When you think about the church, do you think of massive cathedrals, adorned with stained glass and gold? Maybe you might be thinking of Sistine Chapel, adorned with The Last Judgement by Michelangelo. No one can really blame you for thinking that. The answer is not quite so simple.
What is the church? The church consists of God's people. It is the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ. The physical buildings facilitate the fellowship, worship, and ministry of God's people, but it is not the church. The early Christian church was persecuted. Christian did not congregate in large physical buildings but met in secret in the homes of other Christians.
Ecclesiology is the area of theology that studies all aspects of the church. It is based on the Greek word of ekklesia, which is referring to the gathering or assembly. This article will examine ecclesiology as referring to the church and Christian unity.
Bible verses about the Christian church
To provide some more context about what the church is from Scripture, here are good Bible verses to meditate on:
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
As you see in the Bible, the church is within the midst of God's people. Each Christian gather to make up the temple of God. Jesus Himself set the foundation by pouring His blood out on the cross, forever saving His people from the wages of sin. If you are a believer in Jesus, you have been called to be a part of the flock of God.
The local church vs. universal church
Local church is a local assembly of the people who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Local churches are a place to congregate for people of God who are committed to regular meetings, praise and worship, breaking bread, Bible study, fellowship, and prayer.
The universal church refers to all the believers of Jesus Christ in the world under one church. While the universal church might not share one physical building together, they are unified in faith under the banner of Son of the living God, Lord Jesus. The body of believers trust in the word of God and live their lives according to the Bible.
It's important to remember that the universal church is composed of true believers, while it might not be so with local churches. Local churches often host some nonbelievers, and people often scoff at flawed church leaders. The attendees of the local church are also not perfect, which leads to tension in most local churches.
Christ and the church
The church is the body of Christ, with Jesus at the head. In Romans 12:4-5:
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We are all very different, possessing different talents and giftings. However, as the body of Christ, we all pursue the glorification of God.
With Christ Jesus as the head of His body, He was able to redeem what Adam and Eve lost.
In Revelation 19:7:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
The church is the bride of Christ. The bride of Christ is composed of all those who love Jesus. They are His followers. They have made a decision to serve God with their talents and their souls. They are purified by Christ of their sins.
Church as the kingdom of God
The Christian life would be impossible to live if we did not have fellowship. Though local Christian churches might have flaws and imperfection, we still come together to be a part of the church of God. We serve Jesus and His kingdom. We do not make up our own right and wrong but count on the inspirational Bible for God's word and direction. We submit to all He has given to us. He is the wind in the sail and the fuel to our fire. We are nothing without Jesus Christ.
Though many people have the misconception that the church is a physical building of worship, the church is actually the people of Christ. It is ruled by the head of Christ Jesus, who directs His will through His people. Though the local churches may have flawed leadership, it doesn't diminish the importance of the universal church. Jesus is king, the church serves His will. So if you are with Jesus, take heart today to know that you are being guided by the hand that crafted the universe. May you find victory with Jesus Christ today!