What the church is NOT
The word church has come to mean many things to many people, and often these concepts are different from the New Testament meaning.
The church is NOT a building
The church is NOT a hierarchy
The church is NOT a denomination
The church is NOT made up of all “Christian” denominations
The church is NOT a temporary substitute for the kingdom
The church is NOT a building
We often hear people talk about going to church, having a “church” wedding, or maybe you’ve even used the little hand motions that accompany the saying, “Here’s the church. Here’s the steeple. Open it up and see all the people.” Actually, the church is the people. Notice how Paul addressed the letter to the Corinthians: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2
The church is NOT a hierarchy.
The church is not a hierarchy of clergy that exists separately from the body of believers. When Roman Catholics refer to “the church” they are talking about the Pope, the Cardinals, and the Bishops who make up the governing body of Catholicism. There is no such designation in the New Testament. Paul called himself a fellow worker (1 Cor 3:9
; 2 Cor 1:24) and a servant (1 Cor 4:1). All Christians comprise the body of Christ, and He is its only Head.
The church is NOT a denomination.
By definition a denomination is a division. American money can be separated into different denominations ($1, $5, $10, etc.). In the New Testament, such division is strictly forbidden. In 1 Corinthians:1:10-13 Paul wrote, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
The church is NOT made up of all "Christian" denominations.
The church is NOT the assemblage of all “Christian” denominations. Many teach that the New Testament church (i.e. the body of Christ) is now comprised of all the various denominations which some have estimated to be well over 30,000 in the world today. Again, this cannot be so for the same reason given above. Denominations are forbidden in the New Testament. In addition, please notice that Paul said the body of Christ is made up of individuals: Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 1 Cor 12:27
The church is NOT a temporary substitute for the kingdom.
Many teach that Jesus came to establish His kingdom, but when the Jews rejected Him He put the church in place until some future day when He will be able to return and set up His kingdom on earth. This is not an idea one can find in the Bible. Jesus came to establish His kingdom, and establish it He did. It exists even now and will continue until the end of time. Jesus preached that “the kingdom of God is at hand” He promised that some of His contemporaries would live to see the kingdom of God (Mark 9:1). On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter said that Jesus was reigning as King (Acts 2:29-36). After Pentecost Christians are described as citizens of the kingdom: He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13).
He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:6 NASB). The kingdom of Jesus Christ was established when He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God to rule with all power and authority. Those who respond favorably to His rule as King of kings comprise His body, the church. This is in accordance with God’s eternal plan, To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians:3:10-11).