“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).
I was reading Neil Cole’s book The Organic Church when he said something that really bothered me. He quoted Matthew 16:18 and reminded us that gates are defensive items, not offensive items. “Police don’t pack loaded gates. Terrorists don’t hold victims at ‘gate point.’ We don’t send weapons inspectors overseas to discover ‘gates of mass destruction.’” His point is that the Church Jesus builds is to be on the offensive, not the defensive. We’ve nothing to fear about the gates of Hell. Rather, it is the gates and strongholds of Hell that should fear the Church of Jesus Christ.
However, I didn’t hear it this way growing up, and it hasn’t always been the way I’ve prayed about it. Until recently, I was under the impression that when good things were happening in the Church, such as a new ministry starting up or a church planted in a difficult environment, by faith we believed that the gates of Hell could not stop God’s work. And in a way, this is true. God is greater than the devil and His work will last forever, while Satan’s kingdom is doomed to eternal destruction.
Therefore, when I’ve proclaimed, “And the gates of Hell will not overcome this work” and I heard people shout “Amen,” I was sure I was onto something. But now I don’t know. It was as if I was worried that Satan would come into the room and try to intimidate us and we had to invoke the name of Jesus to keep him out. Instead of seeing Church on the offensive, I was praying as if it were on the defensive. I viewed this new work as needing protection from the attacks of the enemy when I should have believed the enemy had to defend against the attacks of the Church.
I’ve come to realize that Christianity is an offensive lifestyle. Like any sport, the offense goes forward into the area of their opponent and scores points for their side. Our calling as Christians is to go into enemy territory and gain ground for our King.
Yes, the offensive truth of the Gospel will cause some people to defend why they are not living according to Scripture. However, we are not out to offend people who don’t know God, but to win them over to the love of God. We are to be on the forward edge of the battlefield, always gaining ground. This is why Paul, when describing the armor or God in Ephesians 6, never lists a defensive posture or protection for one’s back side. God designed every piece of armor to protect us from the front, for He created us to move forward, not sit back and defend our territory.
I hope I never again pray in a manner that is afraid the gates of Hell will come and attack the work of God. I know the enemy will be out to stop the work of the Kingdom, but I plan to give the devil such a hard time that his gates will be the ones to buckle and fall as the Church advances into every area of the world. In this way, the gates of hell will never prevail.