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Definition: Church (or Ekklesia)

Posted by on Apr 28, 2011 in definition | 44 comments

Definition: Church (or Ekklesia)

Look in an English dictionary under the letter “C”, somewhere between “chocolate” and “cider”, and you’ll find the word “church.” “Church” is an English term that has many different definitions. In that dictionary, you will probably find five or six different definitions for “church.” Many of those words are related, which makes this process even harder.

What process is that? I’m talking about defining the word “church” as it’s used in the New Testament. In other words, I’m trying to answer this question: When we read the New Testament and come across the word “church,” what does this word mean?

Unfortunately, because of the many definitions of the modern term “church,” the meaning of the word when we read it in the New Testament is often muddled. Some of that ambiguity has arisen because the English term “church” did not originate from the Greek term ekklesia that it translates in the New Testament. (For more information, see my post “The ekklesia and the kuriakon.”)

The Greek term ekklesia did not and could not carry all of the definitions of the English term “church.” Instead, the term ekklesia always referred to an assembly of people. (For more information, see my posts “The ekklesia of Josephus” and “The ekklesia in context.”) In the instances that interest me, the term ekklesia refer to an assembly of God’s people.

In some cases, the term ekklesia refers to all of God’s people which he has “assembled” or “gathered” out of the world. In other cases – most cases – the term refers to actual gatherings of God’s people, often designated by geography or location. Interestingly, in this latter case, the term ekklesia does seem to refer to subset of a larger ekklesia (i.e. the “church” in someone’s house as a subset of the “church” in a city). However, these subsets are never set against one another; they remain part of the larger ekklesia.

Therefore, when we read the word “church” in the New Testament, we should always remember that the author is talking about a group of people. The New Testament writers are constantly talking about the “church” in relational terms. Primarily, I divide these relationships into three types (although they are interrelated): 1) the relationships between God and his people, 2) the relationships among God’s people, and 3) the relationships between God’s people and others (i.e., those who are not God’s people).

I think that if we understand “church” as a group of people, and we understand the importance of relationships to the church, then the way we live as the church and the way we study the church will be different (than it normally is today).

As with my definition of ecclesiology, this blog post is by necessity only an introduction. It is not complete or exhaustive. What would you add to my definition of church? What would you change? Why?


44 Comments

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

  1. 4-28-2011

    I’m OK with you disabusing me of the idea of Church as a place with very high ceilings, echoes, candles, altars, smells, hushed voices, etc. But, you go too far when you wreck my sensibilities about chocolate (chocolate cider? yucky!)

  2. 4-28-2011

    Art,

    You don’t like chocolate cider? We’ll have that for lunch next time. :)

    -Alan

  3. 4-30-2011

    A few years ago Father directed me to begin reading the New Testament through looking specifically for what He had to say about the themes He appeared to at work in my life regarding at that time. My first time through was “church”. Very eye opening. My most recent read through the New Testament (I’m in 1 John right now) is “kingdom”. It’s been a very interesting journey. Of particular interest was the number of times “kingdom” was used in Matthew – John verses the number of times it was used in Acts – 1 John (where I am now). It’s very interesting how the focus of Jesus on the kingdom appears to have become a focus on the “church” we have made.

  4. 4-30-2011

    Craig,

    The relationship between “church” and “kingdom” is a very interesting one. If you’ve written anything about your findings, I’d love to read it.

    -Alan

  5. 7-13-2011

    I think translators do us a disservice when they insist on using “churchy” words (if I am permitted to use that term)such as “church.” Why not just translate it the way the word would come across to the 1st century reader? Baptism is another word that kind of bugs me. Funny you posted this. In my private study I was thinking of going through my Bible and crossing out the word church and replacing it with the greek. Thanks.

  6. 7-13-2011

    Hi, Alan. I’ve not read the posts you’ve cross-referenced above. Perhaps I will have time tomorrow on my lunch break. So, forgive me if you’ve already mentioned these elsewhere:

    Have you read Tyndale’s translation and observed where he used the “church? ”

    Have you ever encountered the postulation that “church” comes from the Latin “circe” into the Scottish “kirk” into the English “church?”

    I perceive that Tyndale’s use of “church” corresponds to the “Circe” theory.

    One can Google “Circe Kirk church” and discover some etymologies that relate to what I am observing.

