Where Does the Word ‘Church’ Come From?May 4, 2019
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
— 1 Timothy 3:15
Today I want us to look at the meaning of the word “church” as it was understood in the First Century AD when the Church was first emerging. This teaching goes a little deeper than we usually go — but for lovers of the New Testament, it will be filled with insight and revelation.
The term that the Holy Spirit chose to describe the newly emerging Christian community was the Greek word ekklesia. This word is a compound of the Greek words ek and kaleo. The word ek conveys the idea of an exit or a separation, and the word kaleo means to beckon, to call, to invite, or to summon. When these two words are joined, they form the word ekklesia, which describes those who are called and separated to a prestigious assembly.
The earliest examples of the word ekklesia is found in writings about Athens, where it was used to denote a prestigious assembly of Athenian citizens who regularly met to discuss civil matters. At these meetings, the distinguished citizens determined laws, debated public policy, formulated new policies, argued and ruled in judicial matters, elected the chief magistrates of the land, decided who should be banished, and so on. To be called out from society and invited to be a member of this assembly was a great honor.
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The reason the Holy Spirit chose the word ekklesia to describe God’s people becomes more and more evident as one studies this subject. The New Testament meaning of ekklesia is clear: The local church is a body of individuals who have been called out, called forth, and separated for the purposes of God. The church is God’s assembly in every town and city — composed of people who have been saved and called out to make eternal decisions that will affect the very atmosphere of their local region.
God never intended for the local church to be simply a quiet, hidden body of believers. Rather, He intended for a church to be His voice and ruling power in each community — a special assembly comprised of people who have been called out to make decisions that will impact the atmosphere of their local environment for God.
Therefore, when the New Testament used the word ekklesia to depict the local church, it is conveying an incredibly important message right from the start: God’s plan for each congregation was not that they hide and cower in fear, but rather that they rise to a position of power and influence in the place where God had called them to fulfill their specific assignment for their region. The church was intended to be a brilliant beacon of light in the midst of dark and troubled towns, cities, and regions.
The believers in the early New Testament were suffering terribly as a direct consequence of persecution. Church meetings had to be conducted in secret because swift retribution would be brought upon them if their actions were ever made known. Yet despite the fact that these believers were suffering immensely and forced to meet in secret, Christ still acknowledged them for who they were — His ekklesia, called out from the world and separated to exercise spiritual power over the bleak and seemingly hopeless atmosphere that surrounded them.
Regardless of how dark and oppressive the situation seemed to be or how much these believers struggled, it didn’t change Jesus’ view of them. They were His precious, appointed ekklesia — His governing body in their respective towns, cities, and regions. And that is still how Jesus views the local church! Each body of believers has its own specific assignment, and each believer is assigned to a specific ekklesia! All local bodies fit within a larger common purpose: that of furthering the Kingdom of God on this earth by equipping the saints and being an influence of God’s truth and righteousness to a lost world.
So I encourage you to ask yourself today: Do I know in my heart that I am planted firmly in my God-ordained company of believers? Am I positioned in the ekklesia that holds His assignment for this season of my life? Then renew your commitment to be all God has called you to be to help the ekklesia to which He has joined you extend its influence. As that local body extends His voice into the surrounding culture, the spiritual atmosphere of that region will be changed to the glory of His name!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for saving me and calling me to be a member of Your precious Church. Help me see Your Church the way You see it — anointed, precious, and powerful. I ask You to help me be faithful in the church where You have planted me so that I will flourish as I use my gifts and talents there and do all I can to be a positive contributing member. In conjunction with everyone else in our church, I ask You to help us be an expression of Your voice that affects the city where I live.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I love the church where God has called me. I use my gifts and talents to help in the various ministries and departments of the church. I give my tithes and offerings there, as God commands me to do in His Word. I pray for my pastor and listen carefully as he preaches what he believes God has to say to us each week. When he looks for someone on whom he can depend, my pastor knows that I am one he can turn to rely upon. I declare that our church is growing, is getting stronger and stronger, and that we are becoming a greater light to our city.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- So what did you learn new about the word “church” today? Was any of this new information and insight for you? What was the primary thing you gained from reading it?
- How does what you read in today’s Sparkling Gem affect your view of the local church and the role of your pastor?
- After reading what a privilege it was to be a member of the early ekklesia, how does this affect your view of your membership in your local church?