ECCLESIOLOGY-A STUDY OF THE CHURCH
By: Jarrell E. Huffman
Many books have been written concerning the church which Jesus established. Many of these books are good. As one investigates this field, however, there is always room to elaborate and expand.
Church truth has been greatly minimized in this present age. Only true Baptist Churches hold to the doctrine of the local, visible church. All others, including many “so-called Baptists,” accept the universal-invisible church “theory.”
Satan attacks the cardinal truths of the Word. He seeks to pervert, confuse, and minimize the fundamentals of the Scriptures. He has so successfully blinded the eyes of the masses, that only a very few know church truth.
The author was reared in a Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma. Early in life I heard church truth. During my studies at the Missionary Baptist Seminary of Little Rock, Arkansas, church truth was driven home. Having pastored five of the Lord’s churches in three states, I have become even more aware of the need for church truth to be believed and taught.
The past four years the author has instructed in the Illinois Missionary Baptist Institute of Washington, Illinois. At first, Ecclesiology was taught in connection with Bible Doctrine. Later, both of these courses were enlarged and divided.
The church which Jesus built is the greatest institution on earth. Founded by the Lord Himself, this institution is guaranteed perpetuity (Matthew 16:18).
It is both an honor and a privilege to be a member of one of the Lord’s churches. This book is sent forth to aid both the teacher and the student to better understand and appreciate the institution which Jesus purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Ecclesiology is a specialized study of the doctrines of the church. The study included the origin, the continuity, the nature, and the ministry of this blood-bought institution.
Etymology of the Word “ecclesiology”:
1.Ecclesia–assembly; congregation; church
2.Logos–word; study of
This study comprises one of the most important, yet sadly neglected, doctrines of the Bible.
THE NEED FOR THIS STUDY.
Never before in the history of the church has there been such a need of the Bible meaning of the Lord’s “church.”
G.D. Boardman, of last century fame, stated, “What is the church? Is the great problem of this century.” (Ekklesia The Church, Bob Ross, p.3).
Satan has chosen a few doctrines to specifically concentrate his energies on to pervert: Genesis account of creation, inspiration of the Scriptures, virgin birth and deity of Christ, salvation by grace, perseverance of the saints, and the church of the New Testament.
Tulga says, “The fundamentalists knew very well that many other spiritual movements had cooled off and departed from the faith, and they adopted many careful doctrinal confessions and required many signings, forgetting at times that eternal vigilance is the price of orthodoxy…they did not foresee that schools which they founded would be infected by the culture of their day, the natural tendency of the human mind toward philosophical theology, and the adoption of the popular notions of the hour. Many movements are lulled to sleep with the conviction that ‘it can’t happen to us’…church history records that every movement eventually diminishes in vigor and strength of conviction; that the truths held dynamically in the beginning eventually come to be held formally.” (Fundamentalism of Yesterday, The Evangelicalism of Today, and the Fundamentalism of Tomorrow, Chester Tulga, pp.7,8).
The controversy centers around the question: “What is the nature of the church?” “Is it local or universal, visible or invisible?” IT CANNOT BE BOTH.
The ordinances of the church—baptism and the Lord’s Supper–can never have their full meaning, if the nature of the church be not properly understood.
II Timothy 4:3,4–“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Matthew 24:12–“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”
II Timothy 3:1–“This is known also, that in the last days perilous (difficult) times shall come.”
I Timothy 4:1– “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
Rev. 3:14-22– the whole spirit of this Laodicean age is characterized by apathy, indifference, luke-warmness, non-concern, and looseness–both morally and doctrinally.
SUGGESTED READING FOR THE COURSE.
The meaning of Ecclesia in the New Testament–Edward Overbey
The Church That Jesus Built–Roy Mason
The Origin of Baptists–S.H. Ford
Theodosia Earnest–Volume II–A.C. Dayton
Baptist Succession–D.B. Ray
Concise History of Baptists–Orchard
The Church and the Ordinances– Buell H. Kazee
Alien Baptism and the Baptists– Nevins
The Baptist Story–A. A. Davis
The Church–L.L. Clover
Brief History of the Baptists–Edward Overbey
John’s Baptism–J. R Graves
N. T. Baptists and Infant Sprinkling–Chester Tulga
Case for Dispensationalism–Chester Tulga
Seven Dispensations–J .R Graves
Independence of the Local Church–Chester Tulga
Southern Baptist Convention-A Study in the Development of Ecclesiology–William Wright Barnes
The Baptist Heritage–Holliday
History of the Baptists–Thomas Armitage
The New Great Iron Wheel–J. R Graves
Truth About Conventionism–I.K. Cross
World System and the Social Gospel–G .E Jones
Trilemma –J. R Graves
Communism, Democracy, and Catholic Power–Paul Blanshard
American Freedom and Catholic Power–Paul Blanshard
First Baptist Church in America–Graves and Adlam
Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History
The Letters to the Seven Churches–Ramsay
The Patmos Letters–Tatford
The Churches of the New Testament–McDaniel
Repent or Else–Vance Havner
Seven Churches of Revelation–Ford
Why Be a Baptist–Boyce Taylor
Pillars of Orthodoxy–Ben Bogard
Ecclesia–the Church–B. H. Carroll
Ekklesia–the Church–Bob Ross
The Glorious Church–Roy M. Reed
God’s Plan With Man–A. J. Kirkland
Seven Questions & Answers as to Church Authority–Baptist Examiner
Origin and Perpetuity of the Baptists–Baptist Examiner
The New Testament Church–A Local Body–A. J. Kirkland
Biblical Proofs for Identifying the True Church–L. D. Foreman
The Trail of Blood–J. M. Carroll
The Word Defined.
