Bible and notebook

In this article, I attempt a comprehensive look into how the word "church" is used in the New Testament (NT).

This is an important study in modern times because society has redefined the English word "church" and this makes it challenging to separate what is from what should be.

"Church" Defined

In the NT, the Holy Spirit used a single Greek word that we translate "church:" ἐκκλησίᾳ (ekklesia)—along with five variations

Strong's Concordance defines this word as "an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of Christian believers."

In total, this word is found 114 times in the NT.

Ekklesia is comprised of two Greek words: ek, which means "out from and to", and kaléō, which means "to call." In other words, the word literally means "the called out" or, when applied specifically to Jesus' church, "the called out of the world and to Jesus."

Similarly, regarding the word ekklesia, Vine notes:

[Ekklesia] has two applications to companies of Christians, (a) to the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era...(b) in the singular number (e.g., Matt. 18:17, RV marg., "congregation"), to a company consisting of professed believers..."
(Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary, W.E. Vine, p.42)

"Church" in the Gospels

The word "church" appears three times in the gospels, all of them in Matthew.

The first use occurs with Peter's "great confession" that Jesus is indeed the Christ (the Messiah) of GOD.

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
(Matt. 16:13-20 NIV)

Here, Jesus establishes that He has one church—a point that Paul later echoed in Eph. 4:4-6 ("there is one body").

The other two gospel occurrances of "church" are found in Matthew 18. In this context, Jesus is teaching on how to handle situations where our brother sins against us.

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
(Matt. 18:15-20 NIV)

This text can be somewhat tricky, in my opinion, to properly discern.

If we back up to Matt. 18:1, we see that this conversation originates because the disciples asked Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

"Church" in the Historical Account

With Jesus having died, risen from the grave, and ascended to heaven, the kingdom of heaven was ready! In Acts 1, the 120 disciples were together in Jerusalem. In Acts 2, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends just as Jesus had promised, upon the disciples. That same day, 3,000 souls were baptized into Jesus and He added each of them to His church (Acts 2:38-47).

In these early days, it seems that all (or nearly all) the Christians were located in Jerusalem (Acts 6:7). After the martyrdom of Stephen, Saul of Tarsus began severely persecuting the church (Acts 8:1, 3), which caused the Christians to scatter throughout Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles who remained in Jerusalem.

The Christians went everywhere preaching Jesus.

In Samaria, Philip the evangelist performed miracles and many Samaritans believed and were baptized (Acts 8:4-13).

At that point, there were Christians in Jerusalem and Samaria, as well as those who had scattered to the surrounding region. Next we see that an Ethiopian official became a Christian (Acts 8:26-39). Then Philip preached in Azotus and each city until he arrived in Caesarea (Acts 8:40).

Saul heard of Christians in Damascus (Syria) and went on a crusade to erradicate them, but Jesus intervened.

Upon repenting and fasting three days, Jesus sent a local Christian named Ananias with a message for Saul. Saul obeyed, submitting to baptism, and immediately joined the Christians in Damascus (Acts 9:1-22).

So, it had become clear at this point that Jesus' church had spread far beyond the city of Jerusalem.

In Acts 9:31, we find the first plural use of the word "church."

31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
(Acts 9:31 NKJV)

Interestingly, the NKJV translates the word "churches," whereas the NIV, NASB, and AMP (and perhaps other translations) translate the word "church." The YLT version uses the word "assemblies."

It's important to note that this is still the word ekklesia that the Spirit used. In context, it seems more likely to me that this is a reference to the Christians throughout these regions of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, rather than specific individual assemblies in the areas.

Here's the difference:

It's either:

"The entire body of Christ—all the saved—in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified."

Or:

"The individual congregations of Christians in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified."

In this case, regardless of our understanding, we get the message. However, in other passages, how we interpret the use of the word "church" can impact our understanding of what the Scripture is saying.

I don't mean to over-complicate things, but this distinction really matters.

church 400 clr 8894We shouldn't assume all Christians in a town or city (always) assembled together. 

We shouldn't assume all Christians in a town or city (always) assembled together. Click to Tweet

Culture has a tendency to significantly impact our individual perception of "church."

