|Volume 21 Number 7 July 2019||
A modern dictionary defines the word “church” as “a building where Christians go to worship.” Most people have an unscriptural idea concerning the church, as a material building made of brick, mortar and stones. The word “church,” however, is never used in the New Testament of the Bible to convey such a meaning. The English word “church” is a translation of the Greek word “ekklesia,” which Christ actually used in Matthew 16:18 when He promised to build His church. The Greek word “ekklesia” means “the body of citizens or the assembly of a select people.” When the Bible was translated from Greek into the Latin language in the second century A.D., the Greek word “ekklesia” was translated in Latin as “chirche.” In the Roman world, the word “chirche” was used for a religious building or a place of worship. Later, John Wycliffe in his English translation of the Bible, in 1380-84, anglicized the word “chirche” and rendered it as “church.”
The Bible meaning of the church, however, has never changed. The Bible still speaks of the church as the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and says, “He is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). The church is also spoken of as the “house of God” (1 Timothy 3:15), and 1 Peter 2:5 says Christians are living stones which make up the house of God. To Christians at Corinth the apostle Paul wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Another striking point concerning Christ and His church or His body is found in Ephesians 5:23, where it says, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.”
Christ is the Savior of His spiritual body, the church, over which He rules as her head. That means that He and only He has the divine authority to legislate for the church. Again, in Ephesians 5:25, we read that Christ loved the church so much that He “gave Himself for her.” Then in Acts 20:28, we read about the church that “He purchased with His own blood.” The Bible certainly depicts the close affinity between Christ and His church. To belong to Christ is to belong to His church. One cannot have Christ and reject His church. Christ and His church are inseparable.
Unless we have a fuller concept of the church that Christ established than to liken it to a literal meeting house, we have missed the true meaning of the church of the Bible. Such expressions, therefore, as “going to church,” “what a beautiful church,” “they are building a beautiful church” and many other such expressions show a lack of understanding of the nature of the church that Christ established.
The church which Christ built and purchased with His own blood, of which He is the Head and the Savior, does not consist of the various denominations found on earth today. New Testament Christianity is undenominational. The notion that thousands of denominational bodies, wearing different names, following different doctrines and patterns of worship, are the one church or the body of Christ is totally wrong. The body of Christ, His church, is not composed of many different denominational bodies that exist on earth today. Christ, according to His promise, established His church in the city of Jerusalem, on the first day of Pentecost following His death, burial and resurrection in A.D. 33 (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:37-47), hundreds of years before Roman Catholicism and various Protestant churches came into existence. All of denominationalism and sectarian division is of human invention. This is not the “one body” of which we read in Ephesians 4:4. No one has the right to twist the Scripture to say that “there are many bodies” when the Bible explicitly says there is but only “one body.” Jesus had prayed that His followers might all be one (John 17:21), not divided into hundreds of denominational bodies.
The church is a spiritual body housing all the saved. The church of which the Bible speaks can be positively identified. Its unique marks of identification and doctrinal features are very distinct, being plainly set forth in the New Testament. Its divine makeup can be easily distinguished from all denominational and sectarian bodies of human origin. Christ only built one church. He knew that all people could be saved in that one church. Therefore, He built only one and Scripture says that He adds to the church daily those who are being saved (Acts 2:47).
No one, therefore, can join the church of Christ by his or her own choice. Wherever people today obey the Bible’s teachings explicitly, the Lord’s church exists. If people anywhere today do what men did in the first century, according to the instructions of the Scriptures (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16), they will be exactly what they were in the first century. They were Christians only (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16) and were members of the church of Christ (Romans 16:16).
[Editor’s Note: First, as a young man, I left Catholicism into which I was born, choosing rather to search for the one, true church. Second, the word “church,” meaning an assembly, is used in three senses in the New Testament: (1) an assembly of Christians for the purpose of worship (1 Corinthians 14:4-5, 12, 19, 28, 35), (2) the local assembly of Christians (1 Corinthians 1:2; 4:17; 14:23; 16:19), (3) the universal assembly of Christians—spanning terrestrial (geography) and celestial (spiritual realm dismissive to time and material existence) expanses (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 12:28). In a biblical and scriptural sense, the church is comprised of the children of God—Christians. Only in a secondary and an accommodating way might one refer to a meetinghouse as the church, and then, such language obscures the biblical and the scriptural use of “church.” ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]