  7. 9-30-2011

    I usually define ekklesia as “the assembly of the followers of Jesus”.

    You wrote, “Interestingly, in this latter case, the term ekklesia does seem to refer to subset of a larger ekklesia (i.e. the “church” in someone’s house as a subset of the “church” in a city). However, these subsets are never set against one another; they remain part of the larger ekklesia.”

    I disagree with this. The subsets are not ekklesias because of their relationship to the larger ekklesia – such an idea is found in the “mother church – daughter church” approach to missiology. Rather, an assembly of people became “church” based on the relationship of those assembled to Jesus. In the New Testament we see the term ekkelisa applied to assemblies of the followers of Jesus and the number of people assembled did not seem to matter. So, the large group ekklesia is no more or less ekklesia than the small group and vice versa. Both the church of the city and the church in the home were 100% ekklesia.

    Robert Banks in “Paul’s Idea of Community” notes that Paul always refers to the ekklesia in the plural in the book of Romans. He posits that Paul does not refer to “the church in Rome” as the ekkelsia of the city because there were too many followers of Jesus to meet in any one location. I’m still chewing on this idea myself.

    Blessings – Stan

  8. 9-30-2011

    Stan,

    I did not intend to imply that the smaller gatherings are ekklesia (“church”) only because of their relationship with the larger gathering (“church”). Instead, I was trying to point out that recognizing both the smaller groups and larger groups as ekklesia (“church”) was not contradictory. Both are ekklesia (“church”) in their own right because they are gatherings of God’s children.

    -Alan

  9. 9-30-2011

    “Paul always refers to the ekklesia in the plural in the book of Romans. He posits that Paul does not refer to “the church in Rome” as the ekkelsia of the city because there were too many followers of Jesus to meet in any one location.”

    That’s an interesting comment. I was recently reading Romans 16 again and counted the different ekklesias Paul mentions in that chapter.

    — One in Aquila and Priscilla’s house. (vs. 5)
    — The household of Aristobolus (vs. 10; I’m assuming that when Paul mentions a household, he’s referring to a group of Chrisitans in that oikos who “church” together)
    — the household of Narcissua (vs. 11)
    — Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. (vs. 14)
    — Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. (vs. 15)

    That’s five ekklesias.

  10. 9-30-2011

    Here in the Roman Catholic mentality of Quebec, Canada, I am always having to define the church as people and not a building. There is a church building in town that we used to rent for our gatherings which is now for sell. I have numerous people in our community asking me if our “church” closed. I always respond by telling them two truths. First, that the building never belonged to us. Second (and more importantly), the people of God are the church, not a building. We now rent a school for our Sunday meetings, which our town finds strange since we are not meeting in a “church.” Good post Alan.

  11. 9-30-2011

    Okay Alan. That’s what I understand as well. It was not so clear in your article.

    Blessings – Stan

  12. 10-1-2011

    Dan,

    Yes. And, in fact, in one of those instances in Romans 16, Paul refers to the “church” (ekklesia) in the singular.

    Ron,

    I’ve found that many “define” the church as people, but then live as it is an organization and the people are secondary (at best).

    Stan,

    Awesome!

    -Alan

  13. 10-23-2011

    Clearly, the Church has a number of different but related meanings, in the New Testament. This is very clear to any believer upon study of the Epistles. And in the NT, we see the use of the Word, begin to evidence multiple meanings as the church(body of Christ) began to grow. We see this most obviously as Paul addresses believers in specific locations, and even more clearly in Revelation. In modern usage, due to specific buildings being designated for worship, the word has taken on five or so meanings as a noun, and a number as a verb. These are all in common usage,and well understood. If modern believers are made aware of the original meaning of the word, it will deepen and increase their faith and reverence for the body of Christ, as they attend worship services with the Church, in their local church, whether it be a Baptist, Roman Catholic, Assembly of God, or..non-denominational Church.:) God bless you all.

  14. 10-23-2011

    Michael,

    Thanks for the comment. While I agree that the term “ekklesia” has different referents in Scripture (i.e., refers to different gatherings), I think it’s meaning is always related to people gathering together. I definitely agree with the end of your comment. That’s one of the reasons that I continually discuss the meaning of “ekklesia” (i.e., “church”) in Scripture.

    -Alan

  15. 1-2-2012

    Such a loosely used word. Even knowing the true meaning I use it as to describe a place or building. Even so many people who go to these places designated as churches are only learning the true meaning in study. Why do we okay the use of it so loosely? Such a gift from God is used in vain.

