Scriptures and Thoughts on the Word “Church”

Greek:

Ekklesia – an assembly, a casual gathering of people, or people with a shared belief.
Generally any group, or specifically God’s “called out-ones” universally or in a particular assembly.

Hebrew:

Qahal – “assembly”
Edah – “congregation”

Where can a church meet?

 (Romans 16:3-5) Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.

 (1 Corinthians 16:19) The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.

 (Colossians 4:15) Greet the brothers in Laodicea, as well as Nympha and the church that meets at her house.

 (Philemon 1:2) to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets at your house:

Do the following verses suggest that early Christians congregated in the synagogue?

 (Acts 13:42-48) And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles… And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

 (Acts 18:26) And he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

 (Acts 19:8) And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

 (Acts 2:46-47) Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Other places:

(Acts 20:7-12) On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead.

 (Acts 16:13) And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.

 How should we reconcile congregational autonomy with universal cooperation?

 (Acts 14:23) “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

 (I Corinthians 16:1-4) “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.  But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.”

What bearing does the following passage have, considering that apostles and prophets were involved, which are not with us today?

(Acts 15:1-6) “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” “So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.  And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.”But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.””Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.”

(Acts 15:22-32) “They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.”Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” — to whom we gave no such commandment — it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,”  …”We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:”  …”So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.  When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.” Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.”

What is the “rock” that Jesus built His church on?

(Matthew 16:13-19) Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

(John 20:21-23) So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

(1 Peter 2:4-8) And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,”and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

(Ephesians 2:19-22) 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, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

(1 Corinthians 10:4) and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

Do different guidelines apply to the church when assembled versus when dispersed?

(1 Corinthians 14:34-35) The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

(1 Timothy 2:11-12) A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.  (1 Timothy 3:14-15) I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

(1 Corinthians 11:20-22) Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.

(1 Corinthians 14:26-33) What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

What does ‘forsaking the assembly’ mean and is it ever acceptable?

(Hebrews 10:23-25) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Forsake – to “leave in the desert,” to abandon, to leave in straits, neglect

Assembling together – From episunago; a complete collection; especially a Christian meeting (for worship) — assembling (gathering) together.

Habit – ethos – an unwritten custom; behavior based on tradition (a habit) fixed by the religious social life of a nation.

What is the basis for the unity of the church? Complete doctrinal agreement? Following Jesus? Something else?

(Ephesians 4:1-16)
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peaceThere is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptismone God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,
AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachersfor the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christuntil we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

(Romans 14) do not judge based on “opinions”

What names or descriptions are given to the church in Scripture?

Brethren: (occurs 188 times in NT)

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” (Acts 6:3)

“And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” (Acts 11:29)

“Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.” (Acts 15:32)

“After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’” (Acts 15:36)

“And he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:2)

“After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.” (Acts 21:17)

“There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.” (Acts 28:14)

Church: (occurs 112 times)

The church in Jerusalem.” (Acts 8:1)

The church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31)

“They had appointed elders for them in every church.” (Acts 14:23)

The church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

The church that is in their house.” (Romans 16:5)

“All the churches of Christ greet you.” (Romans 16:16)

“The churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“The church of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10:32, 15:9, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 3:5)

“The churches of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:4)

“The churches of Judea which were in Christ.” (Galatians 1:22)

“The churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.” (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

“The household of God, which is the church of the living God.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Saints: (occurs 61 times)
“Your saints at Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)

The saints who lived at Lydda.” (Acts 9:32)

“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” (Romans 1:7)

“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

The Way: (occurs 5 times)

“So that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2)

“About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:23)

“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14)

Should people ever be kicked out of the church? If so, when and how?

(1 Corinthians 5:9-13) I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.

(1 Corinthians 5) Entire chapter (2 Corinthians 2) The Outcome

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Do Not Read Your Apathy into the Text

When famous authors give public readings of their own work, they often draw quite a crowd, because people are interested in hearing a book or a poem read the way that it was intended by the original author.

Do you ever wish that we could experience a public reading of scripture by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, or Peter? Or better yet, by Jesus Himself? What if Jesus came to our congregation and delivered His Sermon on the Mount for us in person?

I wonder if we sometimes fail to understand the true power of a text not by reading into it an incorrect meaning, but an incorrect tone; specifically, an apathetic or overly academic tone. We know we must be on guard against “twisting” or “distorting” the scriptures to convey an idea that they do not intend, as Peter warns in the third chapter of his first letter. But is it also possible to do injustice to a passage not by twisting it into a false doctrine, but simply by dictating a true doctrine in an empty and lifeless way?

We do not know exactly what Jesus sounded like when He preached about repentance and the Kingdom that was at hand. And we do not know exactly how Peter or Paul might have delivered a sermon or publicly read one of their letters. But we do have a few clues in scripture.

Jesus taught with authority, unlike the scribes: “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:28-29).”

Peter encourages speakers to convey authority in their own speech also, because they are declaring the very words of God: “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God. (1 Peter 4:11).”

The early Christians prayed that they would be able to speak the word with confidence and boldness: “‘And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence’… And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:21-23).”

Paul described his own preaching style as one of fear and trembling: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).”

Have you ever heard a preacher who spoke with great authority, not because of his own wisdom but because of the power of the word of God? Have you heard preaching filled with great confidence and even boldness? How about with fear, or literally with trembling? We are certainly blessed when we can hear preaching from men whose great faith fills their preaching with these qualities.

Such were the men who wrote scripture, and most of all the great man Jesus Christ of whom they wrote.

May we remember when we read scripture that it contains not only truth, but also power, and may we not only avoid reading false doctrines into the text, but also a false apathy, laziness, or boredom that is not original to the text.

Verses about the word Elder (Elder/presbyter/overseer/bishop/shepherd/pastor)

Presbuteros – “one who is older in the faith.”
Episkopos – “overseer.”
Poimēn – “shepherd.”

(Titus 1:4-9) “To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”

(1 Timothy 3:1-7) “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

(Acts 20:17, 28-31) From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them… Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the 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, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”

(Acts 14:23) “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

(1 Peter 5:1-5) Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

(Ephesians 4:11-13) 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; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

(James 5:14) “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

(Acts 11:28-30) “One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.”

(Hebrews 13:17) Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

(Acts 15:1-2, 4, 6) But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question… When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them… The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.

(Acts 16:4) As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.

(Acts 21:18) On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.

(1 Timothy 4:14) Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

(1 Peter 2:25) For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

(Philippians 1:1) Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.

(Mark 10:35-43) “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.’ And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’ Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”

(Psalm 78:70-72) “He also chose David His servant And took him from the sheepfolds; From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him To shepherd Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands.”