Feb 08

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What is the church? Before answering this seemingly simple question question, a few things need to be understood. Did you know our English word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklesia?” If not, you may not understand the word “church.” More than likely, most people know our English New Testament has been translated from a Greek text. This means, those who translate it, have the obligation to find an English word that best translates the Greek word. At times, this may require two or even three English words to fully express the Greek word.
Take the words, “given by inspiration of God,” found in 2 Timothy 3:16, these words comes from one Greek word, “theopneustos.” This is a compound Greek word having two parts; the two parts are: first, “theo,” which is the Greek word for God; second, “pneustos,” which means “breathed.” Thus, the word “theopneustos” means “God breathed all scripture; therefore, it is important to understand that what Paul was writing at this moment is part of the God breathed scripture. Remember that Peter acknowledged that what Paul wrote was scripture (2 Pet. 3:15-16). It is worth noting that this word does not appear anywhere else the Bible, neither is there any conclusive evidence that this word was ever used before Paul used it here. It is believed by many that Paul, through the Holy Spirit, coined this word.
Now the same thing is true of the Greek word “ekklesia,” as it is a compound word; the first part, “ek,” meaning “out of” and the second part, “klesia,” meaning, “called.” Therefore, the word means, “called out of.” Keep in mind, the word is a noun! However, the word standing by itself has no identity. As it does not reveal from where one is “called out of,” neither does it show what did the “calling;” and it does not reveal who the “called out of” are; thus, it only identifies a fact that there is an “ekklesia.” Notice how the word is used having no relationship to the saved, the “ekklesia of God:” “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly (ekklesia) was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together (Acts 19:32). As here noted, the word “assembly” is from the Greek word, “ekklesia.” Now, what is the context, “the whole city was filled with confusion,” (verse 29) not knowing what was going on; therefore, the people who formed the “ekklesia,” were “confused” at the time. Nevertheless, they were an assembly, an “ekklesia,” fulfilling the meaning of the word. Continuing to read this text, notice, Alexander (the town clerk) said to this “confused” “ekklesia:” “But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly (ekklesia)” (verse 39). The “confused” mob was an “unlawful called out” ekklesia. Therefore, “And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly (ekklesia)” (verse 41). Alexander “dismissed the called out” people. Clearly this event has nothing to do with what is “called out of God!” The point being, there is nothing magical about the Greek word, “ekklesia,” but as used today, the English word “church” has reached the “magical” state of being limited to religious bodies. However, this was not the case in the first century and the word “ekklesia!”
It should be clear, the Greek word “ekkliesia” as the English word “church,” must have identifying terms. It is a noun, the result of action, but standing alone, it is unidentified. It would have been correct in Paul’s time, for one to say: “The ekklesia is a people, who while being in the theater, heard the town crier announcing the king is coming.” In this case, the people would have been the “ekklesia” resulting from the words of the town crier, and they were the “ekklesia” in order to see the king. In like manner, people, who are saved, are the “called out of” the world by the gospel in order to be saved; the saved being the “ekklesia.” This is why Luke wrote: “… And the Lord added to the church (the ekklesia, the saved) daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). This makes “the called out of” the saved!
So, what do we have in reading the following words: “Unto the church (ekklesia, the called out of) of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2). Does it mean more to you, if we read the text, “Unto the called out of God which is at Corinth?” You see, these are the called out of God “that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints.” In this case, these people are always the “called out of God,” be they gathered for worship, in their own homes, or places of business. Where a person may be, at any given time, if he is saved, then, he is always part of “the called out of God.”
Now, the next time you read the words, “the Barnes church of Christ,” please understand, these words are identifying a people who have been removed from the world (the lost), and are now an “ekklesia,” the “called out of Christ,” created by obeying the gospel of Christ. In doing so, you will have a better understanding of the Greek word, “ekklesia!”

— Frank R. Williams

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