“I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matt. 16:18)

This is one of my favorite scriptures. God, the all-powerful, all-knowing, everlasting Creator of everything will build (build up, edify, strengthen, encourage, to build together) His church and the gates of Hades will NOT overcome it!

Our Lord’s statement begs the question, “What is church?” This is the first mention of the word in the New Testament and, by God’s design, only introduces the subject. As we study the Word, we gain greater understanding. By comparing scripture, confusion around “church” begins to clear up. As with many biblical truths, church has different meanings for different people. But we don’t want a list of opinions; instead, we want to know God’s design and definition. So, what does “church” mean?

The word church comes from the Greek word ecclesia, meaning “the called-out ones.” It does not mean a building or a denomination or even an institution, but it is a body of believers (Acts 7:48). The church comprises a body (or an assembly) of people called out from the world to belong to Jesus Christ and follow His will and direction as defined by the Bible in the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is in the world, but not of the world system (John 17:9-19). The church is composed of people who are born again by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

These called out ones have

  • Repented–turned from their sin and self-centeredness to Christ
  • Trusted in Christ–put their faith and hope in Him alone.

Praise God that a younger generation is being trained away from tradition and toward biblical concepts. For example, we have heard time and again that when parents call their children to get ready to go to church, the children respond, “But Mommy, Daddy, we don’t go to church, we are the church.” Let us train our children to think this way because it is God’s way! And as we allow that truth to take root in our lives, we see and experience “church” very differently.

The Bible has many expressions or pictures of church in the New Testament. As we look at some of these expressions, our understanding of church expands.

  1. The Body of Christ—We are His body; He is the head of the body. What my body is to me, the church is to Jesus.
  2. The Bride of Christ—We prepare ourselves for that great day, not in our strength, but in union with the Bridegroom.
  3. A building–God’s dwelling place—Our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit” or God’s “dwelling place.”
  4. Temple of God—We are to care for the temple of God for the Almighty no longer dwells in buildings made by men’s hands.
  5. The Family of God—When we became part of the family by receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, we also become heirs of God with full rights of inheritance.
  6. Children of Light—He is the light, so we are called to walk in the light.
  7. The pillar and foundation of truth—1 Tim. 3:15.
  8. The army of God—The world is a battlefield, not a playground, and we are exhorted to put on the whole armor of God and fight the good fight of faith in the world.

God is calling us to be co-laborers—to work with Him to build the church of the living God and to display His kingdom to the world, according to His Word, plan, and purpose.