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The Church (Christ's Body), and the churches of God: This dispensation of grace is essentially a "church" dispensation, and In the writings of Paul the word "church" is of frequent occurrence. Before we start dealing with these two uses of the word "church", let us state that they have come into being on the ground of the death of Christ. Thus we read of the Church which is Christ's Body.

"The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the Head

of the Church... Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word" (Ephesians 5.23-26).

And of the church of God in Ephesus we read in Acts 20.28:

"Take heed unto yourselves (the elders), and to all the flock, in the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He purchased [Gk. acquired, R.V. marg.] with His own blood".

The word "church" means that which is called out, so that the existence of a church implies a call which is responded to. Those who respond to this call become members of the Body of Christ. This is what we may describe as the Gospel call, We read of it in Romans 8.30: "Whom He foreordained, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified them He also glorified." The foreordination of saints and their glorification are facts pertaining to eternity, and their calling and justification pertain to events in time. It is a glorious mental vision to contemplate this being foreordained, called, justified and glorified. This calling is referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1.24 when he says, "unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God".

We come now to the matter of the church (and churches) of God. The word "church" is used by the Lord only twice in the Gospels; these are found in Matthew 16.18, and Matthew 18.17. In the former scripture, the Lord is seen as the builder of what He calls "My Church", building it upon the Rock (He Petra), the Lord Himself. The new name given by the Lord to Simon was Cephas, the Greek translation of which is Petros, Peter, and it is ever the surname of that apostle. Petros is a masculine word, the name of a man, whereas Petra is a feminine word which describes the character of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10.4). Sin can never enter the Church of Matthew 16, for the gates of Hades (of Hell) cannot prevail against it. But sin can enter the church of Matthew 18, for one brother may sin against another, and the sinning brother may refuse all attempts made to bring about confession, forgiveness and reconciliation and even the words of the church may be refused, which leads to his being given the outside place of the Gentile and the publican. Other kinds of sin may also find a place in a church of the kind of Matthew 18, such as immoral conduct, and blasphemy and heresy (1 Corinthians 5.1-13; 6.9,10; 1 Timothy 1.18-20; Titus 3.10,11).

The first church of God was that in Jerusalem, then somewhat later we find the churches of God in Judea (Acts 8.1; 1 Corinthians 15.9; Galatians 1.13). Churches of God were also found, not only in Judea, but also in Galilee and Samaria (Acts 9.31). Then we have the church in Antioch in Syria (Acts 11.20-26). Later we have the churches in Galatia (Galatians 1.1,2). Then we have the churches of Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8.1). Then we have the churches in Achaia (2 Corinthians 1.1), two of which were in Corinth and Cenchrae (Romans 16.1). In I Corinthians 16.19 we have the churches of Asia. These are some of the churches of God that we read of in the New Testament.

What was characteristic of the first church of God in Jerusalem must be that which is true of all churches of God. They (1) received the word, and (2) were baptized, and (3) were added to those already together. Then they continued stedfastly in (4) the apostles' teaching, and in (S) the fellowship, in (6) the breaking of the bread and (7) the prayers

(Acts 2.41,42).