What is church?
Every time the word ‘church’ appears in the New Testament, it is translated from the Greek word ekklesia.
this is a compound of ek (strong’s 1537) which means ‘out of’, ‘away from’
and kaleo (2564) which means ‘to call’
So the literal meaning translates ‘to call out of, or away from’
The word church appears for the first time in Matthew chapter 16, spoken of by Jesus Himself
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Notice how Jesus says “I will build My church”
So then, because church literally refers to those who are ‘called out of, or away from,’
we understand that the key principle here is a distinction, a separation of God’s people
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
-2 Corinthians 6:14
“Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.
-2 Corinthians 6:17-18
I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues”
Jesus says His followers are not of the world just as He is not of the world
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
“I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
Another word used throughout scripture regarding believers, that illustrates this same idea of being set apart or separate, is the word sanctify.
to declare or set apart as holy; to consecrate
In John chapter 17, during His high priestly prayer, Jesus prays that we would be sanctified in the truth which is the word of God.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”
Jesus instructs His followers to be the salt and light of the world, so that men
may see their good works, and glorify God the Father
“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul recounts his personal encounter with Christ,
and the words the Lord spoke to him
“But rise and stand on your feet, for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will show you, rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”
In Christ Jesus, we have been washed clean of our former lives, sanctified, and justified
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
-1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who
are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness. Now in
a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of clay,
some for honorable use and some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from
these things, he will be a vessel for honorable use, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for
every good work.
-2 Timothy 2:19-21
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours
-1 Corinthians 1:2
Christ purchased His church with His own blood
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you
overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
The church is known as the body of Christ
Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.
-1 Corinthians 12:27
And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless.
Therefore in closing, it’s important for us to realize that the church is not merely a building
or a location. But that we, as believers who are in Christ Jesus, are the Church.
“We don’t go to church, we are the church.” –Canon Ernest Southcott, founder of the ‘home church’ movement in England