Overbey says, “According to most scholars the word church comes from a Greek word meaning “the Lord’s with the word house usually understood.” (The Meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T. –Overbey, p.7)
The Greek “kuriakos”:
From the word “kurios,” meaning “Lord.”
Thayer says, “A Biblical and ecclesiastical word– of or belonging to the Lord, or relating to the Lord.” (Lexicon, p. 365).
Hobbs says, “The English word ‘church” in the sense of a church building comes from the word kuriakos. Thus, a church building is a “lordly house’ or ‘ the Lord’s house'” (Preaching Values From the Papri, Hershel Hobbs, p.78).
Overbey asserts, “Time and the peculiarities of each language had its effect on the word (kuriakos) but the word still remained recognizable. In English it is church, in Old English cirice, in German kirche, in Scottish kirk, and in Old Scandinavian kyrka.” (Loc. Cit.)
Scriptural usage’s of kuriakos:
Revelation 1:10–” I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day (kuriake hemera), and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.”
I Corinthians 11:20–“When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper (kuriakon deipnon).”
In the papri (Greek records of tax records, marriage and divorce contracts, birth and death records, grocery bills, etc.) the word kuriakos is translated “Imperial.”
Thus, the pagan custom of observing a “kuriakos day” or “Emperor’s Day” in honor of the emperor Augustus.
Church buildings as such did not come into use until the 3rd or 4th centuries.
Thus, the usual treatment of usage of the word “church” is foreign to the Scriptures, and has become one of the most controversial subjects in the religious world.
LOUIS MAPLE has said, “It is against this type of interpretation (the allegorical method), which makes certain words as putty in the hands of the interpreter, that our author writes so effectively. Once the interpreter abandons the grammatical-historical method of interpretation, which pays strict attention to the meaning of words, he has no regulative principle to govern his exegesis. Interpretation: Thus the word for church, ecclesia, has become a wax nose to be twisted and turned into many shapes and meanings” (Overbey, op. Cit., p.3)
Ecclesia–the Church–B. H. Carroll
Ekklesia–the Church–Bob L. Ross
Theodosia Earnest, Vol. II–A. C. Dayton
THE MEANING OF ECCLESIA
Definition of Terms.
As previously stated, most scholars agree that the English word “church” comes from a Greek word (kuriakos) which means “the Lord’s ” with the word house usually understood.
The Etymology: “Literal Sense of the Word”
Hence, a “calling out.”
Overbey says, “Since the word church is a very broad term having many possible
meanings and ekklesia is a much narrower term we must be careful in our study least we bring the present meanings of church into ekklesia as found in the New Testament” (meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T. , Overbey, p.E).
Quoting F. J. A. Hort, Overbey says, “The reason why I have chosen the term ecclesia is simply to avoid ambiguity-two or more-meaning vague. The English term church, now the most familiar representative of ecclesia to most of us, carries with it associations derived from the institutions and doctrines of later times, and thus cannot at present without a constant mental effort be made to convey the full and exact force which originally belonged to ecclesia” (Ibid).
Overbey again, “The word church should not be in our English versions today to represent ecclesia. Its appearance in the N. T. , we believe, has obscured the true meaning. The word church was not used in Tyndale’s, Coverdale’s, and Crammer’s Bible” (Bid).
Hort says, ” ‘Congregation was the only rendering of ekklesia in the English New Testament as it stood throughout Henry VIII’s reign, the substitution of ‘church’ being due to the Genevan revisers; and it held its ground in the Bishop’s Bible in no less primary a passage than Matthew 16:18 till the Jacobean revision of 1611, which we call the Authorized Version” (Ibid.).
Overbey again, ” In fact it is very likely it would not have appeared in the King James Version were it not for the 15 rules King James sent to the translators which were to guide them in their work. Rule 3 states, ‘The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, viz., the word church not to be translated congregation” (Ibid., p.9).
I.K. Cross says, “In Acts 19:39-41 the term is used twice. Once to refer to the ‘lawful assembly’ which was called out to the citizens of Ephesus to handle legal matters in the city. The other to refer to the assembly that had been called together to run Paul and his companions out of town. In either case the assembly, or ecclesia (for this is the word used here), was a called out group, called together for a specific purpose, and local in nature. This was the common usage of the term and always the proper definition of an ecclesia. THIS IS WHAT OUR LORD SAID HE WOULD BE BUILDING.” (Canadian Baptists, Cross, p.7).
Cross continues, “If Jesus Christ had intended to build another kind of company there were other words in the language He could have used. He could have used the word ‘Synagoga’ a term without such limitations and yet designating an assembly. It would certainly have been more fitting for a ‘universal company’. He could have also used the word ‘panagris’ if he had a solemn assembly in mind of a massive and festal nature. But these were rejected in favor of the most limiting term in the Greek language with reference to an assembly; a term that can only be properly interpreted as an assembly local in nature” (Ibid.).
