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If the ekklesia (church) of Christ is God’s children gathered together…

Posted by on Dec 20, 2011 in definition | 22 comments

If the ekklesia (church) of Christ is God’s children gathered together…

I’ve suggested on this blog (many, many times) that the Greek term ekklesia (which has been translated “church”) refers to a gathering of people (or “assembly”). This means that God’s ekklesia (God’s church) is an assembly of people who belong to him – that is, a gathering of people who are disciples of Jesus Christ.

I’m not suggesting anything that hasn’t been written countless times in books, articles, and posts at other blogs: “ekklesia” refers to an assembly of people. Therefore, “God’s ekklesia” refers to an assembly of God’s people.

(By the way, I’ll use “ekklesia (church) of God” and “ekklesia (church) of Christ” interchangeably, because both phrases are used in Scripture. I use those phrases to designate God’s people gathered together from other assemblies of people. I do not use them to refer to any particular denomination or organization, even if some denomination/organization might use the same phrase to refer to itself.)

What would happen – what difference would it make – if we truly lived and acted as if God’s people gathered together was ekklesia (church)?

… a group of Jesus’ disciples gathered in a home or cafe would be ekklesia, but so would a group gathered in a designate building with a steeple.

… a group of God’s children who do not have recognized leadership would be church, but so would a group that has a hierarchy of leadership.

… a group of believers who meet irregularly would be ekklesia, but so would a group that had regularly scheduled meetings.

… a group of disciples who meet without any activities planned or scheduled would be church, but so would a group that followed a set plan – even a lectionary.

… a group of Jesus’ followers who are eating together would be ekklesia, but so would a group that was singing hymns and listening to a sermon.

Of course, I could go on and on. And, I purposely began with the descriptions that are often used among those who prefer to gather in ways that are more organic/simple/relational/etc. But, I could have swapped the left and right side of the statements above.

We are ekklesia (church) when we are gathered together with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

(Of course, this does NOT mean that every way of living, leading, gathering, etc. together are as beneficial as others. However, THAT is a different point.)

So, I ask again… What would happen – what difference would it make – if we truly lived and acted as if God’s people gathered together was ekklesia (church)?


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

  1. 12-20-2011

    No, those other ones are NOT church.

  2. 12-20-2011

    To answer your question Alan I think we would see those gatherings as opportunities for Christ to be manifest and God’s people to be built up. Whether praying or laughing, studying Scripture or eating together – they would be holy moments.

  3. 12-20-2011


    I think you’ve got that backwards…


    I think so too…


  4. 12-20-2011

    Alan, I’ll agree to disagree with your heretical view.

  5. 12-20-2011


    New readers probably think you’re serious. But, I’m sure they’ll soon learn that you’re the one who is a heretic.


  6. 12-20-2011

    Your point is well taken that we should distinguish between discussing recognizing and honoring His Body whenever and however gathered from discussing the church gathering in ways that are beneficial/effectual. Though connected, to the degree we narrow recognizing and honoring His Body, we also narrow our ability to build one another up (indeed, narrowing all the ministry one to another in the “allelon” descriptions of love in action among the saints).

    If we are ever going to say, “we are the church,” then we better stretch “we” across to every saint.

    The difference it would make is that whether we “hate the IC” or we “eschew the anarchy of OHMS” or however finely grained we we define “us vs them,” we would be free to serve one another across these and all other divisions. Those poor, unfortunate saints caught up in that awful “less-effective-and-pure-than-our-way” would be saints–brothers and sisters–still.

  7. 12-20-2011


    Having a little challenge with “ekklesia” only meaning “Assembly.”

    I’m familiar with the dispute with the word “church,” and what it really means.
    Stuggled with it. Printed out every verse. Read them over and over again.

    Read what others had to say, and why…

    1 – Some, like Cooper P. Abrams, III, seem to say “ekklesia” – only – means
    ….. “assembly” or “congregation.”

    2 – Some, like “Ekklesia Ministries” seem to say “ekklesia” – only- means
    ….. “the called out ones.”

    3 – Some, like Wayne Jacobsen, say “ekklesia” – can be both.
    …. The idea of “called out” and an “assembled” body are NOT
    …. mutually exclusive expressions. The single term can embrace both ideas.

    4 – Some, like Strongs Concordance and Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon.
    …. and others, seem to say church is – both – “the called out ones” and “assembly.”
    …. Seems before there can be an assembly, the folks, believers,
    …. have to be “called out” of where they are – then enter into that assembly.

    Strongs – #1577. ekklesia ek-klay-see’-ah; a compound of 1537 and 2564;
    “a calling out,” a popular meeting, a religious congregation, assembly, church.

    Thayers – ekklesia –
    1 – a gathering of citizens “called out from their homes”-
    ….. into some public place – an assembly.

    I have come to believe #3 and #4 – Both “the called out ones” and “assembly”
    ….. are “both” likely options. ;-)

    I mean – Do I stop being part of “The Body of Christ” when NOT assembled?

    For myself, I found quite a few verses that can be – Both.
    Some that only refer to – “called out ones.”

  8. 12-20-2011


    Yes, exactly.


    How did you decide one definition was better than the other? Did the “ekklesia” in Acts 19 cease being an “ekklesia” when they dispersed? Are you blurring the difference between “child of God” and “ekklesia”?


  9. 12-20-2011

    Alan – You ask…
    “How did you decide one definition was better than the other?”
    Checked out the optians, read the verses, again and again, prayed for wisdom.
    Studing, attempting to understand God’s word, doing the best I know how.
    And – Ask a lot of questions…

    If Jesus is the head of the body, the ekklesia, the church… Col 1:18
    And “ekklesia” only means “assembly” as your article stated, then…

    Does that mean Jesus is **only** “the head of the body” when we’re assembled?
    Does the “body of Christ” no longer exist if we’re not assembled? Traveling?
    Are we no longer the “body of Christ,” The Ekklesia, when we’re home alone?
    What if I’m in prison, solitary confinement; Am I no longer “the Ekklsia of God?”

    Right now I’m in Barnes & Nobles, blogging, all by myself, not assembled.
    Is Jesus still my head? Am I a part of “ the body of Christ,” the ekklesia?
    When do we become “the assembly” that becomes “the church?”
    When two or three? More? How many?

    For myself, I like using “ekklesia” and “called out ones” when talking “Church.”
    It reminds me and others “the ekklesia of God” is always people. NOT institution.
    I see “ekklesia” referring to being “by myself,” with two or three” an “assembly.”

    Church = assembly? OR Church = the Body of Christ, the called out ones?

    1 – I will build my church – Mt 16:18 – build also means “to edify.”
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Could be either – Yes? I will build my assembly? I will edify my called out ones?

    2 – the Lord added to the church – Acts 2:47 – Could be both. Yes?
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    If He adds someone in prison, solitary confinement;
    Is this person, all alone, now, part of Christ, His body, part of “The Church?”
    Or, are they “only” ekklesia when out of prison and assembled?

    3 – great fear came upon all the church – Acts 5:11.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Does fear only come when the ekklesia is assembled?

    4 – a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem – Acts 8:1.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Was there persucution just against the assembled believers?
    If there is NO assembly of believers- then –
    is there NO persecution against believers, the church?

    5 – Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house – Acts 8:3.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Why did Saul enter into every house? Why not just where they were assembled?
    Were there assemblies in every house? In Jerusalem?
    Or, the called out ones” in every house?

    6 – they assembled themselves with the church – Acts 11:26.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Did they assemble themselves with the assembly?
    Or, did they aseemble themselves with “the called out ones?”

    7 – Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church – Acts 12:1.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Only veing certain of the assemblies? NOT all? Or certin of “the called out one’s?”

    8 – and had gathered the church together – Acts 14:27.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Gathered the assembly? Or, gathered “the called out ones?”

    9 – And being brought on their way by the church – Acts 15:3.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Did the whole assembly bring Paul to Jerusalem?
    Or, only a few of “the called out ones” from Antioch?

    10 – they were received of the church – Acts 15:4.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)

    11 – set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. – 1 Cor 6:4.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Hmmm? Must be a misprint? The least essteemed judges?

    12 – If therefore the whole church be come together into one place – 1 Cor 14:23.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)

    13 – Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Eph 5:23.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Is Christ “only” the head when we’re assembled?
    Is Christ “only” the savior of an assembly? Or, the savior of “the called out ones?”
    Wherever they are?

    14 – Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. Eph 5:25.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Gave Himself “only” for the assembly? Not the one alone in prison? At home?

    15 – feed the church of God, which he hath purchased his own blood – Acts 20:28.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Feed “only” the assembly. Or, feed “the called out ones,” whereever they may be?

    16 – gave him to be the head over all things to the church – Eph 1:22.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)

    17 – the church is subject unto Christ – Eph 5:24.
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)
    Is “only” the assembly subject to Christ?
    And when NOT assembled we’re NOT subject?
    Or, “the called out ones” are subject to Christ? Assembled or Not assembled?

    18 – he is the head of the body, the church – Col 1:18
    (assembly?) OR ( the Body of Christ, the called out ones?)

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear MY voice;”
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.

    If Not Now, When?

    In His Service. By His Grace.

  10. 12-20-2011


    Is it possible that “body of Christ” is a metaphor that does not exactly correspond to “ekklesia”? Can they refer to the same thing? Yes. Can they refer to different things? Yes.

    Also, I agree that “ekklesia” can have a spiritual/eschatological sense. However, even in this case, the “ekklesia” represents those who are gathered (“assembled”) separately from others (i.e., the sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left). There is still an assembly.

    Thus, I’m arguing that “ekklesia” is a collective singular term, much like the English term “crowd.”


  11. 12-20-2011

    amen brother!

  12. 12-21-2011

    You make it sound like the only thing Scripture says about the definition of the church is that it’s ekklesia (a gathering of God’s people). And it’s simply not true.

  13. 12-21-2011

    Jesus says both “who is not for is against us” AND “who is not against us is for us”. So when Jesus is not picky, how can we be about the meaning of one Greek word. Church, ikklesia or whatever you will call it in whatever language is all about Him who made it possible. If we only see Him, all pickiness will disappear and what it really means will become clear. The truth is not a discussion with a right conclusion, the truth is a person.

  14. 12-21-2011




    No, not at all. In fact, I think that Scripture has much to say about what God’s children should look and act like, both when they are gathered together and when they are not gathered together. But, even a group as bad as the Corinthians were still called ekklesia (“church”)… and still recognized as “the church of God that is in Corinth,… those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” in spite of all their problems.


    I agree with you. But, some do not. Some would say that finding the “right answer” is finding truth and finding Jesus. Are “those people” still God’s ekklesia (church)?


  15. 12-21-2011


    I for one appreciate very much the discussions, disagreements, that go on here.
    For me conflict has a benefit. Iron shapens iron and the wounds of a friend.
    The conflict, the different points of view, cause me to go to Jesus and ask new
    questions and see things from a different point of view. Thank you – :-)

    In the late 80’s I started to see some of what I believed was NOT in the Bible. It troubled me. As I questioned the Status Quo, the “Leaders,” I came to understand part of the problem was the “Traditions of men,” “My Traditions,” that nullify, make void, “The Word of God.” Needless to say I was NO longer popular, and “Leadership” NO longer cared for my soul.

    Christiandumb is often a bloody sport. ;-)

    Mark 7:13 KJV – Making the word of God of “none effect” through your tradition…
    Mark 7:13 ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    Mark 7:13 NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

    Many blogs, similar to the IC, allow a some disagreement, BUT – then you’re gone. I’ve been banned from a few blogs after challenging their “Traditions” that are NOT in the Bible. And asking simple questions they refused to answer.

    Thank you for your example and your patience.

  16. 12-21-2011


    You probably know the name Bill Mounce – He wrote a few books on Greek…
    “Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words”
    He served on the NIV translation committee and was the New Testament chair
    of the ESV – English Standard Version of the Bible.

    He sounds a lot like you in many area’s – but – here’s his take on “Ekklesia.”
    I like Bill a lot here – because he agrees with me… And uses “called out ones.”;-)

    “Word study on ekklesia (“church”)”

    “So I went to my favorite word study book, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary (i.e., shameless plug), and am reminded that etymologically (and its etymology is still valid) the ekklesia is the community of believers who have been “called out” of the world to belong to King Jesus.”

    And at the end of the article…
    “But we must never forget that what happens
    Sunday morning is not necessarily the church.

    The church is the community of the king that gathers together on a regular basis
    to preach the gospel and fulfill the one anothers in Scripture. That community of
    “called out ones” is part of the answer to our loneliness and pain.”

    Seems Bill is okay with “assembly” and “called out ones.”
    And he helped in translating the ESV. :-)

  17. 12-21-2011


    I enjoy the discussion as well. Thanks for taking part.

