What Is the Church?

A fellow believer said in effect that Christianity does not really allow for political activism. Others have said we should agree to disagree when it comes to beliefs about the nature of the church. We can disagree whether there should be pews, or instruments, or five hour services, or only professional singers. But the church itself is pretty well-defined in the Bible.

The Greek word Ecclesia translated church means assembly or gathering. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11: 17-19, “But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.”

Some believers might say talking about politics is divisive and we need unity. But the Scriptures here say that factions or divisions reveal the people who are approved, or doing right, and make them stand out from those who are not doing right.

Charles Hodges massive work, Systematic Theology, 3 volumes, each 1000 pages, has no section on the church. Perhaps he just wants to avoid disagreements, but the purpose isn’t to divide the church. It’s to ensure that the unity is based on the Word of God, not the false unity where we sacrifice truth just to get along. This false unity has permeated groups such as the Roman Catholic Church. They attempt to preserve their unity and nature as a church by saying that they are “the only true church” with an unbroken line of leadership and teaching back to Peter. They unify people around their own authority, writings and dogma based on human traditions, just as many other religions and forms of worship do.

The church is divided between local congregations and the church universal. The local church has to agree on very many specific details to be able to fellowship (Greek κοινωνίας) daily, weekly. The universal church only needs to recognize what a true believer is. Trying to define what the universal church belief must be is where the term “fundamentals” came from.

In the case of the Universal Church, what we believe and practice, what unifies us, is an unbroken line of believers back to Jesus Christ and the Word of God as the source of and authority for that belief. It must be far more than signing a decision card and treating Jesus Christ as an eternal fire insurance policy. It also involves our relationships with unbelievers, and that, my dear friends, is politics.

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