What is the Church?

Note, this article is part of a topical study series.

The Greek root word of church is "ekklesia" (Strong's number 1577). According to BlueLetterBible.org and the TDNT, the work "ekklesia" means:

 1) a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly
   1a) an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the 
       council for the purpose of deliberating
   1b) the assembly of the Israelites
   1c) any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously

The word church is used in at least six different ways in the 118 different instances throughout the New Testament:

1. The church of God in general

  • My (Jesus') church - Matthew 16:18
  • Church of God - 1 Corinthians 10:32
  • Church of God - 1 Corinthians 15:9
  • whole church - Ephesians 5:23
  • Church of God in Corinth: "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord..." - 1 Corinthians 1:2
  • Church of the firstborn - Hebrews 12:23

So church refers to the church at large, ALL who believe. In a sense, if a person gets saved and goes to a Methodist church, he goes to my church.

2. Nation of Israel with Moses

"This is he, that was in the church (ekklesia) in the wilderness"
Acts 7:38

3. The local church: churches in different areas

Acts 9:31 - churches in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria
Acts 14:23 - ordaining elders in every church
Acts 14:26,27 - The church was gathered together to meet Paul and the
others on the ship.  The church that met them was not in a building.
They WERE the church.  The church is the people, not the building.  We
are still a church on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.

4. The house church

The churches of Asia salute you.
Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord,
with the church that is in their house.
1 Corinthians 16:19
And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier,
and to the church in thy house:
Philemon 2

See also: Romans 16:5, Colossians 4:15.

5. A confused mob

And the whole city was filled with confusion:
and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
Acts 19:29
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another:
for the assembly (ekklesia) was confused:
and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
Acts 19:32

6. Lawful assembly

But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters,
it shall be determined in a lawful assembly (ekklesia).
Acts 19:39
In conclusion, a church is a called out group of people for a specific purpose.
- Moses and Israel called out of Egypt.
- The mob was called out of the theatre.
- The saints are called out of darkness.

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