While today the norm in many societies is for Christians to meet together in a church-owned building, this was not so in the first century.

Except for the very early days where the church in Jerusalem sometimes met in the temple courts, the majority of the assemblies we read about in the NT are in people's homes.

Meeting in homes, in most situations, necessitates smaller group sizes.

Thus, a Scripture reference to "the church in Samaria," for example, does not necessarily mean "the one congregation of Christians in Samaria that always met together." More on this later.

In Acts 11:19-22, we learn that some Christians scattered at Stephen's martyrdom had traveled to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and "a great number" became Christians.

In verses 25-26, we find that Saul and Barnabas assembled "with the church" in Antioch for one year.

Does this mean that all Christians in Antioch met together, or simply that Saul and Barnabas met with the various congregations in the city of Antioch?

Acts 13:1-3 seems to indicate that the Antioch Christians all met together, at least on this occasion. Unfortunately, we just don't know. What we shouldn't do, however, is assume with certainty.

As Paul and Barnabas traveled back through the cities of Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia, strengthening the new Christians, they "appointed elders in every church" (Acts 14:21-23).

Here, the word "church" seems to be a reference to specific assemblies of Christians. Yet, Paul later told Titus (Titus 1:5) to appoint elders in every city, so it is possible Acts 14:23 could be referring to appointing elders among the Christians in each area, or it could be an indication that there was one assembly of Christians who always met together in these locations.

Upon returning to Antioch of Syria, Paul and Barnabas called the church together (Acts 14:26-27; clearly a reference to all Christians in the city, regardless of whether they all regularly met as one group or multiple).

Sometime after their return to Antioch, Christians from Judea came to Antioch, teaching that Christians must be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas argued against this false doctrine, and they eventually agreed to go ask the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.

In Acts 15:3-4, we find that "the church" sent Paul and Barnabas on their way, and, upon arriving in Jerusalem, they were greeted by "the church," along with the apostles and elders.

In my understanding, both of these uses are referring to the assembled Christians in Antioch (verse 3) and Jerusalem (verse 4). The Jerusalem church (i.e., all the saints in Jerusalem) would almost certainly have been too numerous to have all assembled as a single congregation for regular collective worship. I conclude that the word "church" in Acts 15:22 is likely referring to the assembled group of Christians who had come to witness and participate in the discussion over this specific matter.

Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
(Acts 15:22)

A long time after returning to Antioch, Paul chose Silas to accompany him in revisiting the Christians "in every city" (Acts 15:36) and they went through Syria and Cilicia and strengthened "the churches."

Like Acts 9:31, the plural form of "church" is translated, but in this case there is more agreement among translations, with NKJV, NASB, NIV and AMP all using the word "churches." YLT translates the word "assemblies."

Regardless, the point seems clearly to be that Paul and Silas traveled around to encourage the Christians at each place, taking the letter from the Jerusalem elders and the apostles, as they went, and strengthened "the churches" (Acts 16:5).

Later, after trips to numerous places, including the region of Galatia and Macedonia, Paul returned to Antioch, strengthening the church at Caesarea along the way (Acts 18:22).

And the last two uses of the word "church" in the book of Acts are found in Acts 20. In Acts 20:17, Paul called for the "elders of the church" in Ephesus.

Upon meeting these men, Paul reminded them to shepherd the "church of God" over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (Acts 20:28).

(In the following sections, I cover the uses of "church" in the NT letters as they are ordered in our Bibles instead of as they were written chronologically.)

"Church" in the NT Letters

Romans

Interestingly, the letter to the Romans is addressed:

7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people...
(Rom. 1:7 NIV)

The letter is not sent to a single congregation, but to the saints in the city. In fact, Paul doesn't use the word "church" until the closing comments of Romans.

In the final chapter, the word "church" occurs five times. This chapter gives us significant insight into the church at Rome, as well as an indication as to how the church might have been organized in other locations.

1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

In verse 1, what is clear is that Phoebe is a Christian who served the saints in Cenchrea (a town near Corinth) and, apparently, had recently arrived (or would be soon arriving) there in Rome—the location of the Christians to whom Paul was writing. Additionally, it is obvious that Paul knew Phoebe, her reputation and her plans, indicating he was in the area at the time. (Paul apparently wrote Romans from the city of Corinth, during his three-month stay in Greece prior to his trip to Jerusalem [see Acts 19:29-20:4; Rom. 15:22-29].)

Is Paul saying that Pheobe is a servant of the Lord's body who happens to live in Cencrea? Or, is he saying that Phoebe is a servant of the (one) assembly in the town of Cenchrea? It seems more likely to me that Paul is saying, "...Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the portion of Jesus' church that lives in Cenchrea...", as opposed to "...a servant of the [one] assembly in Cenchrea...". However, both could easily be true.

In verses 3-4, Paul instructed the Christians in Rome to greet the church that is in Aquila and Priscilla's house. The word church here seems to be referring to a specific congregation—those who assembled at Aquila and Priscilla's house.

Continuing on, Paul wrote:

Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. ...

23 Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.
(Rom. 16:1-16, 23)

In verse 14 and 15, Paul seems to be pointing to two additional congregations (assemblies; churches), probably meeting in two of the mentioned saints' homes. This is strong evidence that the "church in Rome," as we might verbalize it, was comprised of multiple congregations. (Interestingly, the phrase "church in/of/at Rome" is not contained in Scripture.)

In verse 16, the phrase "The churches of Christ greet you" seems to indicate that the location where Paul was when he was writing (Corinth) was also comprised of multiple assemblies. Yet, in verse 23, Paul says Gaius was "the host of the whole church," so it could be that there was one congregation in the city of Corinth and others in the surrounding area, such as in Cencrea. Again, we simply don't know.

1 Corinthians

Paul began the letter of 1 Corinthians by addressing the church in Corinth.

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
(1 Cor. 1:1-2)

The next reference to "church" is found in chapter 4:

17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
(1 Cor. 4:17)

This verse is a reference to the various congregations with whom Paul had worked. A similar instruction is found in chapters 7:

17 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches.
(1 Cor. 7:17)

Backing up to chapter 6 momentarily, we read:

4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
(1 Cor. 6:4-5)

Since, in context, Paul is referring to local judges there in Corinth, I view this as a reference to the local congregation(s) there in Corinth. At the same time, the general application is to all Christians and churches, thus it could be equally applied to the entire body of Christians. Because of this, I have listed the verses in both sections of the Appendix.

Having already noted the 1 Cor. 7:17 reference above, the next use of "church" is found in chapter 10:

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,
(1 Cor. 10:31-32)

I believe this use of "church" is speaking to the entire body of Christ, regardless of location. A specific assembly or congregation is not mentioned in context, and the impact of a Christian's sinful living is far beyond just a local congregation. It certainly applies in both a local and universal sense.

In chapter 11, we find three uses of "church." The first is dealing with the covering of women, the last two are concerning the Lord's Supper.

15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
(1 Cor. 11:15-16)

I believe this to be a clear reference to the various individual congregations around the world at the time. Here are the other two uses in chapter 11:

18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
(1 Cor. 11:18-22)

Both of these uses of "church" are dealing with a problem that seems to have been unique to the Corinthian Christians.

Paul's statement "when you come together as a church" is further evidence that there was one congregation in Corinth at this time. 

The second occurrence of "church," in verse 22, could be applied both globally and locally, but I tend to view it more locally, since it is the currently-assembled brethren that would be immediately and directly impacted by the existing divisions and improper observance of the Lord's Supper at this time.

Beginning in chapter 12, Paul discussed spiritual gifts.

Here are the uses of "church" in this context:

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
(1 Cor. 12:27-28)

4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. ...

12 Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. ...

18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. ...

23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? ...

27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. ... 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.
(1 Cor. 14:4-5, 12, 18-19, 27-28, 33-35)

1 Cor. 12:27-28 discusses the roles within the body of Christ, which applies across all congregations. Each reference to "church" in chapter 14, by contrast, is dealing with the edification of those assembled and is thus focused on the local congregation.

