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What is the difference between the universal church and local church?

Question: "What is the difference between the universal church and local church?"

To understand the difference between the local church and the universal church, one must get a basic definition of each. The local church is a group of believers in Jesus Christ who meet in some particular location on a regular basis. The universal church is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ worldwide. The term church comes from at least 2 words. One of the words has to do with the meeting together or “assembly” (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). This word is one that pertains to the work of God in saving and sanctifying believers as “called-out ones.” When the word church is found in the English Bible, the word used is this one. The second word is one that speaks of ownership and literally means “belonging to the Lord.” This is the word that is transliterated into the actual word church. This Greek word is only used twice in the New Testament and is never used directly naming the church (1 Corinthians 11:20; Revelation 1:10).

A local church is normally defined as a local assembly of all who profess faith and allegiance to Christ. Most often the Greek word ekklesia is used in reference to the local assembly (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 11:8). There is not just one specified local church in any one area necessarily. There are many local churches in larger cities.

The universal church is the name given to the church worldwide. In this case the idea of the church is not so much in the assembly itself but rather in those constituting it. The church is the church even when it is not holding an official meeting. In Acts chapter 8 and verse 3, one can see that the church is the church even when they at home. When examining the actual text of Acts 9:31, one can observe that the King James rendering of the word churches should actually be the singular church which describes the universal church not just the local churches. Some may try to describe the universal church as the invisible church. Be careful not to do this. The universal church is never described in scripture as invisible, and surely it was not meant to be invisible. Here are more verses that talk about the universal church: 1 Corinthians 12:28; 15:9; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18.

Recommended Resource: The Master's Plan for the Church by John MacArthur.

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What is the difference between the universal church and local church?