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Wednesday, January 4, 2012
As the word “church” is used and understood by most Christians today, it is something that men can build, something that anyone can attend if they wish to or something to which you can belong if you meet the proper criteria and hold to the right doctrines!
But the churches (ekklesias) of which we read throughout the NT scriptures are vastly different from those which have become so encumbered with the traditions of men!
Think with me on the three main ways in which the word “church” is commonly used and understood today:
1. A building to which you can go for religious services–such a building is designed and constructed by the hands of men. “Where did you go to church last Sunday?”
2. A service or meeting which you can attend– such a service is convened and controlled by men. “I’m sorry I wasn’t home when you called. I was at church.”
3. A denomination/fellowship to which you can belong –such churches extend membership/fellowship privileges based on terms determined by men. Men are fallible so they inevitably include some who are not saints at all. But because men desire control and will not give Christ His rightful place as Head, they also exclude many saints of God whom Christ has received! “To what church do you belong?”
But the church which the Lord Jesus is building and the churches which the apostles established were quite different from those which are bound to our religious traditions. Churches which God owns are not made with hands. The Lord Jesus builds his church (the church which is His body). While men are involved in the building up of churches in houses and churches in cities, these churches are also not made with hands but are called out companies of saints (people who have been set apart/made holy by God).
If you trace the word “ekklesia” (translated “church”) through the NT, as it is used in connection with believers and their gatherings, you will find that this word:
(1) as used by the Lord Jesus,
(2) as used in historical accounts and references in Acts and the epistles and
(3) as used in the actual teachings of the apostles ….is always used to designate a called out company of saints and is not used even once of a building of brick and stained glass windows, of a “worship service”, or of a denomination/ fellowship!
But don’t take my word for it!
(1) How did the Lord Jesus use the word? (You decide from the 4 meanings we have considered above…)
Matthew 16:18) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church (my church building), (my church service/meeting), (my denomination/fellowship) or (my called out company of saints); and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
(2) How is the word used in the historical records in the Book of Acts? (You decide from the 4 meanings we have considered above…)
Acts 13:1) Now there were in the church (in the church building), (in the church service/meeting), (in the denomination/fellowship) or (in the called out company of saints) that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
(3) How is the word used in the teachings of the apostles? (You decide from the 4 meanings we have considered above…)
(a) In the teachings of the apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 4:17) For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church (in every church building), (in every church service/meeting), (in every denomination/fellowship), or (in every called out company of saints).
(b) In the teachings of the apostle James:
James 5:14) Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church (the elders of the church building), (the elders of the church service/meeting), (the elders of the denomination/fellowship) or (the elders of the called out company of saints); and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
(c) In the teachings of the apostle Peter:
1 Peter 5:13) The church that is at
Babylon (the church building that is at Babylon), (the church service/meeting that is at Babylon), (the denomination/fellowship that is at Babylon) or (the called out company of saints that is at ), elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son. Babylon
(d) In the teachings of the apostle John:
Revelation 3:1) And unto the angel of the church in Sardis (the church building in Sardis), (the church service/meeting in Sardis), (the denomination/ fellowship in Sardis) or (the called out company of saints in Sardis) write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
I have listed only 6 out of 112) texts which use the words “church” or “churches” in the NT. Are you aware of even one such text which uses the word “ekklesia/church” in any of the three ways that the word is commonly understood in the current religious world?
In what ways do you think your relationship with the church would change if you recognized “your church” simply as the “called out company of saints” who live near you?
-What if you stopped “going to a church building” (for which there is no scriptural warrant)?
-What if you stopped attending “church services” (events unknown to first century Christians)?
-What if you withdrew your “membership” from your denomination or fellowship (institutions foreign to the New Covenant scriptures)? and
-What if you started having company with the called out saints in your community who share the same desire to return to the original church practices which the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught?
Your answers to the above questions or any comments relating to this post are welcomed in the comments section below or by way of a personal email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org