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The Church Universal, Local, Or Both? #5

SIH STSTA ICONNow unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Please note: I apologize for the length and detail of this series, and to be honest, I realize it will not be easily consumed by some of its readers.  I normally do not post articles of this length or depth, but I feel obligated to write this posting based upon feedback I have received from the Importance Of The Local Assembly series that was recently published.  So for the many who have shown interest and/or curiosity on this subject, here is the information you have requested.  My apology to those who lack interest or the time to read this study.  It is understandable.)

Facts about the word “church” as used in the King James Version of the Bible….
1.  The word “church” is not used in the Old Testament.
2.  The word “church”  is used in 111 verses in the New Testament.
3.  Every occurrence of the word “church” is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia”  in the NT.

In this study, I would like to study the definition and contextual usage of this Greek word “ekklesia”, with the intent of answering the following questions…

“When the Bible speaks of a “church” is it referring to an invisible, universal assembly made up of all believers in Christ;…. or, is it referring to visible, local assembly whose membership is limited to baptized believers;…. or, does the Bible speak of both types of “churches” that are differentiated by the context in which they are used?”

Let us all ask the Lord for grace, a spirit open to truth, clarity of thought, and accuracy as we work our way through the Holy Scriptures…

THE SCRIPTURES:

A.   (Matthew 16:16-20);
B.   (Act 2:42-47); (Act 7:37-41); (Act 12:1-4); (Act 15:1-4); (Act 19:29-34); (Act 19:35-41); (Act 20:17-28)
C.   (Romans 16:21-24)
D.   (1 Corinth 6:1-5); (1 Corinth 10:24-33); (1 Corinth 11:19-24); (1 Corinth 12:27-31); (1 Corinth 15:1-11)
E.   (Galatians 1:11-13)
F.   (Ephesians 1:16-23); (Ephesians 3:8-12); (Ephesians 3:14-21); (Ephesians 5:22-33)
G.   (Philippians 3:4-6)
H.   (Colossians 1:14-29)
I.   (1 Timothy 3:14-16); (1 Timothy 5:9-16)
J.   (Hebrews 2:10-13)
K.   (James 5:12-18)
L.   (3 John 1:5-10)

 

THE STUDY:

A basic principle used in this study:

You must take the normal, usual usage and meaning of a word unless the context CLEARLY DICTATES ANOTHER MEANING is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

This is the core principle upon which this study is based.  Both the details, and conclusion, of this study rest heavily upon this principle. We will be finding the common, basic usage and definition of “ekklesia” as found in the Scriptures, and then attempt to consistently apply that meaning to each text.

The common definition of the word “ekklesia”:

The basic meaning of “ekklesia” is “called out from”, or “to separate by summons”.

Therefore, based upon the definition of “ekklesia”, we find no indication of which type of assembly we are speaking of whenever we find the word being used.

However, this is only half of our “equation”.  Next we have to look at the USAGE of the word “ekklesia” in the Holy Bible.

The common usage of the word “ekklesia”:

I am forced to conclude that the common usage of the term in the NT is “local visible assembly”.  This definition clearly applies in at least 80 verses (that’s over 70 percent of the time) the word is used.  There was only, at the most, 32 verses that it could mean a invisible, universal assembly (that’s less than 30%).

Therefore, for this study, we will be using THE COMMON DEFINITION OF “EKKLESIA” WILL BE “A LOCAL VISIBLE ASSEMBLY”.

Based upon our earlier discussion under the heading “A basic principle used in this study”   This will be our process…

1.  We will look at the context of each of the 32 Scriptures where “ekklesia” could mean an “invisible universal assembly”.

2.  We will see if each one could allow us to use our common definition a “local visible assembly” .

3.  If the context allows “ekklesia” to hold to its common definition, that will be the definition we assign to that text.

4.  If the context forbids that the common definition of ekklesia can be used, we will then attempt to determine the definition of “ekklesia” for that text.

For more detailed information on the above sections, please see part one of our study…

A verse by verse study of the “questionable” texts that use the word “ekklesia”:

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:  But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”  (1 Timothy 3:14-16)

The exposition:

Paul is instructing Timothy, the young pastor of a local church. He is explaining to Timothy the importance of teaching the truth to the members of the assembly.  The local assembly is the storehouse of the truths of God in New Testament times.  Here, the local assembly is described as: the “house of God”, it is where God’s people meet for intimate worship, communion and nourishment from His Word; and the “pillar and ground of the truth”, the assembly that has been authorized to “hold up the truth for all to see” and “defend the truth so it cannot be moved, nor go out of existence”.

The usage of “ekklesia”

The local church easily fits the context here. No need to look further.

 

Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,  Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.  But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;  Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith.  And withal they learn [to be] idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.  I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.  For some are already turned aside after Satan.  If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.”  (1 Timothy 5:9-16)

The exposition:

Paul is instructing Timothy on the proper administration of permanent church aid to widows within the local assembly. They were to only aid those who were 60 years old and faithful to Christ.  He warns that, at times, younger widows can turn from the service of Christ and live carnal lives characterized by fleshly pursuits.  Paul says, instead of receiving younger widows into the group receiving permanent church support, they should remarry, be supported by their new husband, and raise children that honor God. Also, those widows with Christian families still living are to look to them for financial aid, apart from aid from the local assembly.

The usage of “ekklesia”

The local assembly is clearly in view here, based upon the nature of the instructions given to Timothy.  Timothy has absolutely no authority over a universal, invisible assembly of believers and also it is impossible for a universal assembly, as a body, to support anyone.  The local assembly easily fits in this context.

For it became him, for whom [are] all things, and by whom [are] all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified [are] all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,  Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.  And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.”   (Hebrews 2:10-13)

The exposition:

Christ’s exultation following His perfect obedience on the cross is being described.  His death on the cross resulted in our sanctification and adoption into His family.  The local church membership is made up of individuals who have adopted into the family of God, His brethren.

