Category: (00) What is the church?


The church began on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover when Jesus died and rose again. The word translated “church” comes from two Greek words that together mean “called out from the world for God.” The word is used throughout the Bible to mean all believers who have been born again (John 3:3) through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 10:9–10). The word church is synonymous with the term body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22–23; Colossians 1:18) used throughout the New Testament to include everyone who has been adopted into the family of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:15).

The word church first appears in Matthew 16 when Jesus tells Peter, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (verse 18). The “rock” here is the statement Peter had made, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16). That truth about Jesus is the bedrock of the church that has flourished for over two thousand years. Everyone who makes that truth the foundation of his or her own life becomes a member of Jesus’ church (Acts 16:31).

Although the knowledge was present when Peter declared his faith in Christ, the power to put that knowledge into action had not yet come. Jesus’ words, “I will build my church,” were a foretelling of what was about to happen when He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers (John 15:26–27; 16:13). Jesus still had to undergo the cross and experience the resurrection. Although the disciples understood in part, the fulfillment of all Jesus had come to do had not yet been completed. After His resurrection Jesus would not allow His followers to begin the work He had given them, to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19–20), until the Holy Spirit had come (Acts 1:4–5).

The book of Acts details the beginning of the church and its miraculous spread through the power of the Holy Spirit. Ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven (Acts 1:9), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon 120 of Jesus’ followers who waited and prayed (Acts 1:15; 2:1–4). The same disciples who had quaked in fear of being identified with Jesus (Mark 14:30, 50) were suddenly empowered to boldly proclaim the gospel of the risen Messiah, validating their message with miraculous signs and wonders (Acts 2:4, 38–41; 3:6–7; 8:7). Thousands of Jews from all parts of the world were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. They heard the gospel in their own languages (Acts 2:5–8) and believed (Acts 2:41; 4:4). They were saved and baptized, adding daily to the church. When persecution broke out, the believers scattered, taking the gospel message with them, and the church spread like wildfire to all parts of the known earth (Acts 8:4; 11:19–21).

The start of the church involved Jews in Jerusalem, but the church soon spread to other people groups. The Samaritans were evangelized by Philip in Acts 8. In Acts 10, God gave Peter a vision that helped him understand that the message of salvation was not limited to the Jews but open to anyone who believed (Acts 10:34–35, 45). The salvation of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26–39) and the Italian centurion Cornelius (Acts 10) convinced the Jewish believers that God’s church was broader than they had imagined. The miraculous calling of Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–19) set the stage for an even greater spread of the gospel to the Gentiles (Romans 15:16; 1 Timothy 2:7).

Jesus’ prophetic words to Peter before the crucifixion have proved true. Though persecution and “the gates of Hades” have railed against it, the church only grows stronger. Revelation 7:9 gives us a glimpse of the church as God designed it to be: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” The church that Jesus began will continue until the day He comes for us (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17) and we are united with Him forever as His bride (Ephesians 5:27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7).

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Bible churches are those which profess to adhere to the Bible as their standard of faith and practice. However, they are of no particular Christian denomination (non-denominational), so there is no formal prescribed belief system to govern them. Any church in any denomination, as well as any non-denominational church, can use the words “Bible Church” in their name, and therefore, each one would need to be examined for their particular beliefs and practices. Some Bible churches originate from denominational pastors or groups who find themselves differing from the traditions within their denomination, and therefore, Bible churches may closely resemble the denomination they came from (with slight differences in emphasis and tradition).

There seems to be a common theme among many of the non-denominational Bible churches which stems from the fact that they emphasize Bible teaching. Bible churches usually believe that God is One and that He has a triune nature of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They believe and preach the God-ordained Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Bible churches usually believe the core Christian foundation doctrines of salvation by faith in Christ alone, redemption through the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the renewing of the mind by the Word of God, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Bible churches tend to emphasize Christian service, discipleship, and fellowship as necessary for a believer’s spiritual maturity. They believe in the coming return of Jesus Christ, the Day of Judgment, the thousand-year reign of Christ, eternal life for those who believe, and eternal hell for those who do not. Bible churches usually practice the common Christian ordinances of baptism in water and communion, the singing of songs and hymns, and teaching and preaching from the Bible with the purpose of life application. They are usually interested in the great commission of the Lord Jesus Christ—the spreading of the gospel for the salvation of people’s souls with a heavy emphasis on making disciples. Thus, Bible churches are considered Evangelical.

Bible churches do not usually believe, or at least do not teach nor emphasize from the New Testament, the baptism in the Holy Spirit as modern Pentecostals describe it, with the patterned evidence of speaking in tongues as it happened in the book of Acts. Bible churches are not considered full gospel, Pentecostal, or charismatic; they do not believe in the gifts of the Spirit as being those of supernatural power for signs, wonders, and miracles through believers today. They do not usually emphasize divine healing and miracles or the laying on of hands for healing, believing that the biblical pattern of miracles and healings ceased, either at the completion of the biblical canon or with the death of the apostles.

Again, because each Bible church is unique, each one would need to be viewed distinctly. For anyone who is searching for a home church, here are four good principles for choosing the right one: 1) Choose a church where the Bible is taught rightly and thoroughly (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). 2) Choose a church where the people strive to love and serve one another. 3) Choose a church where the pastor is genuine and seems to love his people. 4) Seek God’s wisdom (James 1:5) and will in prayer for a church home, and choose the church of God’s leading.

There are four places in the New Testament that refer to the “holy kiss”—Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. In each instance, the Greek words denote a kiss which is sacred—physically pure and morally blameless. It was a common custom in most nations for people to kiss each other at meeting or parting to display their love, sincere affection, and friendship for each other. The kiss is called “holy” to distinguish it from a sexual one and from a hypocritical and deceitful one, such as Joab gave to Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9) or such as Judas gave to Jesus when he cried, “Hail Rabbi,” and betrayed Him into the hands of His enemies (Matthew 26:49).

In New Testament times, the holy kiss was a sign of greeting, much like the modern handshake. For Christians, it further expressed brotherly love and unity. The holy kiss was especially precious to the new believers during the early church years, because they were often outcasts from their own families because of their new faith. These new believers gloried in the new spiritual kinship they had found among other Christians. Furthermore, the holy kiss from a Jewish Christian to a Gentile believer was evidence that the Gentiles were accepted fully into Christian fellowship, despite the teachings of the Judaizers, those who would return to the Mosaic law as their source of justification. So prominent were these false teachers in the early church that they even temporarily drew such a prominent Christian as Peter into their web of deceit (Galatians 2:11-13). The holy kiss between the Jewish and Gentile believers was done righteously in recognition that all believers are brothers and sisters in the family of God.

Whether or not the holy kiss should be a tradition we carry on today is not clear in Scripture. Whether or not our salutations to our brothers and sisters in Christ include the holy kiss, the important thing is that our greetings spring from real love and friendship, be characterized by sincerity, and represent true Christian fellowship.

Acts 2:1-41

Mission work isn’t limited to foreign lands. Every church is surrounded by a community—a population of souls who need the Savior. As followers of Jesus, we are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). So we cannot justify sitting comfortably in a pew while our neighbors struggle without God. The local church is to be a lighthouse for the Lord, and four principles can help its efforts.
First, the church needs a shared vision for carrying out the Great Commission in the community. To be effective disciple-makers, the congregation must be willing to work together. If only the pastor or a small group of church members are interested in this mission, it cannot succeed. Second, proper motivation is necessary. In God’s eyes, right reasons for sharing the gospel include love for Him, love for people, and a desire to be obedient. Third, the appropriate methods must be employed. Every community and situation is different, so no one method works everywhere. The approach used must be based on scriptural principles and directed by the Holy Spirit. Fourth, the church must draw upon the best energy—only through God’s Spirit can members be equipped for effective long-term witnessing to neighbors.
Do you want to be part of a church that spreads the gospel in your community? Then start praying for the congregation and pastor to develop a shared vision and burden for the neighborhood. And commit yourself to getting involved in Scripture-based outreach. Be the spark that lights a fire in fellow Christians’ hearts.

