The Identity of the Church
Depending on whom you ask you will probably receive multiple responses to the questions, “What is the Church?” “How do we gain membership in the Church?” and “What is the function of the Church?” These questions and others have been debated for many years and the discussion continues. In many instances, we confuse the Church with other non-religious organizations like a social club. However, the Church is not a social club or some organization we join to leisurely spend our time. The Church is the agency of God commissioned and responsible to represent God’s agenda in the earth. More than that, the Church belongs to God, not the person we identify as the pastor or leader, and Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. Not only does the Church belong to God, the idea of the Church came from God. Matthew 16:18 tells us that God is committed to building His Church and vows that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This means that regardless of attacks from hell, the Church will prevail.
What is the Church?
Traditional definitions of “church” describe it as a place to assemble for worship. However, the meaning of “church” is broader than this. In the Greek text, the word for church is “ekklesia:” not simply defined as a place to assemble for worship, but also an assembly of the people convened at this public place for the purpose of deliberating. In this blog we will only discuss the definition of the Church as a place for religious assembly. Too many individuals confuse the Church with denominationalism; the two are in fact very different. The Church is the agency in the Earth through which God makes known His desires for humanity. More than a place of assembly, the Church consists of those who are the Ekklesia of God, those who have been called out of spiritual darkness and translated into the Kingdom of God. Those who have received redemption through faith in the Blood of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer are the Church. The Church is a living organism, not simply a place people meet.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes on him would not perish but would have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
How Do We Receive Membership into the Church?
The Church is composed of individuals who have received Jesus Christ as Savior. We often confuse church membership with receiving salvation, which is a different issue altogether. I am sure that you have read or heard about individuals who grew up in a certain church with their parents, became members of the choir or some other organization within the church, but never prayed to receive Jesus Christ as Savior. You might know individuals you can describe as being a “good person;” however, while being a “good person” is admirable, it does not qualify one for membership in the Church. Membership in the Church is based on receiving Christ as Savior; its requirement is faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross and repentance from sin. Christians are often accused of being intolerant and presumptuous in our stance that salvation is the free gift of God given to everyone who receives Jesus as Savior. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the only one who can save people. Repentance for our sins and faith in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross is God’s intended way to receive membership in the Church.
“Jesus is the only one who can save people. His name is the only power in the world that has been given to save anyone. We must be saved through him!” (Acts 4:12 ERV)
What Is the Identity of the Church?
There are several aspects of the identity of Church but none more important than the fact that we are children of God. What a powerful truth! God has adopted us into His family. Maybe you were orphaned or abandoned by your earthly parents, but God is a Father who will never leave you; neither will He forsake you! When we join His family, He becomes our Heavenly Father, who loves us and has wonderful desires for us. Our response to God’s love toward us is to love Him in return. Our love for God is evidenced in our submission to His will. The identity of the Church is based in our relationship with God. As sons and daughters of God, we endeavor to model God’s love and desire to those in our families, communities, workplace, etc.
“We love him because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19 NKJV)