7 occurrences in 7 dictionaries

Reference: Church


The Greek word translated church signifies generally an assembly, either common or religious; and it is sometimes so translated, as in Ac 19:32,39. In the New Testament it usually means a congregation of religious worshippers, either Jewish, as Ac 7:38, or Christians, as Mt 16:18; 1Co 6:4. The latter sense is the more common one; and it is thus used in a twofold manner, denoting,

1. The universal Christian church: either the invisible church, consisting of those whose names are written in heaven, whom God knows, but whom we cannot infallibly know, Heb 12:23; or the visible church, made up of the professed followers of Christ on earth, Col 1:24; 1Ti 3:5,15.

2. A particular church or body of professing believers, who meet and worship together in one place; as the churches of Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, etc., to which Paul addressed epistles.

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Derived probably from the Greek kuriakon (i.e., "the Lord's house"), which was used by ancient authors for the place of worship.

In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word ecclesia, which is synonymous with the Hebrew kahal of the Old Testament, both words meaning simply an assembly, the character of which can only be known from the connection in which the word is found. There is no clear instance of its being used for a place of meeting or of worship, although in post-apostolic times it early received this meaning. Nor is this word ever used to denote the inhabitants of a country united in the same profession, as when we say the "Church of England," the "Church of Scotland," etc.

We find the word ecclesia used in the following senses in the New Testament: (1.) It is translated "assembly" in the ordinary classical sense (Ac 19:32,39,41).

(2.) It denotes the whole body of the redeemed, all those whom the Father has given to Christ, the invisible catholic church (Eph 5:23,25,27,29; Heb 12:23).

(3.) A few Christians associated together in observing the ordinances of the gospel are an ecclesia (Ro 16:5; Col 4:15).

(4.) All the Christians in a particular city, whether they assembled together in one place or in several places for religious worship, were an ecclesia. Thus all the disciples in Antioch, forming several congregations, were one church (Ac 13:1); so also we read of the "church of God at Corinth" (1Co 1:2), "the church at Jerusalem" (Ac 8:1), "the church of Ephesus" (Re 2:1), etc.

(5.) The whole body of professing Christians throughout the world (1Co 15:9; Ga 1:13; Mt 16:18) are the church of Christ.

The church visible "consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children." It is called "visible" because its members are known and its assemblies are public. Here there is a mixture of "wheat and chaff," of saints and sinners. "God has commanded his people to organize themselves into distinct visible ecclesiastical communities, with constitutions, laws, and officers, badges, ordinances, and discipline, for the great purpose of giving visibility to his kingdom, of making known the gospel of that kingdom, and of gathering in all its elect subjects. Each one of these distinct organized communities which is faithful to the great King is an integral part of the visible church, and all together constitute the catholic or universal visible church." A credible profession of the true religion constitutes a person a member of this church. This is "the kingdom of heaven," whose character and progress are set forth in the parables recorded in Mt 13.

The children of all who thus profess the true religion are members of the visible church along with their parents. Children are included in every covenant God ever made with man. They go along with their parents (Ge 9:9-17; 12:1-3; 17:7; Ex 20:5; De 29:10-13). Peter, on the day of Pentecost, at the beginning of the New Testament dispensation, announces the same great principle. "The promise [just as to Abraham and his seed the promises were made] is unto you, and to your children" (Ac 2:38-39). The children of believing parents are "holy", i.e., are "saints", a title which designates the members of the Christian church (1Co 7:14). (See Baptism, Christian.)

The church invisible "consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ, the head thereof." This is a pure society, the church in which Christ dwells. It is the body of Christ. it is called "invisible" because the greater part of those who constitute it are already in heaven or are yet unborn, and also because its members still on earth cannot certainly be distinguished. The qualifications of membership in it are internal and are hidden. It is unseen except by Him who "searches the heart." "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2Ti 2:19).

The church to which the attributes, prerogatives, and promises appertaining to Christ's kingdom belong, is a spiritual body consisting of all true believers, i.e., the church invisible.