A prophecy found in Psalm 22:22 promises that Christ would sing praises to His Father in the midst of the assembly.  These praises were another act of Christ’s submission and obedience.  He chose to glorify and honor His Father in heaven, instead of praising Himself through song.  This prophecy was fulfilled when Christ sang during the local church meeting that was called to observe the Lord’s supper…

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed [it], and brake [it], and gave [it] to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave [it] to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;  For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.  And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

(Matthew 26:26-30)

The usage of “ekklesia”

Clearly, the singing of Christ was performed during a local church assembly.  No need to look further.

But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and [your] nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.  Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.  Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.  (James 5:12-18)

The exposition:

We have described instructions for Christians touching upon many different life situations:  Do not swear nor take oaths, simply speak honestly and cultivate and honest testimony among all; when afflicted, seek the Lord’s grace and intervention through prayer; when merry, show your joy to others through songs that honor the Lord; when sick, call the elders of the local assembly and receive their prayers and application of oil (commonly used for symbolic anointing and medication); when committed sin has become public, publically confess the sin and ask for prayer of other members of the local assembly.  Why do all this? Because prayer is a powerful thing, especially when the prayer is performed in the context of a local church meeting….

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”   (Matthew 18:19-20)

 

The usage of “ekklesia”

The word “church” used in the generalized sense.  In other words… “whatever local church of which you are a member”.

The above actions can only be performed in the context of a local assembly of believers.  Who would the elders of a universal church be? How can the elders of a universal church all meet in one place? How can we confess our public sins to the universal church? Etc etc…  Obviously, this is a local assembly being talked about.

Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;  Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:  Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.  We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.  I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth [them] out of the church.”  (3 John 1:5-10)

The exposition:

Here John is addressing Gaius, who faithfully ministered to others.  John reviews the faithful acts of Gaius. Firstly,  he reminded Gaius of his faithful ministering to his family and spiritual brothers and also to strangers.  Those he had helped had then gone before the local assembly and told of his charitable deeds.

John encourages Gaius to continue to help other Christians whom may come his way during their travels.  By helping those Christians, he shares in the ministry they are performing.

John had written to the local church to encourage them to help the traveling Christians, but Diotrephes, due to his desire for attention, did not receive the travelers.  But instead, he forbad the other members of the local assembly to help these traveling ones.  If a member chose to help the travelers, he would cast them out of the local assembly.  John says that when he arrives at this church he would deal with the situation.

The usage of “ekklesia”

Easily, we can see a local church must be being talked about.  A letter cannot be sent to an invisible world-wide assembly.  Christians cannot come before a universal assembly and speak of blessings they had received, they cannot be cast out of a universal assembly, nor can one person forbid all living Christians to do anything.  Obviously this speaks of the local assembly in Gaius’ area.

Please take notice:

Any text that you do not see listed (unless I misread it) clearly indicate the word church is a local assembly.  For example the phrase “church at Jerusalem” clearly is referring to the local church at Jerusalem.   Also there may be a few instances where the context clearly indicated a local assembly was in view like “the church that is in thy house” which clearly disallows the universal church usage.  I saw no reason to include these types of texts in the discussion we are having.

 

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:

As you can see, based upon my understanding of these Scriptures, there is not one text found in the Bible that dictates we must view the Biblical concept of a church as “an invisible universal assembly”.

Certainly we know that all who are saved make up “the family of God”, “the kingdom of God”, and “the saints”, however, the more I look into this subject, I am hesitant to refer to all who are saved as “the church of God”.

Why is this an important issue?  I believe there is much to be learned about a local assembly that previously have been missed by attributing various texts to all who are saved, when they correctly apply to local assemblies.

The role and importance of the local assembly is enhanced through this understanding of the meaning of the word “church” as found in the New Testament Scriptures.  As a matter of fact, the local assembly when viewed from this perspective, becomes the supreme instrument of the Lord in the proclamation, retention and defense of the truth of the Word.

There is no other organization on the face of the planet earth that comes close to holding the authority, purpose and value to the cause of Christ than His local churches on earth.  How can we begin to take the local assembly so lightly?

Let me remind you that I have tried to find every section of Scripture where the word “church” could be referring to an invisible assembly.  If, during your studies, you find any other text that could refer to a universal church.  Please let me know.  For my own use, and the benefit of those who read this study, I would like this study to be as complete as possible.  

Also, if you see things in the context of the above passages that you believe absolutely disallow the local assembly definition of “church” please let me know by comment or email. Again, I certainly am a fallen, sinful, human who is capable of misunderstanding a context or entirely missing it, therefore it is very possible I have missed something in this study.  Please point it out to me so I can study and,  hopefully, come to an understanding of the issue and then address it in a future comment.

May the Lord bless you as you seek His truth.

 

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May the Lord bless your study of His Word.  Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

The Church Universal, Local, Or Both? #4

SIH STSTA ICONNow unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Please note: I apologize for the length and detail of this series, and to be honest, I realize it will not be easily consumed by some of its readers.  I normally do not post articles of this length or depth, but I feel obligated to write this posting based upon feedback I have received from the Importance Of The Local Assembly series that was recently published.  So for the many who have shown interest and/or curiosity on this subject, here is the information you have requested.  My apology to those who lack interest or the time to read this study.  It is understandable.)

Facts about the word “church” as used in the King James Version of the Bible….

1.  The word “church” is not used in the Old Testament.

2.  The word “church”  is used in 111 verses in the New Testament.

3.  Every occurrence of the word “church” is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia”  in the NT.

In this study, I would like to study the definition and contextual usage of this Greek word “ekklesia”, with the intent of answering the following questions…

“When the Bible speaks of a “church” is it referring to an invisible, universal assembly made up of all believers in Christ;…. or, is it referring to visible, local assembly whose membership is limited to baptized believers;…. or, does the Bible speak of both types of “churches” that are differentiated by the context in which they are used?”

