What is the Church?

This entry is part 37 of 44 in the series What are Catechisms?

What is the holy Christian church?1

The holy Christian church is the communion of saints, the total number of those who believe in Christ. All believers in Christ, but only believers, are members of the church (invisible church) (Ephesians 2:19-22; John 10:16; Romans 8:9).

Why do you say, “I believe” in the church?2

  • Because faith, which makes people members of the church, is invisible, the church is invisible to human eyes (Luke 17:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:19).
  • The Scriptures assure us that the Holy Spirit continues to gather and preserve the church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:41, 47). Bible narrative: The seven thousand in Israel (1 Kings 19:8-18).

Why do you say, I believe in “the” church?3

There is only one church, one spiritual body of believers (saints), whose one and only head is Christ (Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:3-6; Colossians 1:18).

Why is the church called “holy”?4

It is made up of holy people (saints), believers who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ and who serve God with holy living (Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Peter 2:5).

In what sense do you call the Church holy?5

All whom God has chosen he justifies, and forms to holiness and innocence of life (Romans 8:30), that his glory may be displayed in them. And this is what Paul means when he says that Christ sanctified the Church which he redeemed, that it might be a glorious Church, free from all blemish (Ephesians 5:25).

Why is the church called “Christian”?6

It belongs to Christ and is built on Him alone (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20). Note: The word catholic, sometimes used in creeds, means “universal” or “general.” The church exists throughout the world, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed.

Where is this holy Christian church to be found?7

The holy Christian church is to be found where “the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel” (Augsburg Confession VII). The Gospel and the sacraments are called the “marks of the church.” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

In what other senses is the word church used?8

The word church is also used to indicate

  • the visible church of God;
  • a denomination;
  • a local congregation;
  • a house of worship.

Why does Scripture call local congregations “church”?9

Local, visible gatherings around the means of grace are called churches because there believers are gathered around Word and sacrament (Matthew 18:17; Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 1:2). Note: Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia (Galatians 1:2). He wrote to the church of the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:1). John wrote to the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1-3). A group of ‘congregations is also called “church” (Acts 9:31).

What is the visible church?10

The visible church is the whole number of those who use the Word of God and profess the Christian faith, but among whom, beside the true Christians, there are also unbelievers.

Are there then two churches, one visible and the other invisible?11

There is only one church—all believers in Christ. The visible gathering is called church because of the believers gathered around the means of grace in an assembly in which there are also hypocrites. Bible narratives: The net that caught all kinds of fish (Matthew 13:47-48). A man without wedding clothes (Matthew 22:11-12). Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).

What do the Scriptures teach about our life in the church?12

They teach that

  • we should seek always to be and remain members of the invisible church, Christ’s body, by sincere faith in Christ, our Savior (John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 13:5);
  • we should be faithful to that visible church, or denomination, which professes and teaches all of the Bible’s doctrine purely and administers the sacraments according to Christ’s institution (John 8:31-32; Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 1:10); Note: A religious denomination is a church body or organization with a distinct name and a distinct body of doctrine.
  • we should avoid false teachers, false churches, and all organizations that promote a religion that is contrary to God’s Word (Matthew 7:15-16; Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Galatians 1:8; 2 Timothy 4:3; 1 John 4:1);
  • we should maintain and extend God’s church by telling others about Jesus Christ, by personal service, and by prayer and financial support (John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Acts 8:1, 4; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 3:15; Luke 10:2; Galatians 6:6). Bible narratives: Peter addressed the crowds (Acts 2:17-39; 3:12-26). Philip witnessed to the eunuch (Acts 8:26-35). The early Christians prayed for the spreading of the Gospel (Acts 4:23-30). They also contributed to the support of the ministry (Philippians 4:16-19).

What is the mission of the Church?13

The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

How does the Church pursue its mission?14

The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and  promotes justice, peace, and love.

Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?15

The church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.


Series Navigation<< What is the Forgiveness of Sin?What is the Second Coming? >>

What are Catechisms? (44 articles)


  1. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 169.
  2. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 170.
  3. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 171.
  4. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 172.
  5. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 96.
  6. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 173.
  7. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 174.
  8. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 175.
  9. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 176.
  10. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 177.
  11. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 178.
  12. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 179.
  13. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 68.
  14. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 69.
  15. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 70.

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