The word “Church” can mean different things depending on the context within which it is used. Generally speaking, people tend to think of Church as an organisation. For example, the Church of England or the Catholic Church. Others think of Church as a building where Christians meet and hold services. In Scriptural terms, are these definitions correct? Let us dive into scripture to help us discover the origins of the Church and what it means.
The first time the word ‘Church’ was mentioned in the Bible is in Mathew 16:18. Jesus had just asked the disciples what people said about Him and they responded, “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah and others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (Mathew 16:14) Jesus then asked them, “Who do you think I am? (paraphrase mine) And It was Peter who answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
This answer pleased Jesus and he blessed Simon but told him that his knowledge of that truth was not obtained by human understanding but had been revealed to him by God the Father. In verse 8, Jesus went on the say, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18, NLT)
It is interesting that immediately after Jesus calls Simon, “Peter”, which means “rock”, He followed it up by declaring that “upon this rock I will build my church…”. There has been some confusion and misconception about this verse regarding the status of Peter and the Church. As is always the case when studying scripture, context is always important and it is beneficial to reference other verses in order to gain knowledge of that context. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:4-5, “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honour. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. “
It is clear that Peter understood that He was not the ‘rock’ on which the Church would be built upon but that Christ Himself is the rock. Peter Himself could not contend against the powers of hell. It took Jesus to offer His life for us to obtain the keys of death and the grave. “I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:18)
Now that we know what the Church is, the next question is, “what is my role in the Church?” The answer to that question also lies in scripture. Paul the Apostle, described the Church;
- As the body of Christ - Paul uses the human body as a an analogy to describe the Church. He posits that every part of the human body is important and that is the same with the body of Christ. Everyone who believes and trusts in Jesus is a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-17)
- As the Bride of Christ - When you attend a wedding, one thing you will notice is that people seldom pay much attention to the the groom when he arrives but all attention is drawn to the bride when she arrives. The same way, the Church his important to Jesus. (Ephesians 5:25-27) The Lord’s ultimate aim is to present His bride (The Church) without spot or wrinkle when the time comes.
- As the family of God - You can choose your friends but you don’t choose your family. The family relationship is a life-long one. If God is our Father and we belong to the body of Christ, then other members of the body are our brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:14-17, 31-35)
In the book, “Simply Christian” The Author, N.T Right stated, “The church is first and foremost a community, a collection of people who belong to one another because they belong to God, the God we know in and through Jesus.”. He further stated, “The church exists for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world. You can and must worship, and work for God’s kingdom, in private and in ways unique to yourself, but if the kingdom is to go forward, rather than around and around in circles, we must work together as well as apart.”
In my local Church, my Pastor often says, “We are not just a Sunday Church, we are Sunday, Monday, Tuesday through to Saturday Church”
Understanding what Church is and how we are an important part of the body of Christ is very important. This is what makes the difference between a church-goer and a practicing Christian. Which one are you?