OCTOBER 23, 2016
"THE MEANING OF THE CHURCH"
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, but 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, inter-denominational, or sectarian. It is not a political organization, just another social organization, and neither is it a material meeting house. So if it is none of these, what is it?
The majority of people do not understand the church because they do not know what it is. Consequently, they do not understand the purpose of it, the importance of it, or the work of it. But the Bible plainly tells us what it is. The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia, (ekklhsia), which means "the called out." So the church is a called out body of people, those who 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 (I Corinthians 12:27), made up of those who have obeyed Christ (Hebrews 5:8-9), and are therefore saved by him and added to his church (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:47). Another way of putting it, the church consists of the obedient followers of Christ.
The word church appears in the Bible in two senses. First, it is spoken of in the universal sense. 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 in the same way, speaking of the church in a universal sense. That is, wherever the church may be found in the world, if it is the Bible church, it is that church which Jesus said he would build. Second, it is spoken of in the local sense. 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, in the sense of denominations, but rather a number of local congregations
of the Lord's church. To further explain, you will note that the scriptures speak of the church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, the church at Philippi, etc. (I Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:1, denominational church in the word of God. In the foregoing cases, you have a number of congregations spoken of and each congregation is the Lord's church in its particular community, but all of them together compose the church universal. It is so simple when denominationalism is forgotten and one goes to the Bible and sees the church as the Lord gave it.
To further help us to understand the meaning of the church, let us realize that the Bible pictures the church as being:
1. The Body of Christ. It is the spiritual body of Christ, with Christ as its head (Ephesians 5:23, 4:12). There is but one body (Ephesians 4:4), and the one body is the one church. The body and the church are one and the same. (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23)
2. The Household of God. The word house in the scriptures suggests a family, which helps us to understand that the church is the family of God. In I 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 (Gal. 3:26-27, Ephesians 1:3).
3. The kingdom of God. Kingdom suggests a king, and so Christ is the King (Revelation 17:14). But to be a king, the kingdom has to exist now, and it does (Acts 8:12, Colossians 1:13, Matthew 16:18-19). The church and the kingdom are one and the same. The Church of Christ is the earthly part of the Kingdom of God.
4. The vineyard of the Lord. Christ is the vine and individual Christians are the branches (John 15:1-8). The idea here is to work in the vineyard and to bear fruit for the Lord. The Bible never calls any denominational church the branches of the vine, but Jesus is speaking to his individual disciples not denominational churches which did not even exist at that time. They came into existence beginning about 800 years later.
The church is thus defined. Please study these matters in light of the scriptures 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. I hope that each and every member of the South Beloit Church of Christ will have no difficulty explaining what the Lord's Church is from the Bible. May the Lord God Almighty forever keep you and your family in His loving arms of care?
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