(1.) Its unity. God has ever had only one church on earth. We sometimes speak of the Old Testament Church and of the New Testament church, but they are one and the same. The Old Testament church was not to be changed but enlarged (Isa 49:13-23; 60:1-14). When the Jews are at length restored, they will not enter a new church, but will be grafted again into "their own olive tree" (Ro 11:18-24; comp. Eph 2:11-22). The apostles did not set up a new organization. Under their ministry disciples were "added" to the "church" already existing (Ac 2:47).

(2.) Its universality. It is the "catholic" church; not confined to any particular country or outward organization, but comprehending all believers throughout the whole world.

(3.) Its perpetuity. It will continue through all ages to the end of the world. It can never be destroyed. It is an "everlasting kindgdom."

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From the Greek kuriakee, "house of the Lord," a word which passed to the Gothic tongue; the Goths being the first of the northern hordes converted to Christianity, adopted the word from the Greek Christians of Constantinople, and so it came to us Anglo-Saxons (Trench, Study of Words). But Lipsius, from circus, from whence kirk, a circle, because the oldest temples, as the Druid ones, were circular in form. Ekkleesia in the New Testament never means the building or house of assembly, because church buildings were built long AFTER the apostolic age. It means an organized body, whose unity does not depend on its being met together in one place; not an assemblage of atoms, but members in their several places united to the One Head, Christ, and forming one organic living whole (1 Corinthians 12). The bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-32; 1:22), the body of which He is the Head.

The household of Christ and of God (Mt 10:25; Eph 2:19). The temple of the Holy Spirit, made up of living stones (Eph 2:22; 1Co 3:16; 1Pe 2:5). Ekkleesia is used of one or more particular Christian associations, even one small enough to worship together in one house (Ro 16:5). Also of "the whole church" (Ro 16:23; 1Co 12:28). Ekkleesia occurs twice only in Matthew (Mt 16:18; 18:17), elsewhere called "the kingdom of the heavens" by Matthew, "the kingdom of God" by Mark, Luke and John. Also called Christ's "flock," never to be plucked out of His hand (Joh 10:28), "branches" in Him "the true Vine." Founded on the Rock, "the Christ the Son of the living God," the only Foundation (Mt 16:16,18; 1Co 3:11).

Constituted as Christ's mystical body on Pentecost; thenceforth expanding in the successive stages traced in ACTS. Described in a beautiful summary (Ac 2:41,47). (On its apostasy (See BABYLON .) Professing Christendom numbers now probably 80 million of Greek churches, 90 million of Teutonic or Protestant churches, and 170 million of Roman Catholic churches. The Church of England's definition of the church is truly scriptural (Article xix): "a congregation of faithful men in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." The church that shall reign with Christ is made up of those written in heaven, in the Lamb's book of life, the spirits of just, men made perfect (Heb 12:22-23; Re 21:27).

The faultless perfection and the glorious promises in Scripture assigned to the church (election, adoption, spiritual priesthood, sure guidance by the Spirit into all truth, eternal salvation) belong not to all of the visible church, but to those alone of it who are in living union with Christ (Eph 5:23-27; Heb 12:22-23). The claim for the visible church of what belongs to the invisible, in spite of Christ's warning parable of the tares and wheat (Mt 13:24-30,36-43), has led to some of Rome's deadliest errors. On the other hand, the attempt to sever the tares from the wheat prematurely has led to many schisms, which have invariably failed in the attempt and only generated fresh separations. We must wait until Christ's manifestation for the manifestation of the sons of God (Ro 8:19; Col 3:4).

The true universal church is restricted to "them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1Co 1:2). They are visible in so far as their light of good works so shines before men that their Father in heaven is glorified (Mt 5:16). They are invisible insofar that it is God alone who can infallibly see who among professors are animated by a living, loving faith, and who are not. A visible community, consisting of various members and aggregations of members, was founded by Christ Himself, as needed for the extension and continuation of Christianity to all lands and all ages. The ministry of the word and the two sacraments, baptism, and the supper of the Lord, (both in part derived from existing Jewish rites, Mt 26:26-28; 1Co 5:7-8).

