“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.” (Matthew 18:17)

It is striking that Matthew is the only one of the four gospels to use the word “church”, and he uses it only twice.  All four gospel narratives help to inform our ecclesiology (make no mistake about that!), but there are a few things we can glean from Matthew’s two usages of ekklesia:

  • You should have a better handle on what the word “church” in Matthew 16 meant, by the way it is it used here.  The two texts are inarguably linked verbally, by the word “church” and the binding and loosing reference, and conceptually, by the authority Jesus has handed over to his disciples.
  • It is conceivable that Matthew 16 is the generic use of “church.”  Both chapters make perfect sense if you swap the phrase “people of God as seen in the local assembly” in place of the word “church”.  The burden of proof would seem to lie with those who say Matthew 16 is a reference to an abstract, invisible, universal entity.
  • Jesus is not allowing you to just say “church” = “where two or three are gathered in my name”.  He distinguishes between the two or three that confront the sinner from the church itself.

The point is that Jesus’ church is a concrete, visible people.  The gospel is ONLY meant to advance through these people who confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and who confront those who profess the name but do not live like it.  The way to be a part of the Church is to be a part of the church.

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