The church is the group of people who confess Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Everyone who has responded to the message of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus and decides to live a life of obedience to God’s commands is considered part of the church.
Many think of a building when they hear the term church, but actually the original word – ekklesia – was not used in that sense. When they used it they referred to a group of citizens who met to consider matters of state. The literal meaning of the word is “called ( kaleo ) out of ( ek )”. The church has been called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
We can better understand the biblical sense of the church as a group of people, by looking at some examples from the New Testament:
Those who met in a house to worship God were called a church :
Likewise greet the church that meets in their house.
When the New Testament mentions the persecution that was unleashed against the church, it refers to the persecution of the people who had accepted Jesus as Savior:
Saul, for his part, wreaked havoc in the church: entering from house to house, he dragged men and women and put them in jail.
Pedro, when he was released from prison in a miraculous way, went to the church that was gathered in a house praying for him:
Then Peter came to himself and said to himself, “Now I am absolutely certain that the Lord has sent his angel to deliver me from the power of Herod and from all that the Jewish people expected.” When he realized this, he went to the house of Maria, the mother of Juan, nicknamed Marcos, where many people were gathered praying.
How did the church start?
The church began on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. All the followers of Jesus were in Jerusalem together with the disciples. They awaited the fulfilment of the promise of the Father that Jesus mentioned after resurrecting and before ascending to heaven (Acts 1:3-5). Jesus promised them baptism with the Holy Spirit.
We find the account in the book of Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in the same place. Suddenly, a noise like a violent gust of wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were gathered. Then tongues of fire appeared to them and spread out and settled on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to express themselves.
People who were near the building, including many Jews who came from other parts of the world and were visiting Jerusalem, were shocked to hear the noise. Much greater was his astonishment to hear them speak in their own languages!
The Holy Spirit gave the followers of Jesus the gift of communicating the gospel of God’s wonders in languages they did not know. At that time the expansion of the church began. It was there that the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ began to spread.
The purpose of the church
Why did God establish the church? What is the mission or purpose that the church must fulfil in this world? The church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) and he is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). Therefore, the church must reflect on what distinguishes God (her love of him for humanity) and give priority to what he gives priority to (man’s salvation).
Let’s look at some of the ways the church can fulfil this purpose.
1. Show the world the power of God’s love
God loves his church. In Ephesians 5:25-27 we see that Christ’s love for his church serves as an example for husbands. How is Christ’s love for the church described? As one willing to sacrifice himself and give his life in order to present his church holy and without blemish.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy. He purified her, washing her with water through the word, to present her to himself as a radiant church, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Therefore, one of the purposes of the church is to show the world the transforming power of God’s love and forgiveness. Our life does not stay the same after knowing and experiencing the great power of God’s love. Our day to day begins to reflect that we live for Jesus and thank him.
This is the first step in beginning to fulfill the great commission that Jesus gave us (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus told us that we should go and make his disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey him.
It seems like a huge task! But when others see the great change in our lives as a result of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, they are more open to hearing our testimony and allowing God to work in their own lives. Let’s not be shy! Let us share with others what Christ has done for us.
2. Grow together and affirm ourselves spiritually
The early church gave importance from the beginning to seek spiritual growth and strength as a family, all together.
They stood firm in the teaching of the apostles, in communion, in the breaking of bread and in prayer.
Together they studied the teaching of the apostles, filling their minds and hearts with the Word of God. They lived in unity and harmony. When the normal disagreements that arise between people arose, they looked to God for direction. They allowed the Holy Spirit to renew them again with its fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) so that they could act with love, kindness, joy, etc.
They shared bread (the Holy Supper) daily remembering the sacrifice of Jesus for humanity. They did it in memory of him and out of love for him. And they took time for prayer. They prayed and interceded together for each other and for all humanity seeking direction to go out and bless those around them.
This is how the church should be today. We must actively seek mutual growth and edification with the goal of going out and blessing humanity filled with the presence of the Lord.
3. Glorify and exalt God
Because all things proceed from him, and exist through him and for him. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
The church must keep its eyes fixed on God, on his power, his love, his eternity, his magnificence. Absolutely everything that exists comes from God, it exists thanks to the creative power of God and it is for him, not for us. The glory is and must always be for him and the church must be the first to recognize the immense greatness of God.
Everything that happens to us, everything we do or achieve is thanks to the goodness of God. Let us glorify and exalt his name at all times!