20 September 2007

"The Church™"

by Frank Turk



Just was reading this:
The NT cannot answer the question of what contemporary denomination is the Church, because the NT writers didn’t know about any of the contemporary denominations. That doesn’t mean that the NT says nothing about the difference between true and false churches and how to tell the difference between them, and that these judgments can’t be applied to contemporary denominations.
For the record, I would agree that there is not now any denomination that can rightly call itself "The Church™". But here's the problem: was there ever a "denomination" or "hierarchy" which should have been, could have been, or actually was "The Church™" in the sense the person saying what I cited above means to say?

That is, did Jesus found a hierarchical institution?

And should we care?

Here's the first thing I'd suggest about that:
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
I'd start there because a lot of people would say that this verse demonstrates Jesus setting up one thing -- His church -- and therefore (they might say) all denominationalism is fraudulent.

I think they'd be half-right. Jesus certainly here announces that He will build "my church" -- that is, "μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν". And it's the common, universal translation of "ἐκκλησίαν" to say "church". But "church" in what sense? See: there's no other place in the NT where we might confuse what Jesus is going to do to "build His church" with "erecting an institution" -- because in all the other places, Jesus is talking about calling people out of the fallen world and into the kingdom of God.

That is: Christ's church is an "ἐκκλησία" -- a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly. And let's make no mistake: the calling out is done by Christ through the Holy Spirit -- just as it was for Simon, who immediately upon being called Peter by Christ tells Jesus not to get the boys all worked up by saying that the Priests and the Scribes are going to kill Him in Jerusalem.

In that respect, when we use the word "church" in English, we get a little lost because we get confused about whether the text means "those called out by God" or "First Institutional Building with HQ in Memphis, TN". Because in one sense -- the sense in Mt 16 here -- Jesus is talking about the whole assembly of believers throughout the ages.

But there is another sense that "ἐκκλησία" is used, such as here:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
The opening phrase there -- "Τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἐκκλησίας" -- uses that word "ἐκκλησία" not to mean all believers, but in fact means the ones assembled in Ephesus. Young's "literal" translates the passage for us "To the messenger of the Ephesian assembly", and while Young's tends to have its own quirks, that's a great insight into what's going on with the word "ἐκκλησία" -- certainly, John intended to mean "those in the church at Ephesus", but did he mean "to the corporate office in Ephesus", or did he mean "to the people called out by faith"?

If he meant the former -- and I'd be willing to hear someone out who wants to say he did -- then the answer the person I cited at the top of this was providing to the question of "The Church™" has some meat on the bone. But if John -- and Paul, and the other NT writers -- didn't mean to name an institutionalized corporation but instead meant to name those called together by Christ and not by constitution or human polity, then the question of who is "The Church™" cannot be answered by denomination.

Instead, it has to get answered in a way that looks like this:
# The universal Church, which may be called invisible (in respect of the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) consists of the entire number of the elect, all those who have been, who are, or who shall be gathered into one under Christ, Who is the Head. This universal Church is the wife, the body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all.

# All people throughout the world who profess the faith of the Gospel and obedience to Christ on its terms, and who do not destroy their profession by any errors which contradict or overthrow Gospel fundamentals, or by unholy behaviour, are visible saints and may be regarded as such. All individual congregations ought to be constituted of such people.

# The purest churches under Heaven are subject to mixture and error, and some have degenerated so much that they have ceased to be churches of Christ and have become synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless Christ always has had, and always will (to the end of time) have a kingdom in this world, made up of those who believe in Him, and make profession of His name.

# The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. In Him, by the appointment of the Father, is vested in a supreme and sovereign manner all power for the calling, institution, order, or government of the Church. {section withheld for future discussion}

# In the exercise of the authority which has been entrusted to Him, the Lord Jesus calls to Himself from out of the world, through the ministry of His Word, by His Spirit, those who are given to Him by His Father, so that they may walk before Him in all the ways of obedience which He prescribes to them in His Word. Those who are thus called, He commands to walk together in particular societies or churches, for their mutual edification, and for the due performance of that public worship, which He requires of them in the world.

# The members of these churches are saints because they have been called by Christ, and because they visibly manifest and give evidence of their obedience to that call by their profession and walk. Such saints willingly consent to walk together according to the appointment of Christ, giving themselves up to the Lord and to one another, according to God's will, in avowed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.

# To each of these churches thus gathered, according to the Lord's mind as declared in His Word, He has given all the power and authority which is in any way required for them to carry on the order of worship and discipline which He has instituted for them to observe. He has also given all the commands and rules for the due and right exercise of this power.

# A particular church gathered and completely organised according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members. The officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church are bishops or elders and deacons. These are to be appointed for the peculiar administration of ordinances and the execution of power or duty with which the Lord has entrusted them and to which He has called them. This pattern of church order is to be continued to the end of the world.

# The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit for the office of bishop or elder in a church, is that he is to be chosen by the common consent and vote of the church itself. Such a person should be solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with the laying on of hands of the eldership of the church (if there be any previously appoint elder or elders). The way of Christ for the calling of a deacon is that he is also to be chosen by the common consent and vote of the church and set apart by prayer, with the laying on of hands.

# Because the work of pastors is to apply themselves constantly to the service of Christ in His churches by the ministry of the Word and prayer, and by watching for their souls as they that must give an account to Him, the churches to which they minister have a pressing obligation to give them not only all due respect, but also to impart to them a share of all their good things, according to their ability. This must be so done that the pastors may have a comfortable supply and that they may not have to be entangled in secular affairs, and may also be able to exercise hospitality towards others. All this is required by the law of nature and by the express command of our Lord Jesus, Who has ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel.

# Although an obligation lies on the elders or pastors of the churches to be urgently preaching the Word by virtue of their office, yet the work of preaching the Word is not exclusively confined to them. Therefore others who are also gifted and qualified by the Holy Spirit for the task, and who are approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it.

# All believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches when and where they have opportunity so to do, and all who are admitted into the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government of that church, in accordance with the rule of Christ.

# No church members, because of any offence which has been given them by a fellow member, once they have performed their prescribed duty towards the person who has caused the offence, may disturb church order in anyway, or be absent from the meetings of the church or the administration of any ordinances on account of any such offence. On the contrary, they are to wait upon Christ in the further proceedings of the church.

# Each church and all its members are obligated to pray constantly for the good and prosperity of all Christ's churches everywhere, and to help forward everyone who comes into their district or calling, by the exercise of their gifts and graces. It clearly follows that when churches are planted by the goodness of God they ought also to hold fellowship among themselves to promote peace, increasing love and mutual edification as and when they enjoy an opportunity to do so to their advantage.

