What is the Church?


Shelby G. Floyd


Contrary to the popular notion that one may join the church of his choice, the Bible teaches that there is just one church. In fact, Jesus Christ never promised to build but one church. In the area of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18). Jesus did not say, “I will build my churches,” but he said, “I will build my church,” singular. Jesus built but one church, and he called it “my church.”

The One Church in Ephesians

In the book of Ephesians, the one church which Jesus promised to build is mentioned several times as an established reality. In the first chapter, Paul affirmed the supreme authority of Christ as the head of the church, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1: 22-23). This one church is spoken of as the body of Christ. The word body is in the singular.

Christ is the Head of the One Body—the Church

Christ is the one head, and the church is his one body which together forms a unit. This is a figurative reference to the human organism which has one head and one body. The idea of modern denominationalism is foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. In New Testament times there were many congregations, but they all formed one body or one church.

The Jew and Gentile Are Reconciled unto God in One Body

In Ephesians chapter two, Paul speaks of the alienation of the Jew and the Gentile being reconciled together in one body by the cross of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2: 16). The gospel is a gospel of peace to both the Jew and the Gentile, for it is through Christ that both have access unto the Father by the one Spirit into the one body.

Reconciliation in the One Body is a Great Mystery Revealed

Paul, in chapter three, speaks of the reconciliation of the Jew and Gentile in one body as a great mystery, which in previous ages had not been revealed unto the sons and daughters of men as it was being revealed at that time. The unity of both the Jew and Gentile in the one church, or the one body, manifested God’s great wisdom. Paul had been given a part in declaring this mystery to the whole world. He endeavored, “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3: 9-10).

It is the church singular which makes known the manifold wisdom of God, and not modern denominationalism. It is in the one church that God’s glory and wisdom is manifested throughout all ages. “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3: 21).

The Seven-fold Unity in the One Body

In chapter four, Paul speaks of the unity of the church under the phrase, “the unity of the Spirit.” The unity of the church is outlined under seven units: “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called. in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4: 3-6). We notice in these verses that there is just one body, and we have already learned that the one body is the church. Therefore, God does not have but one church or one body. It would be just as reasonable to say that there are many Gods or many Lords as to say there are many churches or bodies.

The Headship of Christ over the One Body

Paul compares the headship of Christ over the church to that of the husband over the wife, in chapter five. He said, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior” (Ephesians 5: 23). The singular nouns body and church are used instead of the plural. This teaches, as in every other place, that Christ has but one church or body, and he is the savior of that body as well as being its head and ruler.

We Are Baptized For the Forgiveness of Sins into One Body

Next, let us notice the statement which Paul made to the Corinthians in which the phrase “one body” is used four times. Paul said, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12: 12-13). In these verses the phrase “one body” is found four times, and is repeated to emphasize the singularity and oneness of the church. Again, the spiritual body of Christ, the church, is compared to that of a human organism which has many members, and yet all the members make one body. So, there are many members in the church, and yet all of these members compose one body.

We notice that just as there is one body, so, there is one Spirit, and it is by this one Spirit that we are all baptized into one body. It is by the direction of the Spirit that we are baptized into one body. The Spirit directs us to be baptized into the one body through the teaching of the New Testament. Therefore, the one Spirit works by and through the word of God, and not by any direct or immediate operation.

“Yet But One Body”

How many churches did Christ build? How many churches does he have today? He has but one church. Paul says emphatically, “But now are they many members, yet but one body” (1 Corinthians 12: 20). Let us endeavor to teach the whole world that Christ has but one church, and that everyone may be a member of that one church by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Copyright © 2014 Shelby Floyd All Rights Reserved


Shelby G. Floyd




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