THE EKKLESIA: GOD’S PATTERN—GOD’S DESIRE
We start by asking what really is the ekklesia? Most likely the average person has never heard the term. Even within the Body of Christ only a very small number know what a true ekklesia is and what life in an ekklesia is all about. Something’s wrong, terribly wrong. This widespread ignorance is tragic, for the concept of the ekklesia and how it works is central to our understanding of how God desires His people to live. This is such a tragedy because the ekklesia (what we call Ekklesia Living) is the New Testament pattern which God, in His all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present mercy has established for those who love Him and desire to live according to His will. Indeed, this is something every Christian should know about. As to be expected, the enemy has worked feverishly ever since the first century to crush, suppress, bury and altogether exterminate anything that even faintly resembles an ekklesia. Why? It fills him with fear. He realizes the power of the God-given pattern. He has experienced the damage a people who let God control their lives can do to his kingdom.
To describe an ekklesia in physical terms is not hard to do. An ekklesia is simply a group of people, both single or married, of all ages, who know they have been called together for a purpose. They are of one mind, one purpose, one spirit. It is in this unity that the ekklesia’s great strength lies. Of course an ekklesia does not have to be Christian, for the principles of Ekklesia Living can be used by anyone. Yet the ekklesia we will be referring to in this study is exclusively Christian. Actually, we believe that the ekklesia pattern was originally given by God in His mercy that His people could more easily survive and make the most of their lives serving Him on this sin-cursed earth.
Obviously, ekklesias can differ in their operations depending on how seriously those involved want to pursue the idea—especially those in leadership positions. We believe the Christian ekklesia, with Jesus Christ as its recognized head, is the only type that can reach the highest levels of Ekklesia Living and experience the many blessings it brings. Why? Because without God ultimately in control of the ekklesia sin-cursed humanity inevitably messes everything up. Actually, this tragic but historically accurate evaluation proves that man himself is the ekklesia’s greatest enemy.
Back to the pattern. The Christian ekklesia is plainly described in the book of Acts. We quote the passages here. Read them carefully and consider the revolutionary implications. These men and women who had walked and talked with Jesus just a short while ago were not playing church. They knew they were involved in something far more serious than mere religion and they threw their lives into it 100%. They held the key to something that could and would change the world.
“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” (Acts 2:44-46)
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” (Acts 4:32-35)
To summarize: the members of the Christian Ekklesia are unified in mind and heart to such a degree that they have determined to pool their resources and hand them over to God to use as He sees fit. This inevitably works itself out in an intentional sharing of all the many necessities of life including food, clothing, housing, transportation and money. There you have it—all things common under God’s control. The concept is very simple, yet taking that concept from an abstract idea to a concrete reality is probably the most difficult challenge man has ever faced. Small wonder that the true Christian ekklesia is an extremely rare phenomenon. The writers of the New Testament had no problem with the ekklesia concept. In fact, “ekklesia” is the Greek word used when referring to the individual segments or local units of the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, as years went by, this important concept of Ekklesia Living was twisted and misinterpreted into the mess we have today called “church.” In fact, every instance where you find the word “church” in the New Testament it is actually “ekklesia” in the Greek text. Get a Strong’s Concordance and look it up for yourself if you don’t believe it. You think, “So what’s the big deal?” The big deal is that these two words have completely different meanings. In other words, rendering the word “ekklesia” as “church” completely changes and misrepresents the concept of Ekklesia Living upon which the first century church was built (more on this serious mistranslation later).
Taking into consideration that a serious mistake (intentional, some claim) has been made and God’s people have been misled, the goal of this short study is to re-examine the original pattern, asking the question, “How does God want His people to live?” Make no mistake, this is a very important question. If God does have a pattern, it would benefit us, being His people, to find out about it and apply it to our lives. As we look to God and make it known that we desire to live according to His will, He will make sure we understand what to do. Thank God He is well aware of our weaknesses and the unpredictable frailty of humanity and is more than willing to pour His strength into us as we trust in His help. God loves us more than we can ever realize and He wants us to experience the blessings of an obedient life even more than we do. His hand is there to strengthen and support us every step of the way.
