Many Christians often use the expression “I go to church” or “Let’s go to church together!” As can be seen from the mentioned expression, the word “church” contains the identity of Christians. However, I myself have never thought deeply about the meaning of the word “church.” Then, Christians, do we know and use the word “church” exactly? What does the word “church” mean to you?
“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours:”(1 Corinthians 1:2)
First of all, looking at the Bible, 1 Corinthians 1:2 says, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours:” Does it mean the same as the meaning of the church you think? That is, “the church of God” is a group of people who are called saints in Christ, or a group of people who believe and call Jesus Christ as the Lord beyond space and region. Of course, we cannot ignore the reflection of the meaning of the times that the meaning of the word contains the meaning used by many people in that era, but we must know and use the biblical meaning of the word “church,” which expresses the identity of Christians.
According to Pastor Martin Lloyd Jones, (The Church and The Last Things), there are two important meanings based on the origin of the word “church.” First, in many parts of the Greek Bible, the word translated as “church” is “eklesia,” which means “people who have been called together.” Also, the word of “church” originated from the Greek word “kurios,” which means “Lord,” and through various changes, the current word “church” was created. Looking at these two things, the word of “church” means a group of people who recognize God’s presence and sovereignty. Is it similar to the meaning of the words we looked at above or what you think?
Furthermore, the meaning of “church” can expand further. In the New Testament, the word of “church” is sometimes used as a plural form, and it is also expressed as the only universal church. For example, in Galatians 1:2, it is described as “To the churches in Galatia,” and each group of people who recognize God’s presence and sovereignty in the Galadia region is recognized as a church. On the other hand, in Ephesians 2:22 “And God placed all things under his feet and pointed to be head over everything for the church,” it is expressed as the only universal church. In this way, we, familiar with the vertical hierarchy, think that each church in a region belongs to a church in a wide sense in a vertical hierarchy, and that the head of the church in a wide sense is Jesus. This is a completely different idea from the Bible. Each church in a region is an independent church, and there is also an invisible universal church, and the head of this universal church and all local churches is Jesus. Of course, we continue to think of vertical hierarchies, but that’s never the case. Pastor Martin Lloyd Jones said, “All Christians are members of the spiritual and invisible universal church and are also members of the visible local churches.”
In summary, the biblical meaning of “church” is a group of people who have been called saints who are distinguished from the world in Christ, or a group of believers who recognize Christ’s presence and sovereignty. This group is expressed as a local church that appears to be independent locally, and also refers to the only spiritual and invisible universal church in which all Christians consist of one body. What do you think? Are we participating in the church that the Bible says? What does the church that we expect look like? I hope we all understand the biblical meaning of the word “church” properly and establish the righteous church and the identity of Christians.