• Christ and Church Life and Building Spirit and Bride

    基督與召會
    生命與建造
    那靈與新婦



    As a lover of Christ and a pursuer of truth, I write down my joys, memories and reflections.

    May God lead us all into the secret of His presence, and build us into the oneness of His body in love.
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Descriptors of the church

Anything that is universally unique needs no name. The church is universally and uniquely one across time and space. God never named the church, and the church needs no name.

Yet we all know that the church has 2 aspects, the universal aspect and the local aspect: there is one church but she is expressed in many localities. Just as the moon has no name, the church also has no name but has many descriptions. Just as we can see the moon in San Francisco, in London, or in Tokyo, the church can be expressed in San Francisco, in London, and in Tokyo. But there is still one moon and one church. When being referred as the local assembly, the church is called or described by their geographical locality, such as Ephesus or Rome, while the local churches sometimes can be called “the churches of Christ”. One indicator to determine whether the Bible is referring to the universal church or the local churches is the plurality of the words. If the description are plural, then it must refers to the local churches.

One side note, the church also has many symbolic names in the Bible, such as the body of Christ, or the kingdom of God. For this post, I would focus on the literal descriptions of the church rather than her symbolic names.


Universal church

The church (Used over 50 times, starting from Acts 11:26)
Acts 11:26 And when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it happened with them that for a whole year they were gathered in the church and taught a considerable number and that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

The church of God (Used 8 times)
Acts 20:28 Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has placed you as overseers to shepherd the church of God, which He obtained through His own blood.

1 Corinthians 1:1-2 Paul, a called apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Sosthenes the brother, To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

1 Corinthians 10:32 Do not become a stumbling block, both to Jews and to Greeks and to the church of God;

1 Corinthians 11:22 Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and put those to shame who have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I do not praise you.

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God

2 Colossians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother, to the church of God which is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:

Galatians 1:13 For you have heard of my manner of life formerly in Judaism, that I persecuted the church of God excessively and ravaged it.

1 Timothy 3:5 (But if one does not know how to manage his own house, how will he care for the church of God?);

The church of the living God
I Timothy 3:15 But if I delay, I write that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth.

The church of the firstborn
Hebrews 12:23 And to the church of the firstborn, who have been enrolled in the heavens; and to God, the Judge of all; and to the spirits of righteous men who have been made perfect;


Local churches

When a church is named, called, or described not to the entire assembly of believers, it is a local church. In addition, when the churches are plural, they are referred to as local churches.

The churches of Christ
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

The church of God which is at Corinth
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother, to the church of God which is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:

The churches of God
1 Corinthians 11:16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we do not have such a custom of being so, neither the churches of God.

2 Thessalonians 1:4 So that we ourselves boast in you among the churches of God concerning your endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the afflictions which you bear,

The churches of the saints
1 Corinthians 14:33-34 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, The women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they should be subject, even as the law also says.

The churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea
1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus, for you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they also from the Jews,

(The “no church” here refers to local church)
Philippians 4:15 And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I went out from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the account of giving and receiving except you only;


Local churches are usually called with geographic descriptors

The church which was at Jerusalem
Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of his killing. And there occurred in that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and all were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Acts 11:22 And the account concerning them was heard in the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to pass through as far as Antioch,

The church throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria
Acts 9:31 So then the church throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it was multiplied.

The church that was at Antioch
Acts 13:1 Now there were in Antioch, in the local church, prophets and teachers: Barnabas and Simeon, who was called Niger, and Lucius the Cyrenian, and Manaen, the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

The church which is at Cenchrea
Romans 16:1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a deaconess of the church which is in Cenchrea,

The church of God which is at Corinth
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours:

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother, to the church of God which is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:

The churches of Asia
1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you much in the Lord, with the church, which is in their house.

The churches of Macedonia
2 Corinthians 8:1 Furthermore we make known to you, brothers, the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,

The churches of Galatia
1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, just as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also do.

Galatians 1:2 And all the brothers who are with me, to the churches of Galatia:

The churches of Judea
Galatians 1:22 Yet I was still unknown by face to the churches of Judea, which are in Christ.

The churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea
1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus, for you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they also from the Jews

The churches which are in Asia
Rev 1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,

The church in Ephesus (Rev 2:1)

The church in Smyrna (Rev 2:8)

The church in Pergamos (Rev 2:12)

The church in Thyatira (Rev 2:18)

The church in Sardis (Rev 3:1)

The church in Philadelphia (Rev 3:7)

The church in Laodicea (Rev 3:14)


The local church can also be described by a particular group of people. (This part seems contradicts to my knowledge that a church shall not be names by the composition of a particular group of people. I guess it is acceptable because both Laodiceans and Thessalonians are just people living in Laodicea and Thessalonica, which are both geographical locality. The name of “The church of the Chinese is certainly not acceptable.)

The churches of the Gentiles
Romans 16:4 Who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;

(This verse actually bothers me since I think the church shall include both Jews and Gentiles, and shall not make distinction between the two. I don’t understand how could there be such thing as the churches of the Gentiles. Maybe someone can enlighten me.)

The church of the Laodiceans
Colossians 4:15-16 Greet the brothers in Laodicea, as well as Nymphas and the church, which is in his house. And when this letter is read among you, cause that it be read in the church of the Laodiceans also, and that you also read the one from Laodicea.

The church of the Thessalonians in God
1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

2 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:


Local church can also be in saints’ house

The church that is in their house [Aquila and Prisca]
1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you much in the Lord, with the church, which is in their house.

The church which is in his house [Nymphas]
Colossians 4:15-16 Greet the brothers in Laodicea, as well as Nymphas and the church, which is in his house. And when this letter is read among you, cause that it be read in the church of the Laodiceans also, and that you also read the one from Laodicea.

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