Let us all ask the Lord for grace, a spirit open to truth, clarity of thought, and accuracy as we work our way through the Holy Scriptures…

THE SCRIPTURES:

A.   (Matthew 16:16-20);

B.   (Act 2:42-47); (Act 7:37-41); (Act 12:1-4); (Act 15:1-4); (Act 19:29-34); (Act 19:35-41); (Act 20:17-28)

C.   (Romans 16:21-24)

D.   (1 Corinth 6:1-5); (1 Corinth 10:24-33); (1 Corinth 11:19-24); (1 Corinth 12:27-31); (1 Corinth 15:1-11)

E.   (Galatians 1:11-13)

F.   (Ephesians 1:16-23); (Ephesians 3:8-12); (Ephesians 3:14-21); (Ephesians 5:22-33)

G.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

H.   (Colossians 1:14-29)

I.   (1 Timothy 3:14-16); (1 Timothy 5:9-16)

J.   (Hebrews 2:10-13)

K.   (James 5:12-18)

L.   (3 John 1:5-10)

 

THE STUDY:

A basic principle used in this study:

You must take the normal, usual usage and meaning of a word unless the context CLEARLY DICTATES ANOTHER MEANING is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

This is the core principle upon which this study is based.  Both the details, and conclusion, of this study rest heavily upon this principle. We will be finding the common, basic usage and definition of “ekklesia” as found in the Scriptures, and then attempt to consistently apply that meaning to each text.

The common definition of the word “ekklesia”:

The basic meaning of “ekklesia” is “called out from”, or “to separate by summons”.

Therefore, based upon the definition of “ekklesia”, we find no indication of which type of assembly we are speaking of whenever we find the word being used.

However, this is only half of our “equation”.  Next we have to look at the USAGE of the word “ekklesia” in the Holy Bible.

The common usage of the word “ekklesia”:

I am forced to conclude that the common usage of the term in the NT is “local visible assembly”.  This definition clearly applies in at least 80 verses (that’s over 70 percent of the time) the word is used.  There was only, at the most, 32 verses that it could mean a invisible, universal assembly (that’s less than 30%).

Therefore, for this study, we will be using THE COMMON DEFINITION OF “EKKLESIA” WILL BE “A LOCAL VISIBLE ASSEMBLY”.

Based upon our earlier discussion under the heading “A basic principle used in this study”   This will be our process…

1.  We will look at the context of each of the 32 Scriptures where “ekklesia” could mean an “invisible universal assembly”.

2.  We will see if each one could allow us to use our common definition a “local visible assembly” .

3.  If the context allows “ekklesia” to hold to its common definition, that will be the definition we assign to that text.

4.  If the context forbids that the common definition of ekklesia can be used, we will then attempt to determine the definition of “ekklesia” for that text.

For more detailed information on the above sections, please see part one of our study…

A verse by verse study of the “questionable” texts that use the word “ekklesia”:

Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;  That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:  The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,  And what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,  Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set [him] at his own right hand in the heavenly [places],  Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church,  Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”   (Ephesians 1:16-23)

 

The exposition:

Paul is describing his prayerful desires for the local church at Ephesus. Some of those desires include understanding: the truth of His Word, their calling, what eternity holds for them, His great attributes, and the exalted position of Christ.  This exalted position includes: being placed above all worldly powers, all creation, and being placed as Head of the local assembly.

Christ’s exaltation over the local assembly is described as being made “head” over the “body”, the church.

(For further details on this phraseology please refer to our prior study of the 1 Corinthians 12 passage.) Paul then continues by explaining that it is within the confines of the local assembly that Jesus will meet with His people in His fullness.

This is supported by Matthew 18:20 –

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 

This text is speaking about the meeting of God’s people in a local church assembly (Matt 18:15-19).

 

The usage of “ekklesia”

The local church is clearly described as the Lord’s body as already seen in our study.  The entire context clearly fits the description of a local assembly.  No need to look further.

 

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;  And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:  To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,   According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:  In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.  (Ephesians 3:8-12)

 

The exposition:

The reason that Paul acted as a missionary, being instrumental in the founding and instruction of the first local churches, was so that these churches could present Christ and His Word to both men and angels.

This section of Scripture presents the same truth as the account of the Great Commission found in Mark… And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.   (Mark 16:15-16)

When the gospel is preached by the local assembly, all of creation, including the angels of God learn of the wisdom of God.  Keep in mind, we are told that angels attend the meeting of local churches and learn from the preaching of the Word. (1 Cor 11:10, 1 Pet 1:10-12)

The use of local assemblies to proclaim truth about Christ and His work on our behalf is a part of His eternal plan.

 

The usage of “ekklesia”

Here, the preaching of the Word by the local church, and the benefits of that preaching extend to both men and angels and is supported by a variety of Scriptures.  The local church can easily be understood in this passage.

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,  May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.   (Ephesians 3:14-21)

 

The exposition:

Paul’s prayerful desires for the local church at Ephesus is explained in detail… receipt of His eternal riches, His strength through the Spirit, salvation from sins, a foundation of love, an understanding of the love of Christ, filled with the fullness of God.

Paul then explains the obligation of the church to glorify God for granting them these blessings.  God is to be glorified by the local assembly through the work and intervention of Christ in their personal lives and worship services, until the end of the age.

 

The usage of “ekklesia”

Paul is addressing the local assembly, explaining to them the blessings of God that can be received by them and their obligation to praise Him for those blessings. Clearly, in the context, this is speaking of a local assembly.

 

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing.  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.   For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife [see] that she reverence [her] husband.”   (Ephesians 5:22-33)

 

The exposition:

Here we find Christ’s relationship with His local assemblies being likened to the relationship between a husband and a wife.  Some of these likenesses include: the church’s need of submission to Christ as their head (1 Cor 12:12-31); the husband’s need to sacrifice himself for the wife, always putting her welfare above his own, motivated by love (Acts 20:28); the very special intimate union that takes place between Christ and the local assembly (Matt 18:20, Rev 1:13-20).

