Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical  understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word  ekklesia 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 identify a building.  Romans 16:5 says “… greet  the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not  a church building, but a body of believers.

The church is the body of  Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians  1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to  be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him  who fills everything in every way.” The body of Christ is made up of all  believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until  Christ’s return. The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:

1) The  universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with  Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews  or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1  Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the  body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. 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: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in  Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many  churches—what we call local churches. A Baptist church, Lutheran church,  Catholic church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather  is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised  of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These  members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification 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). Local churches are gatherings of members of the  universal church. The local church is where the members of the universal church  can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12: encouraging,  teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord  Jesus Christ.