The Origin and Nature of the Church

God's people started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He made them in his image, which implies they were made in fellowship with their Creator (Gen 1:27). Despite their rebellion, Jesus did not reject them and instead vowed to send a Redeemer (3:16)

Later, God summons Abraham from a sun-worshipping household and enters into a covenant with him, vowing to be his god to both him and his offspring (Gen. 17:7). God promised to give Abraham a place, to create him a powerful nation, and to bless all peoples through him (12:3). Isaac is born from Abraham, and Jacob is born from Isaac, whose name God changed to Israel and through whom God brought the twelve tribes of his people. The rest of the Old Testament is devoted to God's interactions with Israel's twelve tribes.

God called the tribe of Israel out of Egyptian slavery to be his people via 10 catastrophic plagues and a spectacular exodus. He gave them the Ten Commandments, claimed them as his people, and promised them the Promised Land, which they eventually conquered after destroying the Canaanites. Later, God appointed David as king of Jerusalem. God promised to establish the throne of one of David's successors as a dynasty and to make David's descendants a dynasty (2 Sam. 7:14–16).

God, in his kindness, sent numerous prophets to warn his Old Testament people of the impending doom if they did not repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Nonetheless, they revolted against him and his prophets on several occasions. In reaction, he captured the northern kingdom of 10 tribes in Assyria in 722 BC, and the southern kingdom of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, in Babylon in 586 BC. God also promised to send a Deliverer through the prophets (Isa. 9:6–7; 52:13–53:12).

God vowed to return his people to their land after seventy years in Babylonian captivity (Jer. 25:11–12), and he does it via Ezra and Nehemiah. The people repaired Jerusalem's walls and erected a second temple. The Old Testament concludes with the book of Malachi with God's people continuing to reject him, but with the promise of someone that would come to prepare the way for Messiah (Mal. 3:1).

God sent his Son as the prophesied Messiah, Suffering Servant, King of Israel, and Savior of the world four hundred years later. "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many," Jesus explained (Mark 10:45). He established his own community (Matthew 5–7). He picked disciples, spent time with them, taught them about God's kingdom, drove out demons, performed miracles, and foretold his death and resurrection. Following his resurrection, Christ urged his followers to spread the gospel to all countries in order to fulfill his promise to Abraham to benefit all peoples (Matthew 28:18–20).

On the Feast of Pentecost, Jesus sent his Spirit, who established the church as God's New Testament people (Acts 2:1–13). The Spirit empowered the disciples to proclaim the gospel throughout the globe (Acts 1:8). He also empowered and directed the apostles into truth. Furthermore, the Spirit still indwells the church, directs it, and bestows spiritual gifts on each of its members in order for them to serve God and one another (Eph. 2:19–22; 4:1–16).

Old Testament phrases are frequently used to characterize the church (Gal. 6:16; Phil. 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:9–10), and there is both continuity and discontinuity between Old Testament Israel and the church. On the one hand, God has one covenant people with origins in the Abrahamic covenant and Israel. The church, on the other hand, is Jesus' new covenant community, inaugurated at Pentecost.

The Church's Structure

In the New Testament, the word "church" (ekklesia) refers to the church in all of its forms. The phrase can apply to churches gathering in houses (1 Cor. 16:19; Phlm. 1–2), city-wide or metropolitan churches (Acts 8:1; 20:17), congregations in a certain Roman province (Acts 9:31; 1 Cor. 16:19), and, on rare instances, the whole ecumenical church (Acts 15:22). However, the phrase can be used to refer to either the global or local church.

The Universal Church

The term "church" is sometimes used to refer to what some describe to as the universal church, which refers to the oneness of all Christians worldwide, both alive and dead (Eph. 1:22; 3:20–22; 5:27). In this view, the church is not synonymous with any one local church, denomination, or organization. It is not completely visible to humans and relates to all believers from all places and periods.

The Local Church

The term "church" is almost always used in the New Testament to refer to the local church, which is the gathered community of God's people who have covenanted together to worship the triune God, love one another, and preach the gospel to the world (Acts 14:23; 16:5). This is the most common use of the term "church"; the Bible stresses the church as a local organization of identifiable Christians devoted to Christ and each other, working together to praise God and accomplish his purpose.

The local church is the primary gathering place for fellowship and worship, as well as the primary vehicle through which God evangelizes, disciple-makes, and ministers. The local church is where the Word is preached and taught (2 Timothy 3:16–4:2). The ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper are practiced in the local church (Matthew 28:18–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–26). These are the reasons Paul establishes local churches, chooses leaders for them, dispatches delegates to them, and writes epistles to them. Local churches are important in his theology, and they play an important role in his outreach plan. The local church community shares life together, grows in maturity together, ministers together, worships together, and witnesses together.

