Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
Notice that Jesus says, "I will build My church". It is His church, and He is the One who built it. It was not built by John the baptist, (who by this point in the chronology was already dead, Matt. 14:8-10), nor was it built by some guy named Wesley, Luther, or Smith. Notice also that the foundation upon which He would build the church is the fact that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
As I pointed out in my last post, there are some 38,000 different sects of the Christian religion globally, each differing from on another in doctrine, practice, and traditions. The situation begs the question; which one is the one that Jesus built? To the universalist, the answer is; all of them. They reason that since they believe that Jesus is the Christ, they all have the common foundation, and therefore, are all His. They are all part of the 'universal church'. When Jesus said, "I will build My church", He was speaking of the church in a 'universal' sense. The reasoning of the universalist is sound, as far as it goes.
It is true that the scriptures speak of the church in both a universal sense (Eph: 3:21 & 5:24; Phil. 3:6) and as individual congregations (Gal. 1:22; 2 Thess. 1:4; 1 Cor. 11:8). It is true that the foundation of the church is faith that Jesus is the Christ. Where the universalist argument falls short is that faith in Christ is but the foundation. Jesus said that He would build His church on that foundation. By using the word build, Jesus is implying the erection of a structure of some sort on that foundation.
In the construction of anything, there is a foundation, yes, but there are also building blocks, mortar to bind it together, a method of construction, and a design or blueprint. We know from the scriptures that the building blocks of the church are individual Christians, (Matt. 18:20; Rom. 16:5; and Col.4:15). The word 'church' in the Greek New Testament is 'ecclesia', which literally means 'an assembly'. The 'mortar' that binds them together is 'faith', 'hope', and 'love', Heb. 11:1; 1 Cor. 13:13). The method of construction is the plan of salvation, (Acts 2, note especially verses 38-47). To these things the universalist readily agrees. But, as to the design, the blueprint; this is where the universalist argument begins to fall apart. It is the blueprint that determines the form, the shape, the appearance of a structure. The universalist must admit that the various denominations certainly do not conform to the same blueprint.
The universalists dismiss this as unimportant. There is diversity throughout all of God's creation, why not the church? Is it not also God's creation? We intend to show in part two of this series, that there is one blueprint for the church, and that it is quite important to the identity of the church as the body of Christ ( Col. 1:8).