Church Greek Ekklesia

The Greek Word Ekklesia

The Word Translated Church, What Is Its Fundamental Meaning?

1. The Greek word ekklesia means assembly or a gathering of called-out ones. It is used seventy times in the Septuagint for the Hebrew kahal (from which latter we have our word call), rendered in Sept. by sunagoge and ekklesia. This latter word occurs in the N.T. 115 times (36 in plural) and is always translated as 'church' except in Acts 19:32, Acts 19:39, and Acts 19:41, where it is translated as 'assembly.'

Kahal occurs in the Old Testament 123 times; As 'congregation' eighty-six, 'assembly' seventeen, 'company' seventeen, and 'multitude' three times. The Sept. uses sunagoge and ekklesia as practically synonymous terms. But the sunagoge concerns the bringing together of the members of existing society or body excluding all others, whereas the ekklesia calls and invites all men, including outsiders everywhere, to join it. Sunagoge, being permanently associated with Jewish worship, was dropped by the early Christians in favor of ekklesia as of wider import.

2. Kahal is used;

(1) Of Israel as a People called out from the rest of the nations (Gen. 28:3);

(2) Of the tribal council of Simeon and Levi, those called out from each tribe (Gen. 49:6);

(3) Of an assembly of Israelites called out for worship or any other purpose (Deut. 18:16; Deut. 31:30; Josh. 8:35; Judg. 21:8);

(4) Any assembly of worshippers as a congregation (Psa. 22:22; Psa. 22:25. Ekklesia in Matt. 16:18; Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:35; &c.);

(5) The equivalent ekklesia of separate assemblies in different localities (Acts 5:11; Acts 8:3; 1Cor. 4:17; &c.);

(6) Of the guild or "union" of Ephesian craftsmen (Acts 19:32; Acts 19:41) and Acts 19:39 (the lawful assembly). Finally, the special Pauline usage of ekklesia differs from all these. Other assemblies consisted of called-out ones from Jews or from Gentiles (Acts 18:22), but this new body is of called-out ones from both.

3. Our word "church" is derived from the Gr. kuriakos, of or belonging to the Lord's house (Gr. oikos). It has an equally varied usage. It is used;

(1) Of any congregation;

(2) Of a particular church (England or Rome, &c);

(3) Of the ministry of a church;

(4) Of the building in which the congregation assembles;

(5) Of Church as distinct from Chapel;

(6) Of the church as distinct from the world, and lastly, it is used in the Pauline sense of The Body of Christ.

4. It is of profound importance to distinguish the usage of the word in each case, else we may be reading "the church which was in the wilderness" into the Prison Epistles, although we are expressly told that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the "Church which is His Body." And when our Lord said, "On this rock, I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18), those who heard His words could not connect them with the "Mystery" which was "hidden in God" and had not then been made known to the sons of men. Confusion follows our reading of what refers to Israel in the past or the future into the present dispensation.

5. The word church, when qualified by other terms, occurs thus: --

Church of God; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Cor. 10:32; 1 Cor. 11:16 (pl.); 1 Cor. 11:22; 1 Cor. 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:14 (pl.); 2 Thess. 1:4 (pl); 1 Tim. 3:5; 1 Tim. 3:15 (c. of the living God).

Churches of Christ; Rom. 16:16.

Church in . . . house; Rom. 16:5. 1; Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philem. 1:2.

Churches of the Gentiles; Rom. 16:4.

Churches of Galatia; 1 Cor. 16:1; Gal. 1:2. Of Asia; 1 Cor. 16:19. Of Macedonia; 2 Cor. 8:1. Of Judaea; Gal. 1:22. Of the Laodiceans; Col. 4:16. Of the Thessalonians; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess .1:1.

Church of the firstborn (pl); Heb. 12:23.

Church in Ephesus, Smyrna, &c. Rev. 2 and 3;

Churches; Rev. 22:16.

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