There is one main passage that deals with the priesthood of all believers. It is as follows: “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5-9).

Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. The priesthood served as a picture or “type” of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ–a picture that was then no longer needed once His sacrifice on the cross was completed. When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).

Christ our High Priest has made one sacrifice for sin for all time (Hebrews 10:12), and there is no more sacrifice for sin that can be made (Hebrews 10:26). But as priests once offered other kinds of sacrifices in the temple, so it is clear from 1 Peter 2:5,9 that God has chosen Christians “to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5-9 speaks of two aspects of the priesthood of the believer. The first is that believers are privileged. To be chosen by God to be a priest was a privilege. All believers have been chosen by God: a “chosen generation…His own special people” (verse 9). In the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, there were places where only the priests could go. Into the Holy of Holies, behind a thick veil, only the High Priest could go, and that only once a year on the Day of Atonement when he made a sin offering on behalf of all of the people. But as mentioned above, because of Jesus’ death upon the cross of Calvary, all believers now have direct access to the throne of God through Jesus Christ our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). What a privilege to be able to access the very throne of God directly, not through any earthly priest. When Christ returns and the New Jerusalem comes to earth (Revelation 21), believers will see God face-to-face and will serve Him there (Revelation 22:3-4) Again, what a privilege especially for us who were once “not a people” … “without hope” … destined for destruction because of our sin.

The second aspect of the believer’s priesthood is that we are chosen for a purpose: to offer up spiritual sacrifices (see Hebrews 13:15-16 for example), and to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Thus, by both life (1 Peter 2:5; Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10) and by word (1 Peter 2:9; 3:15), our purpose is to serve God. As the believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), so God has called us to serve Him from our hearts by first of all offering our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). One day we will be serving God in eternity (Revelation 22:3-4), but not in any temple, for “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22). As the Old Testament priesthood was to be free of defilement, as symbolized by being ceremonially clean, so has Christ made us holy positionally before the Father. He calls on us to live holy lives that we might also be a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5).

In summary, believers are called “kings and priests” and a “royal priesthood” as a reflection of their privileged status as heirs to the kingdom of the Almighty God and of the Lamb. Because of this privileged closeness with God, no other earthly mediator is necessary. Second, believers are called priests because salvation is not merely “fire insurance,” escape from hell. Rather, believers are called by God to serve Him by offering up spiritual sacrifices, i.e., being a people zealous for good works. As priests of the living God, we are all to give praise to the One who has given us the great gift of His Son’s sacrifice on our behalf, and in response, to share this wonderful grace with others.

Let’s get it right: “There’s but One Church.”

The church is a creation of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 17; 15:9), founded and owned by Jesus Christ—“I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18)—and directed and energized by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:5–27; Romans 12:4–5). Therefore, it is the church’s joy to look to God to explain His design for the church and His mission for it. God’s mission for the church proves to have several parts. First we’ll list them, then summarize them:

1. The mission of the church is to make disciples. Just before Jesus returned to heaven, He commissioned His disciples this way: “Going into all the world, make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you” (literal translation of Matthew 28:19–20a). A disciple is a follower, someone who attaches himself to his leader. Therefore, we reason, Jesus sent the church on its mission to acquaint people in every place with Himself. As the church makes disciples, people can admire, worship, trust, follow, and obey Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The church’s members, having become enamored of Jesus Christ, assemble around Him as Master, Leader, Savior, and Friend. Our joyful mission is to put Him on display to every nation. (see: Great CommissionDiscipleship)

2. The mission of the church is to glorify Christ. Paul wrote, “In Christ we were also chosen … in order that we … might be for the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11–12). Part of God’s purpose for the church is to exalt Jesus Christ by the way that the church lives and by what it does. Christ designed His church to represent His supernatural, life-saving work to the world. In His church, Christ shows to the world what a freed and forgiven people can be—people who are satisfied with God as the result of Christ’s joyful, triumphant self-sacrifice. He has planned the church’s values to be His values. He expects its lifestyle to reflect His character (2 Corinthians 6:14—7:1; Ephesians 5:23–32; Colossians 1:13, 18; 1 Timothy 3:15). As the moon reflects the sun, so the church is to reflect the glory of God to a dark world.

