The church of the Bible does not have a proper name. by definition “church” (eklesia) means “the called out” and refers to those who have been called out of the world into fellowship with God by faith and obedience to the gospel (Hebrews 5:8-9;2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
THE TERMS SHOW DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF SAME INSTITUTION
The church is pictured in different ways according to which aspect one is considering
- It is called a body when one is considering the unity of its members-a key theme in Ephesians (1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4; 12, 16; 5:23; 30).
- It is called a vineyard when one considers it is the place when God’s servants work to grow the fruit of the Spirit (Matthews 20: 1-16; Galatians 5:22-23).
- It is called a family when one considers its members’ relationship to the Father and each other (Ephesians 2:19; 3:15).
- It is called an army when one recalls that it engages Satan’s forces in a to-the-death battle for the souls of men (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
- When its government is considered it is called a “kingdom” because it is monarchy (ruled by a monarchy or king).
This should not be confusing: I am a man, a son, a husband, a father, an American, a taxpayer, a fan, an employee, a writer, and a Christian.
Likewise, the church is referred to by several designations in Scripture. It is called
- the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16).
- the church of the Lord (Acts 20:28, ASV).
- the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2).
- the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).
- the church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:15).
- the church of the firstborn (Hebrews 12:23).
THE TERMS ARE USED INTERCHANGEABLY
The terms “church” and “kingdom” are used interchangeably in the New Testament. Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in haven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).
Obviously, Jesus is talking about the same institution in back-to-back sentences, much like I might say, “You may borrow my van. Here are the keys to the Honda.” Jesus promised to build His church and gave Peter (and all the apostles-Matthew 18:18) the keys (terms of admission) of the kingdom. If the church and the kingdom were not the same, Peter would have no right to use the keys of the kingdom on the church. It would be like using your Ford keys to try to drive my Honda. If the kingdom has not yet been established, as many teach, then Peter lived the rest of his natural life and never got to use the keys at all. Why did Jesus give him useless keys?
The kingdom or church was established on the first Pentecost following the resurrection as recorded in the Bible in Acts 2. On that day Peter used the keys of the kingdom to let three thousand people into the door of the church (Acts 2:47).
THE TWO HAVE THE SAME IDENTIFYING MARKS
It is hard to miss that the institutions are the same when carefully reading the New Testament. Consider:
- The church and the kingdom have the same head.
Christ is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:23) and He is also the king of the kingdom (Acts 17:7; Revelation 1:5; 1 Timothy 6:15)
- They are entered into on the same conditions.
Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Men are born into the kingdom by being baptized in water according to the Spirit’s gospel. On Pentecost the Spirit led sinners, through the apostle’s message, to believe, repent and be baptized for remission of sins (Acts 2:47). The same process by which one entered the kingdom added him to the church.
- The kingdom and the church have the same subjects.
Paul said that the saints had been translated into the kingdom (Colossians 1:13), which was also “the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18)
- The church and the kingdom have the same seed
Jesus spoke of the word of God as the “word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19), which produces subjects of the kingdom. When the same word was preached in Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:1-3), many of the Corinthians heard it, believed it, believed it, and were baptized (Acts 18:8). Paul addressed them as the “church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2). If the church and the kingdom are not the same, then one seed was producing two different plants, which is a contradiction in both nature and revelation (Genesis 1:11; Galatians 6:7-8).
- They have the same laws.
Peter wrote, “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). If either the kingdom or the church had one thing that pertained to life or godliness which the other did not have, then the one lacking it would be imperfect; and Peter’s statement would not be true of both. Hence, they must have the same laws.
Someone designed a helpful chart comparing the identifying marks of the kingdom and the church, and in so doing, showing they are the same institution.
IDENTIFYING MARK KINGDOM/CHURCH
- Beginning place/date Isaiah 2:2-3/ Acts 2:1-47
- Boundary of territory Daniel 2:44/Mark 16:15
- Owner of institution John 18:36/Matthew 16:18
- Ruler of inhabitants 1 Timothy 6:15/Ephesians 5:23
- Governing law Isaiah 2:3/Acts 2:38-47
- Christ gave keys Matthew 16:19/16:18
- Terms of entrance John 3:5/Acts 2:38-47
- Membership Colossians 1:13/1:2
- Its glory and exaltation Isaiah 2:2-3/Ephesians 3:21
- Memorial supper Matthew 26:29/1 Corinthians 11:24-25
- Reward of faithful Matthew 25:34/1 Corinthians 15:58
- Time of deliverance 1 Corinthians 15:24/1 Thessalonians 4:16
Since things equal to the same things are equal to each other, it is easy to conclude that the kingdom and the church are the same institution.
Jesus presents the kingdom as a city into which one could walk (Mark 12:34). He told a scribe, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of heaven.” This man was on the borderland. He was in the suburbs.
Are you near the kingdom? One’s proximity to the kingdom of God is not an estimate of feet or inches, but in the preparation and purpose of the heart. Great things can be done in a short time, but we now have 10,080 fewer minutes of time than we had at this hour a week ago, and 524,162 fewer minutes of time than we had this day last year.