Question 99


What is the universal Church*?


The universal Church* is made up of all of God’s redeemed* people. The Church* is the family of God the Father. It is the body of Christ the Son. It is the place where the Holy* Spirit* lives.

Jesus is the Messiah.* God promised that he would come to rescue Israel.* But he did not come to save Israel only. He came to save the whole world.[1] God promised Abraham* that, through his family, all of the families of the world would be blessed*.[2]This family of Abraham is now called the church. The word ‘church’ comes from a Greek word that means to gather together.


The church is a group of people who are called to gather together. God has set apart those who have put their trust* in Jesus. He calls them to gather together as his Holy Nation[3], as Peter* calls them.


The word ‘universal’ means something that applies to all people. So, the universal Church is made up of all believers* in Jesus Christ in all parts of the world. People also use the words universal church to speak of anyone who has ever or will ever believe in Jesus. So, it is the people God has called to himself in the past, the present, and the future.


When we use the word church in this way, we are not talking about something that Christians do. We do not speak of the church meeting. We speak of who we are. We, who believe in Jesus, are the church. We are the church all of the time, everywhere we go. We are the church when we are together and when we are alone. We are the church when we are all in one place. And we are the church when we are scattered in many places.


The New Testament* calls the universal church, the Body of Christ.[4]


When Jesus came into the world he came in a body of flesh and blood. In that body, Jesus showed us who God is. And he showed us how much God loves us when he died on the cross* in our place. Now Christ is in heaven*, in his body that God raised from the dead.


But Jesus is still at work in the world. He is doing his work through the people that he has called to be his own. So, the church is now the body of Christ on earth. He uses our hands to do his work. He uses our voices to speak kind words to people who are hurting. He uses our feet to go into all the world to take his good news to all people. Jesus does this work in us with the help of the Holy Spirit.


The Holy Spirit came to live in us when we believed that Jesus is the Messiah. The Spirit* gives us the wisdom and power to do the work Jesus wants us to do. That is why the New Testament calls our body ‘the temple* of the Holy Spirit’. The temple in the Old Testament* was the place where God came to be present among his people.


After Jesus came, and rose from the dead, he sent his Holy Spirit to live in all of the people who trust him. So now, our bodies are his temple, because God lives in us. And the Holy Spirit lives in everyone who is part of the church. So each of us is the temple of the Holy Spirit. And all of us together are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God is present in the world, in the church, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.[5] Paul* tells us that since we are the temple, we should be people who live for God’s glory.* We should honor* God in all that we do.


The scriptures* also say that the church is the family of God. When we believed on God’s son, we became a child of God.[6] God adopted* us so that we could be one of his own dear children. God is our Father, and he welcomes us into his family. Now we can call him Father.[7]


We are no longer strangers to God. We are his sons and daughters. So, all who are part of the church belong to the same family. We are not alone. We have brothers and sisters in every nation. They speak every language from every tribe*.[8] But we are all one family together.

[1] John 1:11-12; John 3:17; John 12:44-47
[2] Genesis 12:2; Genesis 17:4; Genesis 18:18
[3] 1 Peter 2:9
[4] Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:7; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:24
[5] 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19
[6] John 1:12
[7] Ephesians 1:15
[8] Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9