  16. 1-3-2012

    Lee,

    You’ve asked some very thought-provoking questions. I’ve thought about the way that I used the word “church” and written about that a few times. Have you come to a conclusion as to why you use the word “church” in different ways?

    -Alan

  17. 1-19-2012

    I am study on this subject right now. I felt the same way as Alan posted in this article. “Church” is not a place, is not a building, is not anything else, but the assembly of God’s chosen people. If can be very small, few people, it could be as many as hundreds, or tens thousands, however, all of them will be in one Body of Christ. Thanks. It is very helpful and make my thought echoed clearly and sound.

    God bless.

  18. 2-25-2012

    The ekkleesian is never been the church in all 80 times that the word church it is the word ekkleesian or something of the the same form. Go to John 2.2 and Jesus is invited to the wedding at Cana. The word there is ekleethee. it is the same word as the word for all 80 church words in the NT. Going to Matthew when Jesus says in KJV. That I will build the my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Going to the Greek I find that it ends with the word her and it has the word ekklessian which means the ones invited out. which demands the question Who is invited out of whom and who is invited out of where? the translations should be something like this: I will home build my house of Israel the ones invited out of the gentiles where they were dispersed by my Father and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. It there fore excludes the word church in all 80 times. Go to my web page and read ekkleesian among the other essays on the House of Israel being the only ones that Jesus said that he came for in Matthew 15. The church is and has always been is nothing more that the Harlot church of Revelation who is out to deceive the gentile nations of the world. Going to Isaiah 50-54 we find that it is jesus who is dying only for his divorced wife the house of Israel. At no time are gentiles included in the redeeming act of dying on the cross. There is no plan to save any gentiles from the beginning. God chose the Hebrews on Mount sinia and said these are my people and I will be there God. There were no gentiles down at the bottom of the hill worshipping the golden calf that aaron made from the gold that the children brought out of Egypt.
    I have many essays on my web page about the whole house of Israel that were chosen out both the House of Judah and the house Israel. The house of Judah does not have to be saved for they were never lost only the house of Israel was lost because of the divorce. No gentiles are every included in the plan. God does not love all the children of the world and he has rejected them from the beginning and all they get if they are a gentile is death and destruction. The Church is nothing more than the old Whore out of Bablyon with a new shourd on. There has never been a chutch of the Lord Jesus Christ it is all a con job on the gentiles from the beginning when the latin tibes formed the church out of tales of Bablyon and just put on a new face and name,
    Jerry

  19. 3-15-2012

    To understand the ekkleesian it is first neceessay to learn who the ethnee are. In the OT there was only one type of gentiles and they are all the people who are not the Hebrews, the people that God chose on Mount Sinai of Arabia. But coming into the NT there are two types of gentiles. In the English translation we have only one word for both kind of gentiles even if the word is used twice in the same verse. Going to the Book of Romans chapter 9. Paul’s discourse on the story about the ekkleesian who was the people of God and now are not the people of God Paul uses the word ethnee which differs from ethnoon. Then what is the difference? The ethnoon are the unrighteous heathen gentiles of this world while the ethnee are the righteous gentiles of the world, those being the lost sheep of the House of Israel who lost the covenants and became a gentile in actions and what others thought of them. But they never lost the desire to the things of God according to the promises in the OT. So when Jesus sent out his learners to look for the ekkleesian in Matthew 28:19 He said for them to go to the ethnee teaching and baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. He did not send them to ethnoon the unrighteous gentiles who are in a state of rebellion and have no desire for the things of God. 54 times that the ethnee are mentioned in the Greek Text it is always the lost sheep of the house Israel, the ethnee being the ones that are invited out from among the unrighteous gentiles(ethnoon) of this world. There is more than one kind of gentiles in the NT. Paul was an apostle to the to the ethnee, the righteous gentiles and not the ethnoon the unrighteos gentiles
    Jerry Collins

  20. 3-15-2012

    Gerald,

    I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but your source is way off when it comes to Greek. I’ve checked every Greek word in Romans that begins with “ethn”, and they are all the same word. In Greek, the difference in ending (i.e. ethne verses ethon) does not affect meaning or referent; it only affects how the word is used in a sentence (i.e., subject, object, indirect object).