The Church as the People of God

Israel was a mixed community of believers and unbelievers under the ancient covenant. The church is the people of God under the new covenant in the New Testament. While evangelicals debate on how to interpret covenant and define how believers' children relate to church membership, they all agree that the church is God's people. Jeremiah prophesies that the new covenant will be preferable than the old. The Israelites whom God freed from Egypt broke the ancient Mosaic covenant and perished in the desert as a result of their crimes and unbelief.

Because it will be centered on God's work, the new covenant will be far bigger. The Lord promises that he will be the God of his people and that they will be his.

He will write his law on their hearts, and they will know and obey him (Jer. 31:31–34). Paul, like Jesus, teaches that his death ratifies the new covenant (Luke 22:20). (1 Cor. 11:25). Despite the fact that Scripture claims that God's people stay the same throughout time, Jesus' death and resurrection herald in new beginnings for those who follow him. He's the "mediator of a new covenant," bringing Jeremiah's prophecies to fruition.

The pictures of the church clarify the church as God's people. The church, as God's people, is also the body of Christ (Col. 1:18), a group of individuals who are joined to Christ. The church is Christ's wife (Eph. 5:25–32), people who are becoming more holy in Christ. The church is the new humanity, those who have been reconciled to God (Eph. 2:15; 4:13, 24). The church is God's family (Rom. 8:15, 17; Gal. 4:4–5; 1 John 3:1), a community of believers who recognize God as Father and each other as brothers and sisters. The church belongs to him as God's people, and, wonderfully, he belongs to the church.

This reality will be completely recognized only after God raises his own from the grave, praises them, and dwells among them in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21:1–4).

The Church and Its Mission

In Matthew 28:18–20, Jesus gives his followers the Great Commission, which serves as the church's marching orders. He begins by proclaiming himself to be the exalted Son, Lord of all, both in heaven and on earth, and over all nations (28:18; see also Dan. 7:14). The universality of the commission is significant; Jesus has all power, advises the disciples to make disciples of all nations, instructs them to teach what he has instructed them to teach, and charges them to do so "all the days" until the end of the age.

The church not only has its roots in Israel, but it also has its genesis in God's eternal intentions, its foundation in Christ's rescuing act, its inauguration by the Holy Spirit, its life from unity with Christ, and its end as God's glory. The church also serves as a display for God's everlasting goal of bringing cosmic reconciliation and emphasizing Christ as the focal point of all history.

The church is to be a showcase for not just God's goals, but also for God himself. God demonstrates his grace, wisdom, love, unity, and sanctity in and through the church (the letter to the Ephesians emphasizes this). Furthermore, as God manifests himself, he praises himself.


The church is the new covenant people of God. The term "church" can be used to refer to both living and deceased Christians (global church) as well as local Christian communities (local church). The church has its origins in Old Testament promises to God's people, most notably that God will bless the world through Abraham's descendants. While the people of God in the Old Testament and the church have some similarities, the church is the community of Jesus that was created on Pentecost.

As a result, the church carries out God's promise to the prophets to establish a new and better covenant with his people and to inscribe his law on their hearts. The church's mission (Matthew 28:18–20) is to go into the world with the authority of the risen Christ and make disciples, baptizing and training them to follow Jesus until he returns, all to the glory of God.

The church has its origins in God's everlasting intentions. It is Jesus' new covenant community, based in Israel, built by Jesus, and inaugurated by the Holy Spirit. The church is God's chosen people, selected by the Father and generously brought into contact with the triune God and with one another.

The church is the redeemed communion of saints, purchased by Christ's blood, universal and invisible, embracing all believers throughout history, both on earth and in heaven. God's adopted family, once slaves to sin but now in a loving connection with God as Father and one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The church is Christ's body, with him as its head, depending on him, given by the Holy Spirit, created as a unity with variety, and dependant on one another, serving as Christ's instruments in the world. The church is Christ's wife, deeply loved by him, rescued by his sacrificial work on the cross, entirely committed to him, and progressively decked in beauty for him, the Bridegroom. The church is the temple of the Holy Spirit, filled with Christ's fullness and marked by God's presence.

The church is the new humanity, made up of Jewish and Gentile Christians unified in Christ, exhibiting how life was always meant to be. The church is the branches that remain in the actual vine, Christ, in connection with him and reliant on him. The church is the covenant community that gathers on a regular basis for worship, fellowship, ministry, communion, discipleship, and mission. The church is the kingdom community, existing both now and in the future, fulfilling God's everlasting plan of cosmic oneness, all for God's glory.