The word “church” is an English word, and those who speak English all seem to have a varying idea as to the definition of the word. But when the church in the New Testament was established, there was no English language, but rather the Holy Spirit utilized the Greek language of that day to give us a proper understanding of what the church is. The Greek word used in the scriptures is “ekklesia,” and it has a very simple definition. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of New Testament Words defines it this way: “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly.” Here are some of the ways that the New Testament uses the word: Acts 19:32 “Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”Acts 19:39 “But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly.”Acts 7:38 “This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us” We can see from the three scripture references above that the Greek word “ekklesia” was not originally intended nor created to be the name for the church. In each of the three examples, we can note that the word was used for all kinds of gatherings, religious or otherwise. Another thing to take note of is the “ekkesia” is a collective noun, i.e. it is a thing that is composed of a plurality of elements. It is so important to grasp that concept that the “church” is a collective noun. This means that individual Christians are not “the church.” The church is a collective of people. Consider a number of scriptures that illustrate this fact: 1 Corinthians 11:18 “For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are….” Verse 20: “…when you come together in one place….” Acts 20:7 “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread….” These scriptures address the fact that the local church is only the church when the recognized members thereof come together in one place to fulfill the commandments given to the church (Lord’s Supper, contribution, singing, prayers, teaching). Consider also Matthew 18:15-17, where within the context there is: 1) Two brothers gathered together. 2) Four brothers gathered together. 3) A church. Notice that all three are a collective of members of the church. However, the text makes it clear that all three are not the church. So again, you ask “What is the church?” The church is: a local collective of people who recognize each other as members of the church and have come together in a planned place and time in order to properly and successful do the deeds that Christ has commanded His church to do.

What is the Church?
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Tanner Campbell

Tanner Campbell has been preaching since 2004. He began preaching in California, and spent 8 years preaching full-time in Arkansas before moving his family of four to the Black Hills of South Dakota to preach for the Southside church of Christ in 2014.