Interior of a very old church
Hello there my dear Rosary lovers. In this post we will explore the question: what is the Church?

Now, a HUGE amount could be said in response to this question. In fact, when you learn what the Church is you will realise that as it was said about Jesus that all the books in the world couldn’t contain all he did and said (John 21:25), so this could be said about the Church.

The Body of Christ

This is because, first of all, the Church is the Body of Christ. 

Think about that. Christ is God, yes? So the Church is in reality the Body of God.

The Church is God’s Body on earth and in heaven. God has a Body in this universe, and it is his Church.

The Church is a kind of extension of the Incarnation of God in human flesh. Jesus has gone back to heaven physically, but he remains on earth. How? In and by his Church, which is his Body.

This is amazing when you think about it.

A Physical, Tangible Church

A massive, Church-like structure

What this means is that the Church must be a very physical entity. It cannot merely be a vague collection of people. It is a concrete Entity in this world.

Why? Because Jesus Christ truly became man. He didn’t become a pretend man. He didn’t pretend to have human flesh and bones. He really became flesh: ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,’ (John 1:14).

So the physical Body of Jesus Christ is very physical. His flesh and blood is every bit as physical as mine or yours.

If the Church is also his Body, then it too MUST be physical. It’s physicality and visibility must be every bit as obvious as the Saviour’s when he walked on earth. People could literally reach out and touch him.

So they can do this with the Church today. The world is able to reach out and physically touch the Church.

The Church is able to speak with authority to the world (Matthew 18:15-18). She is able to listen to the world. She is able to ask the world questions, as Jesus did with the teachers of the law in the Temple (Luke 2).

The Church is, as it were, a living Divine Organism in this world. She is absolutely not something ill-defined.

A Very Visible Church

The Church is able to be SEEN by the world. Everyone knows where she is.

Jesus taught this, because he said of his Followers (the Church) ‘a city set on a hill CANNOT be hidden’ (Matthew 5), and the Church is the City of God on earth.

According to the Saviour, it is absolutely impossible for the Church he founded to be invisible and hidden from the world. It is EXTREMELY visible and obvious. The Church’s very nature is to be unhidden, incapable of being hidden from sight.

Many people seem to have this idea that the Church of Jesus is a non-tangible, ethereal sort of collection of people, with no concrete boundaries, which cannot really speak to the world and the world cannot see it.

Many Christians believe this. They think that the Church cannot be seen, that it is not visible to the world. Very unfortunately, this is the product of Protestant thinking about Christianity and the Church. Many Christians today do not even know that this is where their view of the Church comes from, but it is not biblical or historic.

It cannot be true because entrance into Jesus Christ’s Church is to be baptised by water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If we are not baptised, we are not Christians (Galatians 3:26-27). If we are not baptised, we are not fully in Christ yet (John 3:5).

But baptism is an extremely physical, tangible thing. It is a highly visible thing. People gather to watch baptisms! You cannot have an invisible baptism, and therefore you cannot have a visible baptism into an invisible Church. People gather to witness people enter a physical, visible Church by visible baptism.

Just before he died on the cross, Jesus prayed to his Father God: ‘Father, I pray that my followers would all be one … so that the world will believe that You have sent Me‘ (John 17:20-21).

These are extremely important and overlooked words of our Lord. Just before he died, Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers. He prayed we would be one in mind and heart and one visibly. But notice that we have to be visibly united, or else the world will NOT believe that God sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world.

The visible unity of Christians and of the Church is absolutely vital for the success of the Gospel in this world. Perhaps the Number 1 reason why so many people do not believe in Jesus Christ is because Christians are NOT visibly united in one Church. If we were, the world would believe. Jesus said this!

There are so many Christians who are totally at a loss as to where they belong church-wise, often they simply don’t go anywhere. When asked why not, they respond, ‘There’s just so much confusion, so many churches. I wish it were simple!’

It is simple: Jesus gave us a visible Church, which is one. That Church is the ‘one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church’ of the Nicene Creed.

That is, the present-day Catholic Church, headed up by the Pope of Rome.

A Church with Peter as the Rock

A great statue of Peter holding the keys

Interestingly, Jesus also left the world a Leader: Simon Peter. Jesus changed Simon’s name and called him Peter, or Cephas. This name means Rock. And Jesus told Peter that Christ would build his Church on Peter (Matthew 16:13-20).

Jesus even gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, the keys to the Church. So Peter is the earthly Prime Minister of Jesus.

It is absolutely vital that Christians belong to the Church which has Simon Peter as the Rock and visible Head on earth. This is because Jesus said that the Church with Peter could NEVER be defeated by the powers of hell (Matthew 16:18). This is what Jesus intended.

But where is Peter today? Well, Peter died, and now reigns in heaven. He’s not on earth anymore.

So is the Church deprived of Peter, the Rock?

Nope! When Peter died, he left a successor to his Office: the Pope of Rome. To this day, we still have the Pope of Rome, who sits in Peter’s holy chair at Rome.

