MR. J. T. BRAND, of Lithonia, Ga., asks us about Matthew xvi. 13-19, especially as to what Christ meant by, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Also, what Christ meant by, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus had asked Peter who the world said he (Jesus) was, and had received from him the reply that some said he was John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked Peter, Who say ye that I am? Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then tells Peter how he (Peter) knows this, that he has not been taught it of men, but that it has been revealed unto him by the Father. Then, says Jesus, I say unto thee, “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church,” &c. Jesus does not mean here that he will build the church on Peter, for that would have been a weak foundation indeed, but that Jesus knows his sheep (as when he said, Thou art Peter), and his sheep know him (as when Peter said, Thou art the Christ, &c.). Upon this personal relationship of Jesus to every one of his sheep, and of every one of his sheep to him, rests the security of the church against all the gates of hell. There is no intermediary between Christ and his people, no need of any one to introduce the needy sinner to the Savior or to make known the Savior unto the needy one. This comes by revelation direct from God, and cannot be overthrown so that it is a veritable rock upon which rests the church.
As to the keys of the kingdom of heaven, we have thought that this simply meant that the apostles were ordained to be judges of sound doctrine, sound faith and sound practice in the gospel church. The expression, “kingdom of heaven,” means the visible organization of the church here in the world. Jesus had said, Fear not, little flock, for it is my Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. The little flock in this instance meant the twelve disciples afterward to be apostles in the gospel church. It was the pleasure of the Father to deliver through Christ unto this “little flock” the ordinances, doctrine and order of the gospel church for them to deliver to those believers afterward to be baptized by them. This is what was meant by the Father’s giving them the kingdom. The church in its gospel character came into visible manifestation on the day of Pentecost. The church of that early time received the doctrine and ordinances at the hands of the apostles, so that the apostles’ doctrine and order has from that day to this received divine sanction, and is the only rule still remaining to the church of doctrine and order. This is what we mean when we say that we believe the New Testament to be the only rule of faith and practice for the gospel church. The apostles, in this sense, did have the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever they loosed unto the church in the way of doctrine and order and enjoined to be observed by the church we must observe, or else not claim to be the apostolic church. Whatever the apostles bound or prohibited the church from observing or preaching, we must still refrain from preaching or observing, or else not call ourselves the apostolic church. The apostles said nothing about Sunday-schools, missionaries, &c., therefore we, too, must be silent on these matters when it comes to advocating or practicing them. Whatever they bound on earth has the approval of heaven, and is bound also in heaven. On the other hand, the apostle did command the observance of the Lord’s supper, the ordinance of baptism, the ordination of elders, the preaching of the doctrine of salvation by grace, the refraining from all legalism in doctrine and in practice, and the abounding of charity among all believers. These things they did loose to the church, and we have no right now to cease advocating or practicing anything which they did preach and observe. In short, the evidence that the Old Baptists are the church of God in gospel order is that the Old Baptists walk in the doctrine, faith and practice in which the apostles walked. We must not add to nor’ take from any of these things. In this way the apostles had the keys of the kingdom, and we do well when we hold fast those things which they loosed to us, and when we refrain from those things which they bound from or prohibited to us. L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 11
June 1, 1916