Bible Question:

What was the name of the church supposed to be? Should the church be called the body of Christ, the ekklesia, or something else? What are the members of the body called?

Bible Answer:

There are many names that have been used for the gatherings of Christians when they meet. One question we are concerned with is, “Should Christians be called a church?” You will discover the name given by Christ and the apostles to the meeting place and to the gatherings of Christians.

The Church

The Church

Jesus Christ was the first to refer to believers, or Christians, as the church. The term “the church” appears in Matthew 16:18. Here is Matthew 16:18.

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:18 (NASB)

The Greek word that Jesus used for “church” is ekklesia.  The basic meaning of ekklesia is “assembly” or “meeting.” That is, the word refers to an assembly of people. Church can refer to the place where believers meet or metaphorically to the all the believers. Jesus used the same word a second time in Matthew 18:17.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:17 (NASB)

In this verse, Jesus clearly uses the word “church” to refer to the entire gathering of Christians or believers. The gospels do not record if Jesus used that term again during His ministry on earth.

Ekklesia is used 112 times from the book of Acts through Revelation. The word is translated as “assembly,” “church” and “congregation” in different Bibles. However, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) only translates ekklesia as “assembly” when referring to an “assembly” of the citizens of the city of Ephesus (Acts 19:32, 39, 41). The NASB translates ekklesia as “congregation” in reference to Israel (Acts 7:38; Hebrews 2:12).

Body of Christ

The assembly of Christians is also metaphorically referred to as the “body of Christ” three times (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 4:12). The assembly of Christians is also called “the body” multiple times in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23-25; Ephesians 3:6; 4:12, 16; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). Finally, Colossians 1:18 refers to “the body” as “the church.”

He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.  Colossians 1:18 (NASB)

The Flock

Sometimes the church is referred to as the “flock” (John 10:16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2, 3).

Nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:3 (NASB)

Both the names “body of Christ,” and “the flock” reminds us that the church is not a building but people — believers or Christians. The name “Christian” and “Christians” is biblical (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).

Should Christians Be Called a Church?

All of these names for the church remind us God sees believers as people. In fact, believers are family members. For He calls them “sons of God” (Romans 8:14), “sons” (Romans 8:15), “children of God” (Romans 8:16), “fellow heirs” (Romans 8:17), “brethren” (Romans 10:1), and “saints” (Ephesians 1:1), for example. Ephesians 1:5 tells us that believers have been adopted as sons.


We can rejoice that God considers us family members and not something abstract.  As His family members, the Lord, our Father calls us to “follow” Him, or in other words, to live in obedience to Him. We learn how He wants us to live by reading and studying the Word of God. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27  (NASB)

Suggested Links:

Peter’s Confession – You are the Christ, the Son of God
Christian — What is a Christian? What is the meaning of Christian?
Searching for God — In Search of God — Go To Heaven
Church Leadership – Function and Qualifications of Elders
What is real church?
ow can I find a true biblical church?
When should a person leave a church?
Do I leave the church if women are elders?
Study of the Church - Ecclesiology