7 — What We Believe About the Church

The Greek New Testament uses the word “ekklesia” 110 times to refer to God’s people.[1] Our English Bibles translate that term  “church.” The word originally referred to the gathering of the free Greek citizens to vote on matters of importance in the community.  To be a member of this assembly was the highest status in a Greek community.  The use of the term among Christians was to convey the exalted status given to them by God.[2] They are, as the Church, the family of God, citizens of God’s community, and the dwelling place of the Lord.[3]

The Church is important because it is the Kingdom of God on the earth, that realm where God is seen to rule His people.[4]  It is also important because it is the body of Christ on the earth.  Just as Jesus was God in the flesh when he was on the earth, so it is that we, the Church, are Christ upon the earth.  The Bible speaks of Jesus as being the “fullness of God” (Colossians 1:19; 2:9), and speaks of the Church as being the fullness of Christ.

The Church is also important because, as the body of Christ, it is the place where adoption into God’s family and redemption and forgiveness of sins takes place.[5]  These blessings take place nowhere else, and so the Church, and only the Church, constitutes the community of the saved.  It is important because it is the only thing Jesus ever promised to build,[6] and important because it belongs to Him.

Because Christ had only one body, there is only one Church, and only one way into that Church.  It is God who adds us to that community when we, as a response of personal faith, are baptized.[7]

It is the work of the Church to exhibit the Christ-life on this earth, to call others to that Christ-life, and to encourage one another in living the Christ-like life until finally, God brings us home into His presence where we will dwell with Him.

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Footnotes
[1] The New Testament was originally written in Greek.

[2] The word “church” comes from a Greek adjective meaning “belonging to the Lord.” In the early centuries following New Testament times, it came to mark the place where Christians gathered to worship. Later, it was used to refer to the gathering itself. Though early translations of the New Testament translated “ekklesia” with “assembly,” the word “church” came to be the dominant translation.

[3] Ephesians 2:19-22 – 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

[4] The close relationship between the Church and the Kingdom can be seen in the following comparisons: Both belong to Christ (Matthew 16:18; Luke 22:29-30). Both belong to God (2 Corinthians 1:1; Luke 9:1-2). Those in one are in the other (compare Revelation 1:4 and 9).

[5] Ephesians 1:3-7 – 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace . . .

[6] Matthew 16:18

[7] Note these two texts: First Acts 2:38-47 – 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. . . .40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. . . And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Second: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 – 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.