Another issue that often seems confusing to many, is the usage of the word "churches" in the Bible. If there is only one church, which there clearly is, then why is the plural form of this word used?

As we have seen in the case of Corinth, the saints are addressed as "the church of God . . . which is at Corinth . . ." Therefore, the believers at Corinth were the church at Corinth! And God only had one church there! But it was also just as true that the church was at Thessalonica, and many other places. Each of these localities having the church, the body of Christ.

But there must be a way to communicate these different localities of believers. And this is accomplished through the plural usage of the word church. In other words, the word plural usage of the word church speaks of the body of Christ as a whole. While the plural usage of the word church (i.e. churches) is used to denote the body of Christ in its various localities. But this is a far cry from the man-made divisions, and organizations being pawned of as "churches."

For instance, when Paul returned to the cities where he had preached the gospel, they ordained elders in "every church." That is, the church in every locality. And "every church" being a reference to the plurality localities, rather than the pluraity of man-made "churches, " can be seen in a parallel passage. When writing to Titus he told him to ordain elders in "every city." Do you see the connection? Every church, every city? The issue is that the one true church, the body of Christ, is manifested in various localities. BUT, there is still only one church in each locality! Each city had only one church, and that one church, was the body of Christ! How many churches are in your locality? Which one is the true church? How many churches do you belong to?

Therefore, Paul, when was writing of the various localities of the body of Christ in the region of Galaita, he referred to them as "churches of Galatia." Knowing what we know about the church, we then know that this phrase was NOT a reference to different churches! Instead, it is was a reference to the church in different localities!

Therefore we have:

"the churches of the Gentiles" (Romans 16:4)
"the churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16)
"the churches of God" (I Corinthians 11:16)
"the churches of the saints" (I Corinthians 14:33)
"the churches of Asia" (I Corinthians 16:19)
"the churches of Macedonia" (II Corinthians 8:1)

None of these are a reference to man-made organizations. None of these are a reference to multiple "churches" in a single locality. These are a reference to the one body of Christ in its various localities. And the Greek words used here for the plural "churches" is the exact Greek word used by Paul for the singular "church" (Strong's #G1577). Every time. There is no difference! The only distinction is locality!

Concerning this plural and singular usage of a word, Tom West offers us an illustration, using the word fleet as applied to the United States Navy. In its broadest meaning, fleet describes all the operational forces of the Navy and is therefore not pluralized. The other usage of fleet relates to the numbered fleets which are associated with specific geographical areas such as the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and the Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific. Any two or more of the numbered fleets are referred to as plural fleets. Yet they are all also the singular fleet. Each of the fleets represents the fleet in different specific geographical areas!

So, it is with the church. And in light of all that Paul has taught us concerning the church, one could not attempt to use such "churches" passages to justify all the man-made divisions, and organizations being pawned of as "churches."

Think on these things.

Clyde Pilkington

Gladstone, VA

Visit Clyde's web site at http://www.pilkingtonandsons.com

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