Chapter thirteen begins with a masterful treatment of the indestructibility of the church. Here R.B. Kuiper deals briefly but carefully with the meaning of Matthew 16:18 which says that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against the church.” The exegesis of such passages has been under considerable debate for centuries, but in Kuiper’s own words the answer is a conspicuous one:
The Christian church in its entirety will never perish. The body of Christ will never be destroyed. To the end of time will be a communion of true believers on earth. The answer to our Lord’s rhetorical question: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) may very well be that He will find but little; it cannot be said that He will find none (87).
In defense of his position on Matthew 16:18 Kuiper quotes Geerhardus Vos in his little book called: The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church. Vos translates the familiar “the gates of hell shall not prevail” as “the gates of Hades shall not surpass it.” Vos elaborates further and concludes that “the church will not be excelled in strength by the strongest that is known.” In the final analysis Kuiper attributes the indestructibility of the church to God’s preservation thereof.
In chapters 19-24 Kuiper exposes the role of God’s people in the ministry of the church. He argues that as members of Christ’s church we have a fundamental role in maintaining its glory. He says: “In every age every living member of the body of Christ is undeniably a partaker of Christ’s anointing and hence a prophet, priest and king (131).” In a sense every member is an officer. Members minister to one another, console the sick and poor, and demonstrates grace to the weak, but nevertheless Christ’s church has also assigned specific duties that not every member can be a part of. These duties include that of a minister (known as a Teaching Elder), a deacon, and a ruling elder. Each of these offices is regarded as essential to the purity of the church and its furtherance in this present age. Even as each member is a prophet, priest, and king, God has ordained that certain officers partake of these roles in a specific fashion. These duties carried out by chosen members of the church take upon themselves a higher responsibility. Though the regular church member is an active participant in the duties of the church, the church itself has called certain men to be in certain offices. These offices may be called as Kuiper puts it, “Exalted Offices.” This exaltation is not a matter of degree, but of priority. Simply put, these men are called by God to be in these exalted offices, whereas not every member has been called. Kuiper summarizes their roles as follows:
The minister or teaching elder represents him (that is Christ)as prophet, the deacon represents Him as priest, and the ruling elder represents Him as King…precisely expressed, the special (or exalted offices) are rooted in the universal office (134).
In chapters that follow R.B. Kuiper develops the great responsibilities of the church. What exactly is the role of these officers is answered in chapters 25-36. In no uncertain terms the author declares the primary responsibility of the ekklesia:”So the task of the church is to proclaim salvation (165).” It is in the words of Richard Baxter: “dying men speaking to dying men.” The implications of this proclamation are many among which is the social implications of a changed heart. Kuiper affirms that the “gospel primarily concerns the salvation of individuals, but it undoubtedly has its social implications (167).” The works of mercy and deed serve to reinforce the gospel message. Far from the social gospel, Kuiper argues that all of life must be affected by the message of grace. The gospel affects the environment of a regenerated individual. With belief comes obedience to Christ’s commands. In those lines Kuiper reflects on the consequences of works after belief:“To believe in Christ and to obey Him are not two separate acts but two phases of a single act (193).” The Gospel does not end with belief, but only begins its work with belief and proceeds to enable men to live as a child of the King.