Baptism, the Lord's Supper were appointed as the church's distinctive ordinances (Mt 28:19-20, Greek text): "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ... Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and (only on condition of your doing so) I am with you always," etc. (See BAPTISM; LORD'S SUPPER.) The professing church that neglects the precept forfeits the promise, which is fatal to Rome's claims. No detailed church government is explicitly commanded by Jesus in the New Testament. The Old Testament ministry of high priest, priests, and Levites necessarily ended with the destruction of the one and only temple appointed by God. That the Christian ministry is not sacerdotal, as the Old Testament ministry, is proved by the title hiereus, the Greek of the Latin sacerdos, never once being used of Christian ministers.

When used at all as to the Christian church it is used of the whole body of Christians; since not merely ministers, as the Aaronic priests, but all equally, have near access to the heavenly holy place, through the torn veil of Christ's flesh (Heb 10:19-22; 13:15-16; 1Pe 2:19; Re 1:6). All alike offer "spiritual sacrifices." For a minister to pretend to offer a literal sacrifice in the Lord's supper, or to have the sacerdotal priesthood (which pertains to Christ alone), would be the sin which Moses charged on Korah: "Seemeth it but a small thing unto you that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation to bring you near to Himself, ... to stand before the congregation to minister to them; and seek ye the priesthood also?" The temple then not being the model to the Christian church, the synagogue alone remained to be copied.

In the absence of the temple during the captivity the people assembled together on sabbaths and other days to be instructed by the prophet (Eze 14:1; 20:1; 33:31). In Ne 8:1-8 a specimen is given of such a service, which the synagogues afterward continued, and which consisted in Scripture reading, with explanation, prayers, and thanksgivings. The synagogue officers consisted of a "ruler of the synagogue," the "legate of the church" (sheliach tsibbur), corresponding to the angel of the church (Revelation 1-3), a college of elders or presbyters, and subordinate ministers (chazzan), answering to our deacons, to take care of the sacred books. Episcopacy was adopted in apostolic times as the most expedient government, most resembling Jewish usages, and so causing the least stumbling-block to Jewish prejudices (Ac 4:8; 24:1).

James, the brother of our Lord, after the martyrdom of James, the son of Zebedee and the flight of Peter (Ac 12:17), alone remained behind in Jerusalem, the recognized head there. His Jewish tendencies made him the least unpopular to the Jews, and so adapted him for the presidency there without the title (Ac 15:13-19; 21:18; Ga 2:2,9,12). This was the first specimen of apostolic local episcopacy without the name. The presbyters of the synagogue were called also (See BISHOPS, or overseers. "Those now called 'bishops' were originally 'apostles.' But those who ruled the church after the apostles' death had not the testimony of miracles, and were in many respects inferior, therefore they thought it unbecoming to assume the name of apostles; but dividing the names, they left to 'presbyters' that name, and themselves were called 'bishops'" (Ambrose, in Bingham Ecclesiastes Ant., 2:11; and Amularius, De Officiis, 2:13.)

The steps were apostle; then vicar apostolic or apostolic delegate, as Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete, temporarily (1Ti 1:3; 2Ti 4:21; Tit 3:12; 1:5), then angel, then bishop in the present sense. Episcopacy gives more of centralized unity, but when made an absolute law it tends to spiritual despotism. The visible church, while avoiding needless alterations, has power under God to modify her polity as shall tend most to edification (Mt 18:18; 1Co 12:28-30; 14:26; Eph 4:11-16). The Holy Spirit first unites souls individually to the Father in Christ, then with one another as "the communion of saints." Then followed the government and ministry, which are not specifie

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1. The word ecclesia, which in its Christian application is usually tr 'church,' was applied in ordinary Greek usage to the duly constituted gathering of the citizens in a self-governing city, and it is so used of the Ephesian assembly in Ac 19:39. It was adopted in the Septuagint to tr a Heb. word, q

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This English word is said to be derived from the Greek ???????? , which signifies 'pertaining to the Lord,' and is commonly used both for an association of professing Christians, and for the building in which they worship. It is the scriptural use of the word ????????, or 'assembly,' that is here under consideration.

