Salvation 2.0: Part 1.6: The Church

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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.

Ekklesia

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.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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3 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 1.6: The Church

  1. Jesus’ prayer that those who believe in him be one is one of the most neglected and least understood passages in all of the scriptures. We neglect it, and go on as if everything is hunky-dory! And wonder why the world will not take us seriously. Sad, sad, sad

    All this is in spite of the epistles spending so much energy in calling us to be one with each other through our union with Jesus and the Father in the Spirit. Perhaps we will have to undergo a great persecution to winnow us out and purify the body of Christ as if by fire that we may be purged of our predilection of debating each other about mundane technicalities while the world around us is merrily on its broad road leading to destruction.

    Thank you so much for trying to highlight a grander view of the glorious church than I ever heard as i grew up in the ’40’s & ’50’s

  2. Larry Cheek says:

    It is no wonder why the world outside of the Church cannot believe that there is unity in Christianity. Satan has accomplished a very large victory for his cause by joining the church, dividing it into segments and conquering a large number of true followers who will never follow God’s Plan. Divide and conquer, is a very successful tool.

  3. Dwight says:

    In I Corinthians Paul only got onto them for dividing along names and not for the names themselves. The church or as the scriptures mean, the congregation, is made up of the saved no matter where and no matter when and we have no ability to determine who is in or out. This should be humbling to us and stop us from being inclusive and exclusive of others based on anything other than being in Christ. Now there are some doctrines that are wrong, because they deny the Godliness of Christ and His pre-eminence and rule. But unity in the congregation depends upon our unity in Christ “IF we walk with the Lord we have fellowship one with another” and often we translate this to mean, “If you walk with us and in our doctrine, which is walking with the Lord, then you can have fellowship with us”. A bit of irony is hearing people say, “I won’t go worship with them, but if they want to come worship with us, then that is fine”, even though the worship is the same. We draw the lines, even before we see God’s line or don’t see it.

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