Matthew 16:18 reads “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Here Jesus speaks of the response peter gave to His question “whom say ye that I am?”. Peter's answer, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” is what Jesus was speaking of when He spoke of the rock upon which he would build his church. This is the same imagery that was used in the book of Daniel when He wrote of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”. This stone of course is Jesus Christ.
So what is "Church" all about? The word church in the Bible is taken from the Greek word "ekklesia" which is defined as "a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly", and conveys the sense of "congregation". Jesus Christ organized the first "congregation" of believers at Jerusalem, and commanded them to go everywhere preaching the gospel. Over time, this work resulted in called out assemblies of believers who had responded in faith to the gospel of Christ all over the world. Just as Noah was given a pattern by God, Moses was given a pattern by God, and King David was given a pattern by God, so too the church has been given a pattern in Scripture for carrying out the work of Christ today, which is why VBC is here!
It is important to recognize that the word “church” denotes the ability to assemble. The word “church” is misapplied often today to include all of the believers on the entire earth. The word used in scripture to refer to all believers is the word “saints”. We see these truths related clearly in the text of 1 Corinthians 1:2 – “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” The church of God which was at Corinth was one, particular church that was made up of believers who were called to be saints with all the other believers that were “in every place”. This truth is stated similarly in 1 Corinthians 14:33 - "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
Paul goes on to teach that each individual, local assembly is the body of Christ. When writing to this particular church, he told them in 1 Corinthians 12:27 – “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” To the first century believer, the word “church” was a reference to the congregation they had been added unto by faith in Christ and water baptism. From the first church in Jerusalem, we can follow the history in the book of acts as additional congregations were formed until there were a great number of churches in the earth. Acts 9:31 – “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”
When we misunderstand what the definition of “church” is, we can easily be led into error in trying to fulfill the commands given to the churches to be of one mind, one spirit, striving together in unity for the gospel. These and other important commands from Christ were given to the churches. Unfortunately, today these commands are weaponized against churches to compel them to forsake the doctrinal truths of scripture in favor of unity among professing saints "in every place". This unity, that is pursued in the name of Christ, reaches across many congregations rather than being exercised within those individual congregations. Christ clearly speaks in Revelation as the head of the churches, plural, and holds each individual church responsible for their love, obedience, and allegiance to Him. Christ does not speak to the churches collectively as to their ability to be in unity with each other, but he speaks to each individual congregation as to their faithfulness to Him.
All saints are commanded to be members of a church, which has been properly setup and constituted under the authority Christ gave to His churches. This pattern of churches begetting churches is shown to us throughout the book of Acts. There are certainly places in scripture where the church may be viewed in the future sense of being gathered together in Christ, which we are told in Ephesians 1:10 will happen in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Ephesians 1:10 – “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: “ However, the majority of references to church in our English Bibles, renders the word congregation in its truest sense and carries the idea of an actual assembly of people in one congregation. For a few more insights into this doctrine, please read our article on Church Membership.