What Is the Church?
In the Bible, we learn about the universal church, the local church, fellowship in the church, worship in the church, and the Lord's supper.
The Christian Basics series covers the basics of Christianity. This article summarizes the basic truths of the church where there is fellowship and worship.
- The Universal Church
- The Local Church
- Fellowship in the Church
- Worship in the Church
- The Lord's Supper
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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 10:24–25)
1. The Universal Church
Christ is the head of the church. The church is His body.
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18)
“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” (Ephesians 5:23)
Christ purchased the church with His blood.
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
We are called in and baptized into the body.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
2. The Local Church
In the New Testament, believers came together in small groups to worship Christ, receive instruction from the Scriptures, meet one another’s needs, pray and evangelize. They met together in houses before they had church buildings.
“Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.” (Romans 16:5)
“The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 16:19)
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” (Acts 20:7)
The early church was devoted to:
- Apostle’s teaching
- Breaking of bread
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
God gave gifted men to equip the saints for ministry and building up the body of Christ.
- Shepherds and teachers
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12)
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1–7)
“If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:6–9)
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;” (1 Peter 5:1–2)
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
The word deacon means “servant.” The deacons are to minister to the needs of the flock under the direction of the elders of the church.
“Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 3:8–13)
“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)
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)
“That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:25)
Members are to financially support those who are appointed to preach and teach.
“In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14)
“Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” (Galatians 6:6)
3. Fellowship in the Church
The Bible uses the Greek word koinonia to describe fellowship within the body of Christ. That word means “participation with others in a common purpose.” The Latin equivalent is communion, pointing to the communion that is shared with other believers as well as with God.
Fellowship involves unity
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
“With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2–3)
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1–4)
We have fellowship with God and believers
“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3)
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
We do not have fellowship with unbelievers.
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14–15)
Fellowship involves ministering to one another
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19)
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10–11)
4. Worship in the Church
The English word worship was originally spelled “worth ship” meaning to acknowledge the worth of someone or something. We worship when we give honor to God for who He is. Worship acknowledges God’s Person, nature, attributes, and works. It stems from a grateful heart and renders adoration, devotion, and submission to God.
God seeks genuine worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”” (John 4:23–24)
To worship God in truth, we must seek to know Him by learning about His attributes and actions. We worship God because only He is worthy of our highest devotion. Only God is worthy to receive glory and honor.
“The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”” (Revelation 4:10–11)
Worshipping God involves singing praises.
“All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” (Psalm 66:4)
Worshipping God involves reverence.
“And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.” (Exodus 34:8)
“After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” (Luke 7:1–7)
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,” (Revelation 1:17)
“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” (Psalms 95:1–6)
5. The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper or communion is one of two ordinances given to the church by Jesus Christ, the other being baptism. The Lord’s Supper is an act of remembrance of Christ’s death.
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. ”In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. ”For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
- The bread is in remembrance of Christ’s body.
- The cup is in remembrance of Christ’s blood.
Every time you parkade in communion you proclaim the Lord’s death. Therefore, it is imperative that we do not partake in communion in an “unworthy manner.”
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Corinthians 11:27–30)