We believe the Bible teaches that the church of Jesus Christ is both universal and local.
The universal church is made up of everyone in every age who has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Some of these people are presently alive upon the earth. Others have already died and their souls are now in the presence of Jesus Christ in heaven (Hebrews 12:23).
Local churches are the visible expression of the universal church upon the earth. They consist of groups of professing believers in Jesus Christ who assemble together for worship in various localities. They are committed to ordering their lives together according to the commands of Scripture (i.e. appointing elders and deacons, preaching the gospel, administering the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and practicing church discipline).
So when a person becomes a Christian they immediately become part of the universal church as the Holy Spirit unites him/her to Jesus Christ and His body (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Then in accordance with this reality they are to be baptized and join a local church (Acts 2:41).
As the church functions in a healthy way, each one serving according to their God given gifts, it is to be progressively maturing to be more and more like their founder and head, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16), by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In this way they are richly blessed and filled with the joy of the Lord. They also manifest the holy character of God in their own lives through Spirit-empowered good works (Titus 2:11-14) and fill the world with the light of God’s truth by proclaiming the gospel to everyone around them (1 Peter 2:9). Thus the church is the display of God’s glory upon the earth.
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