Dear Church Family,

If someone asked you “What is the church?”, how would you define it? Or, if someone were to form a definition based on your typical usage of the word “church,” how would they define it? This may seem like a basic question to many of us, but if we think about it for long, we may discover it is a bit more complex than we first realized.

As we work toward a definition, we first begin with the Scriptures as the source of origin. Within the Scriptures, we find different usages. These usages break down into two categories: the universal church (sometimes called the lowercase “c” catholic church) and the local church. Here we will focus on the universal church.

The universal church refers to the entirety of the redeemed people of God from the beginning of time through the end of time. “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25 tell us. Christ died for His bride in order “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27).

There is only one universal church because Jesus only has one bride—He is no polygamist. Neither as individual churches nor as individual Christians should we consider ourselves as the bride of Christ. However, we do together with all the redeemed washed by His blood expectantly wait for the marriage supper of the Lamb. On that day we will all be assembled together in the same place in the presence of the same King of kings and Lord of lords.

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:6-8).