The Meaning of “Church”

In Theology, Worship by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

The word “church” is a biblical word, and it is used as the English translation of the Greek word ekklesia. The word, ekklesia is also a social word and describes a group of people who have come together for some social purpose.

Church. The Greek term used in the New Testament reflects the terms often used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word for the “congregation” (qahal) of Israel: “church” (assembly) and “synagogue” (gathering)…the Dead Sea Scrolls used the Hebrew term for God’s community; hence Jesus could use this word in talking about his future community (Mt 16:18; 18:17). The term was in common use in Greek culture for “assemblies,” especially citizen assemblies in cities. –Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary, InterVarsity Press.

What does this mean? I would list these elements: 1) It means that is meant to be seen in a plural sense. 2) It means a group of people who have social purpose in their group membership. 3) Ekklesia is never used in a singular sense. An individual alone cannot be called (in biblical terms) the church. 4) The ekklesia, is always convened by God and is committed to God’s mission.

A Christian searcher who follows God, looks for the corporate, social terms in the Bible that describe those who do God’s will. These words include family, flock, fraternity, and flock. All groups and associations. Understanding this, disciples avoid going it alone or thinking that their singular interests are God’s interests.

Those who do not want the constraints of what ekklesia implies, will attempt to say that God is not concerned about their independence. But to do so denies all the passages in the Old and New Testaments that say discipleship is plural. This is where examination of contexts and definitions will take the serious student of God’s word.

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