What Is The Church? (1): Man Made? God Ordained?

We, as a Church, have had much reason to thank God, but how many more might
within these walls have been added to the number of this Church if it had not been
for the coldness of some, the indifference of others, the inconsistency of a few, and the
worldliness of many more!
- C.H. Spurgeon

It is very important before discussing why I, or anyone else, goes to church to first and foremost define what exactly the church in of itself is. The Christian church can be seen in two ways: The visible body of the church and the invisible body of the church.

The visible body of the church is comprised of all who claim the name of Christian (as a title for their lives) and gather together for worship and participation of the biblical sacraments. What I mean by that is, those that participate in the Lord’s supper (communion) and who have publically displayed their faith in the form of baptism. The members of this visible body claim the name of Christian (this however would exclude groups such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, etc., who claim the title but what they would claim in name they lack in substance).

The members of the invisible body of the church are the actual body of believers: the elect. That is, those who are truly regenerate and have trusted, by faith, in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The true Christian is indwelt by Jesus through the Holy Spirit as mentioned in John 14:23(1). Within this definition we get the idea of the body of Christ (2).

This is where I think it is essential and pertinent to discuss the meaning of the word “church” that we see translated in our English translations of the Bible. When we see the word “church” it comes from the Greek word ἐκκλησία, “ekklesia” which means “gathering” or “assembly.” (3)

ἐκκλ coming from "ek-kaleo" meaning "to call forth". Etymologically, the word ekklesia literally means "to call out form an assembly".

I want to make it clear that that is the proper translation of the word. We can get into logistics of definition, but when we use definitions as an alternative to the direct translation we cloud the true meaning of what that word means. You don't do translation by replacing the translated word with the definition. While yes, the definition defines the translated word; you don't translate by giving definitions. That would make reading anything, especially the Bible, very confusing and almost illegible.

When you see the word ekklesia translated into church, congregation or assembly it is done that way for a reason. Simply put, the context defines it in that way. To change the translated word by stating the definition to prove an alternate point about what the church “really is” makes the appearance of digging deeper while in fact what is being done, more often than not, is allowing ones opinions to be read into the text. This may look good when proving your point, but when actually applied is too easy to refute when the original language, context, and exegetical situation are brought to bear. 

The Godly men and women who spent years studying close to 24 000 documents in the translation of the New Testament are not stupid. And they aren’t trying to trick anyone into thinking the definition of ekklesia – church, is something other than what is revealed through the narrative and context of the documents of the New Testament.

Keeping that in mind, the church (translated from the Greek word ekklesia) therefore: is a gathering of believers who come together to participate in fellowship with one another as they worship God and participate in the reading of His word. The church as a whole has been equipped with people possessing different spiritual gifts (4). The purpose of these gifts being, “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ,” as stated in Ephesians 4:12,13.

The Christian church was founded on the rock of Jesus Christ (5). Being a member and participant in the church, the Christian is subject to the Lordship of Jesus (6) through the administration of the scripture.

Although it is true that the Bible does not offer a detailed method of church hierarchy or government, what it does state is that there are to be elders who govern within the church body. These elders are appointed by the laying on of hands (7). They are to be able to teach sound doctrine and refute theological error (8).

The purpose of the church is to both glorify the triune God and to inform the world about the work of Christ as mankind’s redeemer.
(1) “Jesus replied, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey my teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.” – John 14:23
(2)  “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to e evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for  works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” – Ephesians 4:11,12
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.” – Romans 12:5
(3)  http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/ekklesia.html
(4) “so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach, if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” – Romans 12:5-8
(5) “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:19
“And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” – Colossians 1:18
“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body of which He is the Savior.” – Ephesians 5:23

(6) “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” – Ephesians 5:24
(7) “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” – 1 Timothy 4:14
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” – 2 Timothy 1:6

(8) “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” – 1 Timothy 3:2
“to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility towards all men.” – Titus  3:2


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