A Defense of the Word “Church” and of
Building the Kingdom



Noah Webster’s first American dictionary (1828) defines “church” in this way:


CHURCH, n.[Sax. Circe, circ or cyric; Scots, kirk, which retains the Saxon pronunciation ; D. kerk ; G. kirche ; Sw. kyrckia ; Dan. kirke ; Gr. kuriakon, a temple of God, from kuriako~ , pertaining to a Lord, or to our Lord Jesus Christ, from kurio~, a Lord.

1.  A house consecrated to the worship of God, among Christians; the Lord’s house. This seems to be the original meaning of the word. The Greek, ekklesia, from ekkalew, to call out or call together, denotes an assembly or collection. But kuriako~ , kuriakon, are from kurio~, Lord, a term applied by the early christians to Jesus Christ; and the house in which they worshipped was named from that title. So kuriaka signifies church goods, bona ecclesiastica; kuriakh, sc. hmera, the Lord’s Day, dies dominica.

2.  The collective body of christians, or of those who profess to believe in Christ, and acknowledge him to be the Savior of mankind. In this sense, the church is sometimes called the Catholic or Universal ChurchJohnson. Encyc.

3.  A particular number of christians, united under one form of ecclesiastical government, in one creed, and using the same ritual and ceremonies; as the English church, the Presbyterian church, the Romish church, the Greek church.

4.  The followers of Christ in a particular city or province; as the church of Ephesus, or of Antioch.

5.  The disciples of Christ assembled for worship in a particular place, as in a private house. Col. iv. [See No. 9]

6.  The worshippers of Jehovah or the true God, before the advent of Christ; as the Jewish church.

7.  The body of clergy, or ecclesiastics, in distinction from the laity. Hence, ecclesiastical authority.    Encyc.

8.  An assembly of sacred rulers convened in Christ’s name to execute his laws.        Cruden. Brown.

9.  The collective body of christians, who have made a public profession of the christian religion,  and who are united under the same pastor; in distinction from those who belong to the same parish, or ecclesiastical society, but have made no profession of their faith.


The word “church” was used to translate the Greek “ekklesia” because “church” was often found in phrases like “kuriokon doma,” the “house of the Lord.” Some people think of a specific building when they think of the “house” of the Lord. But the Bible speaks of God’s House in more cosmic terms.

God’s House = Church = Kingdom

I do not defend ecclesiastical authority or ritual and ceremonies. I object to the distinction between clergy and laity. All the laity should be active priests and kings (Rev. 1:6; 5:10). We should all be functioning as a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Christianity is not a spectator sport. Nor is it a ritual. “Worship” means service, obedience to God in every area of life.

The basic meaning of the word “worship” is service. To “worship” God is to put every area of one’s life under the His Law. As The New Bible Dictionary puts it, “[T]he essential concept in both the Old and New Testaments is ‘service.’” John Murray writes,

[Worship in the] generic sense is the devotion we owe to God in the whole of life. God is sovereign, He is Lord, having sovereignty over us and propriety in us, and therefore in all that we do we owe subjection to him, devotion to His revealed will, obedience to His commandments. There is no area of life where the injunction does not apply (I Cor. 10:31). In view of the lordship of Christ as Mediator all of life comes under His dominion (Col. 3:23,24).

Worship in the generic sense is thus service to God in every area of life; total slavery to Him Who is Lord of all. Worship cannot be limited to a “church,” or the building Christians go to once a week.

I don’t have any objection to Christians getting together in a house, rented hall, or arena to sing, pray, and listen to an entertaining motivational speaker. The question is, when they leave “the church” will they be an obedient church.

The Greek word usually translated “church” is ekklesia, which has reference to a governmental body, such as a City Council or House of Representatives. It is a decision-making body that puts the law of the civil sovereign into effect. It is a public, civic, governmental body, not a warm-fuzzy escapist retreat from life.

When Caesar visited a local area, he was preceded by a herald [khrux, kerux] who would proclaim, [khrussw, kerusso] the Good News [khrugma, kerugma] of the coming of the Emperor, the one who brought peace, prosperity, health and welfare [soteria, soteria] to the conquered nation.

Christians denied the claims of Caesar. They claimed their own heralds, or preachers, their own Gospel, or Good News, and their own Savior, who brought salvation, restoration, and regeneration to the world without regard to the claims of Caesar.

