Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not the Biblical understanding of the church. The word church comes from the Greek word “Ecclesia” which is defined as “an assembly,” or “called out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building…but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend they usually say Baptist, Methodist, or another denomination (or even “non-denominational”). Many times they are referring to a denomination or a building. Romans 16:5 says, “…give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.”Paul refers to the church in their house, not a church building…but a body of believers.
Also, from reading Ephesians 1:22-23, it seems as though the “church” is the Body of Christ. “God put everything under his power and made him the head over everything for the church, which is Christ’s body. The church is filled with Christ, and Christ fills everything in every way.” The Body of Christ is made up of all believers from the time of Pentecost until the Rapture…and from what I understand, it is made up of two groups (well really one group defined in two different ways).
1. The universal church is the church that consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, “Some of us are Jews, and some are Greeks. Some of us are slaves, and some are free. But we were all baptized into one body through one Spirit. And we were all made to share in the one Spirit.” We see that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ. The true church of God is not any particular church building or denomination. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
2. The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2, “This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. All the brothers and sisters here join me in sending this letter to the churches of Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches…what we call a “local church”. A Baptist church, Lutheran church, Catholic church, etc. is not THE church as in the universal church…but rather is a “local church”. The universal church is comprised of those who have trusted in Christ for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and encouragement in a local church.
In summary, the church is not a building, or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the Body of Christ…all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). There are members of the universal church (the Body of Christ) in local churches around the world. It doesn’t matter where the local church meets…in a home, building or coffee shop down the street. Christians are called to live in community with one another…to “build each other up” and show the light of Christ to a world that is broken and hurting.