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By Curtis Pugh

Jesus said, “...I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” (Matthew 16:18). The Lord Jesus spoke of a particular thing: his “church.” The Greek word is “ekklesia” (pronounced ek lay SEE ah) and means a gathering. It comes from two words: “called” and “out” and is consistently used in the Bible and in secular literature of the time to refer to an assembly or gathering. It was used of a gathering of those called out to conduct business for a city, for instance.

The “ekklesia” that Jesus built was a real one that met with Him wherever He was during His ministry and after He ascended waited in Jerusalem as He had commanded them. This gathering of saved baptized disciples was empowered by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost – a Jewish feast day – following the Lord's ascension to Heaven.

It was to this real church or congregation that Jesus gave His commission in Matthew 28:19-20 when He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” He did not give this commission or authority to individuals, but to the (local) church – the only kind He founded.

Some people have imbibed the idea of a universal church. Some think the universal church is visible and claim to be members of it. Others think the universal church is invisible and that it is made up of all saved people. The only problems with these two ideas are that they cannot be found in the Bible and are contrary to the very meaning of “ekklesia.”

Those who believe in this “invisible church” cannot find who started it: when it was started: how you become a member of it: what authority it has to act: what it has ever done: and who is the head of it. The Bible, on the other hand, tells that Christ started His church and when He did so (during His earthly ministry). We know that a saved disciple becomes a member of one of the Lord's churches by baptism and that each church has authority derived from Christ and that Christ is the Head of each of His churches just like a husband is the head of his wife.

A universal church is no more to be found in the Bible than is a universal husband or a universal wife. We may speak of Christ's churches in the singular as we do of a lion when we say “the lion is a ferocious beast,” but we know there is no gigantic universal lion – invisible or otherwise. The question which can be answered and needs to be is this: are you a member of one of the Lord's churches? Nobody can find the universal one, but the real one can be found.

Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726

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