Peter’s chair preserves the visible unity of the Church on earth, as it has always done. Many early Church fathers of both East and West talk about this reality. It has always been the belief of Christians, before the Protestant Reformation.

The Church is the Gospel

There is one more thing I wish to say right now, and that is that the Church is – in a certain sense – the Gospel.

Paul teaches in Ephesians 3 that the Church is ‘the Mystery’ that God has now revealed to the world. This use of the word ‘mystery’ is interesting, since elsewhere Paul calls Christ the Mystery of God (Colossians 2:1-3).

The Church was foretold in the prophets, like Isaiah and Genesis. Now, in Christ, the Church has been revealed to all.

This is remarkable. Paul says in Ephesians 3:1-11 that the mystery now revealed is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs with the Jews, partaking of all the promises of God. We are all part of the same Body, the Church.

This truth is the Gospel, the Mystery! All so that the great wisdom of God might be now revealed to the world and to the heavenly authorities: by the Church!

It’s amazing to see this. When do we ever hear that the Church is the Gospel?

But of course she is. If she is the Body of Christ and the Body of God, of course she is the Gospel. How can she not be?

Jesus constantly refers to this fact when he says: ‘the kingdom of heaven is like’, ‘the kingdom of heaven is like’. He is always talking about the reality of the Church.

He says in Mark 1: ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel!’

Well, what is the Gospel? The Gospel is that the Kingdom of heaven is here. Where? In the Church!

The Kingdom of heaven is the Gospel, the Gospel about the Kingdom. And that Kingdom is found in the Church.

The Gospel is NOT merely a message or a teaching or set of ideas. The Gospel is a living Reality in this world. It is the Good News that God is here, now, with us in this world, by the Holy Spirit, in the Church! And through Christ and his Church, we have the tremendous privilege and opportunity to come back to God.

The Church IS Christ

In fact, the Church IS Christ. Christ and the Church are ONE.

Yes there is distinction between Christ and the Church, because Christ is Christ, whereas the Church is us. But we must also remember this great mystery: that we are ONE in Christ and ONE with Christ.

This is how Jesus could say to Saul: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?’ Jesus didn’t say: ‘why are you persecuting my people, my Church,’ but: ‘why are you persecuting ME.’ (Acts 9).

To persecute the Church is to touch the flesh and bones of Christ. It is to attack his very living, organic Body on earth. It is to attack HIM.

The Church is Divine because she is united to God in the closest possible union. God fills the Church and in a very real sense the Church and God are ONE.

How about this for an amazing scripture: ‘the Church, which is Christ’s body – the FULLNESS of Him who fills all in all.’ (Ephesians 1:22-23).

The Church is the FULLNESS of Christ, who fills all things! Wow!

The Church is God’s hands, feet, voice, mouth, eyes and ears to this world. God’s very presence in this world is in and by the Church.

This is how God comes to the world, through the Church, because this is how Christ comes to the world: through his Body: ‘He appeared in a Body’ (1 Timothy 3:16). Christ always comes in a Body, and that Body is now the Church.

The world CANNOT be saved without the Church. The Church is absolutely necessary for the salvation of sinners. This is why she is called: the Pillar and Ground of the Truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

So where is the Church?

This is why it is so very important for us to find the Church Jesus left the world. In truth, that Church Jesus left us is very easy to find, once we peel back the layers of centuries of frankly nonsensical anti-Catholic propaganda.

If we are honest, it is obvious to most that the true Church – if such a thing exists – must be the Catholic Church.

The ancient creeds all say that the Catholic Church is the true Church!

The earliest testimonies we have of the early Christians and Bishops all say they were Catholics and part of the Catholic Church!

The Catholic Church is the FIRST Church, because it is the one Jesus founded.

The Catholic Church has the Pope to mark her out as being the true Church, and the Pope can track his succession all the way back to Peter himself.

Every nation in the world knows who the Pope is. What a supremely simple way for God to show everyone where his Church is! Find the Pope, and you find the Church!

Isn’t the Catholic Church the most visible Church in all the world? ‘A city set on a hill cannot be hidden’ … There are Catholics in every, single nation under heaven.

The Catholic Church is also the most hated Church in the world, which would fit with Jesus being hated by the world. Archbishop Sheen once said if he wasn’t a Christian, it would be easy to find the true Church because you simply have to look for the one the world hates the most, because it hated Jesus.

Jesus said this: he said the world would hate his Church (John 14-16).

The Catholic Church is filled with miracles, a powerful testimony to her reality and truth. Just look at the life of St Padre Pio.

The Catholic Church is filled with incredibly holy people: just look at St Mother Theresa.

The Catholic Church is visible united and one all over the world: she is the ONLY Church which is visible one in the world, all the other Churches have visible disunity.

And the Catholic Church speaks with the voice of God to this dying world. As Jesus spoke with authority, so the Church speaks with authority. Everytime the Pope addresses the world, he speaks on behalf of Christ.

What other Church ever speaks so widely to the entire world, often on huge issues of moral concern? What other Church speaks with such certainty about the will of God on difficult matters?

