The Church




What is the Church


The word ‘Church’ derives from the Greek ekklesia which means ‘a called-out body of people’ or ‘assembly’ and it refers to all those people who have been delivered from this present evil age and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of God, that is to say, to all those ‘called out from the world and belonging to the Lord.’

Obviously this term indicates both the universal Church, which is comprised of the redeemed of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, and the local Church, such as the Church in a town or in a village, which is comprised of the redeemed who are in that town or village (of course, this does not exclude that a local Church can be comprised of people of different races and ethnic groups). Therefore the universal Church is comprised of all the local Churches.

In the Scripture the term Church is used in an universal sense in the following passages: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church ….” (Matthew 16:18 – NKJV); “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her ….” (Ephesians 5:25 – NKJV); “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21). Instead, the same term is used in a local sense in these other passages: “Greet the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:5 – NKJV); “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1 – NKJV).

Being this the meaning of the word ‘church’, therefore, it is wrong to call the place of worship ‘church’. Reflect upon this: ‘How can we call a place of worship ‘church’ when Paul said to the saints in Rome to greet the church that was in the house of Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:3-5)?



Who is the head of the Church


The supreme head of the Church is Christ: the apostle Paul affirms clearly and in various ways that the head of the Church, both in heaven and on earth, is Jesus Christ.

● He says to the Ephesians: “[God] raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:20-23), and also: “But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15), and: “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). Therefore, as the head of the wife is one, that is, her husband, so the head of the Church (which is the wife of the Lamb) is one, that is, Christ, Her bridegroom.

● Paul says to the Colossians: “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:17-18). Therefore the Church of God does not have two heads, one in heaven and the other on earth, or one invisible and the other visible, but only one, namely Jesus Christ, who is in heaven at the right hand of God and through faith He dwells in the heart of all those who have accepted Him as their personal Saviour and Lord.



When one becomes a member of the Church


One becomes a member of the Church when he is set free from sin, of which men are slaves. For it is sin that keeps men under the power of this present evil age, and thus when one is saved from sin he becomes a member of the Church. How is man saved from sin? By believing with his heart in Jesus Christ, because salvation is obtained by faith in Christ. As Paul says: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9), and also: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 -NKJV).

We can also say that one becomes a member of the Church when he experiences the new birth, because through the new birth he ceases to be spiritually dead in that God makes him alive through the Word and His Spirit.

The entry of a man into the Church is symbolized and confirmed by water baptism, through which the new saved person or the newborn babe proclaims that through his faith in the Christ of God he died to sin.



The names of the Church


The Scripture provides several metaphors to define and describe the Church. These metaphors apply both to the universal church and to the local church. Let us look closely at these metaphors.

The Body of Christ. The Church of God is the body of Christ, for Paul wrote to the Church of God which was in Corinth: “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27 – NKJV). And since one becomes a member of the body of Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit, as it is written: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13 – NKJV), for it is the Holy Spirit who convicts a man of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, first, and then makes him alive, we cannot affirm that those who have not yet been made alive by the Holy Spirit are members of the body of Christ.

Since the Church is the Body of Christ, we who are members of this body feel that we are members of one another; that’s why Paul affirms that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26 – NKJV). It happens something which is similar to what happens when one member of your physical body suffers, for all the other members suffer with it for they are all members of the same body, and to what happens when you are complimented on a member of your body. For instance if someone says to you: ‘Your eyes are beautiful!’, your whole body feels flooded with joy; in other words the fact that you are complimented on a member of your body induces the other members to rejoice.

Since the Church is compared to the human body all its members need one another; no matter what is the function of a member in the body of Christ, he can’t affirm that he has no need of another member. For instance, just as the eye cannot say to the feet: ‘I have no need of you!’, so he who has received the power to perform miracles and healings can’t say to a brother who has received the gift of the interpretation of tongues or the gift of prophecy: ‘I have no need of you!’, and so on. Anyone who thinks that he has no need of another member of the body of Christ conducts himself in a foolish way. Therefore, thanks be to God for composing the body in this way, so that each member of it may not say that he has no need of another member. Our God is a wise God and knowing that pride lies always at the door, He composed the Church in such a way as to force believers to have need of one another. Therefore the way God has composed His Church is a demonstration of the infinite wisdom of God, who has entrusted the saints with different tasks; thus each member – whether male or female – has his own function in the Body of Christ. There is not a single believer who possesses all the gifts; if such a believer existed, he could say that he has no need of the other members of the body of Christ; but each believer is qualified to do what the Lord wants him to do; thus each believer seeks those believers who are qualified to do those things he is not qualified to do. Therefore, for instance, the prophet, when his wife is sick, will look for a believer who has received gifts of healings; and he who has gifts of healings will look for a prophet when he needs to receive a revelation from God in the hope that God will use the prophet to reveal to him what he needs to know. I could give you many more examples like the above mentioned ones but I stop here for I have confidence in the Lord that you have understood what I mean.

