What is the Church? Part I – January 7, 2024

Ephesians 2:11-22

11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

We live in an age that is characterized by confusion. Postmodernism and the subjectivity of truth has led to a redefining of many things that were once clearly and rightly understood, even within and surrounding Christianity. Among those things is the concept of what the Church of Jesus Christ is. The word that is translated “church” in the Bible is ekklesia and it is found throughout the New Testament. The word has a couple of meanings. The etymology (breakdown) of the word gives the literal meaning of “the called-out ones” from ek- (out) and kaleo (to call). The word means those who are called out and separated. The word in Jesus’s day was actually used to describe an assembly or gathering people. Particularly, the word was used to refer to a select group of representatives who met at the gate of the city to govern and oversee the affairs of the city. They were authoritative representatives who were appointed or elected to represent the people and govern the city. The Church of Jesus Christ is just that. It is a group of people scattered all over the world who gather in local church congregations as Christ’s called out representatives in the world. What is the Church? The Apostle Paul provides an answer defining what the Church is and who makes it up in Ephesians 2:11-22.

Ephesians is one of the great treasures of Scripture. It contains some of the deepest theology of what the believer has in Jesus Christ. It describes the “all spiritual blessings” that believers are blessed with in Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14) and the amazing power that God has demonstrated through Him in bringing salvation to His people (1:15-23). In 2:1-10, Paul describes the greatness of our salvation “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8) in reminding believers that we were one time “dead” in “trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1-3), but God saved us by grace in His great love for us (Ephesians 2:4-7). After putting our salvation in perspective, he moves in verses 11-22 to describe that salvation from a more corporate perspective. He is essentially telling us how our salvation now ties in with us being a part of God’s chosen people. These verses are critical in answering the question, “What is the Church?” There are three overarching things that are true for the people that make up the church.

First, Paul describes the Church as comprised of those who are redeemed by God. In verses 11-12, he parallels what he has already stated in verses 1-3 of the same chapter, but does so from a corporate perspective as it relates to being a part of God’s people. Believers were dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1), walked according to Satan’s system (2:2), and lived by the lusts of their flesh (2:3). Now he deals with that as it relates to being a part of God’s people and plan and describes Gentile believers in our once lost state. We were cut off from God’s people by “being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” We were cut off from God’s promises by being “strangers from the covenants of promise.”  We were cut off from God’s person as those “having no hope, and without God in the world.” However, through the blood of Jesus those three things have been done away with and believers are brought near to God and made a part of His people. God redeemed us fallen people for Himself to make us His chosen people and representatives in this world.

The Church not only is comprised of those who are redeemed by God, but the Church is described as the people who have access to God. People cannot approach God on any other basis than His grace and mercy through Jesus. The lost world does not know Christ and therefore has no access to God in the sense Paul speaks of here. What Christ did in His death on the cross for believers is to remove the division and enmity that existed between God and man and to give man access to Him. It was also to remove the obstacles contained in the ordinances of Judaism that separated Jew from Gentile so that God could reconcile both to Himself in one group, the Church. Jesus abolished what is described as “the middle wall of partition.” This was the wall that separated the court of women (where all Jews could enter) from the court of Gentiles (the outermost court beyond which no Gentile could go) in the temple complex. Gentiles were physically far from God in the temple grounds being far from God’s presence in the holy of holies in the temple. Jesus did away with that wall, spiritually speaking, and now both Jews and Gentiles have “access” to God through the blood of Jesus. The veil was torn in the temple (Matthew 27:51) and man has access to God. The Church is that group of people that has the right to approach God, not just as a King or Sovereign Creator, but as Father (Romans 8:14-16).

Lastly, the Church is comprised of those who are indwelt by God. Not only have believers been redeemed by God through Jesus and been given access to God through His Spirit, they have become the dwelling place of God. Paul describes believers as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This is because when a person trusts in Christ, they are indwelt by the Spirit of God. They become the dwelling place of God (Romans 8:9; John 14:17). Paul describes that from a corporate perspective by representing the Church as a building comprised of people being built up together as a collective habitation of God. He describes us as God’s “household” and a “holy temple” that are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (early church offices through whom God gave the truth of the New Testament Scriptures and teaching of Jesus) with Jesus as the cornerstone (Psalm 118:2-3; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:4-8). The Church is those who are indwelt by God’s Spirit and a part of God’s collective habitation.

What is the Church? It is those who are redeemed by God, have access to God, and are indwelt by God, all through the person and finished work of Jesus and the Spirit of God. The Church is God’s assembly of called out representatives that He has saved and sanctified to represent Him and be His witnesses in this world. Are you a part of His Church?