Ekklesia is the new testament word for church. It means gathering or assembly, not the building!
Hebrews 10:25 says: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
The writer to the Hebrews is very clear that believers are to gather together. They are to assemble together. When they do so they become the ekklesia.
In the opening chapters of Acts, where we see this new religion forming & beginning to establish itself Luke informs us that there are 4 elements that dominated the ekklesia:
1. Doctrine: they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. This formed a firm foundation which informed the rest of their lives, their thinking, their motivation, their actions.
2. Fellowship. Now I will be really, really blunt here as I think this little word has been much abused by Christians. If you study out the Greek word koinōnia you will find it has a variety of meanings none of which means companionship or socialability. It can mean partnership. It can mean communion. It can mean relief or contribution in aid. So, with what, or with whom do we partnership? You see. When you look at the scripture the correct way in the context of all scripture it becomes obvious we fellowship with Christ through the partnership of the Holy Spirit. He is the head. We are the body. We have the mind of Christ & His Holy Spirit resides within us. This becomes even more obvious as we move to the 3rd & 4th points.
3. The Breaking of bread ~ that is the communion meal.
4. Is Prayer ~ literally as we have seen in our study of the Lord’s Prayer, the Prayer. When you understand that what we know as the Lord’s prayer is actually a teaching outline you have a better idea of how the newly formed church prayed for itself & its community both in private devotions & public worship
In other words the inward fellowship of the Holy Spirit resulted in an outward manifestation: common worship; mutual kindness & benevolence; Alms.
Well, you might say, we are not the first century church. Things have changed. True we are not the first century church but God does not change and a testimony is established by 2 or 3 witnesses so please turn to Ephesians 4:11 & 12
11And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
I particularly want to look at the 2nd part of this passage. Firstly note those in *ministry* are to minister to the ekklessia, the church body. It is the church body that ministers to the world. The only exception would be evangelists but they too are expected to train others to perform this ministry. Remember too that the spreading of the gospel is the responsibility of all believers.
Now I want to break the Greek down so that you all understand completely what Paul is saying to the church in this passage. The first word we need to look at is equipping. Strong’s translates it this way: a perfectly adjusted adaptation; complete qualification for a specific purpose. Those who are being equipped like this are the *saints*.
Saints is hagios which means : separate from common condition and use; dedicated; hallowed; used of things, τὰ ἅγια, the sanctuary; and of persons, saints, e.g., members of the first Christian communities; pure, righteous, ceremonially or morally; holy
Work is ergon which can mean charge, that is an obligation or a command. Ministry is diakonia which actually means acts of service. Why? To build the living body of Christ.
When we put it all together we find that God appoints people within the body of Christ who help believers become completely qualified & adjusted to be set apart [that is what holy means, to be set apart for a specific purpose] so that they might fulfil the obligation or command of service, which builds the living body of Christ. That is why you come here each Sunday.
Even if you did not realise it, that is why we are commanded to come together. It is perfectly possible to worship privately. Indeed we are encouraged to do so. It is possible to pray privately. It is possible to praise God alone. What it is not possible to do is to exhort, encourage & build up each other without each other. We are nowhere commanded to hold church lunches, Ladies teas, men’s breakfasts. I am not saying these things are wrong. I am saying they are not what scripture means when it talks about fellowship. It is talking about what Paul refers to as communion with the Holy Spirit that results in a specific lifestyle.
Now I want you to look at something very carefully because our misunderstanding of these things has resulted in both the church’s disobedience & its ineffectiveness. When you read through Acts closely you understand that the first apostles had a very, very close relationship with the Holy Spirit & when they spoke they spoke with the mind of Christ. What Paul is saying to the Church is a directive from Christ Himself & we ignore it at our peril.
Let’s look at the words of Christ Himself.
Matthew 5: !4~ 15 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.… "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
It is our light that is to shine before men ~ but what is that light? Christ said: I am the Light of the World. He also said: Abide in me. The result, when we actually do what Christ said to do & abide in Him is that we become more & more like Him. Paul understood this. In Corinthians he remarks that we will be purified like gold. The thing about purifying gold is it is done in the fire & you know it is done when you can see your reflection in the gold.
In other words, it is not easy to be a Christian, not even in the free west, not even in a nominally Christian country, not if you are serious about it. This world has a king & he is our enemy. He hates us because he hates the one we represent. He hates the one we love. It is he who creates the fire. Very, very few people are capable of persevering when everything around them conspires against them. At the very least they are tempted to compromise. At the worst this world corrupts then deceives them.
The Father knows this & so in His lovingkindness, goodness & mercy He has provided a way for us to be encouraged to persevere in our walk by coming together for mutual support. It is not to create a *Christians Only* club. It is to build us up in the faith that we might do the works that Jesus did ~ yes, & even greater works. This is what the bible teaches. John 14:12
Acts13:47 teaches: For the Lord gave us this command when he said, 'I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.'
One of the plagues of modern Christianity is its cliqueyness. Instead of focusing outwardly it has focused inwardly & the problem with that is we begin looking at each other & as we all are sinners & have flaws they begin to loom large in our eyes.
However, when we do the biblical thing & understand our focus is to be outward towards the unsaved we understand how much we need each other.
The story goes: A mother went to get her son out of bed with the exhortion: Come on, son. You have to get up. You are late, but her son didn’t want to get up. He whinged & he moaned. I don’t want to get up. Nobody likes me. Nobody listens to me. Why should I get up? Exasperated his mother explodes: Because your congregation is waiting for you in the church!
We laugh ~ because there is a lot of truth in that little story. It illustrates a very salient point. If we play at church, if we don’t do what the ekklesia was designed by God to do, then what was meant to be a blessing to us becomes a curse.
There is nothing sadder than a church whose people have so lost their way that they squabble & bicker amongst themselves, who will not listen to sound doctrine or do what the Word expressly tells them to do. Jesus is very clear & quite specific. He is the head. We are the body. What does the head do? It does our thinking for us. It directs our actions. What does the body do? The body does what the head tells it to do.
See, God isn’t running a democracy. He is running a theocracy. Do it my way or you show you do not belong to me. Now, we all make mistakes. We all have moments when we are overwhelmed & feel we cannot go on. I am not talking about that. I am talking about a deliberate perseverance in sin. Wrong thinking. Wrong actions. Wrong motivations. We must understand we are in a battle & we are called upon to become so radically altered we do indeed become a light unto the world. We do not do that by remaining the same. We cannot do that by becoming lone wolves. We cannot do it alone. We need each other. Where I am weak you may be strong. Where you are weak I will be strong. We have each faced trials & tribulations & learnt spiritual lessons from them about how to overcome the world & thus we can help each other.
God gave me a vision for this church ~ & not just for this church but for these islands. He began by showing me 2 things:
· Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
· Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee,...
That is the problem. We have no vision because we lack the knowledge of God ~ but there is a solution!
This is why we come to church. To grow in the knowledge & love of God, to strengthen each other in the vision God has given our church & to exhort & encourage each other in our various ministries. This is the vision God has for us. It is found in the book of Acts & I will give it to you from the King James Version because that is how it was given to me: Acts 17:6 ~ These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
I envision a people who so know & love their God & saviour that everywhere they go they turn their world upside down! They say what Jesus would say. They do what Jesus would do. They do not talk like the world. They do not walk like the world. No! They walk & talk like their lord & saviour, Jesus Christ!