According to scholars, the coins of the Emperor Tiberius carried a “bust of Tiberius in Olympian nakedness, adorned with the laurel wreath, the sign of divinity.” The inscription read, “Emperor Tiberius August Son of the August God,” on the one side, and “Pontifex Maximus” or “High Priest” on the other. The symbols also included the emperor’s mother, Julia Augusta (Livia) sitting on the throne of the gods, holding the Olympian sceptre in her right hand, and, in her left, the olive branch to signify that “she was the earthly incarnation of the heavenly Pax [peace].” (Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), p. 124.) The coins thus had a religious significance. Religion was a political affair. Caesar was a false god.

Christians would not worship this false god.

Caesar claimed to the world’s soter, savior, who brought soteria, salvation to the oikomene, the inhabited Roman world. Caesar’s herald, kerux, preacher, announced, “There is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved than the name of Caesar Augustus.” Christ’s kerux announced, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Christ vs. Caesar. It was a conflict of two religions, two saviors, two Kingdoms. Pax Romana (the peace of Rome) or Pax Christi (the peace of Christ).

The Jews were friends of Caesar. They had been bought off.

(Luke 7:2-5)  A [Roman] centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. {3} When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. {4} When they came to Jesus, they appealed to Him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, {5} for he loves our people, and it is he who built [oikodomeo:G3618] our synagogue for us.”

When the Apostle Peter challenged Roman Caesar worship, he announced the building of the true empire, the true Kingdom.

(Acts 4:10-12)  Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. {11} This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. {12} Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

A new building is being erected. It is Christ’s Kingdom.


“Church” = “Kingdom”

We grievously err if we limit the meaning of “church” to a building that we attend only once (maybe twice) a week. The New Testament is filled with allusions to the building of a church, a kingdom, a temple, a dwelling place for God, in which all the saints dwell, indeed, which is all the saints.

The first occurrence of the word ekklesia in the New Testament is Matthew 16:18-19:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. {19} And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Note the following about “the church”:

1.            It goes on the offensive against a rival kingdom, hell, but hell’s defenses (“gates”) will not be able to withstand the assault by Christ’s Kingdom.

2.            Christ promises to build this kingdom,

3.            Christ promises to give the keys of this kingdom.

“Church” is synonymous with “kingdom.”


The following verses bring together the following themes:

·         Church

·         Kingdom

·         Throne

·         Temple

·         Dwellingplace, dwell

·         Body

·         Build, building

These relationships emerge:

·         Body = temple

·         Temple = throne

·         Throne = kingdom

·         The body/temple/kingdom is to be built

·         We are builders

·         We are being built up

·         We are the temple

·         We are the Kingdom

·         We are to build the Kingdom

In fact, one of the central purposes of being a Christian is to build the kingdom of Christ, a command repeatedly found in the New Testament.


Temple = God’s House = Kingdom

The temple is where God lives, or dwells. Throughout ancient world, “temple” = “palace” because the emperor (king) was divine. So “temple” = “Kingdom.”


When you see the word “throne” you should think about the King that sits on the throne, and the Kingdom which He rules. The word “temple” emphasizes the holiness of the place, while the word “palace” might emphasize its royal character. That’s why the Church is a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9), because we serve in the temple of the King.


(Acts 7:47-50)  But Solomon built him an house. {48} Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, {49} Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? {50} Hath not my hand made all these things?


(1 Kings 6:12-14)  Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father: {13} And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel. {14} So Solomon built the house, and finished it.


(John 2:15-16)  And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; {16} And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.


Temple = Throne

(Revelation 7:15)  Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall tabernacle among them.


We are God’s House/Temple

(Hebrews 3:6)  But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.


(Ephesians 2:19-22)  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; {20} And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; {21} In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: {22} In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.


(Galatians 6:10)  As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.


(1 Timothy 3:15)  if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.


(1 Corinthians 3:16-17)  Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? {17} If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.


(1 Corinthians 6:19)  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?


(2 Corinthians 5:1-4)  For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. {2} For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: {3} If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. {4} For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.


(2 Corinthians 6:16-17)  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. {17} Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,


(1 John 4:12)  No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.


Building God’s House= Building the Kingdom

(Revelation 21:3)  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.


No Physical Temple

(Revelation 21:22)  And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.


Overcomers = New Jerusalem

(Revelation 3:12)  Him that overcometh [nikao – think “Nike” - victory]will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.


Overcome + Kingdom


(Revelation 3:21)  To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.