    You said: The church is the community of the king that gathers together on a regular basis
    to preach the gospel and fulfill the one anothers in Scripture. That community of
    “called out ones” is part of the answer to our loneliness and pain.”

    Is this all tied up in the term “ekklesia”, or does it describe a particular type of “ekklesia”? I say the latter. We don’t know what God’s ekklesia should be like (i.e., gospel, one another’s, answer to our loneliness and pain) from the term “ekklesia”. Instead, there are other words that are used to describe God’s ekklesia as opposed to other ekklesiai.

    It’s kinda like the word “crowd.” I can use the term “crowd” to refer to a group of people watching a football game. But that doesn’t mean that the word “crowd” means a bunch of people wearing jerseys and funny hats and yelling “Touchdown”.


  18. 12-22-2011


    Well said sister! I don’t have to know how or when or where you gather to call you my sister. Those “things” matter not to me. But to know that we are part of the same Christ. To love one another. They will know us by our love for one another. Sister, thank you for your words.

    Continue enjoying your discussions. There are pictures of Christ to be seen and revelations of Him to be had in all things as long as He is who we are searching for. Thank you as well.

  19. 12-22-2011


    Thanks for the comment. Isn’t it amazing that Paul (and other NT writers) would call people “brothers and sisters” even though he had never met them…


  20. 2-27-2012

    The meaning of Ekklesia? What a great conversation. To me it also means the Government of God. If you read Paul’s letters in chronological order and see what he was doing. To me it’s very clear. Acts 17:6-7 explains what he/they Paul & Silas were doing.
    They were turning the world upside down. They were doing the contrary of the decrees of Caesar, announcing there was a new King, JESUS. The Ekklesia/called outs ones, those called to be Saint gathered to listen. The Ekklesia up to that point gather 40 or so time a year and it was as much a civil meeting as it was a spiritual one. They discussed things going on with in their communities. Paul was setting up a new Ekklesia appointing new elder/leaders and while he was doing this he was reminding everyone that was going to be appointed what not to do. Most importantly not to be like the evil rulers of this age that will come to nothing, Not to be like the Pharisees/Hippocrates. Paul was forming the government of God. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is with in you. We who are called to be Saint and become Saints are the Kingdom. We are just waiting on our King to return.
    Now to address what the difference in the corporate Church and the true Ekkesia.
    I agree that the followers of Christ’s teachings that attend and gather are part of the Ekklesia no matter where they gather. Paul also said that you will not find God in any Temple built by man, You are now the temple and God dwells in YOU.
    The difference is who leads to Corporate Church. Please don’t kid yourself it is Corporate. Every one of them is registered with the State. When 75-90% of the corporate tithe goes to the Shepherds and not to the least amongst us there is something wrong. This is NOT what Jesus, Paul, Peter, Silas or any of the Apostles had in mind. It’s is exactly what they were trying to do away with. Jesus told us who to give too. Widows and Orphans. No where in the Bible does it say to give it to your local CHURCH. Paul also says many will be called but then turn their back on Christ.
    My pledge of Allegiance.

    I pledge allegiance to my GOD and his Son for my salvation and to the Kingdom for which He stands. One Kingdom under God, everlasting, with love and charity for all.

    I fear no man, only GOD.

    Remember to enjoy your walk with HIM today and everyday!

  21. 8-9-2012

    What happens when we, as sons of God, gather together?

    Amazing things happen, that’s what. Psalm 133:1 is a great place to start.

    When I am with my brothers/sisters in Christ, the hours stretch long, the laughter erupts, His Spirit ignites, prayers and petitions and praises are offered freely and without pretense, His Holiness brings us to our faces in worship, and we honestly realize that in those moments, no matter what, we are doing the most important thing going on in the world at that time. We are together, as family. Christ is our Head, Yaweh is our Father, and His Spirit binds us.

    That’s what happens, my friend. But you are not unaware of this, are you? :)

    I’m glad you told us the truth about Art Mealer being a heretic. I didn’t trust him from the moment I saw his profile picture. He looks heretical. Good call, Alan. (It’s sarcasm, people….I’m being sarcastic and facetious.)

  22. 8-9-2012

    @Steve Uveges,

    The Kingdom is governmental, indeed! I’m glad to see others realize this! How utterly refreshing!