We must belong to the Church

It is incredibly important that we are part of Christ’s Church if we wish to be in a right relationship with God. The Catholic Church is an absolutely vital part of the Gospel.

Believing in the Catholic Church is – and has always been – a crucial aspect of saving faith in Christ, just as the Apostles Creed teaches:

‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, [and] the Holy Catholic Church …’!

The Nicene Creed says the same thing: ‘I believe in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.’

These are ancient creeds which sum up the faith of ALL Christians before the Protestant Reformation.

Believing in the Catholic Church is a necessary saving truth of the Christian religion. Anyone who doesn’t believe in the Catholic Church is not believing the totality of what Christ intended or the full truth of the Gospel. And anyone who knows the Catholic Church to be the Church of Jesus and yet refuses to join it cannot be saved.

I hope you have enjoy this post, and if you have any questions, please let me know.

God bless you!

10 Replies to “What is the Church?”

  1. Wow, this article presents a thought-provoking perspective on the nature of the Church. 

    I love how it emphasizes the physical and tangible aspect of the Church as the Body of Christ, highlighting its visibility and authority in the world. The role of Peter and the papacy in preserving the unity of the Church is discussed, along with the Church’s significance in the salvation of individuals. It definitely offers a unique viewpoint worth contemplating.

  2. In my opinion, the concept of the Church is multifaceted and holds significant personal and collective meaning. Through my experiences and observations, I perceive the Church as more than just a physical structure or religious institution. It represents a community of individuals united by shared beliefs, values, and a sense of spiritual connectedness. The Church serves as a sanctuary where people come together to worship, find solace, and cultivate a sense of belonging. It offers opportunities for spiritual growth, moral guidance, and acts of compassion towards others. However, one question that arises is how can the Church adapt and remain relevant in a rapidly changing world? How can it continue to fulfill its fundamental role in nurturing faith and fostering a sense of community, while also addressing the evolving needs and concerns of its members? Exploring this question can lead to insights on how the Church can continue to thrive and positively impact individuals and society as a whole

  3. Thanks for this post. 

    I agree that the Church is the body of Christ and in believing this, we need to consider keeping our faith simple. 

    The church is a living organism on this earth, and accordingly, shares the same needs and faults as every other living organism. 

    That is, I believe the church needs constant feeding (prayer and oversight from god’s chosen), love and shelter (right relationships and protection from the elements of sin) and exercise (training for godliness, 1 Tim 4:8). 

    Your point that we, as Christ followers are to be visibly united so that the world will believe in Him is a profound statement. Also, that the church and Christ are one is something that is often overlooked, not just in secular societies but by Christians. 

    Otherwise, you would not see so many Christians confused as to why the church is an essential element in their calling and faith.  I do disagree in part with your final summation. My faith is in my lord and savior Jesus. 

    I acknowledge Christ as my own personal Lord, and repent. Essentially, I believe that Christ was who He said he was, I have asked for Him to be Lord of my life and acknowledge Him as being the only way I can approach God (Heaven).  My choice of church or non-choice of church does not alter my saving faith in Christ. 

    Thanks for such a thought provoking read. I really enjoyed it. 

  4. This is an excellently written and informative post Matthew about the Catholic Church and the detailed meaning that entails. I don’t think that any Christian would argue that the Church is Christ’s representative on earth in this current age.

    I agree with you one hundred percent though that Jesus’ body is as physical today at the right hand of the Father in heaven as yours or mine or even as he was during His incarnation and earthly ministry. I think the majority of Christendom would argue though as most people these days don’t believe that heaven is physical at all. I’m not sure that the majority of Christians would even affirm the fact of Jesus and our physical resurrection. Even the damned will come out of the grave in the last day with a physical body fit for destruction.

    I believe that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ so I don’t agree with much Catholic doctrine but I do affirm the physical resurrection.

    1. Hey there! Many thanks for reading and for your response. God bless you!

      Just something for you to ponder: for many years I was a Reformed Evangelical, aligned strongly with the Reformed tradition. Very much believed in salvation by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

      I studied Theology under some notably personalities, one of whom is one of the outstanding Reformed scholars in the world today. I remember him teaching us, and he would often come out with some jewels, one of which was: ‘The thing about the Catholic Church is that I find myself agreeing with 98% of what it teaches. But it’s that 2% that is so very significant!’

      Haha, I always remembered that.

      Take care.

  5. As a Catholic, I really enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for the thoughtful, well-written and most importantly Catholic definition of what the Church is. 

    I am currently very lucky to attend the masses of a Church that still provides the Traditional Latin Mass, and your article made me think about how much I appreciate the community and spiritual reprieve the experience of going to church gives me. 

    I love the pictures you shared and the way you outlined the post by highlighting the Church’s visibility, authority, and unity under the papacy.

    I look forward to reading more of the articles on your website.

    1. How great to meet you! I’ve never been fortunate enough to attend the Traditional Latin Mass. I have attended Greek Orthodox services, and I imagine they are rather similar. Do you use a lot of incense at Latin Mass?

      I hope you find other useful stuff on the site. God bless you.

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