The English word “church” is translated from a New Testament Greek word “ekklesia” “ek”, out of, and “klesis”, a calling. W. E. Vine says, “It has two applications to companies of Christians, (a) to the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era, the company of which Christ said, ‘I will build My Church,’ Matt. 16:18, and which is further described as ‘the Church which is His Body,’ Eph. 1:22; 5:23, (b) in the singular number (e.g., Matt. 18:17, R.V. marg., ‘congregation’), to a company consisting of professed believers ...” The word “church” is always applied to people in the New Testament, never to some material building or some abstract idea of an invisible organization, unless you can conceive of people being “invisible.”
The various figures by which the church is described to us in the New Testament are often perverted to teach doctrines nowhere found in the Book. It is called the “house of God” (I Tim. 3:15), but it is people (Heb. 3:6). It is called a “body” (Col. 1:24), but it is people (Rom. 12:4, 5). It is called a “kingdom” (Col. 1:13), but it is people (Heb. 12:28). It is called a “temple” (I Cor. 3:16, 17). It is called a “building” (I Pet. 2:5), but always it refers to people.
One of the figures by which the church is pictured to us is that of a bride. Before me is the December 7, 1963 issue of The Baptist Examiner in which Bob L. Ross has an article on the front page entitled: “What Is The Bride Of Christ?” From II Corinthians 11:2 he draws some conclusions which are opposed to the doctrine of Christ.
He begins the article by saying: “Many people believe that all the saved compose the ‘bride of Christ.’ This is the common teaching of those who believe the universal, invisible church teaching.” If all the saved do not compose the bride of Christ, then either bride is not all the church or the church is not all the saved.
“Contrary to this, we understand the Bible to teach that a limited number of the saved compose the bride of Christ.” If the bride of Christ is the church, and the bride is composed of only a “limited number of the saved,” it must follow that there are some saved who are not in the church. That is the point we shall dwell on for the moment.
“Some people have their thinking confused on this subject of the bride. They identify the bride of Christ as being all the saved . . .”
Since the church means “the called out,” if we find who the called out are, we will know who all are in the church. Let us see who are called, how they are called, and where they are after they are called.
To the “church of God which is at Corinth” Paul wrote: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (I Cor. 1:26). To the Ephesians : “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1). The word “vocation” in the K.J.V. is rendered “calling” in the A.S.V. We are called with a calling. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). God calls in Christ. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (II Pet. 1:10).
These passages identify those called as Christians, members of the church, brethren. Not one person called (in the sense used in these passages) is out of the church! All are saved: have been forgiven of their sins.
But how are they called? “... but be thou par-taker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but ac-cording to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:8, 9). It is an holy calling. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling . . .” (Heb. 3:1). It is a calling from heaven. “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 2:14). All in the church are “called out”; all those called out are called with a holy, heavenly calling by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is very plain!
Now where are those so called? “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the Grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6). “But we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9). “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (I Thess. 2: 12). “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body ...” (Col. 3:15)