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This English word is said to be derived from the Greek κυριακός , which signifies 'pertaining to the Lord,' and is commonly used both for an association of professing Christians, and for the building in which they worship. It is the scriptural use of the word ἐκκλησία, or 'assembly,' that is here under consideration.

The word is used in reference to Israel in the N.T. on one occasion in Acts 7:38 , and to a Gentile throng in Acts 19:32,41 . Its first occurrence in relation to Christianity is in Matthew 16:18 , where upon Peter's confession that Jesuswas the Son of the living God, the Lord rejoins, "upon this rock I will build my assembly," etc. Historically this spiritual building, (for 'building' never refers to a material edifice) was begun after His death and resurrection, when the Holy Ghost descended at the day of Pentecost. In this aspect of the church there is no room for any failure — the "gates of hades shall not prevail against it." It is what Christ Himself effects by His Spirit in souls, and it contemplates the full and final result. In 1 Peter 2:4,5 we have the progressive work, "ye also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house," etc. The idea of 'building' here supposes a work so wrought that souls become conscious of forming part of the dwelling place of God, and are rendered able to offer up spiritual sacrifices as a holy priesthood.

But there is an aspect of the assembly as a building in which it is viewed in relation to human responsibility, and where consequently human failure has left its unmistakable mark. In 1 Corinthians 3 . the apostle speaks of himself as a wise master-builder, who has well laid the foundation, which is 'Christ Jesus;' but he adds that 'others build thereupon,' and warns every one to take heed how he does so. Here may be found 'wood, hay, stubble,' as well as 'gold, silver, precious stones.' Men may 'corrupt the temple of God,' and alas! this has been done only too effectually, professing Christendom being the outcome of it. But this aspect of it must in no way be confounded with that which Christ builds, where no failure is found.

There is also another view of the church or assembly as the body and the bride of Christ. Ephesians 1:22,23 ; Ephesians 5:26,27 . By one Spirit believers are baptised into one body. 1 Corinthians 12:13 . They are God's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. . . . ." Ephesians 2:10 . There is the effectual operation of God in quickening them with Christ, in raising them (Jews and Gentiles) up together, and making them to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. They are livingly united to the Head in heaven by the Spirit of God. This body is on earth that the graces of the Head may be displayed in it. His people are to put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, etc. Colossians 3:12-17 . It is the mystery hidden throughout the ages, but now revealed, in order that to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known through the assembly the all various wisdom of God. Ephesians 3:9,10 . The assembly will be eventually presented by Christ to Himself as His bride, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. There can be no false members of Christ's body, and no spot or wrinkle in His bride. Those united to Him are 'all of one' with the sanctifier Himself; they are 'His brethren;' they derive from the corn of wheat which has fallen into the ground and died, and which has borne much fruit. Hebrews 2 .; John 12:24 . Moreover the assembly is one. Ephesians 4:4 ; 1 Corinthians 12:13 . There is not another.

If division has come in on every hand, as it did at Corinth, faith will still recognise that the body is one, and will maintain the truth of it. Gifts were bestowed on the assembly, and will be acknowledged as such by faith, and their exercise welcomed in whatever feebleness. If the assembly has become like a great house, where there are vessels of gold and silver, as well as of wood and of earth (2 Timothy 2:20 ), the believer is encouraged to purge himself from the latter — the dishonourable vessels — that he may be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work. He is taught in scripture how to behave himself in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth. 1 Timothy 3:15 .

It must be carefully observed that the churches or assemblies at Jerusalem, Corinth, Rome, etc., were not separate or independent organisations, as in the modern idea of the Church of Rome, the Greek Church, the Church of England, and so on. There was only one assembly, the Church of God, though expressed in different localities, in which indeed there were local office bearers, as elders and deacons, and where also discipline was locally carried out. There was entire inter-communion. In the present divided state of God's people, the man of faith will be careful to recognise that every true Christian is a part of that one body, with which, as has been said, there can be no failure; while, at the same time, he will pursue a path of separation from evil; and will "follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." 2 Timothy 2:22 .

The church will continue on earth until the rapture, revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 . As there were saints on earth before the church was formed, so there will be saints on the earth after the rapture: all will be equally saved, but all will not forma part of the church of God as revealed in scripture. This fills a wonderfully unique place, designed of God that in it the principalities and powers in the heavenlies should even now learn the manifold wisdom of God; and in the ages to come the exceeding riches of God's grace be manifested "in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:7 ; Ephesians 3:10 .

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Church '. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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