The word is used in reference to Israel in the N.T. on one occasion in Ac 7:38, and to a Gentile throng in Ac 19:32,41. Its first occurrence in relation to Christianity is in Mt 16:18, where upon Peter's confession that Jesus was the Son of the living God, the Lord rejoins, "upon this rock I will build my assembly," etc. Historically this spiritual building, (for 'building' never refers to a material edifice) was begun after His death and resurrection, when the Holy Ghost descended at the day of Pentecost. In this aspect of the church there is no room for any failure

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1. The derivation of the word is generally said to be from the Greek kuriakon (kuriakon) "belonging to the Lord." But the derivation has been too hastily assumed. It is probably connected with kirk, the Latin circus, circulus, the Greek kuklos (kuklos) because the congregations were gathered in circles.

2. Ecclesia (ekklesia) the Greek word for church, originally meant an assembly called out by the magistrate, or by legitimate authority. It was in this last sense that the word was adapted and applied by the writers of the New Testament to the Christian congregation. In the one Gospel of St. Matthew the church is spoken of no less than thirty-six times as "the kingdom." Other descriptions or titles are hardly found in the evangelists. It is Christ's household,

Mt 10:25

the salt and light of the world,

Mt 5:13,15

Christ's flock,

Mt 26:31; Joh 10:15

its members are the branches growing on Christ the Vine, John 15; but the general description of it, not metaphorical but direct, is that it is a kingdom,

Mt 16:19

From the Gospel then we learn that Christ was about to establish his heavenly kingdom on earth, which was to be the substitute for the Jewish Church and kingdom, now doomed to destruction

Mt 21:43

The day of Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian church. Before they had been individual followers Jesus; now they became his mystical body, animated by his spirit. On the evening of the day of Pentecost, the 3140 members of which the Church consisted were -- (1) Apostles; (2) previous Disciples; (3) Converts. In

Ac 2:41

we have indirectly exhibited the essential conditions of church communion. They are (1) Baptism, baptism implying on the part of the recipient repentance and faith; (2) Apostolic Doctrine; (3) Fellowship with the Apostles; (4) The Lord's Supper; (5) Public Worship. The real Church consists of all who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ as his disciples, and are one in love, in character, in hope, in Christ as the head of all, though as the body of Christ it consists of many parts.

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CHURCH. The Greek word ????????, so rendered, denotes an assembly met about business, whether spiritual or temporal, Ac 19:32,39. It is understood also of the collective body of Christians, or all those over the face of the earth who profess to believe in Christ, and acknowledge him to be the Saviour of mankind; this is called the visible church. But, by the word church, we are more strictly to understand the whole body of God's true people, in every period of time: this is the invisible or spiritual church. The people of God on earth are called the church militant, and those in heaven the church triumphant. It has been remarked by Dr. John Owen, that sin having entered into the world, God was pleased to found his church (the catholic or universal church) in the promise of the Messiah given to Adam; that this promise contained in it something of the nature of a covenant, including the grace which God designed to show to sinners in the Messiah, and the obedience which he required from them; and that consequently, from its first promulgation, that promise became the sole foundation of the church and of the whole worship of God therein. Prior to the days of Abraham, this church, though scattered up and down the world, and subject to many changes in its worship through the addition of new revelations, was still but one and the same, because founded in the same covenant, and interested thereby in all the benefits or privileges that God had granted, or would at any time grant. In process of time, God was pleased to restrict his church, as far as visible acknowledgment went, in a great measure, to the seed of Abraham. With the latter he renewed his covenant, requiring that he should walk before him and be upright. He also constituted him the father of the faithful, or of all them that believe, and the "heir of the world." So that since the days of Abraham, the church has, in every age, been founded upon the covenant made with that patriarch, and on the work of redemption which was to be performed according to that covenant. Now wheresoever this covenant made with Abraham is, and with whomsoever it is established, with them is the church of God, and to them all the promises and privileges of the church really belong. Hence we may learn that at the coming of the Messiah, there was not one church taken away and another set up in its room; but the church continued the same, in those that were the children of Abraham, according to the faith. It is common with divines to speak of the Jewish and the Christian churches, as though they were two distinct and totally different things; but that is not a correct view of the matter. The Christian church is not another church, but the very same that was before the coming of Christ, having the same faith with it, and interested in the same covenant. Great alterations indeed were made in the outward state and condition of the church, by the coming of the Messiah. The carnal privilege of the Jews, in their separation from other nations to give birth to the Messiah, then failed, and with that also their claim on that account to be the children of Abraham. The ordinances of worship suited to that state of things then expired, and came to an end. New ordinances of worship were appointed, suitable to the new light and grace which were then bestowed upon the church. The Gentiles came into the faith of Abraham along with the Jews, being made joint partakers with them in his blessing. But none of these things, nor the whole collectively, did make such an alteration in the church, but that it was still one and the same. The olive tree was still the same, only some branches were broken off, and others grafted into it. The Jews fell, and the Gentiles came in their room. And this may enable us to determine the difference between the Jews and Christians relative to the Old Testament promises. They are all made to the church. No individual has any interest in them except by virtue of his membership with the church. The church is, and always was, one and the same. The Jewish plea, is, that the church is with them, because they are the children of Abraham according to the flesh. Christians reply, that their privilege on that ground was of another nature, and ended with the coming of the Messiah: that the church of God, unto whom all the promises belong, are only those who are heirs of the faith of Abraham, believing as he did, and are consequently interested in his covenant. These are Zion, Jerusalem, Israel, Jacob, the temple, or church of God.

