Church As Used In Scripture - John MacArthur
The Invisible Church
We who love Jesus Christ constitute the true church. We belong to the collective Body of Christ whether we're alive or in glory. The Greek word for church is ekklesia, which means "an assembly of called-out ones. " The church is made up of people called by God to be His children. We have become united with all other believers by faith in Christ, who said, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Jesus meant He would gather together a body of believers. He wasn't talking about buildings; He was talking about people. We who know and love Him are the living church that has been born into the family of God by the Holy Spirit. As members of "the general assembly and church of the first-born, who are written in heaven" (Heb. 12:23), we have been declared righteous because our sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:5).
The Visible Church
The world cannot detect the invisible church of real Christians. They see only the visible church of those who profess to be Christians. The Lord intended for there to be a visible church for a testimony to the world. When we gather together on the Lord's Day, we are a testimony to the world that Christ has indeed risen.
Some say we don't need any buildings or organizational structure. However, I don't think Christ would have agreed. In Matthew 18 He implies that the church would meet together in a given place: "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church" (vv. 15-17, emphasis added). He must have been referring to a visible group of people, even though the church did not officially begin until Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). In the context of Matthew 18, we see the church as a visible assembly of believers engaged in the discipline process.
In the book of Acts we see the invisible church become more visible. Although the visible and invisible church were initially the same, the picture changed as false believers associated with the church. Today there are visible congregations meeting that are not the true church at all. Rather, they are part of the false church, which is called "the great harlot" (Rev. 17:1). The invisible church became visible as believers began to gather together. Originally they met in homes, but by the third century the church was meeting in its own building as it continued to grow.
Let's examine three biblical aspects of the church: the founding of the church, the ministry of the church, and the leadership of the church. Although there are new ways to communicate, new methods to use, and new problems to deal with in the twentieth century, I believe the Lord intends the church of this century to follow the same basic principles that the first-century church did.
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