Recently, in the comments of the post “Geographically Local Church” (see this comment and following), I made the statement that ekklesia is a qualitative term describing the people, as opposed to a quantitative term (HT: Stan, who has not started his blog yet).
When I say that “ekklesia” is ‘a qualitative term describing the people’, I mean that “ekklesia” states more about who the people are (that is, whose people they are) than where they are or how many they are. Thus, when Jesus said, “I will build my church…,” he was making a statement about his people, not about their gathering togther.
This will be a new “ekklesia”- not a group of Roman citizens, but citizens of the kingdom of God. Believers now live as citizens of a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly kingdom. They gather together as fellow-citizens, not because they are told to do this, but because of their relationship to their king and to one another.
They are not only citizens of a new kingdom, they are also part of a new family. Since these people (the church) have been adopted into a family, they gather together with their family members. They do not have to be told to do this, they do this because of their relationship to the Father and to one another.
However, we cannot define them by their gathering together. They are defined by their relationship to the Father – as citizens of his kingdom or adopted members of his family.