2. By a particular church we understand an assembly of Christians united together, and meeting in one place, for the solemn worship of God. To this agrees the definition given by the compilers of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England: "A congregation of faithful men, in which the true word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered according to Christ's ordinances, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same," Ac 9:31; 20:17; Ga 1:2,22; 1Co 14:34; Col 4:15. The word is now also used to denote any particular denomination of Christians, distinguished by particular doctrines, ceremonies, &c, as the Romish church, the Greek church, the English church, &c.

3. On the subject of the church, opinions as opposite or varying as possible have been held, from that of the Papists, who contend for its visible unity throughout the world under a visible head, down to that of the Independents, who consider the universal church as composed of congregational churches, each perfect in itself, and entirely independent of every other. The first opinion is manifestly contradicted by the language of the Apostles, who, while they teach that there is but one church, composed of believers throughout the world, think it not at all inconsistent with this to speak of "the churches of Judea," "of Achaia," "the seven churches of Asia," "the church at Ephesus," &c. Among themselves the Apostles had no common head; but planted churches and gave directions for their government, in most cases without any apparent correspondence with each other. The Popish doctrine is certainly not found in their writings; and so far were they from making provision for the government of this one supposed church, by the appointment of one visible and exclusive head, that they provide for the future government of the respective churches raised up by them in a totally different manner, that is, by the ordination of ministers for each church, who are indifferently called bishops, and presbyters, and pastors. The only unity of which they speak is the unity of the whole church in Christ, the invisible head, by faith; and the unity produced by "fervent love toward each other." Nor has the Popish doctrine of the visible unity of the church any countenance from early antiquity. The best ecclesiastical historians have showed, that, through the greater part of the second century, the Christian churches were independent of each other. "Each Christian assembly," says Mosheim, "was a little state governed by its own laws, which were either enacted, or at least, approved, by the society. But in process of time, all the churches of a province were formed into one large ecclesiastical body, which, like confederate states, assembled at certain times in order to deliberate about the common interests of the whole." So far indeed this union of churches appears to have been a wise and useful arrangement, although afterward it was carried to an injurious extreme, until finally it gave birth to the assumptions of the bishop of Rome, as universal bishop; a claim, however, which, when most successful, was but partially submitted to, the eastern churches having, for the most part, always maintained their independence. To very large association of churches of any kind existed till toward the close of the second century, which sufficiently refutes the papal argument from antiquity. The independence of the early Christian churches does not, however, appear to have resembled that of the churches which, in modern times, are called Independent. During the lives of the Apostles and Evangelists they were certainly subject to their counsel and control,

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