11; 2 Peter 1:19-21).

Why can the gates of bell not prevail against the church? Eph. 1:15-23; Rev. 1:10-18.

The word hell comes from the Greek word hades, meaning "the realm of the dead," "death," or "grave." Christ used the word to refer to the dark, evil forces of the devil (Matt. 16:18).

"For six thousand years, faith has builded upon Christ. For six thousand years the floods and tempests of satanic wrath have beaten upon the Rock of our salvation; but it stands unmoved."--The Desire of Ages, p. 413.

What is your responsibility as a church member to see that the "fort" remains secure against Satan's wily deceptions?  How is this responsibility fulfilled in your personal life and in the corporate body?