In the New Testament, the Greek word ekklesia is translated church and refers to a gathering of people. The word is singular – not plural. By definition it is a single group of people who meet together in one place.
The church is a gathering of Christ-followers. “All the believers were together... Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44-47, CSB).
I often refer to South Georgia Baptist Church as my church. That’s technically incorrect. It’s not mine. The Church belongs to Jesus! Jesus declared, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, ESV). The rock... that’s the truth-filled exclamation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16, ESV). The church is built by Jesus and belongs exclusively to Him. Because it’s His, all of the hell-bound demonic spirits don’t stand a chance against the power of the Resurrected Redeemer, the Lord Jesus, our King!
Throughout the New Testament, several analogies are used to teach the doctrinal truth of the church.
The church is like a body. Writing to the church at Corinth, a badly fractured congregation, Paul instructed, “For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body — so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and we were all given one Spirit to drink. Indeed, the body is not one part but many. If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted... Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27, CSB).
The church is the beloved bride of Christ. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word... This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:22-33, CSB).
The church is a family. “For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs — heirs of God and coheirs with Christ — if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17, CSB).
The church’s web site includes this doctrinal statement: “We believe that the visible Church is a congregation of baptized believers, practicing New Testament principles, believing its doctrines, observing its ordinances, and exercising its autonomy. We believe it is the responsibility of the local Church to help spread the gospel to the world. Every Church and Christian should have a part of this ministry.”
Jesus gave His beloved bride, the church, three guiding principles:
The Great Confession. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).
The Great Commandment. Love the Lord. Love others (Matthew 22:36-39).
The Great Commission. Share the gospel. Make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8).
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor