What is the Church?

While many people would define the church as a building or religious denomination, the Bible describes it as a living, dynamic entity comprised of God’s people. The term was not really used in the Old Testament, but frequently cited in the New Testament. Let’s look at it closer.

1. The church as the invisible body of believers.
Sometimes the term “church” refers to a universal body comprised of believers, both dead and living, from all ages. While many people may attend church, only “The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). Some in the local church may not truly know the Lord (1 John 2:19; Matthew 7:15-16). But anyone who truly believes in Christ for salvation is a member of the invisible church.

The Bible uses many different images to describe the church, such as the building of Christ (Ephesians 2:20), the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:24), and the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-23). 

2. The church as the local body.

The local body is a gathering of believers for worship, service and fellowship. Most cities and towns contain more than one church, and these churches represent different views on certain matters. As mentioned above, unbelievers may attend local churches, but that does not indicate they are saved. God saves people based on their repentance and faith in Christ. 

God created the local church as a place for His children to gather and provide mutual encouragement as they worship and serve the Lord. In Revelation chapters two and three, Christ addresses seven local churches in Asia Minor. Some of the churches He commends, and others He rebukes for various offenses, such as apathy, false teaching, and pride. Those chapters represent Christ as Lord of the Church, and the one who will judge it. 

Have we cherished the church as we should? Do we use our gifts as we ought? The church is the only institution mentioned in the Bible as God’s means of spreading the gospel and building up the saints. We need to faithfully attend and serve in the church. May God strengthen our resolve to actively commit to our local church and to use our gifts to His glory.

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