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08 May, 2013

The Church That Christ Builds — Part 4


By J.C. Ryle 
(1816—1900)

a. Marvel not at the enmity of the gates of Hell. "If you were of the world, the world would love its own" (John 15:19). So long as the world is the world, and the devil the devil — so long there must be warfare, and believers in Christ must be soldiers. The world hated Christ — and the world will hate true Christians, as long as the earth stands. As the great Reformer Luther said, "Cain will go on murdering Abel so long as the Church is on earth."

b. Be prepared for the enmity of the gates of Hell. Put on the whole armor of God. The tower of David contains a thousand shields, all ready for the use of God's people. The weapons of our warfare have been tried by millions of poor sinners like ourselves, and have never been found to fail.

c. Be patient under the enmity of the gates of Hell.
It is all working together for your good.
It tends to sanctify.
It will keep you awake.
It will make you humble.
It will drive you nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It will wean you from the world.
It will help to make you pray more.
Above all, it will make you long for Heaven.
It will teach you to say with heart as well as lips, "Come, Lord Jesus. May Your kingdom come."

d. Be not cast down by the enmity of Hell. The warfare of the true child of God is as much a mark of grace — as the inward peace which he enjoys. No cross — no crown! No conflict — no saving Christianity! "Blessed are you," said our Lord Jesus Christ, "when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake." If you are never persecuted for religion's sake, and all men speak well of you — then you may well doubt whether you belong to "the Church on the rock" (Matthew 5:11; Luke 6:26).

5. There remains one thing more to be considered — the SECURITY of the true Church of Christ. There is a glorious promise given by the Builder, "The gates of Hell shall not prevail."He who cannot lie has pledged His word, that all the powers of Hell shall never overthrow His Church. It shall continue and stand, in spite of every assault. It shall never be overcome. All other created things perish and pass away — but not the Church which is built on the rock.

Empires have risen and fallen in rapid succession. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Tyre, Carthage, Rome, Greece, Venice — where are all these now? They were all the creations of man's hand, and have passed away. But the true Church of Christ lives on.The mightiest cities have become heaps of ruins. The broad walls of Babylon have sunk to the ground. The palaces of Nineveh are covered with mounds of dust. The hundred gates of Thebes are only matters of history. Tyre is a place where fishermen hang their nets. Carthage is a desolation. Yet all this time the true Church stands. The gates of Hell do not prevail against it.

The earliest visible Churches have in many cases decayed and perished. Where is the Church of Ephesus and the Church of Antioch? Where is the Church of Alexandria and the Church of Constantinople? Where are the Corinthian, and Philippian, and Thessalonian Churches? Where, indeed, are they all? They departed from the Word of God. They were proud of their bishops and synods and ceremonies and learning and antiquity. They did not glory in the true cross of Christ. They did not hold fast the gospel.They did not give the Lord Jesus His rightful office, or faith its rightful place. They are now among the things that have been. Their candlestick has been taken away. But all this time, the true Church has lived on.

Has the true Church been oppressed in one country? It has fled to another. Has it been trampled on and oppressed in one soil? It has taken root and flourished in some other climate. Fire, sword, prisons, fines, penalties, have never been able to destroy its vitality. Its persecutors have died and gone to their own place — but the Word of God has lived and grown and multiplied. As weak as this true Church may appear to the eye of man — it is an anvil which has broken many a hammer in times past, and perhaps will break many more before the end. He who lays hands on it, is touching the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:8).

The promise of our text is true of the whole body of the true Church. Christ will never be without a witness in the world. He has had a people in the worst of times. He had seven thousand in Israel even in the days of Ahab. There are some now, I believe, in the dark places of the Roman and Greek Churches who, in spite of much weakness, are serving Christ. The devil may rage horribly. The Church in some countries may be brought exceedingly low. But the gates of Hell shall never entirely "prevail."