# In cases of difficulties or differences, either in matters of doctrine or administration, which concern the churches in general or any single church, and which affects their peace, union, and edification, or when any members of a church are injured because of any disciplinary proceedings not consistent with the Word and correct order, it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together do, through their appointed messengers meet to consider, and give their advice about the matter in dispute, and to report to all the churches concerned. However, when these messengers are assembled, they are not entrusted with any real church power, or with any jurisdiction over the churches involved in the problem. They cannot exercise any censure over any churches or persons, or impose their determination on the churches or their officers.

Or something like that. That wouldn't be "denominationalism". That would be something else.

Your opinion may differ. That's what the meta is for.







67 comments:

Mike Riccardi said...

Frank,

Did you write that?

DJP said...

Big tough guy, all that Greek. Think you're something special.

centuri0n said...

That last part is Chapter XXVI of the London Baptist Confession of Faith.

I could have used Chapter XXV of the WCF, but I'm not a Presbyterian.

centuri0n said...

djp:

You know all my Greek is borrowed.

Tom Chantry said...

Oh, Cent! You left out the good part!

DJP said...

All your Greek are belong to me.

Send me up the Testament.

centuri0n said...

Don't be a controversialist, Chantry. All things in the proper time.

centuri0n said...

Move Zig For Greek Justice.

SolaMeanie said...

Wow. As a recovering former Campbellite, I would love to send this to Freed-Hardiman, David Lipscomb and Harding Universities. The denomination that doesn't like to be called a denomination could stand to read it a few times in succession.

Great stuff!

Sewing said...

BCF 1689, Spurgeon's paraphrase.

A great piece, Mr. Cent, and the "called out" etymology of ekklesia merits the examination you gave it.

Heh, just this morning, I read Exodus 2:10, in which Moses was called such because the Pharaoh's daughter "drew him out of the water," just as the Lord God was about to draw the Israelites out of Egypt through Moses and Aaron.

On a more sober note, it's too bad that the Westminster Divines came up with the formulation "synagogues of [you-know-who]." Its intended meaning can be easily from the context, but it has unfortunate associations. "Temples of the Tempter" might be a better subsitute, that loses nothing in alliteration.

lordodamanor said...

I love those parts of the 2nd LC that speak of institutions and governments.

Just can't get away from those terms. It's hard to explain why some don't recognize the import of governmental Scriptures, the local churches, and upon what rules of governance the local assembly assembles itself.

I like the part of the cross-congregation accountability. Tough one there since we overly defend our autonomy. The confession maintains the autonomy and at the same time lifts accountability to a higher level of review. All your assembly are not belong to us. However, all your truth does.

Denominationalism should not result in an ecclessium, on the other hand, when representatives of local congregations are "called out" to serve in a cooperative conventional effort, the same rule of Scripture applies to the convention level as would apply to the local congreagation. Though gathered for a purpose that is unique, sort of like the council of Jerusalem, the principles must be derived from Scripture and the only ones we have are those concerning the church.

"They cannot exercise any censure over any churches or persons, or impose their determination on the churches or their officers."

So falls the shoe-

This rips the the heart out of the review of controversy-

But not quite-

"...and to help forward everyone who comes into their district or calling, by the exercise of their gifts and graces. It clearly follows that when churches are planted by the goodness of God they ought also to hold fellowship among themselves to promote peace, increasing love and mutual edification as and when they enjoy an opportunity to do so to their advantage...."

since it is presumed that those who are of this confession, all hold to this confession. It was after all a Baptist confession, that worked much like articles of confederation of an association for cooperative effort. Effectively, it created a convention, a denomination.

centuri0n said...

"Synagogue of Satan" is the scriptural term.

Kent Brandenburg said...

If the church is an assembly, which it is, even as that's how people would have understood it that were hearing it in that day and that's how it is used in the NT, then where do you get a universal assembly? That's a contradiction in terms, essentially an unassembled assembly. The singular noun is either particular or generic. There is no Platonic, Augustinian usage of the singular noun, resulting in something invisible. A few usages of ekklesia are generic, but that doesn't argue for something universal. Don't you have to put the "universal church" in to get it out?

Sewing said...

Cent: I stand embarrassed and corrected. Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 use the term. Of course I have read those passages, and yet somehow it didn't register with me that the expression is used there.

centuri0n said...

Kent:

If you mean to say that Mt 16 is talking about one local church, you have to do more than just say, "well, it does".

Al said...

It has been awhile since I compared the LBCF and the WCF on this issue... I don't know why, but the LBCF struck me as really Baptist. I know its a Baptist document, but the WCF is much more the consensus document.

Like what you had to say Frank.

Dipping my foot in the post-mil pool for a sec... Is there hope for the visible to reflect the invisible and should we strive to that end by way of the gospel and fellowship?

al sends

Sewing said...

Al: Believe it or not, someone has gone to the trouble of compiling a Tabular Comparison of the 1646 WCF and the 1689 LBCF. For most sections, the two documents are substantially the same, with differences of varying degrees (most minor, some major). Some sections, however, are added, merged, or completely rewritten in the LBCF. Of course, the LBCF is the superior document. ;)

Sewing said...

Of course, the chapters on the nature and structure of the church are one of the significant areas of divergence between the two confessions.

Cent's excerpt appears to be from Spurgeon's rewrite of the LBCF, available (of course) from Phil's Spurgeon Archive, here.

david rudd said...

frank,

good stuff. since you posted this, i'd like to read you unpacking this statement a little more:

The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit for the office of bishop or elder in a church, is that he is to be chosen by the common consent and vote of the church itself.

what is YOUR basis for arguing this as biblical?

centuri0n said...

[QUOTE]
The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit for the office of bishop or elder in a church, is that he is to be chosen by the common consent and vote of the church itself.
[/QUOTE]

1 Tim 3 points to the qualifications of an elder; 1 Tim 5 gives the last qualifier, which is "and not just some new guy who looks good". That's how men who ought to lead are -qualified-.

But 1 Cor 5 tells us how the power of the church is manifested. When Paul says, "When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord," Paul is saying that local church assembled together has the right and the authority to exercise judgment -- in the 1 Cor 5 case, judgment to expel or condemn, but we ought to see it is also the right to affirm or lift up since the man expelled there is returned to the church by the same means in 2 Cor.

Tom Chantry said...

