"CHURCH" OR "ECCLESIA"?
The comment was made on a Christadelphian on-line discussion group under the heading “Time to Ditch “Ecclesia?”:
“There is no logical reason why “church” should be avoided”
One very logical and very important reason is that the word “church” does not represent the Truth of the matter in either it’s etymology or current usage. The word does not denote assemblies of called-out ones, but rather describes the institutions of the Apostasy. The word “ecclesia” has a different etymology and sense to the word “church”: the two words are not synonymous.
I would question why some want to “ditch” the word “ecclesia”, especially since it is the word selected by the Spirit to describe the assemblies of Christ’s brethren. The following extract from Eureka by Bro Thomas seems apposite:
In the rendering of the original before us I have not translated the word ekklesiai, but simply transferred it. It is generally rendered churches; but this word does not express the ideas of ecclesia. Church is a corruption of kuriake, which signifies “pertaining to a lord.” The Anglo-Saxons took the first and last syllables of the Greek word, as kur-kef which they spelled Circe; but which is more obviously shown in the Scotch kirke; both of which are equivalent to the modern English Chur-ch. “Something pertaining to a lord” is the etymological signification of the word; and although, in a certain sense, an ecclesia is something pertaining to a lord, and that lord the Lord of heaven and earth, yet the ideas of property and lordship are not contained in the word ecclesia. This is one reason why in this exposition of the Apocalypse we reject the word church as the representative of ecclesia.
Another reason is, that ideas are conventionally associated with the word which are altogether unscriptural. Ecclesia never signifies in the Bible “the place which Christians consecrate to the worship of God;” nor does it signify such collective bodies of “professors of religion” as pass current for Christians in and with the world, under the various “names and denominations” of “Christendom.” These, and many other ideas associated with the word church, such as churchman, church-warden, church-attire, churchyard, churching of women, and all such papistical foolishness, are altogether foreign from the scriptural use of ecclesia.
In order, therefore, to get quit of all the rubbish we exclude church from our Apocalyptic vocabulary, and hold on to the word used by the apostles. We have therefore transferred it in our rendering without translation. Still, as an expounder of the word of truth, it is our duty to make the word ecclesia perfectly intelligible to the unlearned reader; for we write principally for the benefit of such.
ECCLESIA, then, is a word compounded of ek, “out of,” and klesis, “a call, or invitation.” Hence an ekklesis, is “an invitation to come out;” and the assembly of people convened in consequence of their acceptance of the invitation is an ecclesia. This is the etymology of the word, which is also in agreement with its scriptural constitution, which we shall briefly explain.
The mission of the apostles was to the Jews first, and afterwards to the Gentiles, for the purpose of announcing to them an invitation from the Deity to certain things, which, when accepted, became to the invited “the Hope of the Calling.” In delivering this message, or invitation, they distinctly defined the things to which their hearers were invited. In doing this, they informed them of the purpose of Deity—that He had appointed a day in the which the whole inhabited earth should be ruled in righteousness by the Anointed Jesus, whom he had raised from among the dead—Dan. 2:44 ; 7:14; Acts 17:31. But that, before that “day” of the administration of the world’s affairs in righteousness should be introduced, He had, in his great mercy and goodness, determined to invite all Jews and Gentiles to share in that kingdom and glory with eternal life, upon certain specified and indispensable conditions. Hence the twelve apostles, constituting “the Apostleship of the Circumcision,” were sent to the circumcised; and Paul to the uncircumcised, to invite all ranks and degrees of all nations “to God’s Kingdom and Glory”—1 Thess. 2 : 12.
The result proposed by this invitation was not the converting of the “immortal souls” of mankind, and the saving of them from eternal conflagration in the apocalyptic “Lake of Fire and Brimstone;” it was not that they might “get religion,” and by its efficacy obtain a right and title to mansions in the skies: no such clerical result as these were proposed by the invitation. The invitation was designed, in the words of James, “to take out of the nations a people FOR HIS NAME.” The expected consummation was not the conversion of nations by the apostles and their successors in the faith, but the separation of a class from the general body of mankind, which class should constitute the “ONE YAHWEH-NAME;” and that by this Almighty Name the world should be ruled in righteousness. When this name is completed,—that is, when the last believer shall be inducted into it, and all its elements shall be glorified,—it will constitute the ecclesia in its largest sense. When glorified, its members will occupy “the heavens;” not the skies, but the apocalyptic heavens, to which the kingdoms of this world belong—Rev. 11:15 ; Dan. 7:18, 27. In the present state, they are “an ecclesia of Chiefborns, who have been enrolled for heavens”—Heb. 12:23. The apostles were engaged in enrolling men and women for the future administration of the world’s affairs; so that when they shall attain to dominion they will be “the Heavens that rule.” The gospel invites men to enrolment for becoming in due time the stars and constellations of the New Heavens, in which dwells righteousness, that they may shine as such in the kingdom of their Father—Dan. 12:3 ; Matt. 13:43.
