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What is the Church?

by David A. DePra

     The Bible uses the name "church" many times. But the Greek

word which is translated "church" does not mean quite what the

English word has come to mean. The word "church" in the Greek

is "ecclesia." It simply means "called out ones."

     Note that this term says nothing about a building. It is not a

term for a facility. So when we look at our building and call it "the

church," we might be talking about a building. But a building

is not what the Bible means by "church." The Bible is talking

about PEOPLE -- about "called out ones."

     Now, if "the church" consists of the "called out ones," they

must be "called out" OF something. And likewise, they must be

"called out" TO something. Otherwise the term is meaningless.

What are those who comprise "the church" called out FROM?

The world. And from the old creation in Adam.

     And what are we called out TO? To Christ. And into the

new creation through His resurrection.

     So now we have a more specific definition of "the church." The

church is a body of people who are called out FROM the world

and the old creation, INTO Christ and the new creation. Included

in that is salvation and a Christian's walk with God.

The Saints

     There are only names God uses for this same group of

people who comprise "the church." One term is "the saints." This

word is the same one translated "holy" in the Greek. It means to

be "set apart for God's use." Thus, to be "a saint" means that you

no longer belong to yourself. You no longer belong to anyone

but God. You are set apart for HIS use.

     We can see why God used the same word in Greek as is

translated "holy." If I am "set apart" for God's use, and living a life

indicative of belonging to Him, then I will life a holy life. I will not

be using myself, my body, my mind, or my will, for things that are

unholy. Of course, this will be a process. I will have to grow to

overcome my old habits. And I will have to learn how to live a

holy life.

     So not only am I a "called out one" if I am IN God's church, but

I am a "saint." I am called out of the world, and set apart for God's


     Often, if we are told that we are set apart for God's use, this

conjures up visions of being some kind of monk in a cave

somewhere. We tend to think that giving ourselves to God must

surely mean we are never to have fun or enjoyment in life. But

nothing could be further from the Truth. If I am living a holy life, I

will find that it spells freedom and true happiness. And I will

discover that what I once thought was enjoyable was really hurting


     "Holiness," "sanctification," and "a saint," all come from the same

Greek word in the New Testament. They aptly describe what a

Christian is to be. We do not belong to ourselves. We have been

bought with a price. (I Cor. 6:20 and 7:23) That price was the life

of the Son of God. And the fact we do not belong to ourselves is

not bad news. It is good news.

In Christ

     There is yet another term God uses for "the church." He refers

to us as those "in Christ." Often we think of ourselves as those

who have Christ IN US. And that is true. But another way of

looking at it is that we are IN CHRIST.

     What does it mean to be "in Christ?" It means to be united

with Him. To be part of Him. Note the way Paul explains this


For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death,

we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. (Rom. 6:5)

     The picture here is one of ENGRAFTING. When a branch is

engrafted into a tree it is able to then share it's life. But we have

been "planted" into both the death and resurrection of Christ. So

whatever those things are for Him, they are for us.

     All sin was planted into Christ. So all OUR sin was planted in

Him. All sin died in Christ. So all OUR sin died in Him. And if

that is true, then just as He was raised from the dead, so are we.

We are raised from the dead, free from the control of the sin

nature, unto newness of life.

     That is what it means to be "in Christ." Note that God does not

merely give us eternal life and send us on our way as independent

creatures. No. We have eternal life only because we are in Him,

and HE IS LIFE. All life is in Christ, and we life forever because

we are one with Him -- planted in Him by grace through faith.

     So "the church" are those who have been called out of the

old creation, to Christ, who are set apart for God's use, planted

into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Body of Christ

     The church is also called "the body of Christ." Yet often we

miss the point of this term. When God says we are His "body," He

is not referring to us as "body of people." No. He really means

the BODY of Christ. We are being likened -- spiritually -- to the

very body of Christ which was broken for us on the Cross. But

more importantly, to the resurrected BODY which came out of the


     What this means is that we are ONE with Jesus Christ in ways

that we cannot imagine. Again, we are "planted" into Him -- He

is the Vine and we are the branches. But the whole is THE body.

His Body. Just as branches are at one with a vine, so are we in

Christ. He is the Head. He is the Vine. We are one with Him.

     This is what it means to be "the church." To belong to Jesus

Christ. To be a member of HIS body -- in a very real sense. To

be a "called out one." A "saint," or "set apart one." To be a

person who is "in Christ" by grace through faith forever. *

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