Cultural Jesus · Interpretation · Understanding

What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 16:18



Whats the difference?
Does it matter?

Matthew 16:18

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build an institution called the church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

This misunderstanding held sway in my life for far too long. I mistakenly assumed that the status quo of a building and professional clergy were the correct interpretation of Jesus statement in Matthew 16:18.

Below are 20 points describing the differences between the institutional church and the Traditional Church, as described in the New Testament.

Each of these 20 points of difference are worthy of much more discussion, but these posts are intended to be brief and to the point – kinda like a bumper sticker!

The Traditional Church The New Testament Church
1. The church meets in a special building Churches met primarily in homes.
(Acts 2:46-47; 5:42; 8:3; 12:12; 16:40; 20:7-8; 20:20; Rom.16:3-5; 1Cor.16:19; Col.4:15; Philemon 2; 2Jn.9-11)
2. New converts are added to the existing church to make it bigger. When the number of believers outgrew a home, a new church was formed.
(Rom.16:3-5; 14-15; Acts 2:41-47)
3. The Christian church is fractured into hundreds of different denominations. There were no denominations; instead there was one church in each city, meeting in various homes.
(Acts 8:1; 11:26; 18:22; Rom.16:1; 1Cor.1:2; Rev.2:1; Col.4:16; 1Thess.1:1; Rev.2:12; 3:7; 3:1; 2:8; 2:18)
4. Pastors are trained in seminaries and sent out to serve in a congregation which has no real knowledge of his life or character. Elders were local brothers who arose from within a local church where their life and character were known.
(Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5)
5. The Sunday “worship service” is characterized by passivity among the laity with the Pastor or a select group of leaders doing nearly all the ministry. Church meetings were participatory and interactive – every member had a function and contribution to make.
(1Cor.12:4-27; 14:26; Eph.4:15-16; Rom.12:3-8; 1Pet.4:10-11; Heb.10:23-25; Rom.12:15; 1Cor.12:26)
6. The Sunday morning worship service is characterized by a rigid and inflexible order of service. Church meetings were characterized by informality, flexibility, and spontaneity. (Acts 20:7-12; 1Cor.14:26-31)
7. The goal of the meeting is worship, listening to a sermon or evangelism. The goal of the meeting was mutual edification.
(1Cor.14:3,4,5,12,17,26; Eph.4:11-12,16; Heb.10:24-25)
8. The church is led by the Pastor (or Senior Pastor in a large church). The church was led by a plurality of co-equal Elders.
(Acts 14:23; 20:28; Phil.1:1; 1Tim.4:17; Heb.10:17; James 5:14; 1Pet.5:1-2)
9. The Senior Pastor is seen as set apart from and over the other pastors and elders. The church was cared for by a team of pastors who were accountable to each other and the church; they were also known as elders or overseers. No one elder functioned as the head of the church. (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-7; 1Pet.5:1-2)
10. The Pastor is paid a salary by the church. Some elders might be financially supported, but they were usually bi-vocational
(1Tim.5:17-18; Acts 20:33-35)
11. The church is composed of both clergy and laity. There was no clergy/laity distinction in the church – all the members comprised a fully functioning priesthood.
(Heb.13:15-16; 1Pet.2:5,9; Rev.1:6)
12. The Lord’s Supper is observed monthly, quarterly, or annually. The Lord’s Supper was observed as often as the church regularly gathered and was the stated purpose for their meetings.
(Acts 20:7; 1Cor.11:18-20,33)
13. The Lord’s Supper is observed with a piece of cracker and a sip of juice. The Lord’s Supper was observed as a full meal.
(Acts 2:42,46; 1Cor.11:20-21; Jude 12)
14. The Lord’s Supper is observed in a solemn funeral-like atmosphere as the worshippers reflect on Christ’s sufferings and death. The believer’s vertical relationship with Christ is emphasized. The Lord’s Supper was observed with glad and sincere hearts as the church not only reflected on Christ’s death, but also on the future marriage supper of the Lamb which it depicted. The believer’s horizontal relationship with other believers was emphasized.
(Acts 2:46; Luke 22:15-18,30; 1Cor.11:26; Acts 2:42; 1Cor.10:16)
15. A new believer must go through membership or instructional classes before he can be baptized. New believers were baptized as soon as it was humanly possible.
(Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 8:36-38; 9:17-18; 10:45-48; 16:31-34; 19:5)
16. Baptism is performed by the clergy. Baptism was performed by any Christian.
(Jn.4:2; Acts 8:12; 8:36-39; 9:18; 22:16; 1Cor.1:17)
17. The church must be present when someone is baptized.. The church was not always present when someone was baptized.
(Acts 8:12; 8:36-39; 16:31-34)
18. Pastors deliver monologue sermons with no opportunity for questions or input from the congregation. Various brothers taught the church, and allowed the congregation the opportunity to question them and/or add their own insights.
(Acts 20:7; 1Cor.14:29-35)
19. The church allocates the great majority of its finances for administrative overhead (salaries and building expenses). The church gave primarily to relieve the poor and assist Christian workers, often beyond their means; they had very little if any administrative expenses
(Acts 2:44-45; Gal.6:9-10; 1Jn.3:17; 1Tim.5:17-18; 1Cor.9:6-14; 2Cor.8:3; Phil.4:15-18; Lk.12:33-34; Eph.4:28; James 1:27)
20. Believers are often urged to tithe; that is, they are taught to give a minimum of 10% to the church. Believers gave voluntarily as God had blessed them and they had purposed in their heart; tithing was not carried over into the NT church.
(2Cor.8:3-4; 9:7)

Matthew 16:18

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.


Remember that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church.

I don’t know if there is any guarantee for the institutional church. (I am afraid it might be skating on thin ice!!!)

Leave me a comment, lets start a discussion.

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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

6 thoughts on “What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 16:18

  1. It is so encouraging to hear someone thinking outside the ‘box’ of institutionalized religion!
    Your points about one church in each city and about denominationalism are Biblical. Unfortunately, they are rarely heard or practiced in today’s apostate world. The spiritual forces of darkness have been working for 2 millenia to undermine what God is building. Those forces are powerful and have done much damage, but they will not prevent God from building His church.

    You’ve inspired me to make a blog entry that elaborates on this perspective.
    Check it out:


  2. Well articulated but incomplete. Another approach would be to track the dogmatic development in the NT to get a more complete view of the institutional church.


      1. Your work is laudable and systematic 🙂 If you consider the questions thematically you’ll arrive at even greater depths.

        Pointing to two examples.

        The Eucharistic theme is profoundly joyful and sober. Paul’s warning of unworthy reception stands out.

        The writing of the letter to the Church at Antioch, the meetings and deliberations and issuing bulls all point to a hierarchy.

        I so enjoy your writing and offer these points for consideration only. We are collegial in faith! Your work is beautiful.


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