Edmund P. Clowney, The Church (IVP, 1995), 72-73, encourages us to understand the church through the gospel. This is right, since the gospel creates the church, and the church, in turn, proclaims and manifests the gospel. Furthermore, Clowney concludes that it is only through the gospel that we understand how the various descriptions of the church fit together. (I have edited this one long paragraph to emphasize the various truths Clowney highlights.)
Viewing the church in terms of the gospel helps us to see how the various descriptions fit together.
The church is apostolic, because it is founded on the apostolic gospel and called to fulfill the apostolic mission.
The holiness of the church means that life, as well as truth, marks Christ’s church; the behavior of Christians in the world must be remarkable enough to cause grudging admiration, astonished curiosity or threatening hostility (1 Pet. 2:12; 3:16; Jn. 15:18).
The unity of the church requires a new community, joined in a common faith and life.
The catholic character of the church flows from the fact that the church is a colony of heaven; it cannot conform to the social castes and sectarian goals that divide a fallen world, for it is the beginning of the new humanity in Christ.
The heavenly definition of the church explains the contrasts of its existence in time (militant/triumphant) and space (local/universal), as well as the perspectives of earth and heaven (visible/invisible).
The distinction between the church as organization and organism describes how the church is to live in both the ardour and the order of the Spirit.