No one will deny that the Bible talks about a church. But whose church? Which church? What church? These questions, and many others, will be answered in time. Right now we want to find out what the church is. Let us begin by pointing out what it is not. The church as described in the Bible is not Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. It is not denominational, interdenominational, or sectarian. It is not a political organization. It is not a social organization.
It is not a building. Since it is none of these, what is it? Most people do not understand the church. Why? Because they do not know what it is. As a result, they do not understand the purpose of the church, the importance of the church, or the work of the church. But the Bible plainly tells us what the church is. The word church comes from the Greek word “ekklesia.” It means “the called out.” So the church is a called out body of people. They have been called out of the world into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13). It is the spiritual body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).
It is made up of those who have obeyed Christ (Hebrews 5:8-9). The church are those who have been saved by Him. He adds them to His church (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:47). Another way of saying it is the church is made up of the followers of Christ.
The word “church” appears in the Bible in two ways.
- First, it is spoken of in the world-wide way. This is what Christ had in mind when He said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). There are many other verses where the word “church” is used to speak of it in the whole-world way. That is, everywhere the church may be found in the world, if it is the Bible church, then it is that church which Jesus said He would build.
- Second, it is spoken of in the local way. For instance, when Paul was writing to the church at Rome, and speaking of the various congregations, he said, “…The churches of Christ greet you” (Romans 16:16). He wasn’t speaking of a number of churches or denominations. He was speaking of a number of local congregations of the Lord’s church.
To further explain, you will note that the Scriptures speak of the church at Philippi, etc. (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1). All of this is confusing to some people because they are used to thinking of the church only in the terms of denominationalism. But you will not read of any denomination in the Word of God. In the churches just mentioned, there are several congregations spoken of. Each congregation is the Lord’s church in its particular community. All of them together make up the church world-wide. It is so simple when denominationalism is forgotten.
All one has to do is go to the Bible and see the church as the Lord gave it. To help us to understand the meaning of the church better, let us realize that the Bible speaks of the church as being:
2. The household of God. The word “house” in the Bible suggests family. This helps us to understand that the church is the family of God. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul says that the house of God is the church of the living God. God is the Father and we are His children (Galatians 3:26-27).
3. The kingdom of God. Kingdom suggest a King. Christ is the King (Revelation 17:14). But to be a king, the kingdom has to exist now, and it does (Acts 8:12). We are Christ’s people. The world is His territory. The New Testament is His law. This is the church (Matthew 16:18-19). The kingdom and the church are the same.
4. The vineyard of the Lord. Christ is the vine. Individual Christians are the branches (John 15:1-8). Christians must work in the church and bear fruit for the Lord.
We now can see what the church is. Please study these matters in light of the Bible and see for yourself. If you will see the church as God intended for you to see it, then your whole attitude will be changed and perhaps even your life