(Luke 11:20-22)  But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. {21} When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: {22} But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.


(Revelation 12:10-11)  And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. {11} And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.


(Revelation 15:2-3)  And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory [nikao] over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. {3} And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.


(Revelation 17:12-14)  And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. {14} These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.


(Matthew 21:42-44)  Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? {43} Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. {44} And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.


(Matthew 24:1)  And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings [oikodome] of the temple.


(John 2:18-21)  Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? {19} Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. {20} Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? {21} But he spake of the temple of his body.


Kingdom = Mustard Seed = Temple

(1 Corinthians 3:6-17)  I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. {7} So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. {8} Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. {9} For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. {10} According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. {11} For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. {12} Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; {13} Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. {14} If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. {15} If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. {16} Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? {17} If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.


[The temple in Jerusalem was burned to the ground in AD70.]


Hill = dwelling place of God = Kingdom

(Psalms 68:15-16)  The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan. {16} Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.


(Isaiah 4:5-6)  And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. {6} And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.


(Micah 4:1-5)  In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, {2} and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. {3} He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; {4} but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. {5} For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.



The Biblical word “edify” is from the Greek,

3618. oikodomeo, oy-kod-om-eh’-o; from the same as G3619; to be a house-builder, i.e. construct or (fig.) confirm:--(be in) build (-er, -ing, up), edify, embolden.

3619. oikodome, oy-kod-om-ay’; fem. (abstr.) of a comp. of G3624 and the base of G1430; architecture, i.e. (concr.) a structure; fig. confirmation:--building, edify (-ication, -ing).

3624. oikos, oy’-kos; of uncert. affin.; a dwelling (more or less extensive, lit. or fig.); by impl. a family (more or less related, lit. or fig.):--home, house (-hold), temple.

1430. doma, do’-mah; from  demo (to build); prop. an edifice, i.e. (spec.) a roof:--housetop.

Our English word “edifice” means building. To “edify” is to build an edifice. The Greek word “oikodomeo” is literally “build a house.” To “edify” someone in the Christian sense is to build them up into the House of God on the Foundation of Christ and the Apostles. The House of God is the Temple, where the King dwells. They become indwelt by the King. The church becomes the Kingdom. The temple is where God’s Throne is. The temple is kingdom headquarters. The Body of Christ is His temple, His Kingdom.


(Acts 9:31)  Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were Kingdom/House-built; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.


(Acts 20:32)  And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to Kingdom/House-build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are made into saints.


(Romans 14:17-19)  For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. [pax romana, or pax Christi?]{18} For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. {19} Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may Kingdom/House-build one another.


(Romans 15:2)  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to Kingdom/House-building.

(Romans 15:20)  Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:


(1 Corinthians 8:1)  Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity oikodomeo, builds the house of God.


(1 Corinthians 10:23)  All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things do not oikodomeo, build the house of God.


(1 Corinthians 14:3-5)  But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to house-building, and exhortation, and comfort. {4} He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. {5} I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.


(1 Corinthians 14:12)  Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

(1 Corinthians 14:17)  For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

(1 Corinthians 14:26)  How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.


(2 Corinthians 10:8)  For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:


(2 Corinthians 12:19)  Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.


(2 Corinthians 13:10)  Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction.


(Ephesians 2:20-22)  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; {21} In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: {22} In whom ye also are builded together for an dwellingplace of God through the Spirit.


(Ephesians 4:12)  For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

(Ephesians 4:15-16)  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: {16} From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.


(Ephesians 4:29)  Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of house-building, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.


(Colossians 2:7)  Rooted and built up [ep-oikodomeo] in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.


(1 Thessalonians 5:11)  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.


(1 Timothy 1:4)  Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.


(2 Timothy 2:19-21)  Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. {20} But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. {21} If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.


(Hebrews 11:10)  For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.


[The city is the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12), which is the church.]


(1 Peter 2:4-9)  To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, {5} Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. {6} Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. {7} Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, {8} And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. {9} But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:


(Jude 1:20)  But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,


(Revelation 3:12)  Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.


Levites serve in God’s House

(1 Chronicles 23:25-28)  For David said, The LORD God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever: {26} And also unto the Levites; they shall no more carry the tabernacle, nor any vessels of it for the service thereof. {27} For by the last words of David the Levites were numbered from twenty years old and above: {28} Because their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the LORD, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, and the work of the service of the house of God;


We are all Levites

(Revelation 22:3)  And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: