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What is the Church?

As we continue our study of the church, we need to understand what the church is and is not. Many people do not have a true understanding of the church built by Jesus Christ because they are beginning from a position of error. This has caused many to turn away from Christ. So, let us set straight the definition of the Church.

The Webster’s New Universal Abridged Dictionary defines “church” as: A particular body of Christians united under one form of ecclesiastical government, in one creed, and using the same ritual and ceremonies . . . the organized body of Christians in any particular district, city, state, or country; . . . any organized body of Christians occupying the same edifice for religious worship . . . having to do with organized Christian worship.


The Greek word that is translated as “church” in the Bible is ekklesia. This word is made up of a prefix and a root. The prefix is ek, which means “out of ” or “from.” The root word is a form of the verb kaleo, which means “to call.” So, the Greek term for “church” ekklesia means “those who are the called-out ones” (found 114 times in the New Testament). In a Christian context, the word is used in three ways:

  • It represents the body of Christ worldwide, over which Jesus Christ functions as head (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22; 1 Timothy 3:15).
  • It can refer to God’s people in a given region (Acts 9:31).
  • Often, it depicts a local congregation of Christians (1 Corinthians 1:2; Revelation 1:11).

So, within the framework of Christianity, the “called out ones” are the people who have been “called out” from the world by Jesus Christ to be His disciples. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19. “Therefore COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU.” 2 Corinthians 6:17. The very concept of sanctification means to be “set apart” or separated from the world and dedicated to God. “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9.

While the most common name for these “called out ones” today is “Christians,” “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” Acts 11:26; we find many different names for them in Scripture. Jesus Christ’s “called out ones” are also called:

  • “the Way” (Acts 9:2)
  • “disciples” (Acts 6:1-2)
  • “believers” (Acts 5:14)
  • “saints” (Romans 1:7)
  • “brethren” (Acts 6:3)
  • “the Body” (1 Corinthians 12:24)
  • “the elect” (2 Timothy 2:10)
  • “children of God” (1 John 3:10)

In Scripture, all of these terms are all interchangeable synonyms for the word “Church.” And again, this is descriptive of all the people who are “called out ones.”

Anyone desiring to be a member of the true Church must become one of these “called out ones”. People become “called out ones” when they are “born again” of the Spirit (John 3:3-8). “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and anyone who wants to have fellowship with Him must also be “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6, 8). A person has either been “called out” of the world by being “born again” (John 3:3, 7) or else they do not belong to the Church. “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Him.” Romans 8:9. Once you become a true Christian, you are automatically and by definition a part of the Church. “If Christ is in you” (Romans 8:10), then you are already a member of the Church. There are absolutely no other membership requirements to belong to the Church. Jesus Christ is the only one on the membership committee of the true Church! “For we are members of His Body” Ephesians 5:30. You do not become a Christian by joining a “church” organization, you become a Christian and then you are a member of the Church. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” Ephesians 2:19.

The Church doesn’t just exist once a week for one hour on Sunday mornings, the Church is all of the Christians all of the time. There are not disciples, believers, or saints in a “church” – the disciples, believers, and saints are the Church. The Church does not contain people; it is the people! “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” 1 Corinthians 12:27. We should be bringing people to Christ and building up people in Christ because;
Jesus is Coming Soon!