Obedience to the Gospel through faith, repentance, confession, and baptism purifies one’s soul (Heb. 11:6; Lk. 13:3; Mt. 10:32; Mk. 16:16; I Pet. 1:22). Purification is equal to salvation, and all who are obedient to the truth are in a saved relationship with God. The Lord adds those whom He has saved to others who have rendered obedience to the Gospel. Collectively, these individuals comprise the spiritual institution established by the Lord. This collectivity of saved individuals are identified by several names, all of which reveal the nature of this entity.
The basic nature of something deals with its essential character or permanent properties. The essential properties of the saved and their God-ordained characteristics are seen in the following points:
The saved are known as the church (Acts. 2:47). The Greek word for church is a compound of the preposition ek, meaning “out of” and eklesia, meaning “called.” The saved are the called out of Christ (Rom. 16:16). They are called “out of darkness and into His marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9). Thus, they have a special purpose in which they show forth the praises of God and make known His manifold wisdom (I Pet. 2:9; Eph. 3:10). They are in the world but not of the world (John 15:19). Their lives reflect a peculiar purpose with a distinct mission (I Tim. 3:15).
The church is known as the body (Col. 1:18). It is so designated to represent its unity, though it has many members. Just as one’s human body has many physical members, yet all of its parts work together, so does the spiritual body have many members, yet all must work together. The body is to be united upon what its one head directs. It works under the direction of the head and does not seek to divide (I Cor. 12:25). Division results in the one body when members fail to recognize the authority of its head.
The body is known as the house of God (I Tim. 3:15; Eph. 3:19). God’s house is indicative of a family whose members have mutual responsibility and blessings of inheritance. An earthly family has a father who provides for his children and sons and daughters who love and care for each other. Abundant blessings and familial ties provide a haven of warmth, nurturing, and kinship. In God’s family, there are brothers and sisters who must love (I John 4:7), admonish (II Thess. 3:15), and care for one another (I Cor. 12:25). Sweet fellowship and words of light bind them together. They enjoy spiritual blessings as a merit of adoption by Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3-5). Their Heavenly Father provides good gifts for His children (Matt 7:11), along with the greatest gift of all: the gift of salvation, which is obtained by faith which works (Jas. 2:14-26).
Finally, the family is known as the kingdom (Col. 1:13). The church and kingdom are one and the same (Matt. 16:18-19). The kingdom designation demonstrates the rule and dominion of Christ in the hearts of the saved. It is not earthly, but spiritual. It is the rule and reign of Christ in the hearts of men (Lk. 17:20,21). Christ, its King, is to be revered, worshipped, and glorified. His complete dominion, power, and sovereign will must be recognized; His everlasting Word, obeyed.
A greater understanding of the church should heighten our appreciation for God’s wisdom and planning. Many of a Christian’s responsibilities and blessings can be discovered by a careful examination of what the scriptures reveal about the nature of Christ’s church. The God-given names for the saved reflect more than a variety of unique titles. Rather, these sacred titles are a sublime and majestic revelation of God’s plan and purpose for His people.