The English word “church” comes from the Greek Kyriakon meaning “of the Lord”. The term used in the New Testament, however, is ekklesia (formed of ek, “out”, and kaleo, “called”), meaning the “called out”. Peter refers to the church as not a building made up of bricks or stones, not as a place or a physical structure, but as a people who are “called out” of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
The church is the community of the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. She is also known as the Lamb’s wife (Rev. 21:9; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7), the body of Christ (1Cor.12:27), and the temple of God (1Pet.2:5,6; Eph.2:21,22; 1Cor.3:16,17). The church is the household of God, His family; therefore, there must be unity, cooperation, edification, and productivity in it (Eph. 2:19; 1Cor.1:10; Jn.13:35; Gal.6:1,2). The church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph.2:20). Therefore, apostolic doctrine and prophetical edification are foundational to the church (Acts 2:42; 15:32). The church is a fellowship of fellow-believers. Therefore, Christians are commanded not to forsake assembling together ( Heb.10:25). The church is God’s field and God’s building (1Cor.3:9).
The church is both universal and local: i.e. it is the general assembly of all born-again believers all over the earth and in heaven (Heb.12:24); but, it is also local in the sense that believers in a particular place are one family – in that sense we talk about the church and the churches (Acts 9:31).
The church was a mystery hidden in the Old Testament period (Eph.1:9,10); but, manifested in the world today. It is the mystery of the body of Christ, that there is no Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free in Christ (Eph.2:14,15,16; Gal.3:8), and that in Christ God reconciles the world to Himself and gathers all things together both in heaven and on earth (2Cor.5:19; Eph.1:9,10).
A Few More Names1. Church of God (Acts 20:28; 1Cor.1:2). The church belongs to God the Father.2. Church of the Firstborn (Heb.12:23). The children of God that bear the image of the Second Man, the Heavenly one (1Cor.15:47,48; 1Pet.1:3). Before His resurrection, Jesus was always referred to as the “only begotten Son”; but, after the resurrection, He is the Firstborn among many brethren (Col.1:15,18).
The Church is not an organization, but a living body, an organism (1Pet.2:4). It is not a man-made ecumenical organization with a hierarchical structure. We are not bound in one administrative structure; but, we are bound together in one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph.4:4-6). Jesus made it clear to His disciples that He wasn’t interested in a human organization (Mark 9:38-40). However, this doesn’t mean that there is no authority structure in the local church or in the church universal. (Heb.13:7,17; Acts 14:23; 20:28; 1Pet.5:2,3,4; Jude 1:8).
The Lord Jesus Christ appoints apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors for the care and edification of the church (Eph. 4:11-12). The Holy Spirit gifts individuals with the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church (1Cor.12). The church is called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, to make disciples out of them and teach them the teachings of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). This proclamation is accompanied with signs and wonders that the Lord works to confirm His Word (Mk. 16:20; Heb.2:4).
Now, while it is true that the church is not an organization, but a body whose head is Christ, the New Testament is not against organizing efforts for the propagation of the Gospel and ministry to the poor. Thus, we see that local churches choose persons and entrust them with ministry responsibilities (2Cor.8:18,19,23). Similarly, local churches consult with other churches on doctrinal matters (Acts 15). Also, they circulated the epistles of Paul (Col.4:16; 2Pet.3:15,16), which was a forerunner of the Bible distribution era. In modern times, organizing efforts in the form of Bible Societies, theological seminaries, mass media communication of God’s word, and social ministries are examples of such cooperation. Usually, it is local churches worldwide who support the work of mission; but, a great majority are also individuals.
The two ordinances of the church are water baptism (Matt.28:19) and the Lord’s Table (1Cor.11:23-29).
Jesus Christ will return to this earth for His church. Then, the dead in Christ will first rise up and those who are alive will be caught up to Him in the clouds to be with Him forever (1Thess.4:16,17).
In 1 Peter 2:9, the church is referred to as
1. A Chosen Generation. This is in contrast to the Adamic generation that is considered to be crooked and perverse (Phil. 2:15). This generation is born not of the will of flesh but of the will of God. The church is an assembly of “born again” believers. She is a generation that is handpicked of God as a special treasure of His own. They have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4).
2. A Royal Priesthood. The church is not a religious system of priesthood, laymen, and priestcraft. Every believer in the Body of Christ is a priest unto God. The priesthood of believers is royal, coming from the heritage of Jesus Christ, who descended from David, of the tribe of Judah. It is Melchizedekian; not, Aaronic. The priests bear royal authority of the Kingdom of God.
3. A Holy Nation. The church is sanctified by the faith of the Gospel, by the blood of Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit. She belongs to God and is set apart and separated from the world by the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is a Nation made up of people who come out of many nations.
4. A Peculiar People. The church is a special people, who possesses several special distinctives: Christ, the New Covenant, the Promises of God, Eternal Life, Eternal Inheritance. They have an identity that comes from God. They belong to heaven.
The purpose of this being “called out” is to showforth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Purpose, Task, and Rule of the Church
-The purpose of the church is the glory of God (Eph 1:6; 5:27)
-The task of the church is evangelization – making disciples (Matt 28:19,20)
-The rule of the church is love – the command to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is true piety and religion (Matt 22:37-40; James 1:27).
The purpose will be fulfilled, the task will be completed, but the rule of love will abide forever.
The purpose must not be confused with the task. The task must not be confused with the rule. The Great Commission is to preach the goodnews to all people. The Great Commandment is to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Social justice, liberation, mercy, and caring for the poor is an expression of who we are; salvation of souls, spiritual transformation, and discipleship is the reason why we are here on earth. Love is the motive of evangelism (2Cor.5:14).