Understanding what the church is is crucial for us when it comes to truly living out our faith in a way that will make a difference in our personal lives and in our witness to the world.
When talking about the church, the vast majority usually identify it as a building. Romans 16:5 says, “Greet the church that is in their house.” Paul is referring here to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.
There are two ways the church is represented, and both are crucial to understand what Christ sees as his Bride (another name for the Church). Biblically, we may regard the church in two ways: as the universal church or as the local church.
The universal church consists of everyone, everywhere, who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 beautifully portrays this: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” This shows us that the universal church transcends culture, denomination, branch. It’s all part of the body of Christ and represents the beauty of variety and difference of people God has made. This should make anyone tread carefully when condemning another denomination or branch, because it becomes a direct attack to the body of Christ.
The local church, is any localized ministry that is carrying out the great commission to the direct community and is representative of a local body of believers or organization. Here is a way to look at it: as people who go to c|Life, we are carrying out the great commission to our local communities. c|Life is part of the local church, which is one small part in the larger universal church, which is everyone who belongs to Jesus Christ.
Now here is an important distinction to remember: just because someone is a member of the local church (a gathering of people in your community), doesn’t mean they are members of the universal church (all those who belong to Christ). Church and Community Group (CG) attendance is not something that merits salvation. That is something that is given by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. So unless and until a person has repented, placed their faith in Christ, and are truly seeking for Jesus to be the Lord of their life, their church and CG attendance will be that alone: just attendance.
This is because a lot of people miss something key to salvation: Good works and obedience are results of salvation, not requirements for salvation.
This is fundamental. Obedience is not for salvation, obedience is a because of salvation. Obedience doesn’t cause salvation, salvation causes obedience. Salvation is not the result of obedience, obedience is the result of salvation. Though God truly wants us to be in community with one another, bearing one another’s burdens and learning and growing from other believers, it’s all is for nothing if that person never places their faith in Jesus.
It’s important to take pause and ask yourself this and of others around you: Do I attend church only because I find it uplifting, to check it off my to-do list, or because I think I am earning God’s favor? If your answer is yes to any of this or something else like it, then it’s time to take the next step in your journey. God wants to utterly transform your life, if you will let Him. Don’t wait any longer.