3. The mission of the church is to build up the saints. The church is to encourage and comfort its individual members (1 Thessalonians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 13:11). “There should be no division in the body, but . . . its parts should have equal concern for each other” (2 Corinthians 12:25). Jesus is the chief cornerstone, and the church is likened to a building “joined together and [rising] to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19–22; see also 4:4–25). Jesus Christ designed His Church to showcase God’s family on earth, so that the pagan world can see how God builds His family around Jesus Christ and how that family cares for one another (see Mark 3:35 and John 13:35).

The mission of the church is to know and love Christ so supremely as to represent Him and His values accurately and vividly to the world and serve people’s deepest needs in the way Christ Himself would meet them. As W. C. Robinson says in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is the sun about which the whole mission of the church revolves. Public worship is the encounter of the risen Redeemer with His people; evangelism is calling men to the Savior; publishing the law of God is proclaiming His lordship; Christian nurture is feeding His lambs and disciplining His flock; ministering to the needs of men is continuing the work of the Great Physician.” The church’s mission is to present Jesus Christ to the world, while He presents to the same world His rescuing work in and through His church.

To understand the difference between the local church and the universal church, one must get a basic definition of each. The local church is a group of professing believers in Jesus Christ who meet in some particular location on a regular basis. The universal church is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ worldwide. The term church is a translation of a Greek word having to do with a meeting together or an “assembly” (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). This word pertains to the work of God in saving and sanctifying believers as “called-out ones.” Another Greek word that speaks of ownership and literally means “belonging to the Lord” is transliterated as church, but it is only used twice in the New Testament and never in direct reference to the church (1 Corinthians 11:20; Revelation 1:10).

A local church is normally defined as a local assembly of all who profess faith and allegiance to Christ. Most often, the Greek word ekklesia is used in reference to the local assembly (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 11:8). There is not just one specific local church in any one area, necessarily. There are many local churches in larger cities.

The universal church is the name given to the church worldwide. In this case the idea of the church is not so much the assembly itself but those constituting the church. The church is the church even when it is not holding an official meeting. In Acts 8:3, one can see that the church is still the church even when its members are at home. In Acts 9:31, the King James rendering of the plural word churches should actually be the singular church, which describes the universal church, not just local churches. Sometimes the universal church is called the “invisible church”—invisible in the sense of having no street address, GPS coordinates, or physical building and in the sense that only God can see who is truly saved. Of course, the church is never described in Scripture as “invisible,” and, as a city set on a hill, it is surely meant to be visible (Matthew 5:14). Here are more verses that talk about the universal church: 1 Corinthians 12:28; 15:9; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18.

The ability to trace one’s church back to the “first church” through apostolic succession is an argument used by a number of different churches to assert that their church is the “one true church.” The Roman Catholic Church makes this claim. The Greek Orthodox Church makes this claim. Some Protestant denominations make this claim. Some of the “Christian” cults make this claim. How do we know which church is correct? The biblical answer is – it does not matter!

The first church, its growth, doctrine, and practices, were recorded for us in the New Testament. Jesus, as well as His apostles, foretold that false teachers would arise, and indeed it is apparent from some of the New Testament epistles that these apostles had to fight against false teachers early on. Having a pedigree of apostolic succession or being able to trace a church’s roots back to the “first church” is nowhere in Scripture given as a test for being the true church. What is given is repeated comparisons between what false teachers teach and what the first church taught, as recorded in Scripture. Whether a church is the “true church” or not is determined by comparing its teachings and practices to that of the New Testament church, as recorded in Scripture.

For instance, in Acts 20:17-38, the Apostle Paul has an opportunity to talk to the church leaders in the large city of Ephesus one last time face to face. In that passage, he tells them that false teachers will not only come among them but will come FROM them (vv. 29-30). Paul does not set forth the teaching that they were to follow the “first” organized church as a safeguard for the truth. Rather, he commits them to the safekeeping of “God and to the word of His grace” (v. 32). Thus, truth could be determined by depending upon God and “the word of His grace” (i.e., Scripture, see John 10:35).

