The global church. The body of Christ. The family of God. The bride of Christ. The communion of saints. The elect. There are many expressions for the church found throughout Scripture, but do we really understand what the church is?
We need the support, admonishment, and love of fellow Christians.
What Is the Church?
Who comprises the church? Is it simply those who sit in the pews? What is the visible church and even the invisible church? Is it a building or a facility? No, the church is not a building; it's not a facility with lights. And while the visible church is made up of those who make a profession of faith in Christ, those who are members of the local church, not all who honor Christ with their mouths necessarily honor Him in their hearts, as Jesus warned (see Matthew 7:21-23). God alone reads the hearts of men and women, and all His children are visible to Him, which is what we know as the invisible church—all true believers in Christ across all time and from all areas of the world.
Ultimately, when we talk about the church in its fullest sense, we are referring to all people across time and space who belong to God, those who have been purchased by the blood of Christ. In its truest essence, the church (or, in the Greek, ekklesia) is a gathering.
The Core Attributes of the Church
Although the church may be fragmented by denominations, the family of God is ultimately united under one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one hope. It is holy because it's sanctified by God and indwelt by His Holy Spirit. It is universal because it includes people from all nations united under the Lordship of Christ. Finally, it is apostolic because it is founded on and governed by the authoritative teaching of the apostles as found in Scripture.
The Blessing of the Body of Believers
It's a duty and a privilege for every Christian to be united to the church of Christ. Therefore, it's our responsibility not to neglect meeting together in worship (see Hebrews 10:25). The enemy particularly preys on those who are out of fellowship with the body of Christ, for when they are, it's likely they are also out of fellowship with the Word of Christ, the Scriptures. You see, the church is not a club but a living and active organism made up of living parts, the body of Christ. We depend on one another to function well, which means we are also diverse. We're diverse in our giftings and our appearance, but we're unified in our direction and our headship.
Love the Church & Make Her a Priority
When life gets busy and we have lots of people and activities vying for our time and attention, church tends to be the first thing that people cut out. But this is counterintuitive. Why? Because God works through the community of believers. The gathering of our brothers and sisters in Christ is a source of fellowship that encourages us with Truth, points us to Christ, and exhorts us to love and good deeds. Therefore, if we find ourselves in a busy or trying situation, why would we pull back from a group who is going to point us to the Truth and help carry our burdens?
As we gather together, the body of Christ reminds us that our hope is in Christ alone and not in our health, wealth, or status. The body of Christ reminds us that our salvation is not based on our works but on Christ's finished work—and that as we trust Him, He will provide opportunities for us to do good things in His name for His glory. The body of Christ exhorts us that this earth is not our home and that we set our eyes on a city not built by human hands but whose builder is God, where we will have eternal rest without tears, pain, or suffering.
When we isolate ourselves from the community of believers and from the Word of God, we forget these things all too easily. We need the support, admonishment, and love of fellow Christians so that in the midst of the struggles of life, we don't lose our way. Likewise, the church needs us. We are to participate in the royal priesthood, lifting others up in their struggles and calling them to Christ.
God knows the human heart. God knows that we need each other. God knows that we need to be sitting under the authority of His Word and under the authority of His ministers. That's why He's given us the fellowship of believers, so "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).