We will never understand what the Church should do until we know what the Church actually is. The Church is the people of God united for the purposes of God.
Biblical Images of the Church
- Through the teaching in the New Testament, we understand the church to be the community of all true believers for all time.
- The New Testament word for the “church” was ekklesia, which simply implied a group, gathering, or assembly.
- The word was not originally religious, as it signified a group meeting for a common purpose.
- The term is used 111 times in the New Testament; it never refers to a building.
New Testament Images
- The Family of God – So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19).
- If a person associates himself or herself with God as Father, that person assumes a role as a member of God’s family.
- The Bride of Christ – 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 (Rev. 19:7).
- As Christ’s bride, the Church is faithful only to Him, never swerving in allegiance and devotion.
- The Branches on a Vine – I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
- Only if Christ’s disciples remained attached to the person of Jesus will they be able to produce any fruit for the kingdom.
- The Body of Christ – For just as the body is one and has many members, and all members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).
- As the Body of Christ, believers must constantly be mindful of their expected interdependency upon one another.
- The Building of God – 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 (1 Pet. 2:5).
- The early church never thought a building was a church, but the people were, and Jesus was the cornerstone upon which they built their lives.
The Church: One and Holy
Individualized faith carried out in isolation is not the New Testament church.
We are called to be united and set apart.
The One Church
- The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:22-23).
- Disunity among the people of God is an offense to our Father.
- Even among varying disagreements, the common union with Christ prevails among the actual people of God.
The Holy Church
- 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 (1 Pet. 2:9).
- The church is supposed to be a group of people set apart from this world for the purposes of God.
- If the Holy Spirit indwells us, we ought to be holy people.
The Church: Catholic and Apostolic
The true Church is a universal body continuing the work of the Great Commission from the early Church.
The Catholic Church
- 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 (Matt. 16:18).
- In its truest sense, the word “catholic” speaks of the universal church.
- Beyond local church memberships and denominational lines exists a universal church.
The Apostolic Church
- Build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20).
- We believe our doctrines originate from the apostles of Jesus, speaking as His spokespersons.
- A discredit of their validity asserts a knowledge superior to their connection with Christ.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.