EKKLESIA: the Greek word meaning “called out”, translated as “church” in our English New Testament.
Why is there a church?
In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve in His own image – that being the embodiment of love. They were in the perfect loving relationship with God. That was shattered when they chose to trust their own judgment rather than to obey God’s one restriction; that they refrain from eating or even touching the tree in the middle of the garden (Genesis 3:3). The penalty for disobedience was death; not immediate physical death, but spiritual death – separation between a holy God and His creation, now contaminated by sin (Isaiah 59:2). We are under the same penalty of death for our own sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23).
God’s great desire was to reclaim us and that perfect relationship. By His predetermined plan (Acts 2:23-24) He sent His only Son to live a sinless life among mankind for the purpose of paying the death penalty for all of us, removing the barrier of sin, and offering us the opportunity of restoring our lost relationship with God. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). His church, the “called out”, are those who turn away from sin and obey God to receive that gift of redemption and relationship. This was not a makeshift plan, put into place after the fall of man, but God’s design before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8a).
This plan was revealed in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, His victory over sin and death. The birth of the church was the culmination of God’s plan for restoring that wonderful love relationship of Creation, and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Daniel 2:44, 7:13-14).
So why is there a church? It was God’s design to restore us to Himself because He loved us so much (John 3:16).
So, what is the church?
The church is the universal body of people who are saved (Acts 4:12), “called out” of the bondage of sin, bought back and paid for by the sacrificial death of the Son of God, brought back into that original loving relationship with God. The church is described as “His body” (Ephesians 1:22), “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 3:1-3, 4:17), “His workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10), “fellow citizens with the saints and of members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19), “dwelling place for God by the spirit” (Ephesians 2:22), “a royal priesthood, holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), and “bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9). Each of these descriptions has its own context and special meaning.
How did it begin?
The church began, as noted before, in Jerusalem (Acts 2), when about 3000 souls were convicted in their hearts of killing Jesus, the Messiah, after a stirring message spoken by Peter and the other apostles. They asked, “What shall we do?” The apostles replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (verses 38-39)The “called out” church had come into being.
The church consists of whom?
God’s church is made up of people without regard to nationality or socioeconomic level who believe in Jesus as the Son of God (John 3:16), who are also willing to repent (turn away from their disobedient and sinful life – Acts 17:30, 26:20), to submit to Him by confessing Him as Lord (Romans 10:9, 10), and to be immersed to wash away the contamination of our disobedience (Acts 22:16). These people are added by the Lord to the saved – the church – the “called out” ones – the kingdom of God (Acts 2:47).
What’s its purpose?
The church is not just called out of sin and everything associated with it, the “called out” are called to a new lifestyle. In imitation of Jesus, we are to teach the lost the good news of redemption, help the poor, walk in love (Ephesians 5:2), do good works (1 Timothy 6:18), to glorify God in everything, to submit to one another in love, and so many other things as taught in God’s Word, and this we are to diligently study (2 Timothy 2:15) until we die or Jesus returns.