This dependence upon the Word of God, rather than following certain individual “founders” is seen again in Galatians 1:8-9, in which Paul states, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Thus, the basis for determining truth from error is not based upon even WHO it is that is teaching it, “we or an angel from heaven,” but whether it is the same gospel that they had already received – and this gospel is recorded in Scripture.

Another example of this dependence upon the Word of God is found in 2 Peter. In this epistle, the Apostle Peter is fighting against false teachers. In doing so, Peter begins by mentioning that we have a “more sure word” to depend upon than even hearing the voice of God from heaven as they did at Jesus’ transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-21). This “more sure word” is the written Word of God. Peter later tells them again to be mindful of “the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:2). Both the words of the holy prophets and the commandments Jesus gave to the apostles are recorded in Scripture.

How do we determine whether a church is teaching correct doctrine or not? The only infallible standard that Scripture says that we have is the Bible (Isaiah 8:20; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 2:25; Galatians 1:6-9). Tradition is a part of every church, and that tradition must be compared to God’s Word, lest it go against what is true (Mark 7:1-13).  It is true that the cults and sometimes orthodox churches twist the interpretation of Scripture to support their practices; nonetheless, Scripture, when taken in context and faithfully studied, is able to guide one to the truth.

The “first church” is the church that is recorded in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul. The New Testament church is the “original church” and the “one true church.” We can know this because it is described, in great detail, in Scripture. The church, as recorded in the New Testament, is God’s pattern and foundation for His church. On this basis, let’s examine the Roman Catholic claim that it is the “first church.” Nowhere in the New Testament will you find the “one true church” doing any of the following: praying to Mary, praying to the saints, venerating Mary, submitting to a pope, having a select priesthood, baptizing an infant, observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as sacraments, or passing on apostolic authority to successors of the apostles. All of these are core elements of the Roman Catholic faith. If most of the core elements of the Roman Catholic Church were not practiced by the New Testament Church (the first church and one true church), how then can the Roman Catholic Church be the first church? A study of the New Testament will clearly reveal that the Roman Catholic Church is not the same church as the church that is described in the New Testament.

The New Testament records the history of the church from approximately A.D. 30 to approximately A.D. 90.  In the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, history records several Roman Catholic doctrines and practices among early Christians. Is it not logical that the earliest Christians would be more likely to understand what the Apostles truly meant? Yes, it is logical, but there is one problem. Christians in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries were not the earliest Christians. Again, the New Testament records the doctrine and practice of the earliest Christians…and, the New Testament does not teach Roman Catholicism. What is the explanation for why the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century church began to exhibit signs of Roman Catholicism?

The answer is simple – the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century (and following) church did not have the complete New Testament. Churches had portions of the New Testament, but the New Testament (and the full Bible) were not commonly available until after the invention of the printing press in A.D. 1440. The early church did its best in passing on the teachings of the apostles through oral tradition, and through extremely limited availability to the Word in written form. At the same time, it is easy to see how false doctrine could creep into a church that only had access to the Book of Galatians, for example. It is very interesting to note that the Protestant Reformation followed very closely after the invention of the printing press and the translation of the Bible into the common languages of the people. Once people began to study the Bible for themselves, it became very clear how far the Roman Catholic Church had departed from the church that is described in the New Testament.

Scripture never mentions using “which church came first” as the basis for determining which is the “true” church. What it does teach is that one is to use Scripture as the determining factor as to which church is preaching the truth and thus is true to the first church. It is especially important to compare Scripture with a church’s teaching on such core issues as the full deity and humanity of Christ, the atonement for sin through His blood on Calvary, salvation from sin by grace through faith, and the infallibility of the Scriptures. The “first church” and “one true church” is recorded in the New Testament. That is the church that all churches are to follow, emulate, and model themselves after.

 The phrase “the Body of Christ” is a common New Testament  metaphor for the Church (all those who are truly saved). The Church is called  “one body in Christ” in Romans 12:5,  “one body” in 1  Corinthians 10:17, “the body of Christ” in 1  Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians  4:12, and “the body” in Hebrews  13:3. The Church is clearly equated with “the body” of Christ in Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:24.

