NT, Part 5: Church
Today as I write this blog about The Church I remember the events of September 11, 2001, 9/11. I grieve these events, the agony caused to so many in our nation and our world, and the new tone that was set within our nation because of these acts of violence. Take a moment to remember and pray for those families most deeply impacted and for our leaders as we continue to respond to those committed to the perpetration of acts of terror around our world.
Last blog I talked about the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus in Christian faith. If there was no resurrection there is no Christianity. Christianity would have died as a group of people who had believed a myth.
But, Christianity did not die. Those who accept Jesus’ death on the cross for their sin and believed that their eternal life began the moment they believed began to form into a new community within humanity. This community was originally called followers of “The Way” most likely because Jesus had said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me” John 14:6. These “followers of the way” first became labeled as “Christians” in the city of Antioch in Syria (Acts 11:26) a few years after the resurrection.
The label Christian comes from the words which mean “Christ-ones” or followers of Jesus makes sense. Jesus, his life, his teachings, his death and his resurrection informed what they believed about God and defined the priorities and values by which these people lived. But, what about this term “Church” which is now so closely associated with Christians? Where did that word come from and what does it mean? In Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament we are given this etymology.
The word ekklesia appears in the Greek text where this word is found in the translations. Ekklesia comes from Kaleo “to call,” and ek “out from.” The compound verb means “to call out from.” In classical Greek ekklesia referred to an assembly of the citizens summoned by the town crier… (In almost every occurrence in the New Testament the Greek word) is translated “church,” … a called-out body of people, called out of the world of unsaved humanity to become the people of God. … The word “assembly” is a good one-word translation of ekklesia. (Therefore) … the Church of Jesus Christ is a called-out group of people (assembled by God), separated out from the world to be a people that should maintain their separation from the world out of which they have been called.
The New Testament reveals to us the initial formation of this group of people that now numbers over 2 billion on this planet. In the pages of the New Testament the beliefs, characteristics and practices are those people are codified. The New Testament also corrects a misconception that many modern people have about The Church. Biblically speaking The Church is not a building. The Church is a group of people who are assembled together by God in, through, and because of Jesus Christ. Just like a house does not make a family it only houses a family, so a building does not make a church it only houses The Church.
One of the images the New Testament uses to picture The Church is the human body. Romans 12:4-5 (NIV) says it this way:
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Using the image of the body we are reminded in Colossians 1:18 that Jesus “is the head of the body, the church…” So, Jesus is to be the brains of this outfit called The Church. As a result, for this group of people who are called out from the rest of humanity to fulfill God’s special purposes, individually and corporately we must stay in tune with Jesus.
In my next blog I will focus on the “WHY” this group has been called out from the rest of humanity. Let me say this much today. The world needs a group of people who will live like Jesus:
Focusing their lives upon God who loves us;
Working for healing and hope amidst those who are broken;
Working for reconciliation spiritually, interpersonally, psychologically, environmentally;
Willing to sacrifice their lives not to destroy others but to redeem others.
The Church is to be the Body of Christ. For you who claim the name Christian, how then shall you live?