Chapter 3 – A Holy Nation

 
Video Presentation – Lesson 3
(see written transcript below)
 
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Lesson 3 – Written Transcript

Prequel to Lesson 3 – “The Called Out”

Your Bible was not originally written in the English language; you know that, right?  Your modern English language Bible is a translation, for the most part, from the ancient Koine Greek language.

But Greek was not the original spoken language of the Bible either.  People back in Old Testament days spoke Hebrew and some Aramaic, among other languages (Zondervan, 2020);  while the people we read about in the New Testament spoke mostly Aramaic; although some spoke Hebrew, especially the well-educated Jewish scholars; and there were also a few communities in the region that spoke mainly Greek for the most part, as well (Zondervan, 2020).

What language did Jesus and His disciples speak?  Well, while I’m sure that Jesus could have spoken virtually any language He chose, His disciples spoke mostly Aramaic.  So, while He surely understood the classical Hebrew, as well as Greek, in order to converse with most of the people of His day, He likely spoke Aramaic for the most part (Zondervan, 2020).

So then, when we come to a passage of scripture such as Matthew Chapter 16, where Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church (verse 18), we need to be very careful to understand exactly what it was that Jesus was seeking to convey to His disciples.

The Aramaic texts that are available to us state it this way:

“Also, I am saying unto you, that you are kepha {The Rock}, and up on this Kepha {Rock} I will build Edthi {My Assembly}, and the gates of Sheul {Hell} will not resist it”

(Holy Aramaic Scriptures, 2018).

Some Biblical scholars say that Jesus may have used the Aramaic word “ladoth”—meaning: “to assemble or gather together for the purpose of testifying, instructing in a matter of law, or to call a witness to testify”—when He spoke of His “church” (Benorah, 2020).

As mentioned earlier, our modern English translations of the New Testament come to us mainly from ancient Greek manuscripts; which are themselves translations derived from earlier manuscripts.  It is quite likely that Luke, the historian, originally wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts in the Greek language. Likewise, it is also almost certain that the Apostle Paul wrote his epistles to the Greek speaking Gentile churches of the 1st century in the Greek language.  And, while I am fairly certain that Jesus did not use the word “ekklesia  when He said, “upon this rock I will build My church,” still, that is the word that the earliest Greek translators believed best captured the meaning and intent of Jesus’ statement; as well as that of all the rest of the New Testament writers whenever they mentioned the church.  In fact, we find the Greek word ekklesia used 114 times in the New Testament to describe God’s people (Ekklesia, 2020) and several more times to describe a general assembly or a convening of citizens in a public forum – (See: Acts Chapter 19).

The word ekklesia comes from two roots words: “ek” meaning “out of” or “away from,” and “kaleo” meaning “to call” (Ekklesia, 2020). Hence the word literally means: “the called out” or the “called away.” In the Greco-Roman world, during the time that the New Testament scriptures were being circulated and translated into the Greek language, the word, “ekklesia,” was used to describe “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place,” or “an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating” (Ekklesia, 2020).

While we do not want to be guilty of building an entire theological framework around the etymology of a single Greek word, there is plenty of Biblical precedent for why this word, ekklesia—“the called out”was chosen by the ancient Greek translators; and why it speaks eloquently to the meaning and intent of Jesus’ statement in Matthew Chapter 16; and that of the 1st century apostles and prophets throughout the New Testament writings, as well.

One example of the meaning that word conveys can be seen in Jesus’ statement as He prayed to the Heavenly Father concerning His disciples, saying:

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

(John 17:13-19, NASB)

 

The ekklesia, then, are people who are “not of this world.”  Rather, they have been “called away”—not literally, as in having left this present realm already, but in a spiritual sense.  They are people who have become, and are becoming, so different from the rest of the people of the world around them that they have an entirely different value system; and a new, separate, and distinct walk of life.  They order their priorities according to the will of God, not the popular values of the world. As Jesus said, they are sanctified in truth.  To be sanctified means to be “set apart” (Sanctified, 2014).  To be “called away” and to be “set apart”—sanctified—are two very similar terms.  And Jesus says here that it is the truth of God’s word—found today in the pages of the Bible—that sanctifies His people, that sets them apart, that calls them out and away from the world around them; causing them to become so unusually different from all the rest of the world around them.

