A Perfect Balance: The Church Universal and Local

churchTo the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
— 1 Corinthians 1:2 —

In the ancient world Corinth collected many cultures and housed large numbers of gatherings. It is not surprising Paul sought to establish a church there (Acts 18) and when he wrote his first letter to them to address concerns he described them as ‘the church of God that is in Corinth.’

In these words, Paul intersected the two aspects of the church—the church universal (church of God) with the church local (that is in Corinth). Such a balanced presentation of the church foreshadows much of what Paul would say throughout his letter and it reminds us that whenever we think of the church, we must avoid two errors:

  1. Parochialism. Focusing so much on the local church one can forget the larger work of God in the world. In this, the local church blocks out a vision of the growing kingdom.
  2. Expansionism. Focusing so much on the universal church one can neglect the importance of the local gathering. In this, the kingdom of God engulfs the church.

Corrective to both of these extremes, we can see in 1 Corinthians 1:2 how the local and universal church intersect. Moreover, in the matrix between local and universal, there is great potential for fruitful reflection, much like the marketplace in Corinth itself. Continue reading