“Let us [assert] that the Church is already implicit in creation. We have seen that creation is the self-outpouring of Being, whereby there is getting built up a commonwealth of beings freely united in love. The Church is a necessary stage in this great action of Being, so that to believe in creation is already to believe in the Church, and there is a sense in which the Church was there ‘in the beginning’ and is coeval with the world.
“To make such a claim is to set aside as of little interest to theology the questions sometimes asked about the ‘origin’ of the Church — questions as to whether Jesus himself founded a Church, or as to when the Church came into being, say at the calling of the apostles, or at the Feast of Pentecost. As far back as we can go, there always has been a community of faith. Thus St Paul and the other early Christians saw the Church as the successor of Israel, the ‘Israel of God’. The Church (ecclesia) was the assembly that God had summoned, just as Israel was the nation that he had chosen.”
(Principles of Christian Theology, XVII.69.iii-iv)
Read it all: John Macquarrie