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What is the New Testament church?

What is the New Testament church?

 In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said he would build His church. To understand what Jesus intended to build, we must look at the Greek word that is translated “church” in English.

Defining “church”

The word translated “church” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word EKKLESIA, which literally means those called out or forth. Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament defines EKKLESIA as: 1. A gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly. 2. Any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance or tumultuously. 3. An assembly of Christians gathered to worship, a company of Christians. 4. The whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth.

The word “church,” as well as EKKLESIA, is a collective noun referring to those who have answered the gospel call of Jesus Christ and have been baptized for the remission of their sins. Perhaps Ephesians 2:19-22 best illustrates this truth: "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

How "church" is used in the New Testament

“Church” (EKKLESIA) is used in the New Testament to denote a collection of Christians in three different ways:
 

1. Universally
a. It is what Christ built. Matthew 16:18
b. All saved people. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

2. Locally
a. A group of people belonging to Christ in a given locality who agree to assemble together regularly to worship God and to work together collectively as an organized body independent of any other organization.
b. Paul addressed epistles to local churches. 1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2
c. There are many local churches, organized with elders and deacons.

3. An assembly of Christians. 1 Corinthians 11:18; 14:19, 28, 34, 35

Portraits of the church 

It is also help to see the various “portraits” of the church found in Scripture:
1. The Body of Christ Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

2. The Temple of God 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

3. The House of God 1 Timothy 3:14-15

4. The Vineyard of the Lord Matthew 21:28-31

5. The Flock of God 1 Peter 5:2