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Lesson 2 – Transcript
Because I know you love the Lord and want to do the right thing, beloved child of God, I know you’ve probably given some thought to what it means to be a part of God’s forever family. Our quest for authentic Christianity will certainly take us into the realm of our personal relationships with others who have, like us, surrendered their hearts and lives to the Lord. In fact, the Apostle Peter reminds us that we are to, “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (I Peter 2:17, NASB). We will talk more in-depth about our call to community and what it means to “love the brotherhood” in a later section of our study together. But before we do, I believe there are some very basic things that we need to understand about our calling.
Having intimate fellowship with other believers with whom we can share life, love, and even the struggles we sometimes encounter as we sojourn together in this mortal realm is an essential element of our Christian faith and a great blessing. However, that does not mean that we are obligated to run out and join up with any particular religious organization simply because it calls itself a church. In fact, concerning this matter, we would do well to remember Jesus’ word of warning to His disciples when He told them, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NASB).
There are “churches” and other religious institutions that are leading people astray — away from the truth of God’s word. This should not surprise us because, even in Bible days, there were already false teachers moving among the Christian community subtly leading people away from truth and pulling them after themselves. The Apostle Paul says, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NASB).
It might surprise you to learn that the actual word, “church,” is nowhere found in the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament. The word, “church,” is a relatively modern invention, and was not actually used by Jesus, or the apostles and prophets of the first century, to describe the global or local community of God’s people. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the modern word, “church,” is simply a transliteration of the Middle English word, “chirche,” from the Old English word “cirice,” which had been ultimately derived from the Greek word “kyriakon,” which came from the original Greek word, “kyriakos,” meaning: “of the lord” (Church, 2013).
This Greek word, “kyriakon,” can only be found twice in the New Testament: “Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s [κυριακόν – kuriakon] supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20, NASB), and, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s [κυριακῆ – kuriake] day and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet…” (Revelation 1:10, NASB). In both of these instances, the Greek word, “kuriakon”—from whence we derive the English word, “church”—simply refers to something belonging to the Lord; in this case the “supper,” and the “day.” The word has no direct connection to any particular organization or group of people.
So, the actual word, “church,” in the English language is not really a translation; but, actually, just a substitute for an entirely different Greek word—that word is “ekklesia.” Just why this substitution was made remains somewhat of a mystery, but it likely has much to do with the power and prominence of organized religion—Catholicism, Greek Orthodox, Church of England—by the time the ancient New Testament manuscripts were translated into English during the Middle Ages.
The original Greek word for the community of God’s people—“ekklesia”—is used 111 times in the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament. The word, “ekklesia,” is a compound word composed of two other Greek words: “ek” – meaning, “out of,” or “away from,” and “kaleo” – meaning, “to call.” So the word, “ekklesia,” refers to those people who are “called out” or “called away” (Ekklesia, 2013).
In ancient times 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, 2013). But, as used in the Bible, the word refers to the saved people of God; those who have been called out, or called away, from the world and are, therefore, in many ways, different from most people around them.
It is of vital importance to our quest for an authentic life in Christ, beloved, that we understand the implications of what it means to be “called out.” An example of what that means 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 so different from the rest of the people of the world that they have an entirely different value system. 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 for sacred use” (Sanctified, 2014). Jesus says here that it is the truth of God’s word—the Bible—that sanctifies His people, or that sets them apart, and causes them to become so unusually different from all the rest of the world around them.
Another example of being called out can be seen in the Apostle Paul’s admonition to God’s people living in Corinth when he said to them:
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.
(2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
While the Bible teaches that, “as beloved children” we are to “walk in love, just as Christ also loved you” (Ephesians 5:2, NASB) and we do, therefore, love people; still, our “first love” (Revelation 2:4) will always be our Lord Jesus. As the Apostle Peter put it, “…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (I Peter 3:15, NASB). For this reason, as seen in the passage above, the ekklesia are people with a radically different perspective on relationships. Because we choose to love Jesus first and foremost, our hearts will not allow us to become intimately involved with “unbelievers” to the point where we become dependent on them. We will not permit ourselves to enter into “partnership” with “lawlessness,” or have “fellowship with darkness.” The ekklesia are people who are not afraid to be seen as being different. We choose to walk hand-in-hand with our Lord and separate and apart from the crowd—even if doing so causes us to be unpopular—because we value our relationship with God more than we do the approval or acceptance of others.
Yet another example of being called out can be seen in the Apostle John’s instruction concerning how we as Christians are called to live and prioritize our personal value system while here on earth; he says:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
(I John 2:15-17)
The ekklesia, therefore, are people who choose to “not love the world nor the things in the world”; that is, they are not living for this world and do not attach themselves to the things of this world. They are not compelled by, or controlled by, “the lust of the flesh”—physical needs and desires—or “the lust of the eyes”—materialistic wants, possessions—or “the boastful pride of life”—power, position, social prestige—but rather, they seek only “the will of God.”
We might stop and ask ourselves at this point, “Is our quest for the authentic Christian life, then, leading us into the realms of personal sacrifice?” And I think we have to answer, “Yes, to a great extent, that is the very direction this faith-walk seems to be taking us!” Remember that the Apostle Paul called us to just such a lifestyle when he said:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2, NASB)
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could become a “living and holy sacrifice” if they are not committed to living sacrificially. The authentic Christian life is, indeed, a life of sacrifice; and it is a life of denial. Remember that Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:23-24, NASB).
While these truths may fly right in the face of Western civilization’s materialistic value system, sacrifice and self-denial is at the very heart of Christian discipleship. Living sacrificially is the very essence of what it means to take up our cross and lose our lives for Christ’s sake. And the ekklesia understands this very well.
Hopefully, through your study of God’s word, you have already come to understand that there really is only one universal family of God. According to scripture, when you were “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38, NASB), you were also “baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13, NASB). The men and women who constitute the ekklesia are nothing more or less than the saved body of Christ. This is why the Bible tells us that, when men and women were being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, “…the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47, NASB).
Of course, we know that no church can save you—no one can be saved simply by joining some church—but, rather, the ekklesia (church) is the saved. We should also realize that no one can simply go out and join the ekklesia. Rather, God adds to the saved body of Christ those whom He calls out from the world the very moment they are “born again” of “water and the Spirit” (John 3:3-5, NASB). Our baptism, then, not only connects us with the blood of Christ which saves us, but it also represents our new birth into “God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19, NASB)—His forever family, the called out body of Christ, the ekklesia.
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