Jesus people, loving people

Metaphors for Church

How would you describe the smell of, say, lavender? It is soft and fresh. It’s gently fruity, it’s like clean bedsheets.

Can you see what I did there? Those metaphors helped us ‘feel’ the smell. And saying the word “feel” is another metaphor!

Scripture is stuffed full of a rich variety of metaphors. Jesus was always telling stories to describe the kingdom of God, what God is like, or what was to come in the future. The word ‘parable’ comes from a greek word meaning ‘throwing beside’, it’s a way of describing something by comparing it to something we’re already familiar with.

When it comes to church it’s easy to look only skin-deep. We can get disillusioned or fall out from time to time, but these metaphors help us understand how God sees us and His intention for His people. Looking at the metaphors scripture uses to describe church can be illuminating.  We’ve listed and described just a few below. Ponder them the next time you look around at the church you meet with week by week.

The Body of Christ

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body”, that would not make it any less a part of the body… God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body…

God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-27, abridged)

A Bride

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
(Ephesians 5:25-32)

A Living House

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:5)

Additional metaphors include:

  • The elect lady
  • A city on a hill
  • Light
  • Salt
  • A flock or sheepfold
  • A golden lampstand
  • A race
  • A royal priesthood
  • A unique people
  • A spiritual house/temple made of living stones
  • A household of faith
  • The family of God
  • God’s field
  • A vineyard
  • Branches of a vine
  • An army
  • One loaf
  • Exiles
  • Ambassadors
  • Israel
  • A building built on a rock
  • The ark
  • A letter from Christ
  • A crown
  • A pleasing aroma
  • Alien citizens
Published 30th November 2018 with tags: church


  1. David Pawson in his book * Israel in the New Testament* on pages 222-224 says that the interpretation of the greek word *kai* between *those who follow this rule* and *the Israel of God* could mean two different groups . The
    Israel of God could be the *Circumcision party* that Paul is calling *The Israel of God* He says it is not decisive one way or the other but to be dogmatic about The Church* being a metaphore for Israel is not a true exposition. That is what I think. Bleess you.

    1. Admin says:

      Hi George,
      The article above doesn’t say The Church is a metaphor for Israel, but the other way round, that in some places Israel is a metaphor for the Church. Anyhow putting it that way round is probably simplistic, because there’s the nation of Israel, and then there’s “true” Israel.
      Hebrews 8:8-10 describes this true Israel, those who are in Christ (therefore members of the church whether Jew or Greek) as recipients of this New Covenant won through Christ’s death and resurrection and entered only through faith in him. This is the faith Abraham had, but not all his children (John 8:39-47, Romans 9:6-8).

  2. Robert Wanjala says:

    Thank You jesus for this powerful word, this is the foundation of my soul. amen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Lightbox