In 1 Cor. 15:9, Paul refers to the entire body of Christ:

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
(1 Cor. 15:9)

The final three uses of "church" in 1 Corinthians are found in chapter 16. The first concerns collections for a need in Jerusalem:

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:
(1 Cor. 16:1)

The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
(1 Cor. 16:19)

All three of these uses refer to specific congregations. Note that, once again, we see Aquila and Priscilla had a congregation in their home.

2 Corinthians

In the 2 Corinthians letter, Paul greeted the Corinthians as follows:

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:
(2 Cor. 1:1)

The inclusion of "all the saints who are in all Achaia" here could be evidence that Paul was addressing a single congregation there in Corinth. It seems clear that Paul intended the letter for circulation throughout the region.

In chapter 8, Paul refers to the "churches" five times, each referring to various congregations.

1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: ... 18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, 19 and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, ... 23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.
(2 Cor. 8:1, 18-19, 23-24)

Similarly, the Holy Spirit through Paul used the word "churches" three times in chapters 11 and 12:

8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you.
(2 Cor. 11:8)

23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. ... 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
(2 Cor. 11:23-28)

For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!
(2 Cor. 12:13)

Each of these three uses were regarding individual congregations.

Galatians

The letter of Galatians was addressed to multiple assemblies in the region of Galatia:

1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:
(Gal. 1:1-2)

There are two additional uses of "church" in the letter, both of which are found in chapter 1:

For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.
(Gal. 1:13)

21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ.
(Gal. 1:21-22)

Verse 13 is referring to the entire body of Christ, whereas verse 22 is referring to the various assemblies in Judea.

Ephesians

Paul used the word "church" nine times in the Ephesian letter, six of which are found in chapter 5, where he explained the relationship between Christ and the church as that of a marriage. In all nine cases, the word "church" was used to refer to the entire body of Christ and not a specific assembly or congregation. Here are the verses in the letter:

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
(Eph. 1:22-23)

8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. ... 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Eph. 3:8-12, 20-21)

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
(Eph. 5:22-32)

Philippians

Paul's letter to the Philippians contains two uses of "church." The first is a reference to the entire body of Christ, whereas the second is a reference to the various individual congregations at the time.

...If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
(Phil. 3:4b-6)

Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.
(Phil. 4:15)

Colossians

There are four occurrences of the word "church" in Paul's letter to the Colossians. The first two, found in chapter 1, are discussing Jesus' entire body. The latter two, found in chapter 4, are referring to specific congregations.

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
(Col. 1:18)

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
(Col. 1:24)

15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house16 Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
(Col. 4:15-16)

I will also point out that in verse 15 we are introduced to another house church, either in Laodicea, Colosse or the surrounding area.

1 Thessalonians

Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians contains two uses of "church," both of which refer to a specific assembly. The first is the introduction to the letter:

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thess. 1:1)

The second reference is to the various assemblies in the Judea region.

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thess. 2:14a)

2 Thessalonians

Paul's second Thessalonian letter also contains two uses of "church." Both are found in the introduction and both are referring to individual assemblies.

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,
(2 Thess. 1:1-4)

1 Timothy

Paul's first letter to Timothy contains three uses of "church," the first two of which I believe are references to the entire body of Jesus. These two references are found in the context of discussing roles and responsibilities in the church.

1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
(1 Tim. 3:1-5)

In practice, a bishop would take care of the church of GOD by working with specific Christians in the area where the bishop lived. The scope of this verse could arguably be even more narrowly defined as the specific assembly of Christians with whom the would-be-bishop assembles regularly. As such, I listed the reference in both places of the appendix.

Here's the second use of "church:"

14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
(1 Tim. 3:14-15)

The household of GOD is greater than any one congregation or assembly—it is the totality of the body of Christ.

The third occurrence of "church" applies to the local congregation of Christians:

If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
(1 Tim. 5:16)

Philemon

The short letter to Philemon contains one use of "church," found in the letter's introduction, and is most likely a reference to another house church.

1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
(Phlm. 1-2)

Hebrews

There is one occurrence of "church" in Hebrews, and it clearly pertains to the entire body of Jesus.

