That missing word, church

Fact: The word “church” or “congregation” (the Greek term: ekklesia) does not appear in 10 of the 27 books of the New Testament.

It is missing in these books:

  • The gospels of Mark, Luke, and John
  • 2 Timothy and Titus
  • 1 and 2 Peter
  • 1 and 2 John
  • Jude

What does this absence mean? Only that the New Testament uses many terms and figures to describe the family of God. Some writers, because of the moment, the circumstances, or their emphases, prefer some of these terms to others.

See, for example, the terms that Peter uses in 1 Peter 2.9, alluding to the Old Testament, to describe God’s people. And in 1 Peter 4.17, he calls them the “household of God,” or God’s family.

So the church is present in all the books of the New Testament, but referred to by other terms and descriptions.

In the three gospels mentioned above, the word “church” is not used, perhaps in part because the church did not exist yet, during Jesus’ lifetime and ministry. Matthew uses the word only twice, in chapters 16 and 18. In the first occurence of the word, it is clearly in the future (verse 18). The church began to exist in Acts 2, after the ascension of Christ to heaven, on the day of Pentecost. But in the gospels there are many references to the kingdom of God, of which the church is the present manifestation. See Mark 9.1.

Let us note in passing that in no place in the Bible do we encounter such terms applied to the church: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Lutheran, Universal, Pentecostal, etc. It is worth remembering that the word “church” is not used in the New Testament in the sense of a building, location, hierarchy, or denomination. These are foreign uses to the Bible and to God’s plan.

If I could not find the church I was a part of in the Bible, I would be worried. The church that Jesus established is but one, and it does not need names to denominate it.

It is described as the church of God, of (or in) Christ, of the saints (= Christians), of the firstborn, indicating to whom it belongs and of whom it is composed.

I want to be a part of this church, of this family of God, which belongs to him, which Christ established, without division, without denomination, without distortion, as he designed, created, and, to this day, preserves it, in order to enter with the church into the eternal and celestial habitations.

What about you?

This article was translated from the Portuguese website for the family of God in the Brazilian metropolitan area of the Paraíba Valley. The image is a screen capture from the NT Hyper-concordance.

One Reply to “That missing word, church”

  1. We know Jesus promised to build His church. Taking into consideration that He was a carpenter, He knew how to build His church. Ask yourself, “What was the foundation of this church? The building materials? The element holding all the structure together? What takes place within this structure?

    In answering these questions I believe we get a clearer picture of just exactly what this structure is. And along with that clearer picture, a better understanding of where each of us fits into the church, actually being the church.


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