The usage of “ekklesia”

The word “church” is used in the generalized sense. The concept of a local assembly fits very nicely in the context. No need to look further.

 

“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:  Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”   (Philippians 3:4-6)

The exposition:

Paul speaking of the persecution of the local assembly at Jerusalem of which he has spoken earlier. See 1 Cor 15:1-11 and Galatians 1:11-13)

The usage of “ekklesia”

Church refers to the local assembly at Jerusalem.

 

In whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins:  Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.

For it pleased [the Father] that in him should all fulness dwell;  And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, [I say], whether [they be] things in earth, or things in heaven.  And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled  In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, [and] which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;  Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:  Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;  [Even] the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:  To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:  Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.   (Colossians 1:14-29)

The exposition:

Christ’s (who was God Himself) great work, power and authority being described.  Because of His faithfulness to the calling of His Father to give His life, Jesus is exalted as head of the local assembly.  Christ’s work involved making a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that we might serve Him.

Our faithful service to Him is our supreme call to holiness and spirituality.  Because of his desire to keep this calling, Paul is thankful for the privilege of being persecuted, which allows him to have be a living sacrifice for the Lord.  He is making this sacrifice to be of benefit to the local assemblies to whom he is ministering.

The local assemblies benefit from his ministry by receiving his teachings on the mystery of Christ, His person, work, and the eternity He has prepared for us.  Paul’s great desire is that the local church might learn from his teachings, then fulfill their commission to indoctrinate their members so that they might grow in grace and knowledge and win others to Christ.

The usage of “ekklesia”

The “church” is used in the generalized sense. It is referring to any local assembly to whom Paul has ministered.  The local assembly can easily fit this context, therefore no need to look further.

We will continue our study of the questionable texts in our next posting.

 

Please visit…

Settled In Heaven Ministries Home On The Web: http://www.settledinheaven.org

Settled In Heaven Ministries Text Blog: https://settledinheaven.wordpress.com

Settled In Heaven Ministries Video Blog: http://youtube.com/settledinheaven

Email Us At: settledinheaven@gmail.com

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.  Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

The Church Universal, Local, Or Both? #3

SIH STSTA ICONNow unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Please note: I apologize for the length and detail of this series, and to be honest, I realize it will not be easily consumed by some of its readers.  I normally do not post articles of this length or depth, but I feel obligated to write this posting based upon feedback I have received from the Importance Of The Local Assembly series that was recently published.  So for the many who have shown interest and/or curiosity on this subject, here is the information you have requested.  My apology to those who lack interest or the time to read this study.  It is understandable.)

Facts about the word “church” as used in the King James Version of the Bible….

1.  The word “church” is not used in the Old Testament.
2.  The word “church”  is used in 111 verses in the New Testament.
3.  Every occurrence of the word “church” is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia”  in the NT.

In this study, I would like to study the definition and contextual usage of this Greek word “ekklesia”, with the intent of answering the following questions…

“When the Bible speaks of a “church” is it referring to an invisible, universal assembly made up of all believers in Christ;…. or, is it referring to visible, local assembly whose membership is limited to baptized believers;…. or, does the Bible speak of both types of “churches” that are differentiated by the context in which they are used?”

Let us all ask the Lord for grace, a spirit open to truth, clarity of thought, and accuracy as we work our way through the Holy Scriptures…

THE SCRIPTURES:

 

A.   (Matthew 16:16-20);
B.   (Act 2:42-47); (Act 7:37-41); (Act 12:1-4); (Act 15:1-4); (Act 19:29-34); (Act 19:35-41); (Act 20:17-28)
C.   (Romans 16:21-24)
D.   (1 Corinth 6:1-5); (1 Corinth 10:24-33); (1 Corinth 11:19-24); (1 Corinth 12:27-31); (1 Corinth 15:1-11)
E.   (Galatians 1:11-13)
F.   (Ephesians 1:16-23); (Ephesians 3:8-12); (Ephesians 3:14-21); (Ephesians 5:22-33)
G.   (Philippians 3:4-6)
H.   (Colossians 1:14-29)
I.   (1 Timothy 3:14-16); (1 Timothy 5:9-16)
J.   (Hebrews 2:10-13)
K.   (James 5:12-18)
L.   (3 John 1:5-10)

 

THE STUDY:

 

A basic principle used in this study:

 

You must take the normal, usual usage and meaning of a word unless the context CLEARLY DICTATES ANOTHER MEANING is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

This is the core principle upon which this study is based.  Both the details, and conclusion, of this study rest heavily upon this principle. We will be finding the common, basic usage and definition of “ekklesia” as found in the Scriptures, and then attempt to consistently apply that meaning to each text.

 

The common definition of the word “ekklesia”:

The basic meaning of “ekklesia” is “called out from”, or “to separate by summons”.

Therefore, based upon the definition of “ekklesia”, we find no indication of which type of assembly we are speaking of whenever we find the word being used.

However, this is only half of our “equation”.  Next we have to look at the USAGE of the word “ekklesia” in the Holy Bible.

The common usage of the word “ekklesia”:

I am forced to conclude that the common usage of the term in the NT is “local visible assembly”.  This definition clearly applies in at least 80 verses (that’s over 70 percent of the time) the word is used.  There was only, at the most, 32 verses that it could mean a invisible, universal assembly (that’s less than 30%).

Therefore, for this study, we will be using THE COMMON DEFINITION OF “EKKLESIA” WILL BE “A LOCAL VISIBLE ASSEMBLY”.

