Q48. What is the church?
A. God chooses and preserves for himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.
The Church is a building but it is not one that is made up of the usual construction materials that are used in building a ‘brick and mortar’ house. Rather, it is a spiritual house that is made up of the redeemed people of God. Listen to what St. Peter writes about this in one of his letters: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4–5 ESV) Pastor John Yates helpfully explains the idea of the Church in this way, “The church is the family of God. In the New Testament it’s called the community of the new covenant. It’s the body of which Christ is the Head. It’s the bride of Christ. We’re called a holy people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. The church is the people who have been made God’s children, adopted by God through Jesus Christ. And the church consists of all cultures, all ethnic groups, people across the ages, all those who have come to know Jesus Christ as Lord.”
It is easy for us Christians to forget this since we also refer to our place of worship loosely as ‘the church,’ but here is an important reminder for us that the Church is first and foremost a community. The people who make up the Church are all those who are united to Jesus Christ through repentance and faith. This is a remarkable gathering of people unlike any other human institution. Usually, people congregate together based on their shared interests and advocacies. In a sense, we don’t really need to like the people we are in the same club or organization with, we just have to like what they like and work with them to accomplish our shared goals. But things are different with the Church. In the Christian Church, people are not just brought together because of a shared experience or interest, we are brought together because of a shared love. The Bible says that we love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:9) At the Cross, God demonstrated His love for sinners in sending Jesus to die for us. In turn, we who believe in Jesus are now joined together in love with all others—regardless of race, upbringing, past experiences, or any other defining marks. The Church, then, is a unique organism that is organized around Jesus and the Gospel. This, in summary, is what our catechism teaches us in question and answer forty-eight. Question: “What is the church?” Answer: ”God chooses and preserves for himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.”