The word “church” is used to translate the Greek word ekklesia, which simply means an assembly of people. It doesn’t always have to mean an assembly of Christians (Acts 19:32, 39).
There are two types of assemblies mentioned in the Scriptures.
• One is talking about all Christians as a whole
• The other talks about Christians who live in a local community and work and worship together.
For clarity, we will refer to the first as the universal church and the second as the local church even though those terms not used in the Scriptures. We are merely using the terms for clarity.
The Church in a Universal Sense
• There is only one (Matthew 16:18; Hebrews 12:22-23; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4; I Corinthians 12:12-13)
• It has no particular location
• It is composed of all Christians, living and dead
• It is not composed of denominations (I Corinthians 1:10-13)
• It is not composed of local churches
• Membership comes when you become a Christian (Acts 2:47)
• In other words, God controls the membership (Hebrews 12:22-23; II Timothy 2:19).
• It consists only of the saved
The Church in a Local Sense
• There are many (Romans 16:16; II Corinthians 11:28; Galatians 1:2; Revelation 2-3)
• Each has its own location (I Corinthians 1:2; 11:18; 14:23; Acts 14:27)
• They work independently (Philippians 4:15)
• It is composed of Christians living in an area
• The individual Christian is not the church (Matthew 18:15-18; I Timothy 5:16)
• The church is not the building, but the collective members
• Christians join a local church (Acts 9:26)
• In other words, the local church controls its membership (I Corinthians 5:11-12; II Corinthians 2:5-11; III John 9-10)
• Not all members will be saved (Revelation 2:14-16)