2.18.2010

Cool Whip ekklesia: Part 3


What does the Bible say about church or ekklesia?  Below is a very brief (believe it or not) look at pre-New Testament and Paul's usage of ekklesia.  Think about how the church should look while reading it, particularly in Paul.

ekklesia is the Greek word for ‘church’, it means gathering or assembly.  It's not a New Testament invention, a form of the word (ek-kaleo) was used well before the New Testament and Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) were written.  It was used to describe a group of citizens within Greek city-states who had assembled for the purpose of discussion, the word eventually changed to what we see in the Bible, it is rooted in Greek democracy where political and judicial decisions were made by the citizens who were present.

The Septuagint uses ekklesia to translate the Hebrew word qahalQahal's meaning ranges from general crowds (Num. 22:4) to gathering an army or gathering before God in order to hear the Law, confess sins, repent or renew the covenant (Deut 4:10, 33; Josh. 8:33-35; Neh 8).  Eventually Jews would call the places they met in synagogues (derived from a Greek word meaning ‘gathering around’), pointing to the continual importance of community in the Jewish nation.

Paul’s use of ekklesia predates all other uses in the New Testament, so his use of the word is important to understanding the use of it throughout the Bible.  Chronologically, the first instance of ekklesia is found in 1 Thess. 1:1:

“Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The most obvious thing that this verse tells us is that ‘church’ has a physical location (also see 1 Cor. 1:1-2, 2 Cor 1:1-2 and Gal 1:2), at the end of the letter Paul tells them to be read in an actual gathering (1 Thess. 5:26).  Paul also uses the plural form of ‘church’ (ekklesiai, Romans 16:4, 16) which tells us that the church is not a metaphorical group of people but a identifiable object, namely, local assemblies.

ekklesia also expresses coming together as an organism to which each 'limb' has a function and gift that is exercised in giving and receiving tasks within the community itself or fulfilling its commission to those outside (1 Cor. 12:14ff; Rom. 12:4ff).

This is very quick look at the use of ekklesia in (Paul) and outside of scripture has given us an early and general picture of church as a community of local believers who gathered together in order to fulfill their commission within and outside its members.

I hope, based on this quick look at ekklesia, the questions about cyber-church are starting to become more apparent.  Can one 'gather together' online?  Is there such thing as online community?  Is there such thing as online Christian community?  How can spiritual gifts operate over the internet?  How do I see spiritual gifts in others over the internet?  Is it important that the church in Paul's letter's is almost always the local church?