Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 26, 1967

Is The Church A Building?

R. A. (Bob) West

What kind of church did Christ build? Was it literally a physical building? To hear the religious world (including some of my brethren) talk, you would get the impression that it was. But what does God's Word say about it?

In the New Testament it is common to find the spiritual compared to the physical. When the less familiar spiritual things are paralleled to the more familiar physical things, we can better understand them. So it is with God's teaching on the nature of the church that Jesus built.

The New Testament meaning of the word "church" is a "called out body" ("out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9). This body is examined from several points of view in the Scriptures. Much of the time we have no trouble remembering that the church is spiritual (1 Peter 2:5) and that it is being compared with physical things so that we can associate it with something familiar.

We can understand as the church, the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23) is compared with a physical body. We also understand when the church, the family of God (Eph. 2:19, 3:15), is placed side by side with a physical family. As the church, the kingdom of God (Heb. 12:22-28), is paralleled with an earthly government, we are able to separate the spiritual from the physical. And we can understand that the church, the vineyard of the Lord, is the place where God's work must be done (Matt.21:28-44; 13:18-23; Phil. 2:15-16). But when the church, the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:9; 16-17), is compared with a physical building, some are confused. Why?

Our day-to-day associations with people, places and things may contribute confusion to a proper understanding of this comparison. We are exposed daily to denominational language such as "We have a brick church," Our church cost $' to build," Or "Is your church the one on Main Street across from the Catholic Church?" Conditioned to this type of conversation, we might even find ourselves using the same unscriptural terminology if we are not careful.

As we repeatedly pass the empty meeting house (and it is empty more than it is full) and see it and the outside sign which reads "Church of Christ," isn't it easy to subconsciously start thinking of the empty building as the "Church of Christ?" Why not use the sign to teach others as they drive past daily, and to remind ourselves that this physical building is only the "meeting place for the church of Christ."

And when we say that we "go (or went) to church," do we mean "go to the physical building" or do we mean "go to assemble with the saints?" Sure, we know what we mean. But, do others?

God's temple in the Old Testament was a physical building (Exodus 25:8-9, 2 Chron. 7:12-16). This might confuse some who do not yet realize that the plan for God's temple today, the church, is found in the New Testament (Heb. 8:1-5, 1 Cor. 3:10-15).

This plan says that Christ, the apostles and prophets are the foundation on which the church is built and Christ is the chief corner stone, (Eph. 2:19-22, 1 Cor. 3:11). The rest of the building is obedient believers, Christians (1 Cor.15:1-2) which are the stones (1 Peter 2:5) and inside this building dwells the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 3:16). The strength of this building depends upon the stones being securely cemented and built together in peace and love (Eph. 4: 1-3, 16).

Let's remember that the New Testament church is a building -- a spiritual building. And let's use sound speech, edifying one another and endeavoring to leave no room for misunderstanding.