Cent,

Good point - I hadn't thought of I Corinthians 5. Of course, the question which you were asked, while valid, focused on just part of what that paragraph says. It should also be noted that the confession calls for the approval not only of the membership, but also of the elders. The two work in tandem in the calling of officers. Also significant to the question you were asked is the identical method for the calling of deacons. The original actually states, "...and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage..." (emph. added) The view of the confession was that one process applied to both the office of elder and that of deacon, which brings into play more passages. In Acts 6, the apostles told the congregation, "you bring us men..."

(Sorry, David R. I know you asked for Frank's justification, not mine. I really do like his answer, though.)

centuri0n said...

Consider this your penance for being a controversialist, Chantry.

;-)

david rudd said...

Tom,

no problem jumping in. I'm not sure I'm completely with the two of you.

I do recognize that most people view the process in Acts 6 as the "calling" of the deacons, and I don't want to get hung up on that, but it is a little different in that it was an apostolic decision, and those men aren't really called deacons there (although i agree that they are)...

honestly, i think the 1 corinthians passage is a stretch. i'll say more if necessary.

i'm wondering how to reconcile the idea of "congregational vote" with Paul's instructions to Timothy and Titus to "appoint". i know this isn't a new argument, and there are plenty of good answers on both sides.

i just sometimes worry about the Western ideas of democracy creeping too far into the church, and this is one area i see that.

thoughts?

david rudd said...

addendum:

Tom, i left out the rest of the paragraph, because i thought it was pretty biblical. it was just the part of congregational vote on elders that i'm wondering about.

Sewing said...

The original wording (with modern spelling) of XXVI.9 reads:

"The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage [my emphasis] of the church itself [16]; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein [17]; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands [18]."

With prooftexts:
[16] Acts 14:23
[17] 1 Tim. 4:14
[18] Acts 6:3,5,6

(Source)

Spurgeon rendered "common suffrage" as "common consent and vote," which seems to be a practical application of how to achieve "common suffrage."

Sewing said...

This doesn't really clear up David's question, though, as the prooftext for the first part (Acts 14:23) refers to Paul's and Barnabas' (implied by the pronoun "they") appointing of elders in every church.

Tom Chantry said...

I understand, and it is entirely legitimate to focus on one point. I only bring it up because in my understanding - and my church holds this confession, I've taught it, and we attempt to practice it - the confession calls not only for the approval of the congregation, but also for the approval of the existing eldership. It is that counterbalance which prevents (hopefully) an over-democratizing of the church. Authority is exercised from below (in the suffrage of the church) and from above (in the superintendence of the existing elders). Their understanding was that both are biblical, and they endeavored to acknowledge both at once.

It is interesting that the Acts 6 passage is an Apostolic action. I wonder though, if the apostles, who were specifically designated by Christ as the foundation of the church, turned to the members and said, "bring us men," what eldership would be justified in assuming that the instructions to Timothy and Titus were meant to give unqualified authority to a pastor to appoint his own elders?

Sewing said...

"They" in English. autois in Greek.

Al said...

Sewing, I used that document when I taught through the 1689 way back when... When I taught through the ordinances I also taught the reformed view. I did a better job teaching the Presbyterian position than I did the Baptist and at the end most folks wanted to switch. God is good that way.

al sends

Tom Chantry said...

Of course to fully appreciate the confessional perspective one must recognize its historical context. In the English establishment the power to ordain was technically vested in the episcopate, but functionally had been delegated to the nobility and gentry. Part of the ecclesiology of dissenting movements was to insist that the power of ordination was not vested in the state, but in the church itself - in the assembly of believers. The principle that no church may be coerced into serving under a ministry placed within it by an outside authority was one of the most cherished beliefs of the Baptists and Congregationalists of the period, not to say one of the defining marks of Scottish Presbyterianism.

That context raises a question: if the congregation plays no role at all in establishing its own ministry, who does? What happens when (as the confession acknowledges to sometimes be the case) there is no existing eldership?

Beyond The Rim... said...

>That is, did Jesus found a hierarchical institution?

No. He founded the family of God and is calling to himself a bride. He did this as the 2nd Adam, the head of a family, not an organization, a society, or a nation, such as Israel, if you will.

We Christians are brothers and sisters and children of God first, last, and forever. The rest are constructs of men to draw distinctions, build empires, and make themselves important.

Daryl said...

If that's true, Beyond, then why so much discussion by Paul regarding elders and deacons? Also why did Paul pull rank on the Corinthians?

centuri0n said...

David:

First, let me suggest that while I disagree with Presbyterian polity, I think it falls within the scope of orthopraxy insofar as the calling of leaders goes, even to the place where the presbytery can "judge" matters for the session. I think it has its own pitfalls, but hey: I'm a baptist, and who would say baptist polity doesn't have pitfalls?

[QUOTE]
And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
[/QUOTE] [Acts 6, ESV]

The first "they" is the "apostles", right? The second "they" is the congregation, isn't it? The apostles instruct "pick out from among you seven men of good repute". So on the one hand, the elders give the instruction; on the other, the assembly follows it and exercises some kind of community judgment, and the elders follow up by confirming the judgment.

And it's not any kind of a stretch to see this in 1 Cor 5. Paul is saying the power the the Spirit is in the ability of the church -- that is, the local assembly -- to judge matters. We can see this in Paul's further admonition that judgment on other disputes ought to happen inside the body of Christ and not be determined by outsiders.

If the church can judge for itself how to resolve disputes, and how to discipline the morally-fallible, I think it's a short walk to say, "and they can pick their leaders, using some kind of standard and process."

I think it is a far cry from republican democracy. And I think that the command to 'appoint' elders does not violate this process.

centuri0n said...

Beyond the Rim: (BTR)

I agree that God is calling a people to himself.

Are they like candles on a birthday cake, not really related to each other except that they are on the same cake, or are they more like a string of Christmas lights which depend on each other to stay lit and adorn the work of our God?

David said...

wow, a days worth of polite, cogent conversation.

I guess thats what happens when I am out all day and cant play in the pyro sandbox.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Frank,

Ekklesia means "assembly" or "congregation." That's how people would have understood it in that day. It was used in Greek literature before the NT was written to describe the town meeting of the Greek city state. Universal and assembly are mutually exclusive.

When Jesus said, "my church," He differentiated His governing assembly from others, including the Old Testament ekklesia. His assembly was one distinguished by those characteristics aligning themselves with His instruction and character. "My" also says that this was the assembly of which He was owner. The Jerusalem assembly was the only one existent at that time and he promises to build it up (oikodomia), which He does, with discipline (Mt. 18), the Commission (Mt. 28), etc. That was a particular church and the only one. However, each church that had the same characteristics was still His church.

