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Reform Magazine | December 5, 2023

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Jesus and… Church

Jesus and… Church

A series about what we have to learn from Jesus on a range of subjects. This month, Lawrence Heath-Moore looks at Jesus’ attitude to the Church

‘The Church? What’s that?’ – Jesus

Here’s the thing: Jesus never spoke about the Church. In fact, the word ‘Church’ (that is, the Greek word, ekklesia, meaning ‘called out’) almost certainly never entered his head; it simply wasn’t on his horizon.

If Church was of central importance to Jesus, we would expect the Gospels to be littered with the term. They aren’t. The word ‘Church’ occurs on Jesus’ lips in only two verses, in Matthew’s Gospel (16:18 and 18:17). We ought to conclude that churches emerged only after Jesus’ death and that Matthew is placing the word on Jesus’ lips anachronistically.

If that surprises you, it’s probably because we’ve been brought up – implicitly or explicitly – with the assumption that Jesus came to found the Church (or, relatedly and very dangerously, came to found Christianity in order to replace Judaism).

It’s an easy assumption to make. St Paul, whose letters are the earliest Christian writings in the New Testament and predate the Gospels by at least a decade, are all about the Church. For Paul, the Church is the direct outcome of Easter – the death and resurrection of Jesus. He calls it the Body of Christ (among other things)…

Lawrence Heath-Moore is Mission Enabler for the North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church


This is an extract from an article published in the July/August 2023 edition of Reform

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