Cross in another place says, “The word ‘ecclesia’ is more than a mere assembly. The word is really a compounding of two words. ‘Kaleo’, to call; and ‘ek’, meaning out, or literally ‘to call out’. Thus, and ‘ekklesia’ is a Called out assembly, implying some conditions. The Lord did not call all Christians in the area that cared to assembled into His ‘ekklesia,” but he was very selective about it in Matthew 4:17-22; Matthew 9:1; John 1:43-44 and on until he had 120 in that assembly by the time he went back to the Father. I Cor. 12:28 says that ‘God hath set some in the church (ekklesia)…,’ not all. The same passage states that He wet the apostles in the ‘ekklesia,’ and on the occasion when the apostles were chosen there was quite a congregation of disciples present of whom he chose the apostles–and Paul says the apostles, not the crowd, were set in the ‘ekklesia'”(Landmarkism on Trial, Cross, p.7).
Overbey concurs, “To change the meaning of a word you must have good evidence that the speaker or writer of that word intended it that way. A basic principle that all scholars recognize is that a word must retain its usual meaning as long as the word used makes good sense that way. Only when it will not make good sense are we allowed to give it a new or rare meaning. If we apply this principle in this passage (Matthew 16:18), we will see that ‘assembly’ makes good sense so we cannot agree with those who would try to change the meaning here” (Brief History of the Baptists, Overbey,pp.26,27).
Roy Mason asserts, “…I submit the proposition that the church that Jesus founded was the local assembly, and that to use the word ecclesia to designate a ‘universal’ or ‘invisible’ church is to pervert its meaning, and to fall into serious error” (The Church That Jesus Built, Mason,p.26).
Mason also says, “The word ecclesia rendered ‘church’ in English translations, was not a new word coined by Jesus, but a word already in current use at that time and moreover a word the meaning of which had become definitely fixed and established” (Bid p.27).
A.C. Dayton said, “The Greek ‘ekklesia’ consisted of certain individuals, who, when assembled and organized, constituted an official body for the transaction of such business as might come before them. It was not merely an assembly, but an official assembly, consisting of persons specifically qualified, and who had each his specific rights and duties as a member of the ekklesia. It was not every resident in the city who was, strictly speaking, a citizen; nor was it every citizen who was a member of the ekklesia to which was intrusted the management of public business; but the ekklesia were called out from the mass…Every assembly was not an ekklesia, nor was every ekklesia and ekklesia of Christ” (Theodosia Earnest,pp.72,73).
Again, “The Greek ‘ekklesia’ was an assembly of called and qualified citizens, invested with certain rights, and registered in the city records” (Bid, p.129).
IMPROPER MEANINGS ATTACHED TO ECCLESIA.
The worship service (in contrast to Sunday School).
The clerical profession ( so used in most modern terminology).
Building in which Christian assemblies meet:
Dayton says, “…history informs us that the Christians had no such buildings (church-houses) for some two hundred years after this, (the time of the apostles), but continued to meet from house to house, or in the Jewish synagogues, or wherever they might. And the word (ekklesia) is never used in the New Testament, or any other Greek book written before of during the time of the apostles, to signify a house or building” (Bid, p.81).
This usage, so common even among those who know the truth, has come about by an original misconception of the word ekklesia.
All of one denomination:
That each denomination is a “branch” off the one big church.
Thus, the “Methodist Church,” the “Presbyterian Church,” etc.
Historical sense–the whole field of ecclesiastical activity in history since the days of Jesus here on earth–“the church in history.”
Terms like “a scriptural church” “church of the N. T. ,” etc.
These terms are not unscriptural as far as teaching, but the terms themselves are found nowhere in the Bible.
Universal, invisible sense:
That all the saved are in the mystical body, the church.
This theory is dealt with thoroughly in a further lesson.
From the modern usage of “church” one can easily see that the vast majority of those who use the word are totally ignorant of the Greek ekklesia.
QUOTES FROM RECOGNIZED SCHOLARS.
Liddell and Scott (lexicon)–“An assembly of people called together; an assembly called out.”
Dean Trench–“Ekklesia, as all know, was the lawful assembly in a free Greek city of all those possessed of the rights of citizenship, for the transaction of public affairs” (Synonyms of the N. T. , p.17).
Edward Robinson–“Ekklesia, a conviction, assembly, congregation. In the literal sense a popular, or rather assembly, composed of persons legally summoned” (Lexicon)
H. Strong—“Ekklesia signified merely an assembly, however gathered or summoned. The church was never so large that it could not assemble” (Systematic Theology).
Vincent—“Originally an assembly of citizens, regularly summoned” (Word Studies in the N. T. )
Thayer—“Take the entire range of Greek literature in all its dialects, secular and sacred, and there is not one passage in which ecclesia means an invisible and universal spiritual assembly” (Lexicon).
Alexander Campbell—“Ekklesia literally signifies an assembly called out from others and is used among the Greeks, particularly the Athenians, for their popular assemblies, summoned by their chief magistrates and in which none but citizens had a right to sit. By inherent power it may be applied to any body of men called out and assembled in one place. If it ever loses the idea of calling out and assembling, it loses its principal features and its primitive use” (Ekklesia–The Church, Ross, p.7).
THE MEANING OF ECCLESIA IN THE CLASSICAL GREEK
Definition Of Terms.
The New Testament was written in the KOINE or “common” Greek.
The Koine differs in many respects to the modern or classical Greek.
Classical Greek refers basically to the ancient Greek tongue which found its roots in the Indo-Germanic family of languages.
The Koine age is approximately 300 B.C. to 500 A.D. Classical Greek is thought of as preceding the Koine; modern Greek is thought of as succeeding the Koine.
TESTIMONY OF SCHOLARS.
Dana says, “In classical use ekklesia meant ‘an assembly.’ It was derived from a combination of Greek root and prefixed preposition, the resultant meaning of which was ‘to call out.’ It was commonly used reference to bodies of qualified representatives ‘called out’ for legislative functions” (Meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T. , Overbey, p.10).
Ewing writes, “In every case, the word means an organized body, in opposition to a casual meeting…” (Bid).
Liddell and Scott–“An assembly of the citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly” (Bid).
Seyffert’s Dictionary: “The assembly of the people, which in Greek cities had the power of final decision in public affairs” (Bid).
Thomas: “It was the organized assembly of the authorized voters of the local community met to transact business of common concern. It corresponded to the town-meeting of New England of later days” (Bid).
Overbey says, “A distinction should be maintained between the etymology of a word and its meaning at some particular time in history. Sometimes the two are the same; many times they are quite different. ‘Hussy’ came from ‘huswife’ which means housewife; today it means a worthless woman or girl, or a pert girl. ‘Constable’ came from ‘comes stabuli’ which means attendant of the stable; today it means a peace officer. ‘Ekklesia’ came from ‘ekkletos’ which means called out but in the times prior to the New Testament it meant assembly or called out assembly. To say it means the called out is not correct” (Bid, p.11).
Broadus writes, “The Greek word ekklesia signified primarily the assembly of citizens in a self-governed state, being derived from ekkaleo to call out; i.e., from their homes or places of business, to summon, as we speak of calling out the militia. The popular notion that it meant to call out in the sense of separation from others, is a mistake” (Bid, p.11).
F. J. A. Hort says, “There is no foundation for the widely spread notion that ekklesia means a people or a number of individual men called of the world of mankind” (Ibid,p.11).
Prof. Royal of Wake Forest College said, “I do not know of any passage in classical Greek, where ekklesia is used of unassembled or un-assembling persons” (Why Be A Baptist, Taylor,p.45).
Ecclesia–the Church by B. H. Carroll
Meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T. by Overbey
THE USE OF ECCLESIA IN THE SEPTUAGINT
Definition Of Terms.
The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.
This translation was made approximately 285-246 B. C. by 72 Jewish scholars living in Alexandria.
The notation (LXX) is used extensively in referring to this translation.
TESTIMONY OF SCHOLARS.
In the Septuagint ekklesia is used about 100 times.
In the Hebrew (language of the O. T. ) two words were used to refer to the gathering together of the people of Israel–‘edhad and qahal.
Of these two words Hort says, “Neither of the two Hebrew terms was strictly technical: both were at times applied to very different kinds of gatherings from the gatherings of the people, though qahal had always a human reference of some sort, gatherings of individual men or gatherings of nations. The two words were so far coincident in meaning that in many cases they might apparently be used indifferently; but in the first instance they were not strictly synonymous. ‘edhad (derived from a root y’dh used in the Niphal in the sense of gathering together, specially gathering together by appointment or agreement) is properly, when applied to Israel, the society itself, formed by the children of Israel of their representative heads, whether assembled or not assembled. On the other hand qahal is properly their actual meeting together: hence we have a few times the phrase qehal ‘edhah the assembly of the congregation” (The Meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T. , Overbey, p.12).
Vitringa says, “Synagogue always means an assembly gathered together, but not necessarily joined by any bond of union. Ecclesia, kahal, always denotes some multitude which constitutes a people bound among themselves by law and obligation” (Pillars of Orthodoxy, Bogard, p.410).
Dana says, “In it ekklesia was used to translate the Hebrew word qahal which means an assembly, convocation or congregation” (Overbey, Op.Cit., p.13).
Dana also says, “The Old Testament and Jewish literature nowhere use ekklesia where it may justly be construed as ‘spiritual Israel'” (Op. Cit.).
Carroll says, “By an inductive study of all the ecclesia passages, you will see for yourselves that in the Septuagint it never means ‘all Israel whether assembled or unassembled, but that in every instance it means a gathering together, as assembly” (Ecclesia–The Church, Carroll, p.44).
Because of the fact that the Hebrew word “qahal” sometimes means the whole Israelitish people and is sometimes translated by ekklesia, it has been mistakenly concluded that ‘ekklesia’ must have the same breadth of meaning as ‘qahal’.
Ecclesia never translates ‘edhah, the broad term.
Carroll says, “The testimony here is univocal. It is as solid as the Macedonian phalanx.” (Bid, p.52).
THE LOCAL VISIBLE CHURCH
STATEMENT OF FACTS
The word “ecclesia” is used 115 times in the Greek N. T.
The ways it is translated:
A mistranslation occurs in Acts 19:37 where “churches” should be “temples”. The Greek word here is hierosulos.
The word “church” in I Peter 5:13 is supplied by the translators, and is not in the original Greek.
Of the 112 times the word ecclesia is translated “church” or “churches” it definitely applies to the N. T. organization, except in one case—Acts 7:38. Here the reference is to Israel assembled in the wilderness.
The following breakdown will prove:
That 93 of the 111 times ecclesia definitely refers to local congregations.
That the remaining 18 times ecclesia refers to the Lord’s church in the institutional, generic, or abstract sense (lesson 6).
SURVEY OF THE REFERENCE TO LOCAL CHURCHES.
The church at Jerusalem:
Acts 8:1; Acts 11:22; Acts 15:4
Acts 12:1; Acts 15:22—proved by the passage.
The church at Antioch (Syria)
Acts 11:26; Acts 13:1; Acts 14:27
Acts 15:3—by context.
The church at Cenchrea:
The church at Corinth:
I Cor.1:2; II Cor. 1:1;
Romans 16:23—written from Corinth.
The church at Laedicea:
Col. 4:16; Revelation 3:14
The church at Thessalonica:
I Thess. 1:1; II Thess. 1:1
The church at Ephesus:
Revelation 2:1; Acts 20:17
The church at Smyrna:
The church at Pergamos:
The church at Thyatira:
The church at Sardis:
The church at Philadelphia:
Churches in houses
I Cor. 16:19;
Philemon 2; Col. 4:15.
In Syria and Cilicia:
I Cor. 16:1;
I Cor. 16:19; Rev. 1:4; Rev. 1:11; Rev. 1:20 (twice); Rev. 2:7;
Rev. 2:11; Rev. 2:17; Rev. 2:23; Rev. 2:29; Rev. 3:6; Rev. 3:13; Rev. 3:22.
II Cor. 8:1
In Judea, Galilee, Samaria:
In Lystra, Iconium, Antioch:
Of the Gentiles:
Proof by context:
Acts 2:47; Acts 5:11; Acts 8:3; Acts 12:5; Acts 18:22 (not at Caesarea);
I Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:6.
I Cor. 11:18; I Cor. 11:22; I Cor. 14:4; I Cor. 14:5; I Cor. 14:19;
I Cor. 14:23; I Cor. 14:28; I Cor. 14:35; I Cor. 6:4; I Cor. 14:12.
Acts 16:5; Rev. 22:16
II Cor. 8:19; II Cor. 8:23; II Cor. 8:24; I Thes. 2:14
II Cor. 11:8
Churches at any given place:
I Cor. 4:17; Phil. 4:15; James 5:14; II Cor. 8:18; III John 6; III John 9; III John 10; Matt.18:17 (twice); Romans 16:16; I Cor. 7:17; I Cor. 14:33; II Cor. 11:28; II Cor.12:13; II Thes. 1:4; I Tim. 3:5; I Tim. 5:16; I Cor. 11:16; I Cor. 14:34
QUOTATIONS BY SCHOLARS.
These previous parts have covered 97 ( 4 plus 93 ) of the 115 times ecclesia is used in the Greek N. T. ( the remaining 18 will be covered in the next lesson— the generic use of ekklesia). Kind, class “makes sense”.
Overbey says, “Every time ekklesia appears in the New Testament it makes sense translated according to its common meaning of assembly” ( The Meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T. , Overbey, p. 44).
Again he says, “In approaching the N. T. we see that the word is admitted by all to have this meaning (assembly) in about ninety places. The other times it is used there is a difference of opinion. Some contend for assembly, others for a new meaning best described as the universal invisible church. How can we tell which is correct? The principle is used that says the common meaning must be accepted in every place it makes sense. Only when the common meaning will not make sense are we permitted to assume it has a new meaning. Following this principle we find that the word assembly makes sense in every contested passage so that any new sense must be rejected” (Bid, p.46).
I.K. Cross says, “We here charge that there is no such thing known in the New Testament as a church that includes every saved man on earth. This is the family of God, but never the church of the New Testament” (Canadian Baptists, Cross, p.5).
A. C. Dayton declares, “Each church was complete within itself—independent of all earthly control, and subject only to the law of Christ” (Theodosia Earnest, Vol. II, p. 116).
J. R. Graves said, “The proof given that the very word Ekklesia (an assembly) denotes a complete church, equally implies its independency, i.e., that it is dependent upon no other body for its existence of self-perpetuation, or the discharge of all the functions and trusts of a church of Christ” (The New Great Iron Wheel, Graves, p.134).
Graves again, “I have shown that the idea of a great Universal Invisible Church, or a Visible Universal Church composed of all the visible churches, or, as some claim of all baptized, independent of local churches, can not, by any fair exegesis, be found” (Seven Questions and Answers to Church Authority, Baptist Examiner, p. 37).
S.H. Ford asserts, “It should be remembered that by church, Baptists mean what the New Testament teaches–a local, real congregation of baptized believers united together for God’s service” (Bid).
H.E. Dana says, “This matter of qualification for citizenship was quite important, for many residents of such a city had no place in the Ekklesia…The term referred to a body of persons having definite qualifications, assembled to carry out certain organized aims on democratic principles. So there were elements pertinent to its (Ekklesia) New Testament meaning. (1) the assembly was local; (2) it was autonomous; (3) it presupposed definite qualifications; (4) it was conducted on democratic principles” (The church, L. L. Clover, p. 94).
Overbey says, “Jesus used the word ‘church’ twenty-three times, twenty times in Revelation, and three times in Matthew. Twenty-two times there is agreement among all that the word means assembly. It is either plural or the context is very clear so that there can be no doubt in any mind that he is speaking of a local, visible body. Matthew 16:18 is the only place where some think it has a new meaning. But if Jesus used the word twenty-two times and there is no question concerning its meaning then it seems that we must believe that the one remaining place has the same meaning” (Brief History of the Baptists, Overbey, p.26).
Boyce Taylor asserts, “…The Etymology of the word ekklesia makes it of necessity a local church” (Why Be a Baptist, Taylor, p.47).
Armitage concurs, “In the apostolic age the church was a local body, and each church was independent of every other church. The simple term ecclesia designates one congregation, or organization assembly, this being its literal and primal meaning…It follows, then, that the New Testament nowhere speaks of the ‘Universal, Catholic, or Invisible Church,’ as indicating a merely ideal existence separate from a real and local body…A local church fully expresses the meaning of the word ‘ecclesia’ wherever it is found in Holy Writ” ( History of the Baptists, Armitage, pp. 118-120).
Ecclesia—the church—B. H. Carroll
Why Be a Baptist—Boyce Taylor
Ekklesia—the Church–Bob Ross
Meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T.—Overbey
Seven Questions and Answers as to Church Authority—Baptist Examiner
The Church–L. L. Clover
The Origin of Baptists–S. H. Ford
Theodosia Earnest, Vol. II–A. C. Dayton
We have before shown that 97 of the 115 times which “ecclesia” is used in the New Testament refer to the local, visible church.
The remaining 18 will be taken up individually in this lesson to show that the same meaning is retrained, and to suppose that a new meaning is to be attached to ecclesia is wrong.
Overbey says “Generally all scholars accept these ninety-two uses as meaning assembly. It should be stated here that the word ekklesia refers to a group of people organized to carry out some purpose that assemble from time to time. To be an ekklesia is need not be a continual assembly. Carroll well stated this when he was asked: ‘But if church means assembly does not that require it to be always in session?’ No ecclesia, classic, Jewish, or Christian, known to history, held perpetual session. They all adjourned and came together again according to the requirements of the case. The organization, the institution, was not dissolved by temporary adjournment'” )The Meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T., Overbey, p. 20).
Overbey again, “The common meaning of a word must stand in every place it occurs as long as it makes sense. When it fails to make sense then a new meaning or a rare meaning must be found in the context for the word. If a new or rare meaning will make sense in a given context we cannot accept it as long as the common meaning will also make sense” (Ibid., p. 22).
Warfield says, “The question is, after all, not what can the word be made to mean, but what does it mean…only if the sense thus commended to us were unsuitable to the context would we be justified in seeking further for a new interpretation” (Ibid., p. 23).
The principle is this: A NEW OR RARE MEANING IS NOT TO BE GIVEN TO A WORD JUST BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE SENSE IN CERTAIN PLACES. THE OLD MEANING MUST BE RETAINED.
THE GENERIC OR INSTITUTIONAL USE EXPLAINED
Generic–Relating to or characteristic of a whole group or class; general.
Institutional–an organization as differentiated from other kinds of organizations.
Abstract–disassociated from any specific instance.
These terms illustrated:
Overbey says, “A word may be used generically. In such cases the word may be singular and yet not refer to any particular object of the class but to every object of that class. It is as if some object of the class were taken as a representative would apply generally to each object…In such cases the definite article with the word does not mean there is only one particular automobile singled out from the rest or that there is only one automobile in the world, but the article is called the generic article and distinguishes one class from another class rather than one object in a class from another object in the same class. We use words generically all the time and never think of it” (Ibid., p. 24,25).
He continues, ” ‘The’ with a singular noun sometimes indicates a class or kind of object. The scholar is not necessarily a dryasdust. The elephant is the largest of quadrupeds. The airplane is a very recent invention. Resin is obtained from the pine…The singular number with the generic ‘the’ is practically equivalent to the plural without an article” (Ibid., p.25)
Buell Kazee declares, “In this sense (generic or institutional) the word indicates a type of institution as differentiated from other kinds of institutions. Thus we speak of ‘the church’ as we do ‘the home’ or ‘ the school’…a good example of the Biblical use of a word this way is the word ‘ man’ in Genesis 1:26. Here God says, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Although Adam was the first specific example of this being, we understand the term ‘man’ to mean man in general, including all his race, rather than just the one individual man… Thus, by the word ekklesia Jesus could have been speaking of the type of institution He would build” (The Church and the Ordinances, Kazee, p. 1,2).
Roy Mason concurs, “The word (ekklesia) is used fourteen times to denote an institution. When it is used in this way it is, according to Dr. Carroll, used in either an abstract or generic sense. ‘This follows,’ he says, ‘from the laws of language governing the use of words. For example, if an English statesman, referring to the right of each individual citizen to be tried by his peers, should say: ‘On this rock England will build her jury, and all the power of tyranny shall not prevail against her,’ he uses the term jury in an abstract sense, i. e. , in the sense of an institution. But when this institution finds concrete expression or becomes operative, it is always a particular jury of twelve men and never an aggregation of all juries into one big jury'” (The Church That Jesus Built, Mason, p. 29).
A.C. Dayton declares, “Christ did not refer to any particular individual local organization when he said ‘my Church’. He did not mean the Church at Jerusalem of the Church at Corinth. Much less did he refer to all the churches combined in one great Church. But he simply used the word as the name of his institution.” (Theodosia Earnest, Vol. II, p. 100).
He continues, “…let me illustrate. You are a lawyer. A client comes to you for legal information. You tell him that the law is thus or so; and so ‘the court’ will instruct ‘the jury’. What do you mean by the court? And what do you mean by the jury? Not any particular individual judge whom you may have in mind, much less all the judges in the world comprised in one gigantic ‘universal’ judge; but you mean any one of all the judges before whom the suit might be tried; and not any particular set of jurymen, much less all the jurymen in the world united in one wast conglomerate ‘universal’ jury; but simply that jury, whichever or wherever it may be, who may chance to be empanelled on the case. ‘The court’ is the name or title given to a certain official personage, when engaged in the performance of certain official duties.
‘The jury’ is the name or title given to a certain official body or assembly, when employed in a certain official capacity. Now, as the courts and juries in the British empire transact, business and administer justice by the authority of Queen Victoria, and in her name, they may very properly be called her court, and her jury, meaning thereby simply her institutions, organized by her authority for the transaction of this specific business, in her name.
The first courts and juries which were organized may have been dissolved; others may have followed, and, like them, have disappeared; but still the institution continues: the jury is still an essential part of the apparatus for the administration of justice…And if I should say that the jury is ‘built’ upon the ‘rock’ of the constitution, and that the councils of tyrants can never ‘prevail against’ or overthrow it, I should speak of it just as Christ did about his Church” (Ibid., p. 100,101).
Dayton further explains, “The principle…is the same as that on which the name of an individual is every day applied to the species, genus, or family, t which it belongs. As when we say of the oak that it is the most majestic of forest trees, we do not mean any one oak, nor do we mean all the oaks in the world comprised in one ‘universal’ oak. Each oak is still a separate and individual tree; but we apply the name of the individual to all the species–not considered collectively, as one great oak, but separately, as hundreds and thousand of trees, each having the same name.” (Ibid., p. 105).
The “horse” is rushed into battle.
The “lion” is the king of beasts.
The “husband” is the head of the wife.
The “home” is the basis of society.
The “dog” is the most lovable of all pets.
The “oak” is the most majestic of all trees.
The “jury” is used in all Western courts of justice.
Ecclesia–the Church–B. H. Carroll
The Meaning of Ecclesia in the N. T. –Overbey
Theodosia Earnest, Vol. II, –Dayton
The Church That Jesus Built–Roy Mason
The Church and the Ordinances–Buell Kazee
Ekklesia–the Church–Bob Ross
THE EIGHTEEN DISPUTED PASSAGES EXPLAINED
Here speaking of the “kind” of institution He would be building
Jesus used “ecclesia’ twenty-three times-twenty times in Revelation and three in Matthew. Scholars agree that twenty-two of these refer to local churches. Why should this verse be thought to have a different meaning?
Here Jesus guarantees the perpetual existence of His Church in the institutional sense.
A play in the Greek by Jesus on the words “petros” (pebble, small stone) and “petra” (massive ledge, boulder) is seen. The church is built upon the “petra” (Jesus and His doctrine), not on “petros” (Simon Peter as the Catholics teach).
Overbey says, “If man would say today, ‘I shall build by grocery store’ there would certainly be no misunderstanding as to what he meant by grocery store. To every mind a local, visible, building where food stuffs are sold would come to mind. A new meaning would certainly not be considered by any person. If the person who said it had in his mind of building a store incorporating some of his own ideas that would make it a distinct kind from all the other kinds of grocery stores in the world and planned to have a chain of them throughout the area eventually his statement would still make good sense” (Meaning of Ecclesia in N. T., Overbey, pp. 38, 39).
Speaking specifically to the church at Ephesus.
This expression could be said of any local assembly.
Overbey says, “The reason for finding a new meaning here would be due to the fact this church is said to be ‘purchased with his own blood,’ a statement thought by many to be too great to be said of any local church….Why can’t it be stated that Jesus purchased with His blood an organized group of professed believers in the Lord Jesus Christ? This does not exclude other churches of believers or individuals from making the same statement…’Purchased by His blood’ can be stated of every New Testament church and every individual believer…” (Ibid, p. 30).
Ross says, “…Paul’s statement is addressed to the elders of the church of Ephesus (Acts 20:17). He tells them to take heed unto themselves and ‘to all the flock.’ That could possibly be a universal, invisible flock…” (Ekklesia–The Church, Ross, pp. 20, 21).
I CORINTHIANS 10:32
Specifically spoken to the local church at Corinth.
This can be said of any local church; thus, a new meaning cannot be given here to Ecclesia.
I CORINTHIANS 12:28.
Again, the verse is addressed to the local church at Corinth.
Ross says, “Prior to 12:28, the word ‘ekklesia’ is used in the epistle eight times and the meaning is clear in every instance (see 1:2; 4:17, 6:4, 7:17, 10:32, 11:16, 18, 22). Why should it be thought that the apostle suddenly gave a new meaning to the word never before heard of, in 12:28, and that without any notice or explanation? (Ibid, p. 21).
Overbey says, “The argument as usually stated is that apostles were not officers of a local church but their ministry was for all of the churches. So the word church cannot refer to a local group but must refer to something much bigger, a universal church that would include all believers. The idea that this passage is relating (to) the officers of the church is completely without basis. The context indicates that these various things set in the church are best described as gifts. These gifts were necessary for the work of the Lord’s church. Some were only necessary for a short time, others for the entire history of the church…Apostles were needed t establish them and give them initial direction that was not needed later…We believe the word church is used generically in this passage and the Scriptures are telling us of the gifts the Lord placed in that institution that its work might be properly carried on…These gifts were placed in that kind of institution rather than in every particular church for the benefit of all” (Overbey, op. Cit., p. 31).
I TIMOTHY 3:15 Paul has here in mind the local church at Ephesus.
Dana says, “The figure ‘household of God’ can be regarded in two ways. It may be considered from the viewpoint of its consistuency, or from the viewpoint of its function. The former would require it to apply to all children of God; the latter to any group of God’s children. The function of a household is to offer support and fellowship to its inmates. Any local ekklesia did this for its members” (Ibid, p. 29).
EPHESIANS 1:22. Ephesians and Colossians both speak of the church as the “Body.”
Paul again is writing to the local church at Ephesus.