I hope you will always rejoice in your place among God’s “called out” people — the “ekklesia.”

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Lesson 3 – “A Holy Nation”

 As we continue our shared journey of exploration into authentic new covenant concepts, and just what the called out family of God really looks like, there are a few more vital details that we need to consider. It is of great importance for us to realize that the ekklesia, to which we now belong, is far more than just a community of like-minded believers. It is, in fact, an independent nation, a spiritual kingdom—spiritual in the sense that, as Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21, NASB); or “the reign of God is within you (Young’s Literal Translation).

This concept, that the ekklesia—the called out people of God—is actually a separate and independent nation in and of itself, is a rather difficult concept for some people to fathom; especially for some of the more political, nationalistic, and patriotic types among us. People often have difficulty thinking of God’s spiritual kingdom as a separate governing entity of which they are a citizen. As a result, some among us devote the lion’s share of their passion, devotion, and resources to some earthly government, rather than to Christ and His spiritual kingdom.  However, the Bible clearly states that God’s covenant children are, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…” (I Peter 2:9, NASB).  The Apostle Paul also reminds us that, our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, NASB).

Does this mean that we owe no allegiance whatsoever to whatever earthly government we happen to be living under? No, it does not mean that at all. Even Jesus paid His taxes—remember the coin in the fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27) and Jesus statement, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21, NASB). Paul also states:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

(Romans 13:1-2, NASB)

 However, superseding any and all of those earthly commitments, as a new covenant child of God, I bear an even greater responsibility toward the spiritual kingdom of God—the ekklesia—of which I am now an eternal citizen.

While these simple truths seem self-evident, still, many Christians confuse love of country and national patriotism with commitment to Christ and sometimes become so entangled in the political affairs of this world that they lose sight of God’s kingdom business and what really matters most; as Jesus said, “…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, NASB).

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God’s spiritual kingdom, the ekklesia, does not compete with earthly governments for physical, political, or social resources. It has no earthly headquarters or physical strongholds to bolster its presence among men. Rather, it resides within the hearts and minds of people the world over; people who have surrendered their hearts, their minds, and their lives to the rule of Christ. They recognize Him as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16, NASB). He is their supreme “Lawgiver and Judge,” (James 4:12, NASB). The ekklesia understands that the kingdom of Christ is a theocracy, not a democracy; and that Christ Jesus is the ultimate authority. His word is final, His will is immutable, and His reign in their hearts is absolute and indisputable.

This “holy nation” of God has its own unique culture and moral standards rooted in the teachings of Christ and bequeathed to us by the apostles and prophets of the 1st century who gave us the New Testament. We are told:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone

(Ephesians 2:19-20, NASB)

The “holy nation” of God has its own infrastructure and organizational framework to help facilitate its mission:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…

(Ephesians 4:11-12, NASB)

 The “holy nation” of God has its own welfare and internal care system:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

(Romans 12:10-13, NASB)

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

(Galatians 6:9-10, NASB)

The “holy nation” of God has its own borders to be protected and defended, lest deceitful spirits and false teachers—spiritual terrorists—infiltrate the body of Christ and wreak havoc:

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the [ekklēsian]—(church) of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert…

(Acts 20:28-31, NASB)

The “holy nation” is made up of one “chosen race.”   That’s right, God’s new covenant children actually constitute a race of people; not a physical race, of course, but a spiritual race. We may come from varied ethnicities and have many different physical and cultural traits—different shades of skin, different shaped eyes, different languages, customs, and ways of relating to the world around us—but we share the same spiritual heritage, rooted in the “covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12, NASB), and the same spiritual inheritance, “which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4, NASB). As a distinct race of people, we share the same values, the same commitments, the same essential beliefs and fundamental faith, as well as the same love for our Creator. And by this faith, these commitments, and the love in our hearts we are bound to one another.