    -Alan

  21. 6-22-2012

    Greetings
    Do a summary of the useage of the word ethnee in the NT and see that Jesus only dispatched his learners to the ethnee and Paul says he was a ministry to the ethnee. When Paul encountered the Jews he said he was going to the ethnee.
    In the OT the wife that was divorced was scattered among the gentiles,If all gentiles are the same where then is the rescue of the ones scattered. Jesus died only for the right to remarry his wife who was divorced in the OT. He did not die for the sins of the whole world but only for the right to remarry his wife, Rev 19 the wife is making her self ready. The church has never been in the mind of God See Act 7 It is always the ones invited out from among the gentiles where they were scattered by the father following the divorce. The church destroyed the invitation in Matthew 16:18 ekkleesian being the ones invited out from among the gentiles. The angel told Joseph in a dream that he was to name him Jesus and that he would save his people from their sins.Matthew 1:21 His people have always been the Hebrews from the beginning. He came only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel who are only Hebrews, the House of Judah was never lost therefore she does not have to be saved, the gentiles are rejected from the beginning and no salvation is every provided only the wrath to come from the Father. Jesus sent his learners to the ethnee to teach them all things that I have taught you baptizing the in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Joel 2 the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was only to the whole House of Israel no gentiles are mentioned. Hebrews 8:8 the new covenant is only to the house of Judah and the house of Israel no gentiles mentioned.
    Paul writing to the ekkleesias in Rome, Galitia, Corinth and Ephisians mentioned and referred to the Hebrews 1334 times You count the times he referred to the ethnoon the rejected gentiles from the foundation of the earth. God of all people should know who the gentiles are when in Rev 22 he refers to them as dogs on the outside of the city.
    Paul warns to beware of the dogs.
    Jesus came to buy back the wife who was owned by another see the drama in Hosea. read the bood of Peter who wrote to the ones scattered. He then quotes three verse from the OT to show who they are. They are a Royal people a chosen out genteration and a twice purchased people who at one time were not the people of God but now once more are the people of God. Amos 3 God speaking to the House of Israel. “you are the only family that I have known of all the families of the earth” Isaiah writes of the ones who have escaped the gentiles ISa 46 Only the ethnee have knowledge of the things of God Matthew 5 in the same passage he refers to the verse in Deut 24 that a man who rejoins the divorced wife, one party has to die, if she died their is no need for the cross. Jesus died willing to remarry his divorced wife. Isa 50-54. No gentiles were included. The NT is all about the ethnee being the people of God who he came for and died that he could remarry the wife. He was the prioe paid to pardon them and by his stripes they are healed of their idol worship.
    The latinized Greek grammar destroys the whole message of the New Testament. Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world no matter how you translate Kosmos out of the latin into the English. He came only for one people and their sins. He only loves the children of his two wives Aholah and Aholabah EZ 23. For God did not love the whole world that he gave his only begotten son he gave his son only to buy back the wife and get the children that he had scattered and said he would not lose one. No gentiles are ever included no matter how you translate the latinized Greek into the English.

    Your friend in the search for the truth
    Jerry Collins

  22. 6-23-2012

    Good Morning to you
    I am writing concening the word World that a world that does not exist in the biblical text. If Jesus came only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel and as the angel told Joseph that he came to save His people from their sins and that he died to remarry his wife Aholah in the OT then the word world in the English text can not exist. It is self evident that their is a problem somewhere in the translation and I declare that the translators did not know of what they were writing. It is only one of the many errors and or fraud they committed. They should have read the book of Peter for he was writing to the ones scattered and he declared that they were the Hebrews of the OT. The word Kosmos out of the greek should be translated as “of the one with of the one out of Fellowship” Then the meaning of John 3:16-17 then makes sense that he gave his son for those out of fellowship of the covenants, the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Salvation is by race and race alone.
    Your friend in search of the truth
    Jerry Collins

  23. 6-24-2012

    Gerald,

    The Greek term “ethnee” could be used to refer to all nations except Israel, or it could be used to refer to all nations including Israel. Only the context of the usage can determine how the word was used.

    By the way, while Paul considered himself “the apostle to the nations/Gentiles”, he did not neglect the Jewish people. Instead, he always started with the Jewish people in an area, and continued to disciple them as long as they were willing to listen and follow. Many of Paul’s traveling companions were Jews, and much of his service was to Jews.

    -Alan

  24. 6-25-2012

    Greetings
    Now concerning the ethnee. Do a search for all the words ethnee and the context will tell you that they are Israel that had been scattered following the divorce in Jer 3
    The ethnee seek after the things of God while the ethnoon are in the state of rebellion
    The ethnee had Paul preach the next sabbath while the ethnic jews caused trouble in the city
    Paul said he was a minister to the ethnee if of all people ought to know who he was to
    Paul only wrote to the ekkleesias the ones invited out from among heathen gentiles where they were scattered following the divorce.
    Jesus ought to know who he came for he said it was the lost sheep of the House of Israel and then he dispatch his learners to the ethnee Matthew 28:19 The ethnee were to be baptized in the Holy Spirit only the whole house of Israel could receive the outpouring Joel 2
    Peter writes only to the ones scattered and then he tell who they are. they are the ones who at one time were not the people of God but now once more they are the people of God, Hebrews only. James writes to the 12 tribes scattered abroad Hebrews only Paul writes to the Hebrews in the book of Hebrews No gentiles mentioned. The new covenant is only to the house of Judah and the house of Israel Heb 8:8 John on the isle of Patmos was only writing to the ones invited out in the seven cities of Asia No gentiles mention. Jesus said that the 12 learners were going to Judge the 12 tribes who then is going to judge the gentiles. Revelation 7 only the hebrews are listed in the 144000 no gentiles mentioned.
    In the OT Jesus tells the rejected wife to rejoice for you have more children than the married wife no gentiles mentioned Hosea acting out the drama of the divorced wife is told to go buy back Gomer working the streets as a whore, she was not told to repent or confess her sins but Hosea was to buy her back and take her home and love her. Jesus died to remarry his wife in the last days she will no longer call him my Lord but My Husband no gentiles are included in the marriage.
    Gentiles were rejected because of their corrupt DNA from the foundation of the earth.They are of their father the devil who created the corrupt DNA in the beginning See Genesis
    The church is the largest cult of all trying to convert the goats and dogs into sheep with the single act of repentance so that they can know good from evil the same message the devil used in the garden. The church began with a deception and it has gone on for 2000 years. The church has always been diabollically opposed the the Hebrews of the House of Israel being the only ones Jesus came to save from their sins as the angel said in Matt 1:26. The righteous by faith shall shall live for they were made righteous on Mount Sinai of Arabia when they were declared to be the people of God. The expression is used 241 times as my people. no gentiles were included If gentiles can be saved then where is the salvation for the dead gentiles before 1500 AD when the word church was started in the text by King James himself. Most of all where is the rescue of the lost sheep of the house of Israel if the door is open to the heathen rejected gentiles of this world. The new Testament is written only to the ethnee and never the ethnoon. All that awaits the ethnoon is the wrath to come from the Father No ethnee are included in the wrath to come. The New Testament is all about the wife just the wife that was divorced in the OT and redeemed in the NT.
    only the house of Israel cleans up the dead in EZ 39-39 No house of Judah mentioned or any gentiles except the 83 percent of the horde of gentiles out of the North and the Middle East that God kills no salvation inclued for them He gave the Egyptians and the Ethopians for the Hebrews while they were in Egypt why then did he give them away if he was going to save them. The whole house of Israel are a twice purchased people who then purchased the heathen gentiles, who paid the price to get the heathen rejected gentiles except the corrupt church of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no hope for the rejected gentiles from the beginning. The message to the ethnee is that they can be remarried to the lord of Glory and he is going to present her glorious to himself. Where is the gentiles referred to as a her.
    Your friend in search of the truth
    Jerry Collins

  25. 7-31-2012

    Gerald,

    I can’t decide if you’re a Christian Identity follower or a John Hagee fan or what. But the “Jew of Jews’ Paul himself is abundantly plain in Galatians 3:7-29 that anyone ( and the context of the whole passage is aobut Scripture foreseeing Gentiles would be justified even in the promise to Abraham) “who is Christ’s” is “Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to the promise” How much more plain could that be? He could just say “Gentiles(non Jews ethnically) can get the spiritual promises but we Jews still have our particular promises” No under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul(Jew of Jews) chooses to call all those (again Galatians 3 is clearly about Gentiles) who trust Christ and are his by faith are Abraham’s seed!

