Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Church Pt 2 - Ekklesia

Here goes and I pray this makes sense:

Ekklesia is the Greek word translated church in scripture with, I think, one exception. However the word church is probably not the best translation today based on how the word church is seen and used. In general the word church, today, speaks to an organization but in scripture it refers to a people, which may make up an organization. While the word can denote an assembly its the people that make up that assembly that are the focus not the assembly itself. Thus when we speak of the Baptist Church or the Church of England or the church building we tend to miss the point of the Greek word that is behind the English word.

This is where it is dangerous to do word studies using an English dictionary. Good hermeneutics is not to look for the English meaning but to look for the Greek authorial meaning. While they may be the same they also may not and then lead us astray. For example the word ekklesia is literally “called out ones” so again it speaks to the assembly as people and not as an organization. In common Greek usage the word did not necessarily have a spiritual usage but could simply refer to a group of people called out for a purpose so for example the city council meeting together or even the Kiwanis could be called an ekklesia. It is the context of scripture that shows what this group of people is and that it is a group of people called to a holy calling (1Tim 1:9). So we can say that when we see the word ekklesia in scripture it refers to the nature of the people and who the people are that are assembled. For purposes of this section on the church I am merely going to say that the word in and of itself does not appear to denote whether it refers to the universal/invisible or local/visible church. We will look at this later as I think the text of scripture is clear that there exists, and we are called to, local assemblies and in the big picture all those called out by God to varying local assemblies belong to the Universal church in a spiritual manner.

What is interesting about the word is that in a biblical sense any group gathered as called out saints (1 Cor 1:2) makes up the church or ekklesia. Here I am not dealing with the structure that needs to be there or not be there but instead want to focus on the “who” of the church. This would say that a church should not include unbelievers/unregenerate people. This is not to say that we can be certain of everyone’s position with God but it does appear to say much about infant baptism and church membership being offered to those that are certainly not believers. I would say that this also extends out to how we do church in that we should not be looking to the world, the unregenerate, for guidance in what church should be like. We are thus not called to tailor worship to please the lost but the saved. This does not give license to be unintelligible to people but it says that surveys of ones neighborhood or the nation to see what the church needs to be is denying who the church is.

All too often people jump into seeing what the church is to be without starting at the beginning with who the church is made up of. It is not defined by its walls or its architecture but by its people and those people are the called of God, those that are in Christ. As I try and work through what the church is to be over the next weeks and months I want to always keep in focus what the church is to start with, believers. The church is not an “it” but a “who” as it is made up of individuals called by God to worship Him. Just as in Exodus the people were called out of Egypt to worship God so too we are called to worship God which is the goal and focus of the ekklesia or biblical church.

There is probably much more to say and as I work through this I may even refine and modify things but I do think that it is imperative to see who the church is made up of so that we start on the correct footing. We are to see ourselves as the Ekklesia of God, those Called out by God and that should be the basis for how we view church and how we do church.

No comments: