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Often, we view the church as something we attend or a place we go, rather than something we are. But from a biblical perspective, the church is not so much a particular place or event as much as it is a corporate identity. Indeed, the church is the redeemed family of God, among whom God is pleased to dwell (1 Tim 3:15); with whom the Son is pleased to be joined (Eph 1:13–14); and whom the Spirit is pleased to seal (Rev. 19:7-9).
The word commonly translated “church” (ekklesia) is especially illustrative. It essentially means an “assembly” or “congregation” of people “called out” by God. As the church, we have been “called out” by God—out of our pitiful condition of spiritual death through the redeeming work of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We have become God’s people in a particular sense, fitted for a purpose that culminates not simply in our personal salvation, but also in our consistent, corporate adoration of the triune God.
This transcendent purpose of the church surpasses the closest of human relationships. Even in the most intimate and stable of bonds we have here on earth, such as with friends or family, the unity we find can disappoint us, because it is ultimately dependent on the integrity of fallen people. A distinguishing feature of the church is that the strength of its relationships is not contingent on the merits of its members, but on the transcendent value and unifying power of its head, Jesus Christ (Col 3:18).
Because the church’s source of unity transcends itself, the acceptance and sense of belonging its members experience is reliable and unwavering. The church completely satisfies these most fundamental of human longings because her acceptance and belonging are grounded not in human performance, but in divine perfection.
Our appreciation of who we are as the church deepens further when we understand why it became such an integral part of God’s plan in the first place. Before creation, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit enjoyed perfect love and fellowship with one another. So great was this love that the Father promised the Son the gift of a redeemed family as a bride that would reflect Him. The Son reciprocated His love by purchasing and redeeming this people, and the Spirit seals the church for its final and consummate union to Jesus Christ.
When we see that as God’s people, we have been chosen before time even began, we are compelled to willingly partake in His beautiful design of the church. This is the glory of our corporate identity as Christians, together as a spiritual family longing to be finally united to our Lord Jesus Christ. As we await that final day, we commit ourselves to Christ our Head, and naturally then to His body, through which we are made to be more like Him.