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
(Heb. 12:22-24)

James

The book of James contains one use of "church." It's interpretation is tricky. Here's the verse:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
(Jam. 5:13-15)

The most common understanding is that every assembly of Christians has its own elders, and thus the meaning would be to call the elders of your specific congregation.

This is quite possibly an accurate understanding.

But suppose for a minute that we apply this to the church in Rome where, as we've pointed out, there were multiple smaller congregations meeting in homes. Did each of these house churches have their own set of elders, or were there elders throughout the city of Rome who "floated" among these various assemblies?

In other words, if a Christian is sick and calls elders of the church who (primarily) assemble with various other congregations to pray over him, is this not still accomplishing the same purpose of Jam. 5:14?

3 John

The third letter of John contains three uses of "church," each of which appear to be references to a specific congregation:

5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. ... I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
(3 John 5-6a, 9-10)

Revelation

There are 19 uses of "church" in the book of Revelation. The first is found in the introduction and is an obvious reference to specific individual congregations:

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 to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.
(Rev. 1:4-5)

The next three occcurrences are also in the first chapter and are also regarding these seven congregations:

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” ... 20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
(Rev. 1:10-11, 20)

In Rev. 2-3, Jesus gave specific messages to each of the seven congregations. To each congregation, Jesus introduced Himself differently:

  1. To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
    (Rev. 2:1)
  2. “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:
    (Rev. 2:8)
  3. “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:
    (Rev. 2:12)
  4. “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
    (Rev. 2:18)
  5. “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
    (Rev. 3:1)
  6. “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:
    (Rev. 3:7)
  7. “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:
    (Rev. 3:14)

Likewise, Jesus closed his comments to the first three congregations somewhat differently, and used the same closing for the last four:

  1. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’
    (Rev. 2:7)
  2. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’
    (Rev. 2:11)
  3. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’
    (Rev. 2:17)
  4. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
    (Rev. 2:29)
  5. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
    (Rev. 3:6)
  6. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
    (Rev. 3:13)
  7. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”
    (Rev. 3:22)

In the middle of these instructions Jesus gave to the seven churches of Asia, we find another reference to the individual congregations:

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
(Rev. 2:20-23)

The final occurrence of the word "church" is found in the last chapter of Revelation, again referring to the individual assemblies:

I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
(Rev. 22:16)

Conclusions

This has been a challenging study, and is one of the longer articles I've written, both in terms of words and time invested.

I am a firm believer in the concept of simple—GOD wrote the Bible in such a way as to reach the hearts and minds of simple people.

So it always raises a red flag in my mind any time I find a subject more complicated. "Am I over-thinking, over-analyzing this?," I ask myself. Yet we also know that Scripture is full of meaty, difficult-to-digest content as well.

I find myself frustrated at times with the lack of details about the organization of the NT church. I know that GOD has revealed the important information that we need to know. Yet, having seen over the years so many places where men have perverted and twisted GOD's design, I think diligent effort should be put forth in uncovering the truth about each subject.

At the conclusion of this study I agree with the definitions laid out by Vine and Strong's at the beginning of this article. I found that most of the Scriptures containing "church" are clear as to whether they are universal or congregational in scope, and, of the passages where I was uncertain, the majority of them had both a universal and local application.

After conducting this study, I am more convinced than ever that the NT Christians met in homes, and that these house churches were well-informed of what was happening with one another.

Entering the study, one of my primary questions was whether Rev. 2-3 were addressed to all Christians in each location, regardless of whether they all regularly assembled together or had multiple house churches that comprised "the church at/in/of" each location. While still not 100% convinced, particularly in the case of Ephesus, I am more convinced than before that each location in these chapters was a single congregation.

Thanks for reading!

Appendix

References are NKJV unless otherwise stated. These are my conclusions and there is certainly room for debate on some of these, so please, study for yourself.