Notice how Jesus continues to use the term ekklesia in Matthew 18 and then in Revelation 2 and 3. Each time of the 20 plus usages is a local, visible institution. That's how Jesus used the term.

If I call you on "my phone," Frank, that doesn't mean that I own only one. Each of them are mine, however. That is the generic usage of the singular noun. Just like in 1 Cor. 11, the man is the head of the woman---that doesn't mean there is a universal man and woman. It is the generic use of the singular noun.

One of the characteristics of an assembly is that it must assemble. If it doesn't assemble, it isn't an assembly.

Tom Chantry said...

One of the characteristics of an assembly is that it must assemble. If it doesn't assemble, it isn't an assembly.

Excellent point.

But...

...Isn't it the case that there is a final assembly, an eschatalogical church in which all believers are indeed assembled in heaven? And is this not the use of "church" in, for instance, Ephesians 5:25-27?

One of the realities of this age is that we live in some degree in the reality of a consummation yet to come. Since we are all members not only of our local assemblies, but also presumptive members of the last, great assembly, we are to love the church now in its broader sense.

I would agree that the local use of "church" is predominant in the New Testament, but it isn't the exclusive use.

david rudd said...

Frank,

i understand your point about 1cor5 and the power of the spirit. I'm not certain it really speaks to my issue, i'll 'splain why.

the word/phrase/idea i'm hung up on is "vote". i feel that there are ways the congregation can be actively involved (i like Tom's summary) without necessarily "voting". i honestly don't really suspect there was a vote in acts 6...

it's a silly nuance to quibble on, but i see a traditional voting process as playing to our ideals that everyone has a voice and i can stubbornly cling to my ideas and just vote my way without having to find a way to move toward you... (nor sure that makes a lot of sense)

so my deal with 1Cor5 and all the other passages is that i think the congregation can find ways to make determinations and to excercise discipline without voting.

i think a great example would be acts 15, where a proposal was made and everyone "agreed". (i know this is apostolic too, and not an apples-to-apples example for the local church).

that's where i am. just hung up on the voting thing.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tom,

Eph. 5:23, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." If the church is universal and invisible in Eph. 5:23, then the husband and wife must also be universal and invisible. These are simply the generic usage of the singular noun. An assembly is always local. However, Christ's assembly is used generically like husband and wife are used that way.

I believe that the assembly in heaven is an assembly. However, that doesn't hold any application for today. Today we have the family of God and the kingdom of God, but those are soteriological words, not ecclesiological.

Tom Chantry said...

But I referenced verses 25-27. Are you saying that Christ 1) loved the local church and gave Himself up for it, and 2) is going to present the local church to Himself in splendor? In fact, in any plain reading of the text, Ephesians 5 speaks of Christ's intention for the church in glory. It is a very eschatalogical concept. Does it have no application for us today?

Matt said...

Great timing, Frank. I blogged on a very similar subject at my blog, in response to a local church situation we are working through.

In Him,
Matt

seekingtobefaithful.blogspot.com

centuri0n said...

You’re an interesting person, Kent.

| Ekklesia means "assembly" or
| "congregation." That's how
| people would have understood
| it in that day. It was used
| in Greek literature before
| the NT was written to
| describe the town meeting of
| the Greek city state.

No kidding? I think I read that someplace in the last 24 hours ... like in my blog-post. The problem is that it didn’t just mean “assembly in my town or city”. For example, in Heb 12:23, it doesn’t mean “just the people you meet in my hometown”: it means all people who are elect of God.

| Universal and assembly are
| mutually exclusive.

That statement, Kent, is proof of bringing bias to the text. Nobody said “assembly” means something like “all men at all times” but in fact means “those called out from all men at all times”. If you read Mt 16:18 in a different way, it becomes nonsense.

| When Jesus said, "my
| church," He differentiated
| His governing assembly from
| others, including the Old
| Testament ekklesia. His
| assembly was one
| distinguished by those
| characteristics aligning
| themselves with His
| instruction and character.

Here’s the litmus test: is Abraham among those included in Heb 12:23?

| "My" also says that this was
| the assembly of which He was
| owner. The Jerusalem
| assembly was the only one
| existent at that time and he
| promises to build it up
| (oikodomia), which He does,
| with discipline (Mt. 18),
| the Commission (Mt. 28),
| etc. That was a particular
| church and the only one.
| However, each church that
| had the same characteristics
| was still His church.

Wow. So Jesus only founded the church in Jerusalem – which was destroyed by the Islamic expansion of the 7h century? Islam is stronger than the gates of hell?

Kent?

| Notice how Jesus continues
| to use the term ekklesia in
| Matthew 18 and then in
| Revelation 2 and 3. Each
| time of the 20 plus usages
| is a local, visible
| institution. That's how
| Jesus used the term.

Heb 12:23.

| If I call you on "my phone,"
| Frank, that doesn't mean
| that I own only one. Each of
| them are mine, however. That
| is the generic usage of the
| singular noun.

Again, wow. And if I say, “my family”, do I mean “my wife and kids” (local) or “my father’s brothers in Europe, my brothers on the east and west coast of the US, and my brother-in-law in St. Louis” (global)?

Or could it depend on the context, Kent? Or are my father’s brothers not my family?

| Just like in
| 1 Cor. 11, the man is the
| head of the woman---that
| doesn't mean there is a
| universal man and woman. It
| is the generic use of the
| singular noun.

{yawn} Kent, here’s the deal: I concede that a singular noun can be used, as you say, in a “generic” way. The problem, however, is that “ekklesia”, while grammatically singular, signifies a collective group – like “team”, “family”, “squad”, “army”, etc.

The question is the –extent- of the group, not whether it is –singular- or –plural-.

| One of the characteristics
| of an assembly is that it
| must assemble. If it doesn't
| assemble, it isn't an
| assembly.

I guess we’ll find out about that after the final enemy is defeated, Kent. In my father’s house, here are many mansions.

Heb 12:23, dude. Eventually, you have to read that.

centuri0n said...

David: You're worried about "voting"?

I'd say get over it.

david rudd said...

I'd say get over it.

frank, no need to get snippy. i'm just trying to be faithful to Scripture... and i don't see the church "voting" anywhere therein...

i was wondering if you had insight that might cause me to reconsider.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Frank,

I'm glad I can be interesting to you, and I'll take that in the best way possible. I'll put ***astericks*** around what you said to differentiate it from my answers.

