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Discovery Magazine 1/1/2002

The Church: A People Not A Building

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

There is often a lot of confusion about the word “church.” Many people use it to refer to a building, where they worship God. But what is the true meaning of this word? In Matthew 16, after Peter correctly identified Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus told Peter: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Did Jesus mean that He was going to manufacture a building on a specific rock? Of course not! The “church” to which Jesus referred in this verse was actually people—a group of people that was founded on the rock of truth that Peter had just stated (the truth that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God).

So the church is made of people, not bricks! True, many of us do worship in church buildings that are made with bricks, but the church is made of people. Additionally, the church is not located in any one location. Instead, it is global. There are congregations all over the world! While the people that make up the church may come from different countries or speak different languages, they all have one thing in common: they all are Christians—and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. In Acts chapter 2, we can read about the first Gospel sermon that was preached. The Bible tells us in verse 41 that about 3,000 were baptized and added to the church. Verse 42 informs us that those people “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Verses 44-45 state that “all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Thus, the Lord’s church continues these practices today.  Every church should be involved in three areas of work: (1) spreading the Gospel—through preaching, teaching, and daily living; (2) building up one another through study and edification; and (3) doing good to others. These works are carried out because all of the members diligently desire to work hard for their Savior, Jesus Christ. Members of the church show their love for one another and their love for God in their daily living as well as their desire to grow and learn. In order to continue to grow, learn more about God, and support one another, the church regularly meets together to sing, pray, learn, and partake of the Lord’s Supper. While some people may meet in large buildings, others may assemble weekly in someone’s home. But they are all members of the same church—the church that Christ established!

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