When Christ entered our world, He took on a physical body “prepared” for Him  (Hebrews  10:5; Philippians  2:7). Through His physical body, Jesus demonstrated the love of God clearly,  tangibly, and boldly—especially through His sacrificial death on the cross (Romans 5:8). After His bodily  ascension, Christ continues His work in the world through those He has  redeemed—the Church now demonstrates the love of God clearly, tangibly, and  boldly. In this way, the Church functions as “the Body of Christ.”

The  Church may be called the Body of Christ because of these facts:

1)  Members of the Body of Christ are joined to Christ in salvation (Ephesians  4:15-16).

2) Members of the Body of Christ follow Christ as their  Head (Ephesians  1:22-23).

3) Members of the Body of Christ are the physical  representation of Christ in this world. The Church is the organism through which  Christ manifests His life to the world today.

4) Members of the Body of  Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Christ (Romans  8:9).

5) Members of the Body of Christ possess a diversity of gifts  suited to particular functions (1  Corinthians 12:4-31). “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many  parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with  Christ” (verse 12).

6) Members of the Body of Christ share a common bond  with all other Christians, regardless of background, race, or ministry. “There  should be no division in the body, but . . . its parts should have equal concern  for each other” (1  Corinthians 12:25).

7) Members of the Body of Christ are secure in  their salvation (John  10:28-30). For a Christian to lose his salvation, God would have to perform  an “amputation” on the Body of Christ!

8) Members of the Body of Christ  partake of Christ’s death and resurrection (Colossians  2:12).

9) Members of the Body of Christ share Christ’s inheritance  (Romans 8:17).

10)  Members of the Body of Christ receive the gift of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:17).

People often refer to the “Christian community,” but what is it? When people  speak of the Christian community, they usually mean “Christians in general” or  “Christian leaders.” The term may be in reference to a formal network of  denominations, but is often simply an allusion to an informal group of  believers.

For some, “the Christian community” refers to networks of  churches or Christian organizations. When a particular event is jointly hosted  by several groups, or when several groups issue a joint statement, it is  considered an activity of the Christian community. This view of the Christian  community is probably the most accurate cultural view as it includes the  greatest number of people. However, it is also a rather subjective definition.  How many Christian groups must be involved for it to be considered “the  Christian community”? If Charismatics, Methodists, and Episcopalians attend an  event, but no Baptists or Presbyterians, is it still “the Christian community”?  Or if all denominations band together to issue a public statement, but 49  percent of their individual members are opposed to the statement, was the  statement truly affirmed by “the Christian community”?

Others consider  the Christian community to be the leaders of Christianity. When a megachurch  pastor, bestselling author, musician, or other Christian celebrity speaks, many  consider what is said to be the voice of the Christian community. The media  often promote this perspective. For example, a news program may interview one  pastor and then quote him as if he speaks for all Christians. When the  representative speaks well, many Christians will agree, and the view may  accurately represent the Christian community as a whole. However, media outlets  often select the “loudest” or most eccentric voices in order to gain attention,  and those who might truly speak for many Christians are overlooked.

Another view of the Christian community is that is comprises those in academia  who discuss the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith. When a Christian  topic is in the news, professors of religion are consulted, and they become the  “experts” regarding what the Christian community believes. Again, this practice  is often faulty, as scholars may or may not represent the beliefs and values of  the true Christian community.

Finally, the Christian community can also  be viewed biblically. The Bible’s original word for “church” is ekklesia,  Greek for “assembly” or “gathering.” This word took on the theological meaning  of “all Christians” in some contexts and of “local gatherings of believers” in  other places. Acts  2:42-47 reveals that the original “Christian community” was known primarily  for its devotion to Christ’s teachings and its love for one another. Viewed this  way, the Christian community is simply those who love Jesus and live in  fellowship with each other. When the world sees this in action, they will see  the true love of Jesus and perhaps find themselves attracted to Christ, too.