Based upon our earlier discussion under the heading “A basic principle used in this study”   This will be our process…

1.  We will look at the context of each of the 32 Scriptures where “ekklesia” could mean an “invisible universal assembly”.
2.  We will see if each one could allow us to use our common definition a “local visible assembly” .
3.  If the context allows “ekklesia” to hold to its common definition, that will be the definition we assign to that text.
4.  If the context forbids that the common definition of ekklesia can be used, we will then attempt to determine the definition of “ekklesia” for that text.

For more detailed information on the above sections, please see part one of our study…

A verse by verse study of the “questionable” texts that use the word “ekklesia”:

 

Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.  I Tertius, who wrote [this] epistle, salute you in the Lord.  Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen.

(Romans 16:21-24)

 

The exposition:

Paul is writing on behalf on several different Christians (Timotheus, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius (as penman), Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus.  Paul goes further and speaks on behalf of the local assembly at Corinth.

 

The usage of “ekklesia”

Could Paul speak on behalf of all the believers everywhere on earth?  I think not.   Note the phrase “whole church” is used elsewhere to describe local assemblies (Acts 15:22 – at Jerusalem; 1 Cor 14:23 – at Corinth)

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?  Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?  Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.  I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?”   (1 Corinthians 6:1-5)

 

The exposition:

Paul, here is encouraging believers who are involved in a dispute to allow the local assembly to make a judgment and not to rely upon the world’s judicial system.

 

The usage of “ekklesia”

Would it be possible for the universal, invisible church to make a judgment about saints’ disagreements?  I don’t know how that could ever be done.  Would Christians be able to bring their disputes before a local assembly for judgment…. Absolutely.  It could be easily done.

Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s [wealth].  Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, [that] eat, asking no question for conscience sake:  For the earth [is] the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.  If any of them that believe not bid you [to a feast], and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.  But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:  Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another [man’s] conscience?  For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.  Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:  Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:24-33)

 

The exposition:

Paul gives a listing or areas of concern for the Christian desiring to possess a proper public testimony for Christ. This involves care concerning covetousness, eating habits, hospitality and social behaviors, limiting our Christian liberties for the sake of others, honoring God in all things that are done, then he makes the statement…

Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved.

In other words, we are to take care not to offend those around us.  This includes being a good testimony to both Jew and Gentile.  Also, it includes being in proper submission to the local assembly and not offend them, it is the local church whose responsibility it is to take the gospel to the lost world.

Whatever church we are a member of, we should be in submission to their authority helping them to fulfill the Great Commission through our life testimony.

By doing all of these things, we are exhibiting a humble attitude of a life lived in ministry for the good of others.

The usage of “ekklesia”

Church is used in the generalized sense.  Whatever church we are a member of, we should be in submission to their authority which enhances our testimony and the unity of the church as it takes the gospel to the world.Again, this makes perfect sense, and therefore we have no need to seek another definition.

 

For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.  When ye come together therefore into one place, [this] is not to eat the Lord’s supper.  For in eating every one taketh before [other] his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.  What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise [you] not.  For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

 (1 Corinthians 11:19-24)

The exposition:

Here, Paul is giving the local church at Corinth instructions on how to observe the church ordinance of communion.  By partaking of the supper in a selfish fashion the church member is despising the local assembly who holds authority over the ordinance.

 

The usage of “ekklesia”

Contextually, it is quite clear Paul is instructing a local assembly that has the authority to observe the Lord’s Supper.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body [were] an eye, where [were] the hearing? If the whole [were] hearing, where [were] the smelling?  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where [were] the body? But now [are they] many members, yet but one body.  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.  Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those [members] of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely [parts] have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely [parts] have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that [part] which lacked:  That there should be no schism in the body; but [that] the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.  [Are] all apostles? [are] all prophets? [are] all teachers? [are] all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

 (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)

The exposition:

Paul is addressing the local assembly at Corinth.  He is describing them as the “body of Christ”.  This teaches us that the local church although made up of many different members is to work together in harmony to do the bidding of its head, Jesus Christ.   Paul describes the offices of the local assembly and some of the gifts the Lord placed within that assembly for its spiritual growth and accrediting. Finally, to emphasize the need for selflessness and unity, he reminds them to earnestly desire to exercise the “best gifts”… ie the gifts most needed by the assembly.

 

Also, if you notice in vs 13 membership in this assembly is gained by the Holy Spirit leading us to be baptized in water. (The word translated “by” is also translated “through” in Greek).  This is saying that…

“Through (the leadership of) the Spirit, we are all baptized into one type of body.” (It is a local assembly that declares God’s truths and fulfills the Great Commission.)

This membership is offered to both Jew and Gentile, slave or master.  There is no difference between a local church filled with Gentiles and a local church filled with Jews. Nor is there a difference between the membership of the rich and the membership of the slave. They hold to the same set of doctrines and have the same mission…. The Great Commission.  No matter what their nationality and social standing each member has the same privileges and responsibilities of membership.

 

The usage of “ekklesia”

The church is being described in the generalized sense here.  Only a local assembly could accomplish what Paul is describing in vs 13-31.  It is impossible for members of an invisible worldwide body of believers to work together in harmony and meet each other’s needs as being described in these verses.

Once again, as in every text so far, there is nothing in this text to dictate that the “church” that is mentioned cannot be a local assembly.  Therefore, there is no need to search for another meaning.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:  And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:  After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.  After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.  And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.  For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace [which was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.  Therefore whether [it were] I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

 (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

 

11) But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
12) For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13) For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

 (Galatians 1:11-13)

 

 

The exposition:

Here, Paul is sharing the details of the gospel message, in the context of his personal testimony to the local church at Corinth, and the local church at Galatia.  He is emphasizing proofs that the gospel message is true, the great number of witnesses to the resurrection and the changed life he experienced after his receipt of the gospel by faith.

