The Bible uses many images to describe the church. Last week we saw the church as a spiritual house (1 Pet 2:5). Given the audience of the letter (1:1) this is describing the universal church: all Christians joined together in one building.
But Paul uses the same image in 1 Cor 3:16, where the audience is a local church. The church (the people, not the building) are God’s temple, where God dwells.
Another image in 1 Cor 12:12 is the body. While we often think of the body of Christ as an image of the universal church (as Eph 4:12, 16), here Paul speaks of the local church. It was in the local church of Corinth that believers were either envious of gifts or dismissive of those without particular gifts. It was the local church joined together as the Christ’s body.
Yet another image is the flock. Jesus speaks of having one flock in John 10:16. Those who believe in Jesus are part of the universal church, his flock. Yet the image is also found in 1 Pet 5:2, speaking to elders of local churches.
Notice that each local church is not just part of the temple, body, and flock. We are the temple, body and flock. Yet there aren’t many temples, bodies and flocks, but one. What a mystery! Each church is distinct, yet wonderfully united.
So how do we join the church? It depends which church you mean. We join the universal church through faith in Christ and repenting of sin. But each local church has its own way of determining whether someone is part of them or not.
Here, we join through church membership. We’re overjoyed if you feel like this is your home and family, but if you haven’t already, we hope you’ll really join us through church membership.