But men and women become elements of this people of the Name upon certain specified and indispensable conditions. They are invited to God’s kingdom and glory; and they accept the invitation in believing the gospel of the kingdom and name, and subjecting themselves to “the obedience of faith.” What Paul styles “the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus,” are these: “He having believed and been baptized shall be saved; but he having not believed shall be condemned.” If it be asked, what is a man required to believe? The Lord Jesus replies in the previous verse, “THE GOSPEL” – Mark 16:15, 16. There is no salvation without belief of, and obedience to this. Hence when Philip, one of the seven deacons, preached to the Samaritans, it is stated in Acts 8:12, that “when they believed Philip evangelising THE THINGS concerning the Kingdom of the Deity, and of the Name of the Anointed Jesus, they were immersed, both men and women.” The things of the Kingdom and the Name are the great subject-matter of the Gospel of God, “promised before,” says Paul, “through the Prophets in holy writings”—Rom. 1:2: and “the power of God for salvation to every one who believes.” Without this power none can be saved; hence the immense importance of “the gospel of the kingdom,” which is totally different to anything preached for salvation by the clergy. “The things” must be known, understood, believed, and obeyed, with an honest and good heart. This is indispensable. But the work before me is not the exposition of the gospel; but the exposition of the Apocalypse for the benefit of those who have already comprehended and obeyed the gospel. Nevertheless, for the benefit of any sincere reader who is ignorant, we refer him to the Covenants made with Abraham and David, and to the testimony concerning Jesus in the writings of the apostles, and to the preaching by these as illustrated in the Acts, for an answer to the question, “What are the things to be believed for salvation?”—See Gen. 12:1-3, 7; 13:14, 15; 15:6, 7, 8-21; 17;22; 1 Chron. 17:11-15; Matt. 16; Acts 2 ; 3 ; 8 ; 10 ; 26:6, 7, ; 28:20, 23.
Now when men and women became Christians after the apostolic fashion, (and this is the only way of any account,) they became members of “the Ecclesia of Chiefborns.” They were addressed in the apostolic epistles as κλητοι kletoi, “THE CALLED,” or invited, “of Jesus Anointed;” as “made holy in Jesus Anointed, called Saints,” or holy ones; as “the faithful in the Anointed Jesus;” as “the faithful brethren in an Anointed One;” and as “the Ecclesia IN God the Father, and IN the Lord, Jesus Anointed.” They, being in the Deity and in the Anointed One, and the anointing being in them, were a manifestation of Deity in flesh; and were addressed by Paul, saying thus, “Ye are all Sons of Deity in the Anointed Jesus through the faith: for as many as have been immersed into the Anointed, have put on the Anointed. There is (in him) neither Jew nor Greek; there is (in him) neither slave nor freeman; nor is there (in him) male and female: for ye are ALL ONE in the Anointed Jesus: and if ye be the Anointed’s, then are ye the seed of Abraham, and Heirs according to the promise”—Gal. 3 : 26-29.
From these premises, then, it is evident that an Ecclesia is a community of men and women, who have accepted an invitation to the kingdom and glory of the Deity; in believing the promises and testimonies concerning the kingdom and name of Jesus Anointed; and in being immersed into him: by which faith and obedience they have been “washed from their sins in his blood; and made kings and priests to the Deity, even to the Father;” and so separated from the body of mankind for the Age to Come. The Ecclesia of Chiefborns is, therefore, not the Kingdom of God, as church, in the clerical sense, is styled; but it is the community of the HEIRS of the Kingdom; and every one knows, or ought to know, the difference between the heirs of an estate, and the estate itself.
From these premises, the reader will readily perceive that the distinction existing between church in the usual acceptation, and ecclesia as defined above, is not fanciful, but real and important. The churches of the Gentiles are not ecclesia. They make no pretensions to be such, according to the definition I have demonstrated. The members of the churches, judging from their prayers, extemporized and printed, are not saints, but “miserable sinners.” This is the designation imposed upon themselves by the most pious of the most exquisitely orthodox establishments. Thus the evangelical divines, who lead the stereotyped devotions of the Fabers, the Flemmings, the Elliots, the Crolys, the Bickersteths, and McNeils, send up their voices to heaven, saying, “Lord, have mercy upon us miserable sinners!”
Now, if the most pious and orthodox denominate themselves thus, what must the schismatics of the heterodox conventicles be! They all, doubtless, know themselves; and as they one and all proclaim themselves to be miserable sinners, who have gone astray like lost sheep, it would be presumption in me to dispute it. I accept, therefore, their condemnation of themselves; and am, consequently, justified in saying that a church, as distinguished from AN ECCLESIA, is a community of miserable sinners, possessed by a lord commonly known as “the god of this world.”
It is not wonderful, then, that “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life,” should reign in the pulpits and all the pews. Churchmen, since the days of Eusebius, to go no further back, will have it that the church is the kingdom of God. Well, we grant it, with the understanding, that the God whose kingdom it is claimed to be is SIN, the great god, or power, or the world. There is nothing like understanding, and being understood, so that we may be able to call things by their right names. Here we have the line of demarcation broadly and distinctly drawn. The ECCLESIAS of the Scriptures are “the Heritages,” or kleroi the true clergies of the Deity, (1 Pet. 5:3,) who shall possess the earth and all that it contains; while the churches are the Kingdom of SIN, possessed and administered by his clergy for their own glory and behoof. This being indisputable, the reader will understand that the Apocalypse is not addressed to the churches of “Christendom;” neither is the salutation of joy and peace to them. Joy and peace are only for the Saints in the Anointed Jesus, who know, and have obeyed the truth, having been purified thereby—1 Pet. 1 : 22. The salutations of the scriptures are only for these; never for “miserable sinners,” whose case we dismiss for the present with the remark, that the apostles never commenced their epistles with “joy and peace to you, miserable sinners, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Anointed”; but on the contrary, “to you, the Saints and faithful.” God is the Father, and Jesus the Lord, only of the enlightened and obedient; hence to these only did they send greeting.