Church

Acts 7:38; Acts 19:32,41; Matthew 16:18; 1 Peter 2:4-5; 1 Corinthians 3; Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:26-27; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:12-17; Ephesians 3:9-10; Hebrews 2; John 12:24; Ephesians 4:4; 2 Timothy 2:20; 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:10
This English word is said to be derived from the Greek κυριακός, which signifies “pertaining to the Lord,” and is commonly used both for an association of professing Christians, and for the building in which they worship. It is the scriptural use of the word ἐκκλησία, or “assembly,” that is here under consideration.
The word is used in reference to Israel in the New Testament on one occasion in Acts 7:3838This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: (Acts 7:38), and to a Gentile throng in Acts 19:32, 4132Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. (Acts 19:32)
41And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly. (Acts 19:41)
. Its first occurrence in relation to Christianity is in Matthew 16:1818And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18), where upon Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Son of the living God, the Lord rejoins, “upon this rock I will build my assembly.” Historically this spiritual building (for “building” never refers to a material edifice) was begun after His death and resurrection, when the Holy Ghost descended at the day of Pentecost. In this aspect of the church there is no room for any failure—the “gates of hades shall not prevail against it.” It is what Christ Himself effects by His Spirit in souls, and it contemplates the full and final result. In 1 Peter 2:4-54To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4‑5) we have the progressive work, “ye also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house.” The idea of “building” here supposes a work so wrought that souls become conscious of forming part of the dwelling place of God, and are rendered able to offer up spiritual sacrifices as a holy priesthood.
But there is an aspect of the assembly as a building in which it is viewed in relation to human responsibility, and where consequently human failure has left its unmistakable mark. In 1 Corinthians 3 the apostle speaks of himself as a wise master-builder, who has well laid the foundation, which is “Christ Jesus”; but he adds that “others build thereupon,” and warns everyone to take heed how he does so. Here may be found “wood, hay, stubble,” as well as “gold, silver, precious stones.” Men may “corrupt the temple of God,” and alas! this has been done only too effectually, professing Christendom being the outcome of it. But this aspect of it must in no way be confounded with that which Christ builds, where no failure is found.
There is also another view of the church or assembly as the body and the bride of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:26-2722And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23)
26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:26‑27)
). By one Spirit believers are baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)). They are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:1010For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)). There is the effectual operation of God in quickening them with Christ, in raising them (Jews and Gentiles) up together, and making them to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. They are livingly united to the Head in heaven by the Spirit of God. This body is on earth that the graces of the Head may be displayed in it. His people are to put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, and so forth. (Col. 3:12-1712Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:12‑17)). It is the mystery hidden throughout the ages, but now revealed, in order that to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known through the assembly the all various wisdom of God (Eph. 3:9-109And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (Ephesians 3:9‑10)). The assembly will be eventually presented by Christ to Himself as His bride, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. There can be no false members of Christ’s body, and no spot or wrinkle in His bride. Those united to Him are “all of one” with the sanctifier Himself; they are “His brethren”; they derive from the corn of wheat which has fallen into the ground and died, and which has borne much fruit (Heb. 2; John 12:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)). Moreover the assembly is one (Eph. 4:44There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4); 1 Cor. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)). There is not another.
If division has come in on every hand, as it did at Corinth, faith will still recognize that the body is one, and will maintain the truth of it. Gifts were bestowed on the assembly, and will be acknowledged as such by faith, and their exercise welcomed in whatever feebleness. If the assembly has become like a great house, where there are vessels of gold and silver, as well as of wood and of earth (2 Tim. 2:2020But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. (2 Timothy 2:20)), the believer is encouraged to purge himself from the latter—the dishonorable vessels—that he may be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. He is taught in scripture how to behave himself in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)).
It must be carefully observed that the churches or assemblies at Jerusalem, Corinth, Rome and so forth, were not separate or independent organizations, as in the modern idea of the Church of Rome, the Greek Church, the Church of England, and so on. There was only one assembly, the Church of God, though expressed in different localities, in which indeed there were local office bearers, as elders and deacons, and where also discipline was locally carried out. There was entire inter-communion. In the present divided state of God’s people, the man of faith will be careful to recognize that every true Christian is a part of that one body, with which, as has been said, there can be no failure; while, at the same time, he will pursue a path of separation from evil; and will “follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:2222Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)).