    As to your ethnee and ethno arguments: anyone who has studied Greek at all know that the endings on any word (ethnos in this case) doesn’t change the meaning but only determines its usage. For example “ethnou” would be a possessive or genitive usage. If it were feminie perhaps a construction such as “ethnoi” would designate plural.

    Alan,
    I would like some discussion on the OT/NT unity of the church and the terms ekklesia. Enjoying the discussions very much.

    Mike Settle

  26. 7-31-2012

    I realize its not ‘loving” or politically correct to use the word “heresey” anymore but for Gerald to say “salvation is by race and race alone” is simply heresey. The whole point of Romans 9 is that salvatoin is not by ethnicity it is by promise. Then therefore, Pauls description of any Gentiles who are Christ’s are “Abraham’s seed” and “heirs accoring to the promise” becomes even more clear. There are non Jews in Jesus’ lineage. As Paul said so eloquently, “Not all those desended from Israel belong to Israel and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.”
    If Gerald were correct and “salvation is by race and race alone’ then Paul should just say “If you are descended from Abraham you are saved”. In fact he says just the opposite.

  27. 7-31-2012

    Mike,

    You’re right. Any statement against non-Jews being welcomed by God and accepted by Jesus Christ is contrary to several passages in the New Testament.

    -Alan

  28. 9-3-2012

    I think the interpersonal dynamic is essential in understanding what the church is. People need to be at the centre of each church. I am not a stickler for tradition, so I am keen to see how the use of different locations has on the views and expectations of ‘un-churched’ people. Also having a set church format baffles me. Why on earth is a church service the same in Scotland and The USA? As far as I am concerned, the format of a church service should be dependant on the people who make up that specific church. Worship styles, teaching formats, orders of service etc each have countless variations depending on the people involved. This is what I mean when I say that people are at the heart of a church; they impact every aspect of the organisation and meetings of their church. Indeed there should only be one common factor between all churches – the Lord Jesus Christ.

  29. 9-5-2012

    Hilson,

    I noticed the same thing when I went to Nicaragua and Ethiopia. The cultures were completely different than the culture of the USA – much more relational and social. But once the people stepped into a building dedicated to the church, they looked just like the culture of the church in the USA. While I would say that Jesus is the heart (and head) of the church, he works through people. And, I definitely agree that Jesus Christ is the unifying presence between all groups of his followers.

    -Alan

  30. 9-7-2012

    Dear Dr. Knox,

    I am 20 years old, a professing Christian, and pursuing my calling of being a preacher. I am preparing a sermon based on the word “church” and defining it. With your article I have gained a much better understanding of the word and it’s roots. However, I am stuck on a passage, one that I am sure we’re all familiar with.

    Matthew 16:18-19 (NKJV)
    18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.”

    So I have two main questions:

    (1) When Jesus states that He is building His church, He says “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”

    What is Jesus saying here? Is Peter the foundation of the church? I am aware of other interpretations that fit better. I also have kept in mind Ephesians 2:20, where Christ is mentioned as the chief cornerstone. So how do we describe to non-Christians exactly what Jesus is saying?

    (2). When Jesus says “…I will build my church” what “church” is He referring to? A universal one? Or the reference to the establishment of future local congregations?

    I feel that this passage here may be one of the most significant in Christian history. Because of this verse, the Catholic church felt that they had the authority to institute a form of hierarchical form of church government which extended past biblical power. Thousands of Christians were martyred and persecuted trying to dissolve the deceitful use of the word church.

    I only wish to preach the truth, and say everything only in accordance to God’s word. I would love to gain further insight from you and others who are willing to respond.

    Best regards,
    Stephen Glaus

  31. 9-7-2012

    Stephen,

    Please just call me Alan. I don’t have a PhD, and even if I did, I prefer to stay away from titles.

    Like you said, people have written books and books arguing the different possible meanings of that passage. Like I said in this post, “ekklesia” always points to people. So, whatever Jesus meant, he was talking about his people. My suggestion is to consider what Jesus said in the context of other passages in Scripture. Does anything else in Scripture suggest that Peter is the foundation of the church?

    My preference in studying passages like this is to encourage everyone present to study, pray, and discuss together so that we can all help one another mature in Christ.

    Also, to me, the most important part of the Matthew 16 passage for unbelievers is the fact that the Father revealed himself to Peter. He will do the same to all of those who will receive him.

