I recently saw an advertisement where the question was asked: Do you belong to the one true church? It explained that this particular denomination was by Biblical standards the authentic church that teaches the true doctrine of Christ. They based this on the saying of Jesus to Peter: “Upon this rock I will build my church.” In other words, it would be His church, the church of Jesus.
Unfortunately their reasoning is somewhat flawed because they were basing their claim on the English version of what Jesus really said in Aramaic. For instance, in the Orthodox Jewish Bible, that is translated from the original Hebrew, Matthew 16:18 reads: “And I also say to you that you are Shimon Kefa [small rock] and upon this TSUR [large rock] I will build my Kehillah [congregation], my Chavurah [fellowship].” The English word “church” was never uttered in Jesus’s day.
In the Complete Jewish Bible it reads: “on this rock I will build my Community.” And in the oldest known English version of Matthew in Hebrew renders it: “I will build upon you my house of prayer.” When Matthew’s Gospel was eventually translated out of Hebrew into Greek, the term that was chosen to represent this Hebrew word for congregation, fellowship, and community was ekklēsia which means “a gathering or assembly.”
Then when Martin Luther translated the Bible out of Greek into German, before the English Bible appeared, he rendered it: “will ich meine Gemeinde bauen,” meaning, “I will build my community or assembly.” Even Young’s Literal English Translation says: “Upon this rock I will build my assembly.” It wasn’t until the English translation by Wycliffe was printed that the word “church” was used for this term.
But the word “church” can have several meanings. If someone asks, “Where’s your church?” they usually mean it’s physical location or address. When they inquire, “What church do you go to?” they want to know the name of your church. And when they want to know, “What church do you belong to,” they are wanting to know the name of your denomination.
The thing is, Jesus never gave His community of believers a name. He simply meant, all those who would be His followers. All names of denominations and churches today have come from what people have composed to either identify it by the name of its founder, or their form of ecclesiastical government, or even doctrine, etc. And for any of them to claim, “We’re the real church Jesus was talking about!” might not really know what they’re talking about.
All those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior become part of the body of Christ, which is the bride of Christ. This crosses all denominational lines. So the next time someone asks you what church you belong to, try telling them that you belong to the body of Christ, and that you gather together with others at _______ (and then give them the name and location of the building where you assemble). Their response might be very interesting, and will give you an opportunity to explain. – Dr. Robert R. Seyda