What is the Church?

In the New Testament, the term "church," also sometimes translated as "assembly," comes from the Greek word EKKLESIA which means the "called out." The word was used by the Greeks to describe the assembling or gathering of citizens who were called out to meet together for public hearings. The heralds would walk through the streets and literally call for people to come out from what they were doing to gather for public business. In the scriptures EKKLESIA refers to those whom Christ has "called out" from the world to be His own, and to assemble together in His name.

The primary meaning of the church is used in a universal sense, referring to all Christian believers everywhere. Irrespective of denominational or doctrinal differences, all persons who have genuinely placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are members of His church, also called the body of Christ, over which Christ is the head (Eph. 1:22-23).

Secondarily, the church also refers to a local congregation of believers. While the scriptures tell us that there is only one true church, yet it is made up of many individual churches. Most of the Apostle Paul's epistles were written to the local churches such as at Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, Philippi, Galatia, and Colosse, and he makes mention of many other churches which had been established in various cities at that time.

It is important to understand that a church is not a building, although many people frequently use that term to describe the facility built for the use of the church. History shows the New Testament church met primarily in private homes — Christian cathedrals or tabernacles designed specifically for believers to gather for worship did not exist until almost three centuries after the church got started. Unlike the Old Testament temple, in which the presence of God habitated, the new covenant of Jesus Christ made every believer a temple of the Holy Spirit. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16).

The church is often viewed as an organization, but is actually more of an "organism." It is the united fellowship of all Christians with their God — the wondrous union of Christ's Spirit indwelling the hearts of all true believers.

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. A newer revised version of this book is available from Amazon. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.