***The problem is that it didn’t just mean “assembly in my town or city”. For example, in Heb 12:23, it doesn’t mean “just the people you meet in my hometown”: it means all people who are elect of God.***

Ekklesia is always an assembly. If an author wanted to communicate another concept, other words were available. I don't see "all the people who are elect of God" in Hebrews 12:23. We don't need to change the meaning of ekklesia to fit into some preconceived notion. We should interpret it like we see the more than 100 other occasions in the NT. The NT teaches a regenerate church membership (1 John 2:19). The "church" that the Hebrews had come to was a scriptural assembly, replacing the outmoded Jewish temple. The church is God's institution. The excellencies of the New Covenant were far superior to the Old. The Hebrew believers being addressed had come in the past at one point (perfect tense, with the results ongoing) to all of these wonderful blessing---Mt. Zion, heavenly Jerusalem, the company of angels, etc., including His assembly. His assembly is made up of His heirs, sons of God, adopted into His famly. His assembly is made up of regenerate people, justified like even the Old Testament saints. This is in sharp contrast to Mt. Sinai and what Israel had become.

***That statement, Kent, is proof of bringing bias to the text. Nobody said “assembly” means something like “all men at all times” but in fact means “those called out from all men at all times”. If you read Mt 16:18 in a different way, it becomes nonsense.***

My bias is based on the usage of ekklesia in Scripture (110 plus times) and the 22 other times the Lord used it. Mine comes from actual rules of grammar---the only two usages of the singular noun, particular or generic. It also comes from an understanding of the history of the Word ekklesia. The universal bias (yours) comes from Plato through Augustine through Roman Catholicism through the Reformers. In other words, you are the one reading into Scripture your understanding of ekklesia. You like others also take the etymology of the word (ek-out of, klesia-called) and spin it into something that isn't an assembly. The etymology comes from the history of the Word. People were called from their homes to meet and function.

Your family and assembly parallel was totally wrong. Family is a concept in Scripture that is soteriological---born again = family of God. On the other hand, immersion is required to become a part of His assembly.

***Here’s the litmus test: is Abraham among those included in Heb 12:23?***

I believe is one of the spirits of the just men made perfect. Those in the New Covenant have come unto them as well.

***Wow. So Jesus only founded the church in Jerusalem – which was destroyed by the Islamic expansion of the 7h century? Islam is stronger than the gates of hell?

Kent?***
Frank? The Jerusalem church was His church, but then His church was also found in Antioch and in Thessalonica. The gates of Hell don't prevail against His church. There has always been His church, always have been his churches. Mt. 16:18 teaches the perpetuity of His church. Maybe you're not considering the generic use of the singular noun.

***{yawn} Kent, here’s the deal: I concede that a singular noun can be used, as you say, in a “generic” way. The problem, however, is that “ekklesia”, while grammatically singular, signifies a collective group – like “team”, “family”, “squad”, “army”, etc.***

Based on what you wrote there; you don't get it. You are not illustrating with the words you used, the generic noun. Consider the word "heart" in Luke 6:45 as an example of many of these: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." This is not a particular heart, but a generic heart. Obviously, without a particular, there can be no generic.

***I guess we’ll find out about that after the final enemy is defeated, Kent. In my father’s house, here are many mansions.***

"House" as you have used it here is a particular. There is only one of the Father's house in heaven. I don't get what point you're attempting to make with it. Should I yawn at this point or just blow a bicycle horn or something?

Tom,

V. 23 starts out the context of Eph. 5:25-27, we could go from v. 23-27 when he uses Christ's relationship with the church to illustrate the relationship of the husband to the wife. If you want to see it as a church in prospect, that's fine, but I believe you are reading into it. Christ loves His church generically, just like the husband loves the wife generically. He gave Himself for the church generically just like the husband is to sacrifice for the wife generically. We don't extrapolate from this that He only loved the church. He also loved Old Testament Israel and gave Himself for that too.

centuri0n said...

Kent, I can't even get past your second paragraph because it simply demonstrates not that there is confusion but either ignorance or blindness toward to text.

Here's the passage of Heb 12 in context, with v. 23 in bold/italics, in the King James no less so that there's no confusion about what's what:

[QUOTE]
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
[/QUOTE]

"Ye" here are the readers of the letter, so it is any Christian in a generic sense. In that, they are "come unto mount Sion ... the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" -- you don't have to be a premillenial dispensationist to get that this is the New Heavens and New Earth.

In that "ye" are come unto "the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven". NASB translates this as "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" -- to make it clear that the passage is speaking of the assembly of all believers because it is the assembly of those who are "written in heaven".

Now, what does that mean, to be "written in heaven"? It's plainly a reference to the Lamb's book of life in which the names of all the elect were written since before the foundation of the world. So this is an assembly not of some local body but of all in the book of life.

And in this passage, this make perfect sense -- because the writer of has just expended a lot of literary energy lining out that the faith of the OT saints is the faith of the NT saints, and they are a great cloud of witnesses to us to be encouraged. We are to come to the same place they are, to be assembled as one church, and to Jesus who is the mediator of the new covenant.

John Gill says it this way:

[QUOTE]
by the "church", is not meant any particular, or congregational church, nor any national one; but the church catholic, or universal, which consists only of God's elect, and of all of them, in all times and places; and reaches even to the saints in heaven: this church is invisible at present, and will never fail; of which Christ is the head, and for which he has given himself
[/QUOTE]

Matthew Henry:

[QUOTE]
that is, to the universal church, however dispersed. By faith we come to them, have communion with them in the same head, by the same Spirit, and in the same blessed hope, and walk in the same way of holiness, grappling with the same spiritual enemies, and hasting to the same rest, victory, and glorious triumph. Here will be the general assembly of the first-born, the saints of former and earlier times, who saw the promises of the gospel state, but received them not, as well as those who first received them under the gospel, and were regenerated thereby, and so were the first-born, and the first-fruits of the gospel church; and thereby, as the first-born, advanced to greater honours and privileges than the rest of the world. Indeed all the children of God are heirs, and every one has the privileges of the first-born.
[/QUOTE]

If you can't see that, Kent, there's no sense arguing with you. The word is there -- "καὶ -ἐκκλησίᾳ- πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς" is the opening phrase of Heb 12:23 -- and it refers to the ultimate assembly of all God's people. Reading it more narrowly than that cannot be justified.

centuri0n said...

David Rudd:

I doubt there is anything I could say that would make you reconsider, but there's something really weird in your view which needs some assistance.

It seems to me that it's your view that the idea of "voting" is an enlightenment category -- and it's not hardly even an enlightenment political category.

