The church is not a discriminatory body. It is open to all people, male or female, slave or free, and Jew or Gentile. As Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christ died for all men and desires all men to come to repentance and to a knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:9). Yet sadly many do not choose to do this. Only those who respond to the call of Christ are the elect of God, chosen to be part of His body. The church is described in Scripture as the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), where Christ is the head. It is described a temple being fitted as a dwelling place of God, with Christ being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22). It is also described as the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The church is not a place that people go, but rather the church is the people of God. There are local churches with lots of different names, associations, and denominations. Yet the true church transcends denominations and associations, for it is made up of all of those who hold to the true confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Only those who have been born again are members of the church. Being on a church’s membership role does not dictate entrance into the kingdom.
Christ says that He will build His church on the rock (Matthew 16:15-19). This likely is in reference to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Conversions happen as God grants faith, and they require a message to go forth which gives birth to salvation. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Thus, it is a body of knowledge, a collection of propositional truth, that is the rock on which the church is built. This is why antichrist, when he comes, will cast truth to the ground (Daniel 8:12). The church fundamentally is called to be a support of the confession of faith pointing to Jesus as Messiah and Savior of the world. Peter, James, and John did this effectively, and they were called “pillars” (Galatians 2:9). They were upholding the truth of their confession no matter what the level of persecution became. The church is defined by what it believes. Christ says that the gates of hades will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). In other words, no amount of persecution will destroy the church. People will always get saved, and no one can stop a person from choosing to love Jesus Christ. God will continue to draw men and women to himself, and the church will live on forever. Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire, but believers will not (Revelation 20:14).
Each local church ought to be sovereign over its affairs, being all the while under the authority of the Scriptures. The church is not an organization led by men. It is led by the Spirit of God, and able men who meet Scriptural qualifications are chosen to shepherd the local flocks. Their job is to preserve the confession, to teach the full counsel of God, and to lead and protect the believers under their care as the Spirit leads them. Though some are called to lead, every believer has been equipped with a spiritual gift and has been called and commissioned to serve in God’s church. The church is built up and only is what God intends it to be when everyone contributes according to their gifts (Ephesians 4:16). The gathering together corporately is important because of the mutual encouragement it provides and because believers need to be taught and trained in righteousness, among other things (Hebrews 10:25).
If a believer is caught in sin, the church has the right and responsibility to discipline such a one by putting him out of the fellowship if he continues in sin and is unwilling to repent (Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:11-14). The goal is that they will come to their senses and repent. Reconciliation and restoration is always the goal (Galatians 6:1).