What Is the Church?

We may be part of a local congregation, but that doesn’t mean we truly appreciate both the scale and the glory of Christ’s body.

Church is such a common word today that we may have lost sight of the scope of its meaning. In today’s culture, it’s often perceived as a building where people meet for religious purposes, but it’s so much more than that. If we really want to understand what the church is, we must go back to its beginning.

Let’s read Matthew 16:15-18.

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. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

The word Jesus used to describe Peter’s confession of faith is the Greek term pétra, which means “a mass of connected rock.” He called Peter Pétros, the word for a detached or loose stone.
  • The first mention of the church in the Bible is found in verse 18. It’s the Greek word ekklésia, which means “called out” and refers to a group of people who are called to assemble together.

  • We also learn that the church belongs to Christ, and He is the one who builds it.

  • The rock upon which He builds His church is Peter’s confession of faith in Christ as “the Son of the living God” (v. 16).

  • Furthermore, this confession does not come from human reasoning. Rather, it comes from the divine revelation of the heavenly Father as He opens the spiritual eyes of a person to perceive the truth regarding Christ.


The Universal Church

Therefore, we can define the church as the people who have been called out of the world’s system by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The universal church consists of all believers throughout the ages, whether in heaven or on earth. And in Scripture, it is described in ways that further expand our understanding of the church and its relationship with God:

  • Chosen, Holy, and Beloved (Col. 3:12). God loves and cares for the church, whom He has set apart for Himself as His own possession.

  • “I believe in the holy catholic church” is one of the statements in the Apostles’ Creed, which is recited by congregations around the world. The word catholic means “universal in extent; involving all; of interest to all.”
  • Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). Christ is the head over all things having to do with the church. And believers are His body, which functions in submission to Him to accomplish His work on earth.

  • Branches of the Vine (John 15:1-5). This illustration portrays the church’s intimate connection with Christ and dependence upon Him.

  • Children and Heirs of God (Rom. 8:14-17). Those in the church have been adopted into God’s family and are heirs along with Christ.

  • Holy Temple (Eph. 2:19-22). As those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the church is the dwelling of God in the Spirit.

  • Pillar and Support of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). God has entrusted His church with the role of upholding the truth of His Word.

  • Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7-9; Revelation 19:14). When Jesus returns, the church that accompanies Him is clothed in righteousness, having been made pure, holy, and blameless.


The Visible Church

All around the globe, members of the body of Christ meet together in local churches to worship and serve the Lord. The church’s ministry is threefold:

“The Church is everywhere represented as one. It is one body, one family, one fold, one kingdom. It is one because it is pervaded by one Spirit. We are all baptized into one Spirit so as to become, says the apostle, one body.”
—Charles Hodge
  1. To God through worship and prayer.

  2. To believers through fellowship, service, and edification in God’s Word.

  3. To the world through evangelism and the proclamation of the gospel.



  • How important is the church to Christ, according to Ephesians 5:25-27? How important is it to you?

  • What blessing has Christ given to His church (Eph. 1:3-14)?

Related Topics:  Christian Fellowship

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15 He said to them, But who do you say that I am?"

16 Simon Peter answered, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17 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.

18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

1 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father!"

16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,

17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,

20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,

22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."

8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

9 Then he said to me, Write, `Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, These are true words of God."

14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27 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.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight

9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him

11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,

14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

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