What is the church? Here is an excellent passage from John Webster’s book Holiness:
There is a Church.
Within the ambiguous kingdom of human time and society there exists an assembly, a congregation of men and women who constitute the covenant people and the fellowship of the saints. Their common life is the sign that there is, indeed, a human response to the divine call; to the divine self utterance – ‘I shall be your God’ – there really does correspond a human reality, the gathering of God’s people.
But the existence of such a gathering is wholly astonishing. It is grounded in no human possibility; indeed, from the side of human history it is nothing other than a sheer impossibility, for the commonwealth of human time lies under the sway of sin and alienation, striving with all its might to oppose God and to refuse his call to reconciliation. Apart from God, human history is populated by that bleak, estranged, and ruined company called ‘no people’ (1 Peter 2:10, Hosea 2:23). But ingredient within the gospel confession is the claim that there now exists the extraordinary fact of laos theou, people of God.
There is a form of common human life which can only be described as a holy nation, a people for God’s possession (1 Peter 2:9).
That such a holy people exists and is preserved through time,
that it does not collapse back into alienation and hatred,
that here sin is held in check and not permitted to eat away at human fellowship –
all this lies in the hands of the holy God alone.
So how about it, friends? Let us celebrate and experience and depend on and commit to the wonder and reality of the provision God has made for us in this lost, lost world–the family of God, our people, the Church.