In the first three segments we aim to define the ekklesia more clearly, looking closely at what it takes to get involved as well as what is required of those who belong to it. The remainder of the study examines and explains the ekklesia according to the different forms it takes. The ekklesia is one entity in essence yet it functions like several different things at the same time. It bears an amazing resemblance to a living human body. It is a well-equipped, highly disciplined army—a war machine under God’s command. It is also God’s perfect pattern for that complex social structure we call family. Ultimately it is the beautiful, blood-washed Bride of Christ, destined to spend eternity with her loving Savior who has redeemed and sanctified her unto Himself.
As we hold the ekklesia up to the light, turning it from side to side and carefully examining it, the many wonderful facets and characteristics begin to catch the viewer’s eye. As well they should, for the Body of Christ, made up of sinners saved by Grace who have chosen to willingly lay their lives down in loving service at the feet of their suffering Savior is truly a miracle to behold. The longer we dwell upon it the more clearly we see the hand of God manifest in its creation, support and direction.
It is truly amazing how God, the ultimate designer, has combined so many different functions into one complete package called the ekklesia. Only God could have come up with such an incredible pattern that more than satisfies humanity’s every need. Finally, we conclude our study by asking once again the all important question: “How does God want His people to live?” As you read, keep an open mind. Let the Spirit speak to your heart, for you might just hear God calling you to Ekklesia Living.
GOD'S PATTERN - GOD'S DESIRE
Why this study? Why should we bother? Why do we even care? It is our sincere, heartfelt belief that Ecclesia Living is God's ultimate plan for His people. In other words: Ecclesia Living is ideally how God intends His people to live. Yet because of man's fallen condition and inherently sinful nature, often it seems virtually impossible to make any kind of progress towards Ecclesia Living. The forces of hatred, rebellion, pride, and greed; the scourge of war and government oppression/persecution, can discourage God's people, often to the point of giving up. Yet God is a God of impossibilities and He delights in doing things that unbelieving, anti-Christ, people claim can't or won't be done. God fully understands our circumstances—the difficulties and obstacles we face, yet still He encourages and exhorts us to push ahead, to strive for the mark of the high calling in Christ. With His help anything can be done. Nevertheless, whether His people achieve the goal of Ecclesia Living or not in no way diminishes God's desire to see His people live according to His plan, nor is the beauty and divine wisdom of the concept in any way lessened.
For nearly 20 years we, as a group, have honestly sought the answer to the very important question: "How does God want us to live?" Through much prayer, real-life experience, staying open to the voice of the Lord and obeying His Spirit commands, the answer has become clearer than ever: ECCLESIA LIVING. The longer we follow the ecclesia pattern, as directed by the Lord, the more we are convinced of the divine wisdom contained in it. As we have continually experienced the benefits and blessings of Ecclesia Living in our lives God has made us believers. As this study continues we will look at the main points that characterize Ecclesia Living—or the fundamental truths that have been lost to the church for centuries. When these ancient truths are once again unearthed, brushed off, and polished, they shine with the glory of God. It is these long lost truths that constitute the difference between a living ecclesia and a dead church.
THE PRESENCE OF GOD - THE CRUCIAL ELEMENT
At the outset we want to make one thing perfectly clear: without the presence of the Holy Spirit of God, and everything that entails, Ecclesia Living is impossible. Man's feeble attempts to follow God and live pleasing to Him are doomed to failure. Our own efforts, no matter how sincere or religious, fall far short of the high and holy standard God envisions for His people. We need His help! Unless we fully recognize and admit our total dependence upon God we will never succeed. Yet once God gives us the revelation of Ekklesia Living, once He shows us what we must do, we must push past the trap of stagnating in the mire of mental assent. WE MUST OBEY! There has to be some action to backup and establish what we know to be true. Our life must begin to reflect the fact that we are submitting to a new order, that we belong to a new Kingdom and we are governed by a King that is far above all earthly rulers. Instead of talking about the Ecclesia we must become it. Unless we are living examples, manifest disciples of King Jesus, we are hypocrites and phonies. We might as well join a church.