As a part of his testimony, Paul describes his past life (prior to his salvation) which included the persecution of members of the local church at Jerusalem.  This is described in Acts 7:54-8:5 – this account includes the martyrdom of Stephen, and other believers living in the confines of Jerusalem.  There is no reason to believe these were not members of the local church at Jerusalem)

 

The usage of “ekklesia”
There is no reason why the “church” mentioned in Paul’s testimony was not the local church at Jerusalem.  No need to look further.

We will continue our study of the questionable texts in our next posting.

 

Please visit…

Settled In Heaven Ministries Home On The Web: http://www.settledinheaven.org

Settled In Heaven Ministries Text Blog: https://settledinheaven.wordpress.com

Settled In Heaven Ministries Video Blog: http://youtube.com/settledinheaven

Email Us At: settledinheaven@gmail.com

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.  Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

The Church Universal, Local, Or Both? #2

SIH STSTA ICONNow unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Please note: I apologize for the length and detail of this series, and to be honest, I realize it will not be easily consumed by some of its readers.  I normally do not post articles of this length or depth, but I feel obligated to write this posting based upon feedback I have received from the Importance Of The Local Assembly series that was recently published.  So for the many who have shown interest and/or curiosity on this subject, here is the information you have requested.  My apology to those who lack interest or the time to read this study.  It is understandable.)

Facts about the word “church” as used in the King James Version of the Bible….

1.  The word “church” is not used in the Old Testament.

2.  The word “church”  is used in 111 verses in the New Testament.

3.  Every occurrence of the word “church” is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia”  in the NT.

In this study, I would like to study the definition and contextual usage of this Greek word “ekklesia”, with the intent of answering the following questions…

“When the Bible speaks of a “church” is it referring to an invisible, universal assembly made up of all believers in Christ;…. or, is it referring to visible, local assembly whose membership is limited to baptized believers;…. or, does the Bible speak of both types of “churches” that are differentiated by the context in which they are used?”

Let us all ask the Lord for grace, a spirit open to truth, clarity of thought, and accuracy as we work our way through the Holy Scriptures…

THE SCRIPTURES:

A.   (Matthew 16:16-20);

B.   (Act 2:42-47); (Act 7:37-41); (Act 12:1-4); (Act 15:1-4); (Act 19:29-34); (Act 19:35-41); (Act 20:17-28)

C.   (Romans 16:21-24)

D.   (1 Corinth 6:1-5); (1 Corinth 10:24-33); (1 Corinth 11:19-24); (1 Corinth 12:27-31); (1 Corinth 15:1-11)

E.   (Galatians 1:11-13)

F.   (Ephesians 1:16-23); (Ephesians 3:8-12); (Ephesians 3:14-21); (Ephesians 5:22-33)

G.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

H.   (Colossians 1:14-29)

I.   (1 Timothy 3:14-16); (1 Timothy 5:9-16)

J.   (Hebrews 2:10-13)

K.   (James 5:12-18)

L.   (3 John 1:5-10)

 

THE STUDY:

A basic principle used in this study:

You must take the normal, usual usage and meaning of a word unless the context CLEARLY DICTATES ANOTHER MEANING is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

This is the core principle upon which this study is based.  Both the details, and conclusion, of this study rest heavily upon this principle. We will be finding the common, basic usage and definition of “ekklesia” as found in the Scriptures, and then attempt to consistently apply that meaning to each text.

The common definition of the word “ekklesia”:

The basic meaning of “ekklesia” is “called out from”, or “to separate by summons”.

Therefore, based upon the definition of “ekklesia”, we find no indication of which type of assembly we are speaking of whenever we find the word being used.

However, this is only half of our “equation”.  Next we have to look at the USAGE of the word “ekklesia” in the Holy Bible.

The common usage of the word “ekklesia”:

I am forced to conclude that the common usage of the term in the NT is “local visible assembly”.  This definition clearly applies in at least 80 verses (that’s over 70 percent of the time) the word is used.  There was only, at the most, 32 verses that it could mean a invisible, universal assembly (that’s less than 30%).

Therefore, for this study, we will be using THE COMMON DEFINITION OF “EKKLESIA” WILL BE “A LOCAL VISIBLE ASSEMBLY”.

Based upon our earlier discussion under the heading “A basic principle used in this study”   This will be our process…

1.  We will look at the context of each of the 32 Scriptures where “ekklesia” could mean an “invisible universal assembly”.

2.  We will see if each one could allow us to use our common definition a “local visible assembly” .

3.  If the context allows “ekklesia” to hold to its common definition, that will be the definition we assign to that text.

4.  If the context forbids that the common definition of ekklesia can be used, we will then attempt to determine the definition of “ekklesia” for that text.

For more detailed information on the above sections, please see part one of our study…

A verse by verse study of the “questionable” texts that use the word “ekklesia”:

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

 (Matthew 16:16-20)

The exposition:

Here we find the Lord speaking to Peter, emphasizing the veracity, and importance, of the statement “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”.  He then explains the great authority that he will give, and is now held by, the local assembly as they proclaim the gospel message to the lost.  For those who accept the gospel message by faith, they will be “just as saved” as if Christ Himself had delivered the message to lost person.  Likewise those who reject the gospel message delivered by the local assembly, will be just as greatly condemned to judgment as if Christ Himself had delivered the message to them.

The usage of “ekklesia”

There is nothing in the context that dictates that the term “church” cannot mean a local assembly.  Therefore we will look no further.

(Please note: In this case, the word “church” is used in a generalized sense.  This means that the statement “upon this rock I will build my church” was not pointed toward a specific local assembly, but will apply to any assembly of that type.  Much like the statement “the duck is a bird that quacks” does not refer to a specific duck but it refers to any bird of that type.)

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls.  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.  And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.  And all that believed were together, and had all things common;  And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need.  And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,  Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

(Acts 2:41-47)

The exposition:

Here, we find the church at Jerusalem being increased in membership and unity.  Following their baptism and church membership, they enjoyed times of worship through the teaching of God’s Word, fellowship with the saints, observing the Lord’s supper, and communal prayer and self-sacrifice for the welfare of the other members.  Also, to accredit this newly formed entity, we find the apostles working many signs and wonders…proof the God had authorized this assembly and her message.

The usage of “ekklesia”

Clearly, the context dictates that the word “church” is referring to the Lord’s local assembly that continued to grow as the lost were saved and joined the assembly.  Since church can easily mean a local visible assembly we need to look no further for another definition.

 

 

This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.  This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and [with] our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:  To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust [him] from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,   Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for [as for] this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.  And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

 (Acts 7:37-41)

The exposition:

This text is an account of an event that took place during the wilderness wanderings of the nation of Israel.  As the nation of Israel traveled through the wilderness, they were an organized, visible assembly that had been called out of Egypt, separated to worship and obey God.

The usage of “ekklesia”

Again, clearly this is speaking of a local, visible assembly of God’s people.  No other definition needs to be sought.

 

 

 

Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth [his] hands to vex certain of the church.  And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.  And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)  And when he had apprehended him, he put [him] in prison, and delivered [him] to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.  5) Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him….. 12) And when he had considered [the thing], he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.

(Acts 12:1-5,12)

The exposition:

The martyrdom of  the local church of Jerusalem’s members included James.  Herod also went after Peter (another member of the local assembly).  Peter was imprisoned and the local church then prayed for him.

The usage of “ekklesia”

We know that the local church (vs 5) is described as praying for him… in verse twelve, we are told many were gathered praying, which is describing the local visible assembly at prayer.  The church in vs 1, when kept in the context of vs 5 and 12, clearly is referring to a local assembly.  Once again our rule applies.  Since the vs1 can mean a local assembly, and we know the church in vs 5 is speaking of a local assembly, then we have no need to find any other definition for either term.

 

 

 

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.  When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.  And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.  And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and [of] the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

 (Acts 15:1-4)

The exposition:

The church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to consult the Apostles and Elders of the church at Jerusalem.  They traveled back to Jerusalem and were received by the local church there.

The usage of “ekklesia”

“church” in both verses, can easily be speaking of the local assemblies in those areas.  No reason to search for another definition.

 

 

 

And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.  And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.  And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring [him] that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.  Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.  And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.  But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great [is] Diana of the Ephesians.”  (Acts 19:29-34)

And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, [Ye] men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the [image] which fell down from Jupiter?  Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.  For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.  Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.  But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.  For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.  And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.”   (Acts 19:35-41)

The exposition:

Here we read of a political assembly that was gathered to hold a makeshift trial and persecute Gaius and Aristarchus in defense of the Goddess Diana.

The usage of “ekklesia”

Here, the word “ekklesia” is translated “assembly” and is speaking of a local visible assembly of Greek citizens.

 

 

 

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.  And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,  Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:  [And] how I kept back nothing that was profitable [unto you], but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,  Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.  And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:  Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.  But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.  And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.  Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I [am] pure from the blood of all [men].  For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.  Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”   (Acts 20:17-28)

The exposition:

Paul calls for a meeting of the elders of the local church at Ephesus.  They travel to Paul, and Paul then speaks to them about his persecution, imprisonment and missionary ministry.  He then emphasizes to them his ministry to their church (the local church at Ephesus) and emphasizes the need for them to watch over and feed the church of Ephesus over which they have been placed.

The usage of “ekklesia”

In my mind, both times the “church” is mentioned, it is clear that a local assembly is being spoken of.  If you notice they are given the responsibility to feed and watch over “the church”.  This cannot be speaking of a universal, invisible assembly, for it would be impossible to feed and watch over all Christians on the face of the planet earth. However, it is very easy, and obvious, for them to watch over and feed the local assembly where they were ministering. No need to look further for another definition

We will continue our study of the questionable texts in our next posting.

Please visit…

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May the Lord bless your study of His Word.  Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”

The Church Universal, Local, Or Both? #1

SIH STSTA ICONNow unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Please note: I apologize for the length and detail of this sereis, and to be honest, I realize it will not be easily consumed by some of its readers.  I normally do not post articles of this length or depth, but I feel obligated to write this posting based upon feedback I have received from the Importance Of The Local Assembly series that was recently published.  So for the many who have shown interest and/or curiosity on this subject, here is the information you have requested.  My apology to those who lack interest or the time to read this study.  It is understandable.)

Facts about the word “church” as used in the King James Version of the Bible….

1.  The word “church” is not used in the Old Testament.

2.  The word “church”  is used in 111 verses in the New Testament.

3.  Every occurrence of the word “church” is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia”  in the NT.

In this study, I would like to study the definition and contextual usage of this Greek word “ekklesia”, with the intent of answering the following questions…

“When the Bible speaks of a “church” is it referring to an invisible, universal assembly made up of all believers in Christ;…. or, is it referring to visible, local assembly whose membership is limited to baptized believers;…. or, does the Bible speak of both types of “churches” that are differentiated by the context in which they are used?”

Let us all ask the Lord for grace, a spirit open to truth, clarity of thought, and accuracy as we work our way through the Holy Scriptures…

THE SCRIPTURES:

A.   (Matthew 16:16-20);

B.   (Act 2:42-47); (Act 7:37-41); (Act 12:1-4); (Act 15:1-4); (Act 19:29-34); (Act 19:35-41); (Act 20:17-28)

C.   (Romans 16:21-24)

D.   (1 Corinth 6:1-5); (1 Corinth 10:24-33); (1 Corinth 11:19-24); (1 Corinth 12:27-31); (1 Corinth 15:1-11)

E.   (Galatians 1:11-13)

F.   (Ephesians 1:16-23); (Ephesians 3:8-12); (Ephesians 3:14-21); (Ephesians 5:22-33)

G.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

H.   (Colossians 1:14-29)

I.   (1 Timothy 3:14-16); (1 Timothy 5:9-16)

J.   (Hebrews 2:10-13)

K.   (James 5:12-18)

L.   (3 John 1:5-10)

THE STUDY:

 

A basic principle used in this study:

You must take the normal, usual usage and meaning of a word unless the context CLEARLY DICTATES ANOTHER MEANING is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

Let me use an example of the word “ball”.  We all have a basic understanding of the definition and usage of the word “ball”…. It is a round or oblong object that is many times used in sports and children’s play (something like that).

My point is this…. Every language on earth is based upon this basic principle.  If we don’t use the common usage and definition for words, then language becomes unintelligible. For example, when we hear the word “ball” we automatically assume we are talking about the round object described above.  Let’s pretend that this rule should not be followed….

If we did not keep to this rule… a “ball” can mean a watermelon, a boy, a target, a tree, a fox, a girl, a planet, a star…. etc etc etc . We could never come to an understanding of the word if every time it is used it can hold a varied, different meaning. If this is the case, think about this sentence…

“He saw the ball”.

This sentence then becomes absolutely meaningless.  The context reveals nothing about the definition of the “ball”, therefore the word “ball” could stand for ANYTHING.   The sentence holds no meaning for us.  For language to hold meaning, we must take the common usage and definition of a word and apply it to the sentence.

The only time that this rule does not apply is when the THE CONTEXT FORCES US to find another meaning. Only if the context absolutely forbids the common meaning of a word do we seek another definition.  Let me give us two sentences where the word “ball” is used:

1.  “He lost the ball in the weeds.” – in this example, we can see that our definition of the word  “ball” easily fits the context.  Therefore, we automatically know its definition.  THERE IS NO REASON TO find another definition for “ball”.

2.  “The ball of his foot gave him great pain.” – In this context, “ball” cannot have the normal usage and definition we are using.  Therefore, we look for another definition.  In this case, it would be a round area found on the bottom of our foot.   How did we know to find another definition for “ball”?  There is no possible way that our definition of “ball” could fit the context, therefore, we were FORCED to look for another.

This is the core principle upon which this study is based.  Both the details, and conclusion, of this study rest heavily upon this principle. We will be finding the common, basic usage and definition of “ekklesia” as found in the Scriptures, and then attempt to consistently apply that meaning to each text.

The common definition of the word “ekklesia”:

1)    The Greek word from which the word “church” is translated is ALWAYS the word “ekklesia”.  “Ekklesia” is made up of two parts…. “ek” and “kaleo”.

a)    “ek” holds the idea of “out of” or “from” (implies separation)

b)    “kaleo” holds the idea of “to be called”, or “to be summoned”

c)     Therefore the basic meaning of “ekklesia” is “called out from”, or “to separate by summons”.

If we simply use this definition for “ekklesia” we can see how it could refer to either a universal invisible assembly of believers, or a local visible assembly of baptized believers ….

1.  When the lost are saved, they are called to salvation by the Spirit, and separated from the sinful world to the service of Christ.  (1 Peter 2:9)  In this sense “ekklesia” could be referring to an invisible, universal body that contains all believers

2.   When a believer is baptized and enters the Lord’s local church, they are summoned (led) by the Spirit and are separated from the sinful world and other believers.  They become members of a particular, unified, local assembly that brings honor to God. (Acts 2:41-47)  In this sense, “ekklesia” could be referring to a visible, local assembly of baptized believers.

Therefore, based upon the definition of “ekklesia”, we find no indication of which type of assembly we are speaking of whenever we find the word being used.

However, this is only half of our “equation”.  Next we have to look at the USAGE of the word “ekklesia” in the Holy Bible.

The common usage of the word “ekklesia”:

1)    If we study the Biblical usage of “ekklesia” we find something very interesting that will be a great benefit to our study…

a)    The word “ekklesia” is used in 112 verses in the Bible.  To the best of my ability, as I looked at every reference using ekklesia…

b)    I found that in 80 verses or more, the word clearly, in its context, MUST mean “a local visible assembly”.

c)     There were at the most, 32 verses when it could POSSIBLY mean “an invisible universal assembly” (you can see a list of these questionable verses under the above heading “THE SCRIPTURES” found earlier in this posting.)

So based on the above, I am forced to conclude that the common usage of the term in the NT is “local visible assembly”.  This definition clearly applies in at least 80 verses (that’s over 70 percent of the time) the word is used.  There was only, at the most, 32 verses that it could mean a invisible, universal assembly (that’s less than 30%).

(Please note: In the 32 texts I have included several, I believe, that strongly lean towards the local visible definition. But for the completeness of this study, I included them in the “questionable” category.

If we remove those texts, the actual number of questionable texts would have been 21 (less than 20%).  Therefore, I believe, the word “ekklesia” means a local assembly more than 80% of the time, compared to “ekklesia” possibly referring to a universal invisible assembly less that 20% of the time.

Therefore, for this study, we will be using THE COMMON DEFINITION OF “EKKLESIA” WILL BE “A LOCAL VISIBLE ASSEMBLY”.

Based upon our earlier discussion under the heading “A basic principle used in this study”   This will be our process…

1.  We will look at the context of each of the 32 Scriptures where “ekklesia” could mean an “invisible universal assembly”.

2.  We will see if each one could allow us to use our common definition a “local visible assembly” .

3.  If the context allows “ekklesia” to hold to its common definition, that will be the definition we assign to that text.

4.  If the context forbids that the common definition of ekklesia can be used, we will then attempt to determine the definition of “ekklesia” for that text.

In our next study we will begin looking at the “questionable verses”…

Please visit…

Settled In Heaven Ministries Home On The Web: http://www.settledinheaven.org

Settled In Heaven Ministries Text Blog: https://settledinheaven.wordpress.com

Settled In Heaven Ministries Video Blog: http://youtube.com/settledinheaven

Email Us At: settledinheaven@gmail.com

May the Lord bless your study of His Word.  Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”