What did "church" mean to the disciples?

What did the disciples understand by the word "church" (Matthew18:17)?

What the disciples understood from the Lord teaching wasn't always what they could and should have understood. This changed when the Comforter came (John 14:26).

The Lord taught (Matthew 16:13-19) that their future identity was not Jewish. Their understanding of a church apparently developed from what they knew of synagogue life (see James 2:2, "assembly" is "synagogue"). They therefore understood an assembly to be a place of prayer and scriptural instruction. Judaism's total rejection of Christ marked His followers as Christians (Acts 11:26) and meant the church of God was distinct from both Jew and Gentile testimonies (1 Corinthians 10:32; Hebrews 13:13).

In Matthew 18, the Lord invests a church with distinct authority. God's purpose of a universal and eternal reign to be effected through His redemption of Israel (Exodus 15:18) awaits fulfillment. Rejecting the Son brought the destruction of "The City of the Great King" (Matthew 5:32; 22:2-7). Until God moves to fulfill His purpose for Israel and the world, each church in the locality where it exists has authority to administer for God among His people, carrying out God's will on earth through His Word (18:15-20).

After the Passover supper (John 13:2) and after Judas left the room (1 Corinthians 11:24), the Lord instituted a new activity for a church. Distinct from the Passover, this supper would perpetuate the memory of the Lord and of His death. Later Paul taught that this necessitated mutual care (1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:25).

At a minimum, the disciples understood the Lord's teaching in Matthew 18 to mean that a church is a place for prayer, proclaiming the truth of God, and carrying out God's Word. Through the Spirit's further enlightenment, they understood its fuller uniqueness, significance, and preciousness.

D. Oliver