The Lamb’s wife. The apostle Paul wrote to the saints of Corinth: “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2 - NKJV), which means that the Church has been betrothed to Christ or rather the Church has been pledged to be married to Jesus Christ. And in fact the day is coming when the Lamb will marry the Church; here is what John saw in a vision while he was on the island that is called Patmos: “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:6-8). Obviously, just as a bridegroom wants his bride to be chaste and pure, so Christ wants to present the Church to Himself as a holy and blameless Church; for Paul says to the Ephesians that Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27 – NKJV). When the Church allies herself with the enemies of Christ, or she begins to love the world, she commits spiritual adultery because she becomes infatuated with strangers and she betrays her husband. That’s why James calls those believers who love the world “adulterous people” (James 4:4 – NIV).

The flock of God. The apostle Peter wrote to the elders of the Church: “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2 – NKJV). As you can see, the Church of God is called also ‘the flock of God’. Therefore, those who belong to the Church of God are compared to sheep (which are meek animals, but also easily influenced). This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus said that He is “the good shepherd” (John 10:11 – NKJV) and called His followers ‘His sheep,’ as He said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. …..And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:27-29,16). Therefore Jesus Christ is the shepherd of His sheep (which are the sheep of His Father as well), as Peter says: “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 – NKJV), or as still Peter calls Him “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4 – NKJV), to whom every pastor appointed by God one day will give account of his work.

The household of God. The apostle Paul said to the Ephesians: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God ….” (Ephesians 2:19 – NKJV). The Church, therefore, is the household of God, that’s why all the members of this household call one another ‘brother’ or ‘sister’, because they are aware that they belong to this large family. Jesus Himself called His disciples ‘brothers,’ as He said to the women (after He rose from the dead): “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28:10 – NKJV), in that He is “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29 – NKJV). The apostle Paul called the saints also brothers, for instance he said to the saints of Corinth: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing ….” (1 Corinthians 1:10 – NKJV).

Spiritual house (or temple of God). The Church is a spiritual house, which is comprised of living stones, that is, of men and women who were once dead in their sins and at God’s appointed time they were made alive by the Holy Spirit, and we, by the grace of God, are counted among these living stones. This is what Paul teaches when he says to the Ephesians: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins …. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:1, 19-22), and to the Corinthians: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 – NIV). The apostle Peter confirms this concept in his first epistle, for he says to the elect first: “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever …. As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby ….” (1 Peter 1:23; 2:2 – NKJV), and then he says: “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house ….” (1 Peter 2:5 – NKJV).

As things are, it is wrong to call the place of worship ‘the house of God.’ Unfortunately many brothers call it in this way. Many pastors say clearly from the pulpit that the place where the saints are gathered is the house of God; one of their most frequent expressions is ‘welcome to the house of God!’ I want to ask them, ‘Have you never read in the Scripture: “We are his house” (Hebrews 3:6 – NIV)?

The chief cornerstone of this spiritual building (which is the house of God) is Jesus Christ, for the Scripture states: “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone” (Matthew 21:42 - NKJV), and also: “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20 - NKJV). Jesus Christ Himself made it clear that He is the chief cornerstone, when He said to Peter: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), for ‘this rock’ is Jesus Himself. The foundation of this building is made up of the apostles and the prophets (Ephesians 2:20).

The vine with the branches. Jesus Christ compared the Church to a vine; for He said to His disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:1-5).

Now, when we repented of our sins and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ we united ourselves with the Lord and became one spirit with Him; that’s why we affirm that we are part of the vine, that is, the household of God. Therefore, those who have not yet repented and believed in the Son of God are not one with us in Christ Jesus: no matter what is Church they claim to belong to, they are not among the branches of the vine. How do we know then if a person is a branch of this vine? First of all, we know it by the fact that he is sure he has received the remission of sins (for he repented and believed in Christ); and then by the fruits worthy of repentance that he bears by keeping the commandments of Christ, that is to say, by the fact that he abides in Christ and Christ abides in him.

A chosen generation. The Church, according to the apostle Peter, is “a chosen generation” (1 Peter 2:9 – NKJV), that is. a group of people who were chosen for salvation through belief in the truth. Read my teaching about the purpose of God according to election. Therefore, those who belong to the Church of God are sure that they are saved. So all those people who claim to be Christians but admit openly that they are not saved for they are still sinners, or it is evident that they are still slaves of the lusts of the flesh and of all forms of idolatry and superstition, these people are not members of the Church of God.

