WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
By Andrew E. Courtis
The word “church” means different things to different people. The church is an ornate building to some. To others it is a holy huddle of religious people. Some believe the church is seen in the lives of people in their communities and neighborhoods. Some view it as a house of hypocrites. Some even suggest that it is an entertainment center. Well then, what is the church? In the New Testament the word “church” is from the Greek term ekklesia, which means “an assembly” or “a congregation”.
Those who are a part of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ are sinners saved by God’s grace. They are far from perfect but are a work in progress. The church consists of those who are male and female, old and young, rich and poor. It is a diverse lot in personality, appearance, and maturity. But this is no mere social club. The Lord Jesus Christ is building up this group and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
The church is a group of people who have been forgiven of their sins and who love the Lord Jesus Christ. These people who are all around the world meet with groups of other Christians, and these are called local churches. The New Testament uses a number of different metaphors to describe the church. Each of these provides us with important insights into the meaning and nature of the church. The three major metaphors are a body, a bride and a building.
The first metaphor is a “body” (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-31). It is called a body because the people in the church need each other and because they need to be led by the Head of the body (Col. 1:19). The emphasis on this term is on supporting other believers in the same body. Another word is a “bride” (Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7-9). The church is a bride because the Lord Jesus Christ is her bridegroom. He loves His church, leads the church and cares for the church. This term points to the believer’s duty to submit to Christ. Also, the church is described as a building (1 Cor. 3:9-17; 6:19-20; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:4-10). Not a building as we know it but a spiritual temple. An emphasis of this metaphor points to the church’s responsibility to serve the Lord in worship.
The church is a diverse group of people that have been saved by God, are called to serve the Lord, submit to Christ and support the people of God. Now there are outflows of this in terms of how the church functions in the world and I will consider those throughout this series. But for now, notice and observe God’s design for the church based on these carefully chosen metaphors. Don’t try to redefine or change the church. Instead, take time to thank God for the church and for the privilege of being numbed with the people of God. As Christians we ought to love the church!