Friday, May 25, 2018

What Is the Church?

In the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the church comprises the “whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be, gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof” (25.1). This is otherwise known as the invisible church. In another sense, the church is the body of the faithful (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 2:21–22; Rev. 21:2, 9), consisting of those throughout the world who outwardly profess faith, together with their children (WCF 25.2). This is otherwise known as the visible church.

The Greek word that is translated as “church” in the Bible is ekklēsia. Conscious as we should be of the etymological fallacy (the idea that a word means what its composite root means), in this case it would seem to have merit. Thus, ekklēsia translates the Hebrew word qahal, the noun form meaning “assembly” or “congregation” and the verb essentially signifying “to call.”

Often in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word qahal is translated synagōgē. Common to both Hebrew and Greek words is the idea of assembling together before the Lord. Thus, the Bible translation of Paul’s day (the Septuagint) rendered Deuteronomy 4:10 (“assemble the people before me”) using the word ekklēsia — the gathering together of the Lord’s people as a covenant community before their covenant God.

Taking this etymological clue, we can expand what the word church in the New Testament means along three lines of thought.... Read More

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