Now, I’ve covered some pretty large chunks of the Bible regarding salvation in this age, and I’ve not yet mentioned the church by name. Of course, we know a secret: the Kingdom and the church are the same thing viewed through two different lenses.
The Kingdom is the new, spiritual Israel. It’s faithful Israel — the remnant of Israel that accepted Jesus as Messiah (Rom 11), with the faithful Gentiles grafted in by the hand of God. It’s Israel under the rule of King Jesus, being transformed by God’s own Spirit. So is the church.
Foy Wallace, Jr. correctly taught the Churches of Christ that the Kingdom is the church. His mistake was not understanding what that means about the church. And what it means about the church is what I just covered.
The church is about far, far, far more and more important things than Five Acts of Worship or being Scripturally Organized. Those things are not addressed by the prophets at all. They are barely referenced in the NT. The NT is far more concerned with teaching us lessons about the Kingdom, such as the Kingdom Parables, the Sermon on the Mount, and Romans 12. There are gobs of materials like that.
That means that, long before we worry about instrumental music or the number of children an elder must have, we should be worried about justice and righteousness, transformation into the image of Christ and God, and our dominion over God’s Creation. Those are much bigger issues. Kingdom issues. And therefore church issues.
The church is simply what the Kingdom looks like to someone who hasn’t read the prophets. Ekklesia doesn’t really mean the “called out,” although that makes for a nice sermon or two. Rather, it merely means any gathering of people — even a mob. Unless you’ve read the OT.
In the OT, ekklesia refers to Israel gathered as one to hear God’s word and to enter into covenant with God. It’s used in the Septuagint of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai, watching in awe as God’s presence thundered and roared and burned on top of the mountain. And of several possible Greek words, this is the word the Spirit chose for the Kingdom.
(Deu 18:15-16 ESV) “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers — it is to him you shall listen — 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ “
Most importantly, there’s only one ekklesia in the Bible. We tend to call this the church-universal, because the same word can be used of the church in a given city. This is also an ekklesia, but it’s all Christians in that city. It’s not just those who can get along and agree how to worship and organize without damning each other. It’s every believer in that city. Anything less does not receive the title ekklesia. Not in the Bible.
Just so, there is but one Kingdom. One King. One church. One salvation. One faith.
But there’s more. In the Torah, the ekklesia is Israel redeemed from slavery but still in the desert, traveling to the Promised Land, the inheritance to be given by God, being led by the special, visible, powerful, intense presence of God among them — in the camp. It’s Israel being fed and given drink, protected from the enemies, and provided for by the hand of God. No more than is enough for each day — but enough each day. Sound familiar?
There’s a reason the NT routinely refers back to the Exodus when the writers speak of the church.
Oh, and ekklesia is also used in the OT of the gathered army of Israel. It’s the assembly of the warriors prepared for battle.