the weblog of Alan Knox

Pure communion of persons

Posted by on Apr 6, 2008 in community, definition | 6 comments

In the last 50 or 100 years New Testament research has unremittingly and successfully addressed itself to the task of elucidating for us what was known as the ‘Ecclesia’ in primitive Christianity – so very different from what is today called the church in both Roman and Protestant camps… This insight – which an unprejudiced study of the New Testament and the crying need of the church have helped us reach – may be expressed as follows: the New Testament ‘Ecclesia,’ the fellowship of Jesus Christ, is a pure communion of persons and has nothing to do with the character of an institution about it; it is therefore misleading to identify any single one of the historically developed churches, which are all marked by an institutional character, with the true Christian Communion.
– Emil Brunner, as quoted by Frank Viola and George Barna in Pagan Christianity, page 221-222

I am becoming more and more convinced that we must continually check our understanding of the church. We must make sure that when we talk about, think about, teach about, and act as the church, we are doing so as if the church is people, not institutions, organizations, or structures.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-6-2008

    I’m not sure how I feel about “unprejudiced study” of anything, but overall I like this quote. I think this is what I like so much about your blog overall–the reminder that we need a better, more biblical understanding, and the attempt to get there. I personally have come more and more to understand “ekklesia,” but breaking from the old lingo is so difficult. It’s easy to say “the church is a communion of persons” and things like that, but I still find myself (and most others as well) saying things like “let’s meet at the ‘church.'” Anyway, I guess it’s all a process.


  2. 4-6-2008


    Hear! Hear! How very true!

    As I’ve written elsewhere, I became convinced from Scripture, of the ecclesiastical issues you write about, some thirty years ago. There were books being written by people who were beginning to be given a glimpse of that of which we now speak, which encouraged me to follow my convictions.

    But, I,like the majority of us,allowed my convictions to be prejudiced, even though claiming to be followers of Christ alone, constrained by the Scriptures alone,we were really followers of Wesley, Calvin, etc., etc; and that mainly through the pressures of institutional mores established by conventions,synods,confessions,seminaries and colleges, etc.

    According to John’s Epistles, the congregation of God is comprised of people who have a vertical relationship with God, through the new birth, from which is established a horizontal relationship with all other members of His family.

    My concern is that my brethren don’t allow themselves to be prejudiced,as I was, by persuasive arguments made by those, who because of fame, command of rhetoric, charisma, or the security of being in league with well known leaders, or the financial security of their paid leadership positions.

    There are far too many of us who have idols we want to emulate; men whom God used in their own historical time slots, and current leaders who have fine oratorical skills, great “presence”,large congregations, which, by the way, have nothing to do with being a disciple maker.

    Most leaders I have been closely acquainted with would fit the “prejudiced” description, and teach the congregations they are entrusted with, to be the same acquiesent clones.

  3. 4-6-2008


    I think by “unprejudiced study” he means an “unbiased study” of the New Testament. I agree with your last statement. It is very easy to state that the church is people, but it is much harder to change our vocabulary, our thoughts, and our actions in regard to the church being the people of God.

    Aussie John,

    You are always so encouraging! Thank you! Margaret (my wife) and I wish we could come to Australia to visit with you. What a blessing you are to me and my family!


  4. 4-7-2008

    Thanks for posting this! I have to agree. And there is something so powerful in the simple communion of believers. It’s a shame that we add all this extra stuff, and dilute the potential for simple communion together in the process.

  5. 4-8-2008

    Speaking of “Pagan Christianity”,
    check out the new spoof video for the book.
    Very funny.

  6. 4-8-2008

    I agree. I love satire and parodies, and the video is very funny.