Bella Vista Church of Christ



Randall Caselman


Biblical Concept Of Church


  What is the church? My idea or yours may or may not be correct. Even a modern dictionary may miss the point. Consulting Scripture will give us a correct definition...


  The Bible speaks of the church as a gathering of God's people. It frequently uses the word ecclesia. For instance in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew, the word"ecclesia" is used to translate the Hebrew word "qahal,"meaning a gathering of God's people. Then in the New Testament, "ecclesia" appears some 115 times and is translated "church" 112 times. It's translated "assembly" three times by our King James translators.


  In Jesus’ day, the word ecclesia had two meanings, depending on the context, depending on whether you were Jew or Gentile.


  For the Jew, ecclesia referred to a called out assembly of God's people, His chosen ones. Their mind naturally went to Israel being God's called out community, His kingdom, Holy Ones, His set-apart assembly. Set apart for God's purpose. In Acts chapter seven, Stephen referred to Israel as "the church in the wilderness." When Jesus said to His Jewish audience: "I will build my church," they understood Him to be speaking of restoring Israel to its kingdom status as God's people in the days of David and Solomon.


  To the Greek or Gentile mind, our word spoke of an assembly, an assembly separated, called out, set apart for a specific purpose. This purpose had no particular religious connotation. In Classical Greek, our word was used to speak of a group of men called out for Jury Duty. You recall that in Acts chapter nineteen, Paul and company were brought before a riotous assembly by Demetrius and the Silversmiths. They were accused of disrupting the city's economy by preaching one God and that the man-made idols of Artemis were no gods at all. Three times in this chapter, Luke refers to the riotous crowd as an ecclesia. (Assembly)... (See verse 32, 39, and 41). Other than these three occurrences, everywhere else the word ecclesia seems to have reference to the church, God's called out people, set apart for His use, purpose, for a Divine function.


  Now, with these thoughts in mind, I believe we can conclude that the church is a community of believers in Jehovah God. Those obedient to His will in the Old or New Testament. The church refers to the body of the saved. Ephesians 5.23-25 tells us: "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. And that Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. The term church seems to be used to apply to all whom Christ died to redeem, both those in the New Testament, and obedient believers in the Old Testament. You see, the blood of Jesus flowed back to the beginning of time forgiving the sins of believers. (The Hebrews' writer speaks of: "the spirits of righteous, just, men perfect." Hebrews 12.23). His blood also flows past us to the end of time forgiving those who would step into its life-giving stream. His blood cleansed the sins of the "church in the wilderness" as well as the emergent church beginning in Acts chapter two, continuing until He comes again. In fact we hear Paul say: "To Him, (Jesus) be glory in the church throughout all ages, all generations" (Ephesians 3.21). 


To help us understand the nature of the church,

let's note some metaphors used in reference to it...


  A Kingdom. God’s chosen, set apart, holy ones, assembly, ecclesia allude to a kingdom, His Kingdom. Exodus 19.6 reads: "you will be for me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation."  Whenever people submit to God's rule and reign, to His sovereign nature, they become a part of His Kingdom whether in the wilderness or in the emergent church Jesus came to build. Yes, The Old Testament prophets spoke of a Kingdom coming. A time when all men everywhere could be Messiah forgiven. Peter references this in Acts 2.16-21 saying, "this is it - that which was spoken of by the Prophets."


  The body of Christ. Speaking of Christ, Paul says: "God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body" (Ephesians 1.22-23).


  The family of God. Paul writes to Timothy giving him and us this admonition: "I am writing you these instructions so that, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, in God's family, which is the church of the living God" (I Timothy 3.14-15). Read I John 3.1-2: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God and that is what we are!  


How do we become a part of His Ecclesia?


  By submitting to the will of God. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7.21.


  By Faith, Repentance, Baptism. When Peter preached his sermon in Acts chapter two, He demanded faith in Jesus, repentance, and baptism. Those who accepted this message of Jesus received three things: The forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and they were added to the body of the saved, our King James says to the church.


  Here it is folk. The invitation offered by Jesus and Peter is still open and viable today. So the question becomes, are you a part of  the body of Christ, God's Kingdom Family, holy ones made holy by the Blood of Jesus? Today, is the world looking at us asking "What's wrong with these people?"


—Randall Caselman