The word “church” means different things to different people. The church is an ornate building to some. To others it is a holy huddle of religious people. Some believe the church is seen in the lives of people in their communities and neighborhoods. Some view it as a house of hypocrites. Some even suggest that it is an entertainment center. Well then, what is the church? In the New Testament, the word “church” is from the Greek term ekklesia, which means “an assembly” or “a congregation”.
Those who are a part of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ are sinners saved by God’s grace. They are far from perfect but are a work in progress. The church consists of those who are male and female, old and young, rich and poor. It is a diverse lot in personality, appearance, and maturity. But this is no mere social club. The Lord Jesus Christ is building up this group and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” ().
The church is a group of people who have been forgiven of their sins and who love the Lord Jesus Christ. These people who are all around the world meet with groups of other Christians, and these are called local churches. The New Testament uses a number of different metaphors to describe the church. Each of these provides us with important insights into the meaning and nature of the church. The three major metaphors are a body, a bride and a building (in a series of future posts I will develop the meaning and significance of each of these metaphors.).
The first metaphor is a “body” (; ). It is called a body because the people in the church need each other and because they need to be led by the Head of the body (). The emphasis on this term is on supporting other believers in the same body. Another word is a “bride” (; ). The church is a bride because the Lord Jesus Christ is her bridegroom. He loves His church, leads the church and cares for the church. This term points to the believer’s duty to submit to Christ. Also, the church is described as a building (; ; ; ). Not a building as we know it but a spiritual temple. An emphasis of this metaphor points to the church’s responsibility to serve the Lord in worship.
The church is a diverse group of people that have been saved by God, are called to serve the Lord, submit to Christ and support the people of God. Now there are outflows of this in terms of how the church functions in the world and I will consider those throughout this series. But for now, notice and observe God’s design for the church based on these carefully chosen metaphors. Don’t try to redefine or change the church. Instead, take time to thank God for the church and for the privilege of being numbed with the people of God. As Christians we ought to love the church!
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.