“…the church in Cenchrea…the church that is in their house…the churches of Christ (Romans 16:1, 5, 16).
The word “church” is used in three different ways in the New Testament.
It is used in a universal sense to identify that body of people Jesus has saved and has added them unto (Acts 2:47). While in Caesarea Philippi during His ministry, Jesus promised to build His church which He declared that even the gates of Hades (i.e., His death) would not prevent Him from doing so (Matthew 16:18). When used in this way, the word is always singular because Christ has only one body/bride/kingdom.
The second way “church” is used in the New Testament is in a local sense. Here it identifies a congregation of God’s people in a certain location, like the church in Cenchrea (v. 1). When used in this way, the word can be singular and refers to one autonomous part of the universal church—like the church of the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1) or plural and refer to several autonomous congregations of the universal church—like the churches of Christ (v. 16).
The third way “church” is used in the New Testament is to identify a local congregation when it is assembled together for worship, like “the church that is in their house” (v. 5). The residence of Priscilla and Aquila is the location where the local Christians assembled together to worship on the first day of every week.
Because Christ is the universal head of His church and His will for His people is recorded in the pages of the New Testament, each local congregation of Christ’s universal church ought to teach, believe, and practice the same things. Anyone teaching anything contrary to the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42)/the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9) is to be noted and avoided. He is a deceiver (Romans 16:17-18).