Here's a slice of Wikipedia this morning:

[QUOTE]
The concept of democracy first appeared in Ancient Greek political and philosophical thought. The philosopher Plato contrasted democracy, the system of "rule by the governed", with the alternative systems of monarchy (rule by one individual), oligarchy (rule by a small élite class) and timarchy (rule by one race or nationality over another). Although Athenian democracy is today considered by many to have been a form of direct democracy, originally it had two distinguishing features: firstly the allotment (selection by lot) of ordinary citizens to government offices and courts, and secondarily the assembly of all the citizens. All the Athenian citizens were eligible to speak and vote in the Assembly, which set the laws of the city-state, but neither political rights, nor citizenship, were granted to women, slaves, or metics. Of the 250,000 inhabitants only some 30,000 on average were citizens. Of those 30,000 perhaps 5,000 might regularly attend one or more meetings of the popular Assembly. Most of the officers and magistrates of Athenian government were allotted; only the generals (strategoi) and a few other officers were elected.
[/QUOTE]

"well, Frank, those are the Greeks, not the Jews," you might protest, but the world of the first century Roman empire -- while ruled by Rome -- was culturally Greek. The Romans themselves prided their civilization as being the heir to Greek culture, and the Jews outside of Jerusalem were certainly Hellenized Jews who read Greek and were (A-HEM) culturalized and acclamated to Greek ways.

It's a pretty romanticized notion of the past to think that Jews is a Greek culture had some non-Greek way of getting together and hashing out political matters -- they lived among the Greeks, spoke their language, and earned their living in that culture. It's almost impossible to believe that they didn't use Greek pragmatic means.

In a very bizarre turn of events, that's actually what the word "ekklesia" meant prior to its Christianization: the coming together of people to decide an issue as part of the Greek political system, which was largely democratic.

That's what I mean by "get over it": just because our form of democracy has turned into demogoguery, don't seal off the idea of voting as inherently bad or "modern". It's not.

david rudd said...

frank, thanks for your thoughts.

two clarifications.

i have only asserted that "voting" is a "Western" idea, not an enlightenment concept or inherently bad, or even modern.

I also understand the thorough hellenization of the NT world. i think my fifth grader is even aware of that.

my only point is this.

one of the hallmarks of this blog is a strict adherance to Scripture as the ultimate (only?) authority; and often-times the discussions here concern themselves with quite nuanced words/phrase/ideas.

i am simply suggesting that while evidence exists for congregations to reach decisions together, it is a bit of stretch to affirm with the same level of certainty that the biblical method for choosing elders is by congregational vote.

i suppose this is where i part ways a bit with my "baptist" heritage. i just see too many (il)logical leaps needed to get to the "voting" idea.

so, i don't think i need to "get over it". i do think this is a place reasonable people with a high view of Scripture can civilly disagree.

i appreciate your insight on the matter.

Tom Chantry said...

David,

While we're on the 1689 confession (Man! I love this thread!) here's a quote from chapter 1:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

It applies, I think. The New Testament tells us that congregations reached decisions together, but doesn't tell us how they reached them. We are left here to "the light of nature and Christian prudence." Voting is a method "common to human actions and societies." At least, it's a means of reaching consensus well known to Western Christians, and a convenient way to accomplish the biblical end. I have told my people that we vote, per se, because we are Americans, and this is the easiest way for us to accomplish the New Testament mandate to reach a congregational consensus. If another church in another culture has another way, that does not necessarily violate the New Testament, but neither does our way, provided the churches reach a congregational consensus.

Tom Chantry said...

Kent,

I suppose that when Paul refers to "the husband" and "the wife" he is speaking generically - or collectively - but when he moves to Christ, he certainly is speaking specifically. Christ is not generic or collective, He is One. It seems that what he is doing is drawing a parallel between a generic type: husbands and wives, and a specific case: Christ and His church. To say that Christ (specific and singular) died for the church (generic and collective) is a stretch.

Whom did Christ have in mind when He died? Vaguely defined, generic church? If He had had each individual church in mind, Paul could have said "the churches." But what Christ clearly had in mind (look at John 17) was the entire, glorified, assembly in heaven. That is why Paul speaks of presenting this church without spot or wrinkle. Christ was looking to the end, and Paul would have us look to the end also. I don't think it is possible to escape the eschatalogical aspect of this passage.

centuri0n said...

David:

How did Greek "ekklesias" decide things? I'm curious because you seem to think the word "ekklesia" itself doesn't give us any insight into what was going on -- and my position is that it tells us more than you are willing to admit.

I'll admit something: prolly no ballots were passed out and cast; prolly no hanging chads; prolly no purple thumbs. However, if a yeah/nay voice referendum was made, that's a kind of voting.

Just because voting gets ugly in baptist circles doesn't mean that's not an abuse of a godly method.

david rudd said...

tom and frank,

i'm with you guys, most of the way. i don't even have a problem with voting. i think in a lot of cases a vote may be a really good way to accomplish things.

i think Tom is spot on when he says, The New Testament tells us that congregations reached decisions together, but doesn't tell us how they reached them.

i think Frank is spot on with the idea that the assembly sometimes made decisions with a yes/no "vote".

No problem with any of that.

but... when it comes to the selection of elders, i think there is sufficient biblical pattern to warrant the position that these men were "appointed" NOT by a congregational majority. i wouldn't rule that possibility out, but i would think that the pattern suggests enough evidence to avoid "creedal" and "confessional" statements which demand such a vote for the appointment of elders.

yeah, i know, it's minutia. but i'm pretty sure you (Frank, particularly) doesn't mind a good argument about minutia... particularly if we're really talking about the Bible.

Tom Chantry said...

David,

I hear you, and we sure want to be o solid biblical ground in creedal statements.

Would you mind interacting with my "history" post? In other words, when the confession was written, the authority to appoint pastors was vested in the landed gentry of England. We would agree that is unbiblical. What should congregations have done (and what should they do today) where there is no existing eldership? Must an existing eldership be found, or can a congregation choose to reject an unbiblical polity and start from scratch, selecting elders from within its own midst?

david rudd said...

Tom,

That's a great question. A similar question would be "how does a church move from a single elder/deacon led model church to an elder led model? Who determines the elders?"

you quoted the 1689:
there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence

i think this is really good. something like this would be the foundation to my answer to your question. i would say, it's not inappropriate for a group of believers who have covenanted together to determine that they need to "choose" elders. and if they, after significant study, determine that they should be the body to select elders, and they want to do it by vote... fine.

i would suggest that the giftedness and qualifications of an elder would it easy for such a group to identify who their elders should be, and their act of voting would really be nothing more than an act of affirmation.

what makes me uncomfortable is the original statement:
The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit for the office of bishop or elder in a church, is that he is to be chosen by the common consent and vote of the church itself.
which in my opinion assigns words and actions to Christ which he did not make, and invalidates the statement you make above by institutionalizing a decision which doesn't seem to be institutionalized in the NT (and if it is, it is appointment, not vote).

that's probably clear as mud. but, like you, this is a topic i can talk about for a while...

sometimes, when it's dark and no one else is awake in the house, i pretend i'm a presbyterian.

