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What Is The Church?

Often times we find ourselves repeating certain phrases like, “I am going to church” or “I am standing in a church” or “they are building a new church” and perhaps we may not give thought to what exactly the “church” is. Let us take a quick look at what the Bible tells us about the church - what it is and what it is not.

1. It is an assembly of “called out ones”.

The term “church” first appears as the Greek word “ecclesia” in

Matthew 16:18 - “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter (rock) and upon this rock I will build My church (ecclesia) and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

The word “ecclesia” here means “assembly” or more specifically “called out ones” and was used to describe dignitaries at a council or a collective group called or set aside for a particular task whether civic or otherwise.

This passage has been misinterpreted and misapplied to mean that Jesus was intending to build His church on Peter, but in fact, Jesus was stating that “this rock” was the foundation of Peter’s testimony that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. THAT rock is the foundation upon which the church rests and not a man, no matter how noble and pious that man may or may have been.

2. It is people gathered in corporate prayer.

A few passages after Jesus reveals the foundation of the church, He discusses a bit more about what “church” looks like. In

Matthew 18:19-20 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst”

Jesus specifically mentions the dynamic power of corporate agreement in prayer. He didn’t say it had to be a “mega church” of a thousand people or more. He simply said that where two or more are gathered, He is there in power to answer prayer (verse 19)

3. The church is designed for encouragement and good deeds.

The writer of Hebrews tells us in

Hebrews 10:23-25 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

We are exhorted to hold to our confession of hope (rock mentioned in Matthew 16 above) and to be creative and inventive in stirring up love and good deeds in each other, how? By “assembling” (see ecclesia - assembly above) ourselves. We need the encouragement of one another while trying to live the Christian life and putting God’s word into practice each day. This is the purpose for the church - to spread love and good works through encouragement while assembling together!

What the church is not:

If the church is an assembly of called out ones gathered with intent and purpose to pray for one another and encourage each other to love and good works, how did the term “church” ever find itself defined as a “building” or “structure” ? A quick history lesson would reveal that the Roman Emperor Constantine began to construct “buildings” for the purposes of the legal gathering of believers and these buildings became known as “ecclesia” and then later “kirk” or “church”. The name has stuck since that time.

But it is up to you and me to safeguard this one simple truth: If a flood or fire or wind came and destroyed the building we call “church”, the church would remain unharmed because the building in which we meet is not the church at all, it is you and me gathered together in the name of Jesus who paid for our sins!

This church (you and me) is built on our testimony; the very same one uttered by Peter that “Jesus is Lord, Messiah, Son of the Living God” and this foundation of our testimony is rock upon which Jesus builds His church (you and me) and the gates of Hades will not prevail against us! We are forever safe and protected by the God of all Creation! Hallelujah!