Sadly, many sincere, devout, Christians throw their lives away running on religious treadmills in dead church systems. They never experience the beauty and blessings of living life as an integral, connected part of the Body of Christ. They miss out on so many benefits that can only come through Ecclesia Living. To break out of this man-made, religious nightmare takes nothing short of a REVOLUTION! The present government of your life must be overthrown, and God's theocratic rule established. Until this is done you will never be able to make the break, take the leap, into Ecclesia Living. As we progress through this series of articles we will touch on many important points that will hopefully help the sincere seeker see the beauty of Ecclesia Living and kindle in them a desire to partake of it.
To help you understand how the enemy has replaced the concept of Ekklesia Living with dead church routine, we present he following information taken from a study by Ben Williams titled "What Is The Ecclesia?" It clearly explains that behind the English word “church” is the Greek “ecclesia”. As Mr. Williams points out, the truth that the early Christians practiced Ecclesia Living has been buried under centuries of mistranslation and religious subterfuge. We intend to uncover this beautiful treasure and make it understandable to any and all interested in God's pattern for living.
THE CORRECT MEANING OF "ECCLESIA"
Now, let's look at the word, "ecclesia." This Greek word appears in the New Testament approximately 115 times. That's just in this one grammatical form. It appears also in other forms. And in every instance, except three, it is wrongly translated "church" in the King James Version. Those three exceptions are found in Acts 19:32, 39, 41. Here, the translators rendered it "assembly" instead of "church". But, the Greek word is exactly the same as the other 112 entries where it was changed to "church" -wrongly.
In Acts 19, "ecclesia" is a town council: a civil body in Ephesus. Thus, the translators were forced to abandon their false translation in these three instances. Nonetheless, 112 times they changed it to "church." This fact has been covered-up under centuries of misuse and ignorance.
The Greek word "ecclesia" is correctly defined: "the called-out (ones)" [ECC=out; KALEO=call]. Thus, you can see how this word was used to indicate a civil body of select (called, elected) people.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
In the New Testament, "ecclesia" (signifying convocation) is the only single word used for church. It (ecclesia) was the name given to the governmental assembly of the city of Athens, duly convoked (called out) by proper officers and possessing all political power including even juridical functions.
Obviously, in Greece this had no resemblance to a church. And "ecclesia" was a civil assembly in Athens even before the writing of the New Testament.
In the Oxford Universal English Dictionary (considered the standard for the English language) the word "ecclesia" is listed in its English form as used by our English forefathers. (Nowadays, only forms of the word appear - like, "ecclesiastical"). Quoting from the Oxford Universal English Dictionary on the word "ecclesia":
Ecclesia [medieval Latin, and Greek: SUMMONED] -A regularly convoked assembly, especially the general assembly of Athenians. Later, the regular word for church.
Thus, two of the most prestigious word resources in the English language confirm the fact that an "ecclesia" was originally a select civil body.
What, then, did the writers of the New Testament mean when they used the word "ecclesia" to describe a Christian body of people? Obviously, they meant the same thing: a body of Christians called out of the Roman and Judean systems to come together into a separate civil community. It meant a politically autonomous body of Christians under no king but Jesus; under no other jurisdiction but that of Jesus. No man ruled them. Only Christ through His appointed leaders. And, that was the reason these same Christians ran into trouble with the kings and rulers of this world; why they got in trouble with Caesar; were arrested, crucified and martyred. They dropped Caesar and took up Christ! The ecclesias were diametrically opposed to the Caesars of the world. This is the well-hidden secret about the ecclesia!
