Nowadays, the popular notion of the church often revolves around a physical building, in contrast to the biblical perspective. As we study the scriptures, we learn that the church is not a building but a community united in Christ. The church is a living and breathing community of individuals who share a profound love for God and actively express that love by caring for those around them.
The term “church” is derived from the Greek ekklesia, signifying “an assembly” or “a group of called-out individuals.” Essentially, the church is about the people, not the structure in which they gather.
The church is described as the body of Christ, with Jesus serving as its head. In Ephesians 1:22–23, it is written, “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 all in all.”
This body of Christ comprises all believers in Jesus Christ, from the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) until the second coming of Christ. In biblical terms, we can perceive the church in two distinct ways: as the universal church or as the local church.
Galatians 1:1–2 mentions the local church when Paul, an apostle, and the brethren extend their salutations to the churches in Galatia. This indicates that multiple churches were present within the province of Galatia, each possessing its unique ministry and being dispersed throughout the region. They were independent and autonomous local churches.
The universal church comprises every individual worldwide who maintains a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As stated in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “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.” This verse underscores that all believers, regardless of their background, are united as part of the body of Christ and have received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. Therefore, all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ form the universal church.
In the first gospel, Jesus declares, “I will establish my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Greek term used for “church” is ekklēsia, and in all 114 instances found in the New Testament, it denotes a gathering of people responding to God’s call in Christ. At times, it refers to the entire community of God’s people, and in other instances, it pertains to a local congregation (Ephesians 5:27; 1 Thessalonians 1:1).
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.
Uniting with other believers is a key component of following Jesus. The significance lies not in the building but in the profound act of gathering. Throughout the Bible, we find God actively seeking His people, those who assemble in His name.
Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.Hebrews 10:25
Through a range of biblical metaphors such as the family (Galatian 4:5), the body (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27), the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-23), and the flock (Acts 20:28-29; 1 Peter 5:2-3), we gain a deeper insight into the connection between “the church” and God’s people.The common thread among all biblical metaphors is that they describe not a physical destination we visit, but rather a united body we are a part of.
The church is not confined to a physical place but is a spiritual community. Through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, individuals are incorporated into this spiritual body, finding liberation from sin and death through his sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection (Ephesians 1:13-14).