Tom Chantry said...

Consider for a moment the original:

The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself.

While "suffrage" has come to imply a democratic vote system, the word derives from the concept of "support." The common support of the membership of the church is necessary to ordination - this, I believe, is the meaning of the confession. Spurgeon's paraphrase is, well, a paraphrase. I am pretty convinced that the creedal statement is supporting a biblical concept against the unbiblical idea of episcopacy.

Now, on a more important note: when it's dark and no one else is awake in the house, you sprinkle water on babies' foreheads?

Daryl said...

David,

I saw Tom had said:

"Now, on a more important note: when it's dark and no one else is awake in the house, you sprinkle water on babies' foreheads?"

Just so you know, if you offer Tom a man-hug to make up, he'll back right off...fast.

david rudd said...

when it's dark and no one else is awake in the house, you sprinkle water on babies' foreheads?

no, i pull all my kid's webkinz together and we hold a session...

seriously, i do like the original a lot, and feel that the paraphrase, in this spot, does an injustice to the original... (unintentionally)

i think your statements regarding "suffrage" are well-taken and appropriate here.

it would appear everyone else has left the thread and moved on... if you leave, i can sprinkle a baby!

david rudd said...

daryl,

i'm with tom on the man-hug thing.

real men grunt, spit, and scratch. they don't hug.

Tom Chantry said...

Just so you know, if you offer Tom a man-hug to make up, he'll back right off...fast.

Uggh!

it would appear everyone else has left the thread and moved on... if you leave, i can sprinkle a baby!

And that's why I'm not going anywhere!

i'm with tom on the man-hug thing.

real men grunt, spit, and scratch. they don't hug.


Are those our only options?

Tom Chantry said...

On a more serious note:

it would appear everyone else has left the thread and moved on...

I had a bet early on that this would be a sleeper thread. No skin off anyone's nose if they don't find this particular discussion fascinating, but ecclesiology ought to be a passion for Christians.

That Christ loves His church is one of the mainstays of our hope. Do we love it also? Do we hope to conduct its affairs according to the mind of Christ? It is good to see that spirit showing throughout all the comments here.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Frank said, "Kent, I can't even get past your second paragraph because it simply demonstrates not that there is confusion but either ignorance or blindness toward to text."

Kent replies: In a grammatical, historical interpretation, Frank, we don't get to invent new meanings to words to fit what we want the text to say. We understand what the text says by what the words in the text mean (how they are historically used, how they are used in the Bible itself). Ekklesia is used quite a few times. We don't have to guess. Why not look at how the word is used? Have you ever looked at the 117 times ekklesia is used, Frank? How is it blindness to look at 112 clear usages and interpret 5 others in light of the 112? What is blind and deaf is your tact of giving a whole new meaning to the word just because the singular noun is used in a generic way in just a handful of instances. Nowhere is ekklesia established to be something other than an assembly.

After quoting a big chunk of Hebrews 12, Frank said, ""Ye" here are the readers of the letter, so it is any Christian in a generic sense. In that, they are "come unto mount Sion ... the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" -- you don't have to be a premillenial dispensationist to get that this is the New Heavens and New Earth.

In that "ye" are come unto "the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven". NASB translates this as "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" -- to make it clear that the passage is speaking of the assembly of all believers because it is the assembly of those who are "written in heaven".

Now, what does that mean, to be "written in heaven"? It's plainly a reference to the Lamb's book of life in which the names of all the elect were written since before the foundation of the world. So this is an assembly not of some local body but of all in the book of life."

Kent replies: I appreciate the context you included Frank, and I think you should look at it more closely. In the context, it is obvious that the author of Hebrews is comparing the New Covenant with the Old Covenant, showing to the Jewish audience (its called Hebrews—understanding the audience is important, Frank). The "ye" in Hebrews are Hebrews, but in this case, they would be those who moved on to the better way. Hebrews is obviously written to a mixed multitude, some are those who have received Christ, some have come to Him intellectually only, and other were rejecting Him. Hebrews is persuading those who haven't moved on to move on. And to those who have, to keep on keeping on. He is telling these Hebrews that by coming at one point in the past to this New Covenant, the Hebrew believers have come (perfect tense—ongoing results) to a whole bunch of great blessings—Mt. Zion, city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, a general assembly of angels, a regenerate assembly, yes, whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, God as Judge, and the spirits of just men made perfect. I believe that the "just men made perfect" are the OT saints. These phrases have nuances of differences. They aren't all the same. For instance, the festal gathering of angels—are the "ye" an actual part of those too? Of course not. One of the great blessings is this assembly of saved people. It isn't a nation of unbelievers any more, but the blessing of an assembly of believers.

I don't have a problem with the idea that this is a church in prospect, and assembly of all the saved in the church (generic) who will gather in heaven, but making it something other than an assembly contradicts the meaning of the word. The universal meaning of ekklesia came out of Roman Catholicism. They started the idea of the Catholic church. Augustine popularized it. It fit right in with their state church ecclesiology. It was left over in the Reformers, who were state church people. The NT teaches an assembly, local only. This is also what you'll read in the first century patristic, Clement of Rome, as well. As hierarchicalism developed, the doctrine of the Nicolaitines, they looked also for catholicism.

Frank writes: "And in this passage, this make perfect sense -- because the writer of has just expended a lot of literary energy lining out that the faith of the OT saints is the faith of the NT saints, and they are a great cloud of witnesses to us to be encouraged. We are to come to the same place they are, to be assembled as one church, and to Jesus who is the mediator of the new covenant."

Kent replies: All the Old and New Testament saints will be in the New Jerusalem, Frank, but the ekklesia in the text is differentiated with the OT saints. You quote Gill and Matthew Henry and we're supposed to just crawl into the fetal position and surrender to what they say. They give no proof of their position and you don't require it because you take the same position. You read into the text a whole new meaning of ekklesia that is found nowhere in the NT, defending a catholic church, when the two terms contradict—catholic and church. Scripture doesn't teach that there are two churches—local and universal. We have all believers represented in the family of God and the kingdom of God. The assembly is an assembly.

