“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
This week I have been reflecting on Jesus’ words to Peter shortly before his death. He said: “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. (Mat. 16:18)” When Jesus spoke these words he was quite literally standing in front of a cave that the ancients called the Gates of Hell. It was a frightening place that many were convinced was an entryway to the underworld. A massive cave that led to an underground pool of water, around which were statues and altars to false gods like Pan, and demonically inspired figures. As best as we can imagine the scene, Jesus was standing at the face of that fearsome cave when he spoke those enduring words to Peter. What did Jesus mean?
The idea of “gates” from a militaristic perspective is that of defense. Gates keep people from entering fortresses and kingdoms. A gate is not an offensive mechanism, it is intended to keep people out. Jesus essentially said, “I’m going to build my Church through you. You are being commanded to go on the offense and storm the gates of hell. And as you do so, hell has no chance of prevailing against you. You will win. Hell will lose.“
One of the great tragedies of the modern Church is that we have lost the sense of authoritative victory that so inspired the early Church Fathers as well as the great Reformers. In those days the term used to describe the battle mentality of the church was “Church Militant” or if you prefer “Church Indomitable.” Church Indomitable means that the Lord’s Church refuses to sit idly by and co-exist with evil. Rather we “expose evil” and conquer the enemy, for we are certain of the Lord’s ultimate victory.
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”Ephesians 5:11
What does it mean to be the Church Indomitable? For starters it means that we truly believe that Jesus is Lord over the Earth and that all authority is currently His (Mat. 28:18-20). Once we choose to believe this, our perspective on the world around us changes. When the Christian sees ungodliness or idolatry (whether in their own heart or in the world around them), they go to battle with a very real belief that no gate can stand against the Lord. This inspires both our motivation and our methodology. The weapons of our warfare are not violence and coercion, but love and persuasion and Holy Spirit filled prayer. We go to battle like Jesus went to battle. We care deeply about people. We enter into difficult conversations. We point everyone to God. We sacrifice deeply. And we love radically. The Church speaks into and steps into broken lives and broken homes and broken systems and broken politics and broken hopes & dreams, powerfully pointing every person we engage with to the only one who can heal, the Lord Jesus.