The Church

The church is a complex definition because this phenomenon can be understood differently. People can put various meanings in this word. Thus, they can accept and realize this phenomenon variously. To find answers to the questions about this issue, people have to develop its “marks”. Therefore, this paper is focused on the church definition, its understanding by the believers, and “marks” that have to be developed to realize it better

The church can be defined as all true believers’ community for all times. Such definition explains that the church is open to all people for whom Christ sacrificed himself and for all people who were saved thanks to Christ`s death. The church is built by Jesus Christ himself who calls the true believers to himself. However, the process of church building by Christ is the continuation of the pattern, which was established by God in Old Testament, when he called people to be a worshiping assembly before him. Also, it was mentioned in the Old Testament that God thought of his people as a church. The Greek noun literally means all who are called out . Hence, the term "church" is translated from Greek as gathering, assembly, or meeting; this definition can be met both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Overall, the usage of the term “church” in Scripture and the fact that through Scripture, God has always called the true believers to assemble to worship himself, shows that it is possible to think about the church the unity of all people of God for all times.

The church can be understood by Christians as both visible and invisible phenomenon. From the spiritual perspective, the church can be called invisible. It is impossible to see the spiritual condition of the people’s heart. The main point is that it is possible to see people, who visit the church and their spiritual change evidence. However, it is impossible to look into their hearts and realize their spiritual state, because only God is able to do this. Therefore, the invisible church can be called “the church as God sees it” . Nonetheless, the true Christian church includes a visible aspect too. The visible church can be explained as the church, which is seen by the Christians on the earth. The main point is that it can include all who profess the faith in Christ and provide evidence of such faith in their lives. The visible church cannot be called as the church as any person might see it, but it can be realized as something perceived by true followers understanding the difference between unbelievers and believers. At the same time, the visible church will definitely consist of some unbelievers throughout the world and individual congregations, because people cannot see the hearts of other people, while God can.

Christians also can understand the church as something local and universal. Based on the New Testament, the term "church" can be applied to the group of believers at any level, beginning with the meetings in the small circle at home and ending with the huge crowd in the universal church . Therefore, the group of the believers at any level from local to universal can be called a church. However, nowadays, it is thought that the church can be understood as something universal only. For instance, in Roman Catholic thinking, the church is explained as something universal. From their perspective, it can be defined as the union of churches that are bound together by the common love and faith . It is wrong to say that only formal meetings express the true nature of church or that only church of the city level can be considered as the right church, or only universal church can be called a church. Hence, the people of the God’s community at any level can be rightly called a church.

It is crucial to realize what church should be like and what it should have. To answer such questions, people have to identify the “marks” of the true church. The first mark is the right preaching of the God’s Word. The main point is that if the God’s Word is not preached, but the false doctrines are, then there is no true church. Sometimes, people can have difficulties determining how much a wrong doctrine can be tolerated before the church can no longer be defined as the true church . The second church mark is the sacrament’s right administration. This mark opposes the Roman Catholic view that saving grace came through the sacraments and they were made "works" by which people earned merit for the salvation. In such a way, the Roman Catholic Church insisted rather on the payment, then faith teaching as the means of reaching the salvation, which leads to the true gospel obscuring. Therefore, one of the reasons for considering the right use of the sacraments as the true church mark is the need to protect the gospel purity.

Overall, the "church" can be defined as the community to all people, who believe. Christians can understand the church as something visible or invisible. Moreover, they can accept it as both the local and universal phenomenon. It is important to understand its “marks” to find answers to many questions concerning the church. Therefore, the main church’s “marks” are the right preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacrament.