Church: What are the uses of this word in the Bible?
Definition and Description
- The Greek word for “church” is EKKLESIA. It means assembly.
- EKKLESIA is a noun composed of the preposition EK, meaning out of, and KALEO, meaning to call. Therefore, a “church” is a called-out assembly of people.
- The Greeks used the word EKKLESIA to refer to a called-out assembly of any kind, not necessarily made up of believers who have come together for worship [Acts 19:32,39,41]. Hence, the term, in this passage in Acts, was used to refer to what we would speak of today a called-out mob.
- The term is used extensively in the Apostle Paul’s letters. For instance, EKKLESIA is used three times in the book of Galatians [1:2,13,22].
The term church and its usage in the New Testament
- It is used for the local church of believers which may be comprised of both Jews and Gentiles [Galatians 1:2; I Corinthians 1:2; II Corinthians 1:1].
- It is used for the mystical Body of Christ’s church composed of believers who are of Gentile or Jewish origin [Ephesians 1:22-23].
- It is used of Israel in Old Testament times [Acts 7:38; Hebrews 2:12].
- It is used for the Messianic church our Lord spoke of during His earthly ministry to Israel [Matthew 16:18]. We find that those who responded with faith to the message of Peter and others in that time were “added” to this Jewish church [Acts 2:47]. The fact that these people are said to be “added” clearly shows that this “church” existed before the Day of Pentecost discussed in Acts 2. The church which is the body of Christ of our time began with the salvation of the apostle Paul, not on the Day of Pentecost discussed in Acts 2.
- It is used of future churches in the coming Tribulation period after the Rapture occurs [Revelation 2 & 3].
- It is used of a mob of unsaved people gathered for a meeting [Acts 19:32,39,41].
Other Important Principles about the uses of this word:
- It is important to distinguish the church which is the Body of Christ [the uncircumcision church] which is made up of Jews and Gentiles from the circumcision church which was made up only of Jews [Colossians 1:24; Galatians 2:7; I Corinthians 12:13]. Mingling of the doctrine of these two churches has caused great confusion and misunderstanding.
- The churches to whom Paul ministered were made up of people who were primarily members of the Body of Christ church. They had all been saved by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ [I Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 3:27; I Corinthians 12:13].
- When the word church comes up in the Bible it is never referring to a building, but to an assembly of people wherever they happen to be meeting [Romans 16:1,4,5,16].