    -Alan

  32. 10-18-2012

    I take a different approach. Instead of trying to show that “church” is not a true translation for “ekklesia”, I define church as what it really is; a man-made, demon-inspired system that is built and maintained with human thinking and human ways. The church has a false Christ. It also has a false priesthood that offers false sacrifices on false altars and preaches a false gospel that will soon be confirmed with false signs and wonders.

    The church system is powerful because it is built on our “efficiency” paradigm, that is, 1. hierarchy, 2. formal use of power and authority, 3. Routine or mechanistic ways of getting things done, 4. Predominance of one-way communication. This paradigm has two main supporting philosophies. Taylorism (Scientific Management) and Meritocracy.

    This is why I do not try to persuade people think about church as ekklesia, rather, I expose the church for what it (she) really is, the harlot in the Book of Revelation.

    My conclusion is that church is the way God is gathering dead branches ready for the fire and that the ekklesia of the Lord Jesus Christ need to come out.

  33. 10-18-2012

    Steve,

    That is one option, as long as you don’t assume that everyone who uses the term ‘church’ uses it in that way. The English word ‘church’ has many definitions, and you’ve focused in on one of them. In fact, I’ve seen that more and more people are not using the term ‘church’ in the way that you’ve defined it in your comment.

    What do you tell people when they come across the term ‘church’ in the New Testament?

    -Alan

  34. 10-28-2012

    Should the current administration continue to strip away the freedom of religion as guaranteed, and written down, by the Founding Fathers of these United States, and should all the people under the a roof of a church eventually be labelled haters, and prosecuted by the state for their beliefs, and their brick and mortar meeting places (churches) be destroyed, there will still be a “Church”. That is, because the Church is the People of God (the Father, the Son, Christ, and the Holy Spirit) and it will endure forever……

  35. 10-28-2012

    How true. Having taken notes on the underground church for 6 years (1963-1969), covering all 2000 years of church history, I can say that oft times the chuch met in a wilderness clearing, and its worship service consisted of a quietly spoke message with soft praises and prayers to God and few, if any songs of praise. In fact at the end of the Dark Ages, the first fight of Baptists was over whether they should have singing at all in their church worship services.

  36. 10-29-2012

    Lawrence and James,

    That’s an interesting take on the situation. It’s certainly possible…

    -Alan

  37. 11-2-2012

    Interesting.

    Continuing the subject of ‘kingdom’ and ‘church’ definitions I’ve heard it said that “the Kingdom is bigger than the Church”.

    I also recently read a definition of the word ‘diaspora’, which speaks of diasporas as “transnational populations, living in one place, while still maintaining relations with their homelands, being both ‘here’ and ‘there’. …diaspora brings together communities which are not quite nation, not quite race, not quite religion, not quite homesickness, yet they still have something to do with nation, race, religion, longings for homes which may not exist. There are collectivities and communities which extend across geographical spaces and historical experiences. There are vast numbers of people who exist in one place and yet feel intimately related to another.”

    The Kingdom of heaven consists of these ‘collectivities and communities’ scattered across the globe like leaven in bread, salt in a meal or tiny growing mustard seeds, longing for their homeland, obeying their real King. Churches are essentially communities of foreigners who have formed embassies, “being both ‘here’ and ‘there’”, praying “They will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and making it happen.

    The source I quoted- http://www.diasporamatters.com/what-is-meant-by-diaspora/2011/

    It’s a bit off topic but as usual God’s been speaking to me through your writing. God bless.

  38. 11-5-2012

    Aidan,

    Thank you for the comment. In Scripture, there is definitely an interesting connection between church and kingdom.

    -Alan

  39. 11-20-2012

    I am looking for a better understanding of what Jesus meant when He said to Peter parapharase- you will be now cephas, upon this i will build my church>

  40. 1-5-2013

    I think the ROCK that Jesus is referring to in Matt 16:18 is the REVELATION that JESUS is ‘the Christ’, the ‘Son of the Living God’. It’s not really the ‘church’ that is the ‘rock’ and it’s not really that Jesus alone is ‘the rock’ – and it’s not really that Peter is ‘the rock’ but that the REVELATION OF JESUS is the ROCK.

