What is the church?

Question: "What is the church?"

Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not the Biblical understanding of the church. The word church comes from the Greek word "Ecclesia" which is defined as "an assembly,” or “called out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend they usually say Baptist, Methodist, or another denomination. Many times they are referring to a denomination or a building. Read Romans 16:5: "…also greet the church that is in their house..." Paul refers to the church in their house, not a church building, but a body of believers.

The church is the Body of Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." The Body of Christ is made up of all believers from the time of Pentecost until the Rapture. The Body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:

(1) The universal church is the church that consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many." We see that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ. The true church of God is not any particular church building or denomination. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

(2) The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2, "Paul, an apostle…and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia." Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches - what we call a local church. A Baptist church, Lutheran church, Catholic church, etc. is not THE church, as in the universal church – but rather is a local church. The universal church is comprised of those who have trusted in Christ for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.

In summary, the church is not a building, or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the Body of Christ - all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). There are members of the universal church (the Body of Christ) in local churches.

Recommended Resource: Why Church Matters: Worship, Ministry, and Mission in Practice by Jonathan R. Wilson.

Related Topics:

What was the first / original church? Is the original / first church the true church?

Is a home church a true Biblical church?

What should I be looking for in a church?

Why is church attendance important?

What factors should one consider when trying to find a good local church?

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What is the church?