A royal priesthood. The Church, according to Peter, is “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9 – NKJV), that is, a group of people who are kings and priests who are called to offer up spiritual sacrifices (praises, prayers and thanksgivings) acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Read my teaching ‘Now we are a royal priesthood’

A holy nation. The Church, according to the apostle Peter, is “a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9 – NKJV), that is, a group of people who were sanctified by Christ through the Holy Spirit and who pursue holiness. In that Christ sanctified the members of the Church of God, they are called ‘saints’. Here are some of the passages which confirm that all believers are saints or holy:

● Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus …” (1 Corinthians 1:1-2 – NKJV), and again: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

● Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Philippians 1:1 – NKJV).

● Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Colossians 1:1-2).

● Paul wrote to the Romans: “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27), and also: “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints” (Romans 15:25).

Therefore, the saints are not a particular group of believers who stand out for their pity or righteousness, but all believers. However, it is true that not all believers attain the same degree of sanctification.

The pillar and ground of the truth. Paul calls the Church of the living God “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 – NKJV), for the Church upholds the truth which is in Christ Jesus, that is, the Word of God, as it is written: “Your word is truth” (John 17:17 – NKJV), and it defends the truth from the attacks of the enemies of Christ.



Church organization


The Church of God is a well-structured organism, it could not be otherwise since it was established by Christ, by whom all things were created that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.

In the Church Christ has appointed pastors to shepherd His sheep; each Church has a pastor, who is called also ‘the angel of the church’, who is assisted by a group of elders (or bishops), and by some deacons whose function is to assist the pastor and the elders in the temporal matters of business and administration (among other things, the deacons tend to the needs of the poor, widows, and orphans). It must be said, however, that some Churches are governed only by a body of elders (thus, they do not have a pastor), who are assisted by some deacons.

Christ has appointed also apostles, who are those whom the Lord sends to preach the Gospel in unevangelized regions and to found churches in those places; prophets, who are those who have received the gift of prophecy and gifts of revelation; evangelists, who go from one place to another proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God; and teachers, who are qualified to teach accurately the doctrine of God.

Later I will speak in detail about the above mentioned offices, so that you may understand very well the differences existing between the various offices. Read the following teachings: Bishops and deaconsThe ministry gifts



Church’s activities


The members of the Church of God are called to do the following things:

- to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1), so that they may appear before God holy and blameless; thus they must abstain from what is able to defile them spiritually and carnally. Read the Bible teaching on practical holiness.

- to do good works and to be zealous for good works (that is to say, to give alms, to meet the needs of the poor, widows and orphans, etc. – Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14). Read the Bible teaching on good works.

- to pray for one another (Ephesians 6:18; James 5:16), and for the lost so that God may save them (Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-4). Read the Bible teaching on prayer.

- to desire earnestly spiritual gifts, which are distributed by God for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:1-12). Read the Bible teaching on spiritual gifts.

The saints who are on earth are also called to evangelize, that is, to bring men the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Acts 8:4; 11:20). The Gospel is the message through which we have been saved and we believe it can save others, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes; that’s why we preach it to men. We preach it even though we know that not all those who hear it will be saved, since only those who were appointed to eternal life will believe it. We must evangelize men, whether they listen or not, because all men must hear the Gospel; the end will not come until the Gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10). Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us preach the Christ of God to all those who do not know Him, urging them to repent and believe in Him so that they may receive the remission of sins.

- to attend the worship services, during which the Word of God is taught by those who have been called to teach the Word, the saints pray and sing together to God, and they pray for one another so that they may be healed. During the worship service the saints partake of the Lord’s Supper, with which they remember and proclaim the atoning death of Christ until He comes. There are some meetings held by the Church which are called ‘love feasts’ during which the saints eat together; it is a good thing for the saints to eat together so that they may strengthen their fellowship. To gather together with the brethren at one’s home to eat together or to talk about the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God or to pray and sing to the Lord is a good thing.

The discovery of mutual defects is inevitable when the saints are together, sometimes some misunderstandings arise, various problems arise; these are things which happen in every family and which happen even in the midst of the household of God. Nothing strange and nothing new under the sun: according to the Acts of the apostles and the epistles, even among the early Christians there were problems. However, the saints know how to deal with all these things because they have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that are infallible guides. The love they must have for one another helps them to bear with one another and to forgive one another.

Beloved, we are called to bear with one another in love, and to forgive one another as Christ forgave us. To love one another, however, does not mean to tolerate injustices, heresies, falsehood, hypocrisies, because all these things must be rejected and exposed with all boldness no matter who is the one who is accused of these bad things. Tolerating the wicked who are in the midst of the Church, the false ministers of Christ who are running around in the Churches, heresies, falsehoods, hypocrisies, selfish ambitions, and anything else which harms the flock of the Lord, is not the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. Both Jesus and the apostles left us an example and told us how we must deal with the false ministers and the injustices, the hypocrisies and the falsehoods committed among the brethren.