Ross says, “Paul clearly uses the figure ‘body’ to exemplify the unity of a church and the importance of every member, even the most feeble. He was not intending to give a meaning to ‘ekklesia that the word did not posses.” (Ross, op. Cit., p. 23).
Joseph Cross asserts, “The church is a body; but what sort of a body is that which can neither be seen nor identified? A body is an organism occupying space and having a definite locality. A mere aggregation is not a body; there must be organization as well. A heap of heads, hands, feet and other proper place and pervaded by a common life” (Ross, p. 24).
Christ is the Head of every one of His churches, just as He is the Head of every individual man (I Corinthians 11:3).
We have here the generic use of the word and the definite article.
COLOSSIANS 1:18. The same argument here as for Ephesians 1:22.
Christ is the Head of the church institutionally which means that He is the Head of every local church.
COLOSSIANS 1:24. The same argument as previously.
Paul speaks of the “body” which belongs to Christ by purchase.
EPHESIANS 3:10. Again, the verse is addressed to the local church at Ephesus.
Dayton says, “Suppose a friend in England should write to me that he is about to publish a new history of the steam-engine, ‘ in order that unto kings and princes, in their palaces and on their thrones, might be known through the engine the manifold skill of the inventor:’ what would you think of that man’s common sense, even though he were a Doctor of Mechanics, who should insist upon it, that though the steam-engine was a definite and well-known machine, and there were a vast multitude of separate and distinct steam-engines, yet there must also be, in some way or other, a vast conglomerate ‘universal’ engine, consisting of all the steam-engines in the world united into one…” (Theodosia Earnest, Dayton, Vol. II, pp. 120, 121).
EPHESIANS 3:21. Written to the local church at Ephesus.
Word ecclesia used generically and truth fits each local assembly.
Dayton says, “I take up a book written by some great admirer of the drama, and read, ‘Let the poetry of Shakespeare be honored in the theatre by managers and actors even to the end of time…’ the term ‘ the theatre’ used in this connection, can mean no less than this great world-embracing establishment…” (Ibid, p. 121).
EPHESIANS 5:23, 24, 25, 27 (four). Addressed to the local church at Ephesus.
The truth can be applied to each local assembly.
Primary thought here is marriage, not the church.
If “church” is universal, so must be the “man” and “woman”.
The words “man” and “woman”, and “church” are used abstractly or generically; thus, no particular husband or wife is named, and no certain church is named.
Dayton says, “As the ‘wife’ does not here mean all wives in one, so ‘the church’ cannot mean all Churches in one.” (Ibid., p. 126).
EPHESIANS 5:29-32 (two).
The local church at Ephesus is meant; however, the truth is applicable to every true New Testament church.
The same arguments fit here as in the previous verses in Ephesians.
Reference here is to Jesus singing in church-Matthew 26:30.
Jesus sang in the church when He gave to it the second ordinance.
Done on the night of the institution of the Lord’s supper; thus, the church was local and visible.
Overbey says, “We do not deny that all the saints will assemble together in Heaven at times for various purposes but only deny that the word ekklesia is ever used to refer to such” (Overbey, op. Cit., p. 41).
Some such as B. H. Carroll take this to mean the “Glory Church,” that is, the “church in prospect.” However, this is not the case.
Terms here used:
Paneguris–festal gathering of large proportions.
Take the whole passage–Hebrrews 12:22-24: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly (paneguris) and the church (ecclesia) of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
THE R.S.V. has this verse, “…But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born…”
THUS, ECCLESIA IS HERE AN ABSTRACT REFERENCE TO THE CHURCH AND THE PANEGURIS IS REFERRING BACK TO THE INNUMERABLE COMPANY OF ANGELS.
Quotes from scholars:
Berry (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament) says, “And to myriads of angels, (the) universal gathering (paneguris); and to (the) assembly (ekklesia) of the firstborn (ones) in (the) heavens registered.”
Alford (New Testament for English Readers) says, “The difficult question of punctuation has been dealt with in my Greek Testament. The matter would be unintelligible to the English reader. It is enough to say that the writer begins with the innumerable company (literally myriads), in order afterwards to say of what these myriads consist. Adopting then this arrangement, the verse will stand- and to myriads (the word commonly used of the angelic company surrounding Jehovah), the festal host (so the word imports) of angels, and the assembly of the firstborn which are written in heaven.”
Vincent (Word Studies) says, “…to myriads or tens of thousands stands by itself, and festal assembly goes with angels.”
Ironside, “The expression translated ‘general assembly’ undoubtedly refers to this angelic company and not that which follows, and is better rendered ‘ a full gathering'” (Hebrews and Titus, p. 163).
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary: “…The jubilant full company (such as were the Olympic games, celebrated with joyous singing, dancing, etc.)applies better to the angels above, ever hymning God’s praises, than to the church…”
W. Pink (Hebrews) says, “It is clear, then, that the ‘general assembly’ has no reference to the church; rather, it refers back to the angels.”
The overwhelming evidence stands with those who accept ecclesia as always meaning an “assembly” or “congregation.” The burden of proof lies with those who would make it to mean a universal assembly in certain disputed passages.
If all scholars admit that Jesus meant a local assembly in twenty-two of the twenty-three times He used the word, why should anyone presume that the one place (Matthew 16:18) means something different?
In all of these 18 disputed passages the meaning of a local assembly fits. These are simply the generic usage of the word which is common in everyday speech.
AFTER ALL, IT IS NOT WHAT CAN A WORD BE MADE TO MEAN, BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN!
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