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On this rock I will build my church
Matthew 16:18

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- Organization, Mission, Worship

What Is a Church?

Jimmie Hattemer

[ PDF Version ]

To many, a church is a building. They may refer to the church on the corner, or the church downtown, or the church out in the country, meaning a building with a sign that says church. It may be handy as a landmark, for giving directions, or identifying the location of a given event, but little else.

To others, it may be a social organization. "Our church is going on a picnic," "our church will have a bazaar," "our church will sponsor a boy scout troop," etc. It is treated just as any other social or civic organization, a gathering place, a group of friends and acquaintances.

All of these are legitimate uses of the word church according to the dictionary. But, when the word is used in the Bible, what is a church?

The word translated church in the New Testament is a Greek word which means "the called out." As such it always refers to a group of people, not a building. With one or two exceptions, the word is applied only to a group of people called out by God through Christ to be separate from the rest of the world; not separate in a monastic sense, but separate in terms of relationship to God.

To give a better understanding of this called out people, the Holy Spirit, through the writers of the New Testament, applied many figures and analogies to this group of people. Jesus used a structural analogy when He said, "I will build my church." Matthew 16:18. This same image was also used by Paul (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20) and Peter (1 Peter 2:5). Another image was that of a house or household. This we find in Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 2:19, Hebrew 3:6 and 10:21. It is also called a kingdom (Matthew 16:19; Acts 8:12; 20:25; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Colossi ans 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). A most important image is that of a body. See Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30; and Colossians 1:18; 3:15.

These images, together with the basic meaning of the Greek word, emphasize that the church is a group of people called out by Jesus to be reigned over by Him under the Fatherhood of God. Since Jesus is king, only He can make the laws under which this group is to operate. Only He can determine how one becomes a part of this group of called out people. As a body, they are tied together to build one another up; the pain or weakness of one affects them all. Since God is the Father, all in the group must be in submission to Him. Anyone who does not submit to Him is not part of Jesus' called out. As God's household (family), there is a joy in being together, in working together, in caring for and supporting one another. They are not content to only see each other once or twice a year. They are proud to wear the name of the Christ who built the church and bought it with His blood.

This is God's concept of the church as it is described in His word. If this isn't what you think of when you think of a church, shouldn't it be?

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The Church -- The Body of Christ

Joe Wilson

[PDF Version ]

The church which Christ said He would build (Matthew 16:18), and which was established on the first Pentecost after His resurrection (Acts 2:47) is called in the scriptures, "the body of Christ." In Ephesians 1:22, 23, Paul calls it "...the church, which is his body." In Colossians 1:18, he calls it "...the body, the church..."

The New Testament Teaches There Is One Body

The figure of the church of Christ as the spiritual body of Christ emphasizes the singularity of the church. Christ spoke of building "my church"- singular (Matthew 16:18). Paul wrote that "we have many members in one body" (Romans 12:4, 5); also, "But now are they many members, yet but one body" (I Corinthians 12:20). Both Jew and Gentile are reconciled unto God in one body (Ephesians 2:16). "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:4, 5). The church is the body. The body is one. Therefore, the church of Christ is one. Let each be sure he is a member of this one.

Christ Is the Head of the Body The Church

Christ's dominion over the church is complete. He was given "to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body..." (Ephesians. 1:22, 23). He is "the head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18). As members of one's physical body are subject to his mind, so must the members of Christ's spiritual body (the church) be to Him. What he does not command and teach, the church must not do nor teach (II John 9, 10). The "effectual working" of "every part" (i.e., every member) is dependent on growing up "into him in all things, which is the head of Christ" (Ephesians 4:15, 16).

Christians Are Members of the Body of Christ

The relationship of a Christian to Christ as the head of the body (the church) is that of complete subjection (Ephesians 5:24). The relationship of a Christian to fellow Christians as members of the one body (the church) is that of complete union and harmony. Every joint is to supply his part to make the body strong (Ephesians 4:16). All the members are united in the one body (Romans 12:4, 5; I Corinthians 12:12-20). Each member must perform his own work (I Corinthians 12:14-19). One member is as important as any other member (I Corinthians 12:21-23). There must be no schism in the body (I Corinthians 12:24, 25). There must be mutual sympathetic care for each other (I Corinthians 12:25-27).

The Importance of Being Members of the Body

Christ is the Saviour of the body (Ephesians 5:23). If one wishes to be among the saved, he must be in the body. Men are "called unto the peace of God" in one body (Colossians 3:15). If one desires this peace, he must be in the body. Man is "reconciled unto God in one body" (Ephesians 2:16). If one is to have the benefits of this reconciliation, he must he in the body. The "fullness of him that filleth all in all" is in the one body (Ephesians 1:23) If one is to enjoy this fullness, he must be in the body. One cannot be subject to the head and united with Christ without being a member of the body.

How to Become a Member of the Body

Paul wrote to the members of the church at Corinth (I Corinthians 1:2), "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body..." (I Corinthians 12:13). This is by being "buried with Christ in baptism" (Romans 6:3). Have you done this?

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