Believe it or not, God’s “holy nation,” and the “chosen race” of which it is composed, even has its very own, unique language. In a rather obscure, but powerful, passage from the prophet Isaiah, we find these treasured words that beautifully describe this language; the prophet says:

The Lord God has given Me the tongue [language] of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.

(Isaiah 50:4, NASB)

People of every profession speak a unique tongue—language—of their own; a language pertinent to that particular vocation. They not only use specific buzz words and terminology of which a typical lay person—not of that profession—would have no clue, but they also communicate concepts and ideas that are equally foreign to outsiders. A significant role of education, and the sign of an educated mind, is the ability to properly express and convey relevant concepts in appropriate terms used across a particular industry or profession.

In light of this passage of scripture, it’s no different for the children of God. Every citizen of the ekklesia shares in a particular culture that is unique to us. While differences may exist among us, authentic disciples of the Lord share the same essential faith. From that faith, and the Biblical concepts upon which it is forged, springs a shared spiritual heritage, a cultural value system, and a life-sustaining theology complete with its own language—a language which, as the Apostle Paul states, “we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (I Corinthians 2:13, NASB).

However, outsiders—people who are not disciples of the Lord Jesus and have little or no interest in pursuing that walk of life—simply do not comprehend very much of the language. You know why? Because, as the Apostle Paul goes on to say, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (I Corinthians 2:14, NASB).

Please understand, I’m not talking about religious terms and terminology; I’m not talking about sacerdotal, or sacramental, ecclesiastical language. The religious organizations of men are filled with sanctimonious liturgical rhetoric. But does it really matter whether or not someone knows the difference between what is called, “advent,” and “lent”? These are not even Biblical concepts and, therefore, have little or no meaning to an authentic disciple of Christ.

But what I am talking about is the language of the heart—the language of faith, hope, love, surrender, commitment, dedication, devotion, sacrifice, self-denial, and sanctification. Listen to the prophet Isaiah’s explanation of this language as he continues with the above prophecy:

The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient nor did I turn back.

I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard;

I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. for the Lord God helps Me,

Therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set My face like flint,

And I know that I will not be ashamed.

(Isaiah 50:5-7, NASB)

Do you understand what Isaiah is communicating to us in this prophecy? Do you recognize the messianic message of the prophet? The word, “messianic,” means: “of or relating to a messiah” (Messianic, 2014). These words were written about 750 BC; and he’s talking about Jesus.  He’s prophesying about what Jesus would have to endure just before being crucified.  But more than that, he’s describing for us the heart of Jesus—His humility, His surrender, His sacrificial obedience to the will of God.  But Isaiah’s prophecy doesn’t end with Jesus.  His message extends through and beyond Jesus, describing the heart of every disciple—every authentic new covenant child of God.  The more we grow into the heart of Christ, the more clearly we understand and speak, “the tongue of disciples.”

The world is filled with people, even multitudes of religious people, who have little or no clue as to what Isaiah is really talking about because they just don’t “get” this language. The concepts he is sharing in this prophecy run completely counter to what the spirit of this world is propagating among humanity. And it’s not that people don’t understand the words on the page; that’s not the problem. Rather, the problem is that the desires of the flesh—self-fulfillment, health, wealth, comfort, security, and the pursuit of happiness above all else—cloud people’s minds to the extent that the concepts Isaiah is sharing contain no personal, intimate message for them. It’s a foreign language to them; and one that few people seem excited about learning. As Paul later said to the disciples at Corinth, “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4, NASB).

But the covenant children of God understand the mindset, the lifestyle, the global paradigm to which they are called, and that they share among one another. It’s the language of discipleship. It’s the language of the cross. It’s the language of Jesus, when He said, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38, NASB).

As we sojourn here upon the earth, continually in quest of those spiritual realities that really matter, it is always refreshing to meet up with someone, whether it be a personal acquaintance or a new friend, with whom we can communicate, on a spiritual level, the deeper matters of the heart. Hearts are bound together in love, at ever deepening levels, through shared language. But that only happens when people share the same values, the same ideology, the same heartfelt commitment to the Lord and to the truth of His word.

Do you speak my language?


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