What is the church?

Many times the church is viewed as a brick and mortar building where people meet to worship God and learn from the Bible. However, when Christ rst used the word church, He was not referring to a building. Rather, He was referring to all of those who would believe in and confess Him as Lord and Savior.

In Ephesians 5:25-27, the church is likened to being the bride of Christ. This passage teaches husbands how to love their wives, by loving them “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”

Staying within the picture of marriage, by God’s design, the husband is the head of his wife. Colossians 1:18 tells us that Christ is the head of the church: “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the rstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have rst place in everything.” This clari es what Christ’s role in the church is and what our role is to be. Christ is the head, who is leading and directing the body. The church, as the body of Christ, is to follow His direction in all that it does. It is Christ who commissioned His followers with His Good News to preach to the world.

Often people will ask if being an active part of a local church is necessary. They may feel like they do not need to go worship God or spend time with other believers. This goes against what the Bible teaches. Hebrews 10:23-25 states, “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.” This verse makes it very clear that we are to be gathering together with other believers, encouraging and being encouraged in our walk of faith before the Lord.

The fundamental function of the church is found in Matthew 28:19 and will be discussed in greater detail in the second part of this book. In Matthew 28:18-20, just before Christ ascends into heaven, He gives His disciples the following instructions: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” This commission is to be the focus of every follower of Christ and every gathering of Christ’s people.

Along with the illustration of the church being the bride of Christ, the Bible says that the church is the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 says that in the body of Christ there are many members and that each member has a very speci c function within the body, in order to carry out the Great Commission. For example, a pastor is not more important than a nursery worker. Yes, the pastor may have more responsibility than the nursery worker, but the two work together to support the entire body. 1 Corinthians 12:14- 15 illustrates this idea perfectly: “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.” Every person in the body of Christ has value and responsibility.

It is of great importance to remember that, while we attend and are active parts in local churches, the church is global. It is a multi-cultural community of believers from all walks of life, nationalities, and social/economical standing. Believers in the United States of America may not worship anything like believers in Korea, who may not worship anything like believers in South Africa, who probably worship nothing like believers in India. The body of Christ is not limited to our small view of the world.

Discussion Points
  • Are you a functioning member in the body of believers?
  • If not, what is keeping you from being a functioning member in the body of believers, or are you neglecting the body of Christ?