Measure of a Church

by Glen H. Jones

Churches come in all varieties. We have large and small churches. We have formal and informal churches. We have liberal and conservative churches. We have mission-minded churches and local-interest churches.

Getz begins by defining the word "church." The Greek word ekklesía translates our English word "church." The church is a called-out people who have responded to the message of salvation through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The New Testament uses ekklesía in two ways: the word refers to all believers in every place and every age who have become children of God through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and it also refers to a group of believers in specific locations who have banded together to worship and serve God.

How do we measure a church to see if it matches the biblical description? The author offers a series of tests, based on Paul's letters, to determine the authenticity of a church.

First, a New Testament church believes that one is saved by the grace of God alone, apart from any good works one may perform. Salvation produces good works; good works do not produce salvation. Second, an authentic church will display hope, faith, and love, but especially love. One may be a gifted preacher, a talented teacher or a generous giver; but those gifts fade into nothingness if one does not have love. Third, we can measure a church by its sound doctrine and by its good works. One may say that love is paramount, but love cannot be perfected unless it is linked to sound doctrine and good works.

A church's belief in the literal resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ gives us a fourth measure of a true church. The literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us that He is worthy to forgive our sins and guarantee eternal life. We gain a fifth measure of a church by asking if believers are meeting together, growing in knowledge of the Word and taking their faith to others.

Two appendices show the use of ekklesía in the Acts and the Epistles.