The most important point that must be stressed is that the idea, or the phenomena which the N.T. writers were referring to as an "ecclesia", has been covered up, buried, and virtually forgotten due to the translator’s wrong use of the word "church." Millions of Christians around the world have a deficient and warped understanding of the way God's people are supposed to live. The Body of Christ remains a mystery to them. Sadly, they think the Body of Christ is supposed to be scattered and fragmented into millions of tiny pieces. For them the once a week church routine is all there is -and all that matters. They have no idea of what they are missing as they trudge along in their isolated church existence, each family or individual living unto themselves. In fact, selfishness and independence are sworn enemies of Ecclesia Living. Unfortunately, virtually every culture in the world relies heavily upon these two destructive forces. This is why becoming a disciple of Christ is an unavoidable prerequisite for Ecclesia Living. Disciples of Christ die to themselves, and it's that dying that makes Ecclesia Living possible.
Upon closer examination and comparison, it becomes obvious that the word "ecclesia", and what it represents in the Greek, does not even come close to adequately describing the gloriously divine concept the Apostles were talking about in the New Testament. The Body of Christ, even in its smallest segments, is much more than a Grecian ecclesia. As we will see, the ecclesia the apostles knew went far beyond a mere gathering of men designated to deal with political problems. Every true Christian ecclesia is going to fight like an army, love and care for itself like a family/tribe, and give its undivided loyalty to God alone, for it belongs to a nation governed by Christ the King. It is an outpost on earth, a living representative among men, of the Kingdom of God. Yes, the ecclesia is a multi-faceted entity, a living organism. Amazingly complex, yet beautifully simple, like the human body, to which it can also be compared. To the discerning eye the design of God can clearly be seen. Undoubtedly, the ecclesia is truly a work of God among men.
LIMITED BY LANGUAGE
It is the belief of a large number of scholars that the synoptic gospels were originally recorded in Hebrew, not Greek. Unfortunately, no Hebrew manuscripts remain. The oldest and most reliable manuscripts we have today have been preserved in the Greek language. Therefore it is difficult to know what Hebrew word they would have used to describe the communities of N.T. believers. Yet as the N.T. was recorded into Greek, the writers chose words that best matched the new concepts they encountered. Obviously the writers were at somewhat of a disadvantage, because Hebrews were not Greeks, and the two cultures were radically different in many respects. The Greeks did not have the idea of being God's chosen people like the Jews did (although I’m sure they thought they were special). Nor did they have the rich heritage of being ruled over by Kings and Priests appointed by the Living God. Nevertheless, the writers did their best, and the Greek word God gave them to describe, or label, the communities of Christians like the one described in Acts chapter 2 and 4 was "ecclesia".
To put it another way, the early writers were forced to use man's limited language to describe something of Divine origin. This always presents somewhat of a problem. The point is that the word "ecclesia", although it sheds much light on some very important aspects, doesn't come anywhere close to adequately describing or defining such an important, infinitely wonderful concept as the Body of Christ. Thank God He has blessed us with the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into all truth, for He understands our ignorance and realizes our lost condition better than any. Yet God is patient and longsuffering in His love towards us, and despite all our disabilities, human limitations, even open rebellion, He still desires His people to come under His divine wisdom and experience the many blessings contained in the way of life called Ecclesia Living.
Yes, Ecclesia Living is possible! It can be done, and it is being done by sincere disciples of Jesus who have determined to obey God to the fullest and live according to the pattern established by the first believers. Ecclesia Living is a tremendous challenge that involves a great amount of dying to self—one of the requirements of discipleship, and one which many of God's people refuse to accept. Yet as Ecclesia Living is embraced, the life that springs forth is unmatched in depth and quality. God is just and He abundantly rewards those who diligently seek Him and determine to joyfully bend their wills to His will—no matter the cost.