What is the Church?

We are always hearing of all sorts of organizations beginning that hope to carry on the work of Christ—some may be legitimate; others surely are not. It is the church that Jesus Christ built to carry out His will and do His work; of that, we can be certain.

But what is the church?

The Greek, New Testament word translated, “church” is ekklesia (from which English words such as “ecclesiastical” come). It is a compound term composed of ek = “out of” and “kaleo” = “to call.” That means the church is a body of “called out persons.”

But what does that mean?

The word goes back to the Greek city-states which were composed of three sorts of persons: citizens; freedmen; slaves. The slaves and freedmen made up the bulk of the population. These cities were little democracies each having its own constitutions, rules, etc. They were true democracies, rather than representative bodies. That means that every citizen could vote on every issue that arose. When a city meeting was called for, the citizens gathered, heard speeches, and then dropped a stone into a pitcher indicating their votes (black stones = “no”; white stones = “yes”). Only citizens could vote.

Whenever a vote was imminent, the “herald” would go about the city shouting the fact that a vote was to be taken. In that way, out of the mass of people in the city, the citizens were called out and from the general populace to gather and cast their vote.

So, the picture of the herald, going forth to call out from the world those who would believe the Gospel lays behind the idea of the church as composed of the “called out ones” who are called out to transact God’s business. As people believe the Gospel preached by Christ’s heralds (preachers), they become part of those whose “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), the church.

Have you heard the call to faith in Jesus Christ? Are you a citizen of heaven? If not, turn to one of our previously archived blog articles on how to be saved. Then read, repent, believe, and become one.

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