Church – What Is It Exactly? (Part 1)

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Jesus, in Matthew 16:18 said “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

The word translated as “church” in that verse, and in 19 other occurrences in the New Testament is:

ἐκκλησίαν (ekklēsian)

And a direct translation of the word “ekklēsian” literally means a “calling out” or “called out from”. Jesus’ use of the phrase “My church” literally refers to an assembly “called” by Him.

“Ekklēsian” is a Greek feminine noun, as in the Bride of Christ.

Christian believers are called out from the world and to God, to become the mystical Body of Christ –the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.

I am going to write on “church”. What church is, and what isn’t it.

And I am going to start with the following three verses:

“For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Saviour of His body, the church.” (Ephesians 5:23)

Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything.” (Colossians 1:18)

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”  (Romans 12:4-5)

It is extremely important for us to always remember that the “church’ is the believers who together make up the Body of Christ.

Church is not denominations or buildings. Church is, by the standard of the New Testament, Christian believers who gather together.

We have been conned, for far too long, to think of church as being the parish and building we belong to, or the denomination we belong to.

We have also been conned for far too long into thinking that “church” is only the collection of people who belong to set denominations.

Church is none of those things.

Church is, according to the New Testament, the body of Christian believers who, in total, are the Body of Christ collectively known as “the church”.

And while it may surprise you, or go against your institutionalised indoctrination – “church” was never, according to the New Testament, about “going” to church, going to a special building or belonging to a denomination.

Never!

Instead it was all about followers of Jesus, genuine disciples, “being the church

And I tell you very clearly, if ministers or denominations, go off the rails and contravene or compromise the teachings of the Bible you have no place being there under their leadership.

Jesus is the living Word – the Gospel of John tells us that:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

“So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:14)

And the Bible is the written Word of God.

Psalm 19:7-8 tells us: “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.”

And the Apostle Paul’s direction to Timothy was: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

So any church, parish, diocese, or denomination that compromises the teachings of the Bible, and fails to show themselves as genuine disciples of Jesus are not to be followed at all.

Because, as I stated at the beginning, they are not the church – genuine Christian believers are the church.

Those who compromise the teachings of the Bible are simply heretics and blind guides as Jesus called them.

The church is the Body of Christ.

Simply put, “the church” is gatherings of two or more believers.

Jesus said that “For where two or three are gathered in My name [meeting together as My followers], I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

That is the only true New Testament church.

Let us look now at the real history of “church” – with our starting point being the pattern of the New Testament church – because after all, it is in Scripture, and it was the original starting point.

We can honestly state that “church” started with the disciples of Jesus meeting together ‘in one place’ (Acts 2:1).

We can assume that they were praying and talking with one another, praising God, sharing food together, and probably sharing the Lord’s Supper.

Then they were baptised in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4)

After the Apostle Peter’s sermon that Pentecost the first converts, that is the first new Christians, to the church was made. Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. (Acts 2:41)

And what was it that these new Christians, the church, did?

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47 NLT)

Now some would point to this passage and say that these disciples joined the established temple or synagogue – but that is not what the passage says.

For a start, the Jewish temple and synagogues would never have allowed the Lord’s Supper.

Secondly a look throughout the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament following shows very clearly that these disciples and new Christians met in believers’ homes.

For example, in Romans 16:3 the Apostle Paul talks about the church that met in Prisca and Aquila’s house.

And in Romans 16:23 Paul mentions “Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church” in Corinth, which was where Paul was when he wrote the letter to the Roman believers.

And in Colossians 4:15 Paul writes: “Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.” A gathering of believers in what we now call Turkey.

In Philemon 2:2 Paul sends greetings to “Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier – and to the church that meets in your home”

The New Testament does point out that the Apostle Paul and other Christians did go to various synagogues at various times – but that was to teach and preach the Gospel of Jesus.

It was not because they were holding what, we as Christians, call church. It was for evangelism, to bring the people who met in synagogues the Good News of Jesus, to convert Jews to Christianity.

The New Testament was never about “going to church” – it is about us, genuine disciples of Jesus, “being the church”, the Body of Christ.

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