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What Is The Church?

posted Mar 5, 2012, 9:34 AM by Ben Franklin   [ updated Mar 5, 2012, 9:34 AM by Nate Mosley ]

Sometimes you hear people say that the church is the people, and not the building. And while that is certainly true, ironically, the word church does have its root in the word for building, or house. The English Language word "church" is derived from the Old English word cirice, from West Germanic kirika, which in turn comes from the Greek kuriakē, meaning "of the Lord.” Kuriakē in the sense of "church" is most likely a shortening of kuriakē oikia ("house of the Lord"). The word is one of many direct Greek-to-Germanic loans of early Christian terminology. So it’s accurate to say: “We’re going to THE Church,” if you mean it in the sense of “House of the Lord.”

In the New Testament, the word church is translated from the Greek word ekklēsia, which literally means “the called out ones.” This word was used throughout the Greek world to refer to any group of people that had been called together for a purpose. The word was originally a political term, not a religious one: In classical Greek "ekklesia" meant "an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly."

In the Bible, it carries the sense of "assembly" or "congregation" (either a particular group of Christians or the whole body of the worldwide faithful). For example, in Romans 16:16, Paul writes, “All the churches of Christ send greetings.” In this case, the Greek word ekklesia is used, and Paul is definitely speaking here of the various congregations, and not the buildings.