5 Things Early Christians Understood About "Church"

One clear and sunny day Jesus said to His disciples, "go and make more disciples", and they did. The next generation all the way up to the third century did the same. Then something happened.

“They preached in the streets, the markets, on mountains, in ships, sepulchers, eaves, and deserts, and in the homes of their converts.” Philip Schaff

When you search the New Testament you will find that the word church always refers to a gathering of Christians, never a building.

Here is another topic you may never learn in "Sunday school": Five things early Christians understood about the "Church".

  1. Christians were the first, “non-temple" based religious group. They believed that the body of Christ was and is the temple.

    Destroy this temple and I will build a new one in three days. John 2:19-21 Ephesians 2:6

    Early Christians understood that the hearts of people are sacred places and not a brick and mortal structure made with hands.

    They understood that when they gathered together corporately, constituted the temple or house of God, not the venue in which they gathered. 

    After the death and resurrection of Jesus, there arose a new temple. Paul is one of the first to mention this new temple. 

    In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul says this, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” See my book Clever Lies and Assumptions chapter nine.

  2. Equating the word Church to a building would have been a strange concept to early believers. 

    The concept of Church as a building or meeting place was first used by Clement of Alexandria in 190 AD. He was also the first to coin the phrase, “go to church”.

    As I said, this would have been a strange wording and foreign to the early Christians.

  3. Christianity was the only religion that had no objects, persons and buildings that they called sacred. They gathered in homes, courtyards and along the sides of roads.

    “Some have argued that this was because the Christians were not permitted to erect church buildings. But that is not true. Meeting in homes was a conscious choice of the early Christians.”
    Frank Viola - Pagan Christianity?

  4. The English word church is derived from the Greek word kuriakon, which means “belonging to the Lord.”

    Thanks to Clement of Alexandria it took on a new meaning, referring to a private home that the early Christians used for their gatherings.

  5. Christians did not construct special places for worship until the Constantine era in the forth century. 

The temple, which was constructed by Solomon, and rebuilt by Ezra, then built again by Herod, is no longer the place that God inhabits.

Under the New Testament covenant that Jesus died for, there is no longer a, physical building that serves the purpose of the Old Testament type temple. You are the temple of God. 

Never forget that when you gather with other believers, and Jesus is at the center of that gathering, that alone constitutes the Church, more correctly, the ekklesia.

Sources for this post:

Clever Lies and Assumptions

History of the Christian Church

Pagan Christianity?


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