References to the entire body of Christians:

  1. ...And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
    (Acts 2:47)
  2. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
    (Acts 5:11)
  3. 1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. ... 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
    (Acts 12:1-5)
  4. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
    (Acts 20:28)
  5. 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
    (1 Cor. 6:4-5)
  6. 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,
    (1 Cor. 10:31-32)
  7. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
    (1 Cor. 12:27-28)
  8. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
    (1 Cor. 15:9)
  9. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.
    (Gal. 1:13)
  10. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
    (Eph. 1:22-23)
  11. 8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. ... 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
    (Eph. 3:8-12, 20-21)
  12. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
    (Eph. 5:22-32)

  13. ...If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
    (Phil. 3:4b-6)
  14. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
    (Col. 1:18)
  15. I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
    (Col. 1:24)
  16. 1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
    (1 Tim. 3:1-5)
  17. 14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
    (1 Tim. 3:14-15)
  18. 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
    (Heb. 12:22-24)

References to either A.) all Christians in a specific geographic location; or B.) a specific assembled group(s):

  1. ...At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
    (Acts 8:1-3)
  2. Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
    (Acts 9:31)
  3. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.
    (Acts 11:22)
  4. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
  5. (Acts 11:25-26)
  6. 1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
    (Acts 13:1-3)
  7. 21 And when they [Barnabas and Paul] had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
    (Acts 14:21-23)
  8. Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
    (Acts 14:27)
  9. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
    (Acts 15:3-4)
  10. Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
    (Acts 15:22)
  11. And he [Paul] went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
    (Acts 15:41).
  12. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.
    (Acts 16:5)
  13. And when he [Paul] had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch.
    (Acts 18:22)
  14. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.
    (Acts 20:17)
  15. 1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

    Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

    8
     Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

    12
     Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

    16
     Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. ...

    23 Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.
    (Rom. 16:1-16, 23)
  16. 1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

    2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
    (1 Cor. 1:1-2)

  17. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
    (1 Cor. 4:17)
  18. 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?
    (1 Cor. 6:4-5)
  19. 17 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches.
    (1 Cor. 7:17)
  20. 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.
    (1 Cor. 11:15-16)
  21. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
    (1 Cor. 11:18-22)
  22. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. ...

    12 Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. ...

    18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. ...

    23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? ...

    27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. ... 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

    34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.
    (1 Cor. 14:4-5, 12, 18-19, 27-28, 33-35)

  23. Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:
    (1 Cor. 16:1)
  24. The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
    (1 Cor. 16:19)
  25. 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

    To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:
    (2 Cor. 1:1)

  26. 1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: ... 18 And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, 19 and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, ... 23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. 24 Therefore show to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.
    (2 Cor. 8:1, 18-19, 23-24)
  27. 8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you.
    (2 Cor. 11:8)
  28. 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
    (2 Cor. 11:28)
  29. For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!
    (2 Cor. 12:13)
  30. 1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me,

    To the churches of Galatia:
    (Gal. 1:1-2)

  31. 21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ.
    (Gal. 1:21-22)
  32. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.
    (Phil. 4:15)
  33. 15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house16 Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.
    (Col. 4:15-16)
  34. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

    To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    (1 Thess. 1:1)

  35. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.
    (1 Thess. 2:14a)
  36. 1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

    To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

    2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,
    (2 Thess. 1:1-4)

  37. 1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?);
    (1 Tim. 3:1-5)
  38. If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.
    (1 Tim. 5:16)
  39. 1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

    To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, 2 to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
    (Phlm. 1-2)

  40. 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
    (Jam. 5:13-15)
  41. 5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. ... I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
    (3 John 5-6a, 9-10)
  42. 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 to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.
    (Rev. 1:4-5)

  43. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” ... 20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
    (Rev. 1:10-11, 20)
  44. To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
    (Rev. 2:1)
  45. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’
    (Rev. 2:7)
  46. “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:
    (Rev. 2:8)
  47. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’
    (Rev. 2:11)
  48. “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:
    (Rev. 2:12)
  49. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’
    (Rev. 2:17)
  50. “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:
    (Rev. 2:18)
  51. 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
    (Rev. 2:20-23)
  52. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
    (Rev. 2:29)
  53. “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
    (Rev. 3:1)
  54. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
    (Rev. 3:6)
  55. “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:
    (Rev. 3:7)
  56. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
    (Rev. 3:13)
  57. “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:
    (Rev. 3:14)
  58. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”
    (Rev. 3:22)
  59. I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
    (Rev. 22:16)
Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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