    The WORD (Jesus) comes to dwell in mortal man (Peter). It’s the entrance of this WORD (or the revelation) that brings salvation/light/life. Jesus always wants to dwell in and among his people. (The Word became flesh and dwelt among us). The ‘overcoming church’ is only made possible by the ‘indwelling Christ’. (Christ in you-all, the hope of glory)

    A definition of ‘church’ then is not just the assembly of believers, but the indwelling of Jesus within that assembly. We (the believers) are God’s field, God’s building … we are being built together into a spiritual house – a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

    The ‘church’ is a building – but not a man-made steel, brick and morter thing – but something God is building – made with living stones – God’s precious people. (1 Pe 2:5) You can’t separate Christ from his church (What God has joined together, let not man separate).

    If the indwelling Christ is missing – then I question if it’s really ‘the church’ – whether that be a city or a house gathering.

  41. 5-25-2013

    The Greek word EKKLESIA that Jesus used when He said, “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18) came from the ancient Greek city-state. An EKKLESIA was a summoned assembly — similar to a town hall meeting — which carried the authoritative power of a convened congressional assembly. Everyone who attended was considered a co-equal participant. They discussed and voted on matters ranging from simple to very important issues, including judicial matters and going to war. There were civil, non-religious assemblies like this in Jesus’ day and apostolic times (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

    This same idea, of a summoned assembly of co-equal participants, is what we find unfolding in the New Testament in the life of the church. While God’s people are to worship at all times (Rom. 12:1-2), they should meet primarily to edify (build-up) one another — to stir up one another to action: to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). Mutual ministry (service) through the use of a variety of gifts was the way the church began and continued (Acts 2:42-47; Rom. 12-14; 1 Cor. 12-14; 1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Pet. 4:10). Every member of Christ’s body was to be actively involved, not just a ‘special few’ (1 Cor. 12:14-26).

    The church is much more than a congregation or gathering or assembly in the general sense of the word. Unfortunately, ‘audience’ might be a synonym for church to many people today. But the church should be much more than this. It is an august body; a solemn assembly; an active congress; a spiritually-political gathering. It is charged with conducting kingdom business (Acts 1:1-3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 30-31), including making important judgments (1 Cor. 6:1ff) and preparing for battles of eternal consequence (Eph. 6:11ff).

  42. 5-25-2013

    Rick,

    The Greek term ekklesia was used to refer to the gathering of citizens in Greek city-states. But, that was only one of its many uses. For example, it was used often the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the LXX). In that Jewish context it never referred to that same kind of Greek city-state meaning. Since most authors of the NT came from a Jewish background, the LXX probably tells us more about how they used the term.

    Think of it like the English term “assembly.” In certain contexts, “assembly” refers to a governmental body. In other contexts, it does not.

    Also, we have to be careful not to assign descriptions of a group to a term used to refer to the group. For example, I can say, “That team is incredible.” That statement may be completely true, but that doesn’t mean that the term “team” includes the description “incredible” in its meaning/definition. In the same way, “the church/ekklesia” can be described many ways, but those descriptions are not part of the meaning/definition of the term “ekklesia.”

    -Alan

  43. 5-25-2013

    I oversimplified. I agree that EKKLESIA has varied applications and nuances. It was used to refer to the assembly of Israel (in the LXX) and the synagogue was also an assembly of another kind — probably the ‘church’ (assembly or congregation) Jesus had in mind initially in Matthew 18:17, but which also carries over to NT assemblies (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:13; Gal. 6:1).

    I believe NT usage of EKKLESIA in relation to Christ’s assembly further informs us of its meaning for the NT church — hence my parallels at the end of my comment about conducting kingdom business, making important judgments and preparing for spiritual battles.

    Of course, EKKLESIA is only one metaphor or word picture for the church. The NT expands our understanding of the church as it describes Jesus’ brethren as His/God’s family (or household), Bride, sheep, branches, stewards and laborers, slaves, ambassadors, nation, people, royal priesthood, etc.

  44. 5-25-2013

    “these subsets are never set against one another; they remain part of the larger ekklesia.”

    Since we left a traditional church and started gathering in homes, it has become clearer to me that most Christians draw dividing lines between one another based on which Sunday meeting they attend. My wife and I are working hard to not think that way but to look at all believers as agents for the Kingdom. While i’m critical of the traditional church system, I try to not let someone’s choice of meetings affect my relationship with them. That would seem to violate the spirit of Christ’s prayer in John and would damage the testimony of the larger ekklesia in the eyes of those outside the group.

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