Frank writes: If you can't see that, Kent, there's no sense arguing with you. The word is there -- "?a? -?????s??- p??t?t???? ?p??e??aµµ???? ?? ???a????" is the opening phrase of Heb 12:23 -- and it refers to the ultimate assembly of all God's people. Reading it more narrowly than that cannot be justified.

Kent replies: You say "the ultimate assembly." I have no problem with that, but that doesn't mean that it is something that is functioning in the here and now. Christ's church is not some future non-functioning assembly in heaven, but the one that fulfills the Great Commission now. An assembly in heaven prospect is fine, but that should not guide your interpretation of ekklesia as it operates now on earth. However, you have trouble in Hebrews 12, because the text indicates the general assembly, the church, and the spirits of just men made perfect each to be different entities. The regenerate church on earth will be in heaven, but on earth that church assembles and functions. I believe the church will assemble in heaven, but for now it is assembling on earth.

Tom,

Tom writes: "I suppose that when Paul refers to "the husband" and "the wife" he is speaking generically - or collectively - but when he moves to Christ, he certainly is speaking specifically. Christ is not generic or collective, He is One. It seems that what he is doing is drawing a parallel between a generic type: husbands and wives, and a specific case: Christ and His church. To say that Christ (specific and singular) died for the church (generic and collective) is a stretch."

Kent replies: I believe there is a specific Christ, yes. The singular will be used as a particular or a generic. The people at Ephesus would have believed that he was speaking about them and every other one of His churches. Each one is His church. Why invent something universal and unassembled? We don't need to.

Tom writes: "Whom did Christ have in mind when He died? Vaguely defined, generic church? If He had had each individual church in mind, Paul could have said "the churches." But what Christ clearly had in mind (look at John 17) was the entire, glorified, assembly in heaven. That is why Paul speaks of presenting this church without spot or wrinkle. Christ was looking to the end, and Paul would have us look to the end also. I don't think it is possible to escape the eschatalogical aspect of this passage."

Kent replies: You didn't answer my argument here. He died for the church, but does that mean that He didn't die for Israel. Isaiah 52 and 53 says that He did die for Israel. I'm not desiring to get into a Calvinism argument. Paul said the Christ died for him. That doesn't mean that Christ died only for Paul. This is Paul writing to the Ephesians and he is illustrating the husbands love for his wife. We shouldn't assume that the term "church" takes on a whole new meaning here that contradicts the other 110 plus times that it was used. I don't think Paul is looking to the end, but is thinking about what Christ was doing right then in their assembly. He says that a husband will have a purifying love for his wife, just like Christ has for His church, even as He will present it purified later because of that purifying love. That is what Christ is doing with the church right now—purifying it.

Gummby said...

Looks like I'm too late for the Greek snark. Oh, well.

Sewing said...

Tom: I'm still reading; I'm just not commenting.

Tom Chantry said...

I see no reason to believe that Israel is not part of that church which Christ will present "to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." - that is, the Last Assembly. Which, I think, is the assembly Frank is talking about in Hebrews.

Look, I don't want to go to far in what might be becoming a spat. I'll remind you that I agreed that almost every use of the word "church" in the New Testament is to a local assembly. It's just that I haven't seen conclusively demonstrated the idea that the word cannot refer to anything but a local church, especially given that the New Testament really does seem to be speaking in a few places to the wider group which will be assembled in the last day. Broadening the scope of the definition to fit all uses of the word is not "inventing" new uses - it is recognizing the existence of a lexical range.

But so long as you are saying that the focus of "church" in the New Testament is local, I'm with you. I'm even with you if you say our ecclesiology should be predominantly local. Frank's a Baptist, too, so I'm sure he'll agree. How is the acknowledgment that there is a broader people of God something that requires so much debate?

Tom Chantry said...

Sewing,

Yeah, I really didn't mean that comment to look like, "No one but us cares!" Rather, this isn't the sort of post likely to generate a wild meta, but it is a critical issue dear to many of us here, and worthy of our attention. I'm glad the discussion has been as good as it has been.

centuri0n said...

Last reply to Kent, and then he gets the last word.

| Frank said, "Kent, I
| can't even get past your
| second paragraph because
| it simply demonstrates
| not that there is
| confusion but either
| ignorance or blindness
| toward to text."
| Kent
| replies: In a
| grammatical, historical
| interpretation, Frank, we
| don't get to invent new
| meanings to words to fit
| what we want the text to
| say.

Kent: what does the word "cosmos" mean in the NT? Does it have only one meaning, or does its meaning rely on context, and in a few places idiom? Because if it has more than one meaning, then we have to ask ourselves: "Does this happen with the word 'ekklesia' in the NT?"

If 'ekklesia' can mean more than one thing - and every lexical reference we have says it does -- then the rest of your lecture here falls flat.

| We understand what
| the text says by what the
| words in the text mean
| (how they are
| historically used, how
| they are used in the
| Bible itself). Ekklesia
| is used quite a few
| times. We don't have to
| guess. Why not look at
| how the word is used?

In fact, I have - and have pointed out that aside from the text in dispute (Mt 16:18), at least one other text uses the word to mean more than "the believers in one city". However, as we will see below, you will go to any lengths to avoid admitting this is so. You will even tip you hand as to why you do this - and it ought to embarrass you, but it won't.

| Have you ever looked at
| the 117 times ekklesia is
| used, Frank? How is it
| blindness to look at 112
| clear usages and
| interpret 5 others in
| light of the 112?

Key problem #1 Kent: you haven't really read my post at all, or you would see that, in fact, I agree that "ekkelsia" most often means "those called out in one place". You have missed that to go on a little rant here about whether or not there is an ekklesia which only God can see - and deny such a thing.

| What is
| blind and deaf is your
| tact of giving a whole
| new meaning to the word
| just because the singular
| noun is used in a generic
| way in just a handful of
| instances. Nowhere is
| ekklesia established to
| be something other than
| an assembly.

Who said it was -not- an assembly, Kent? The questions are only where, what kind, and called out by whom? Does my original post say that there is only an invisible church - or does it dispose of a badly-asked question by pointing out that Jesus didn't call out a corporation, but something else?

You are going quite far afield here to make sure you say I'm wrong - but now you're saying I didn't say something I actually said.

| After
| quoting a big chunk of
| Hebrews 12, Frank said,
[stipulate my own text]
| Kent
| replies: I appreciate the
| context you included
| Frank, and I think you
| should look at it more
| closely. In the context,
| it is obvious that the
| author of Hebrews is
| comparing the New
| Covenant with the Old
| Covenant, showing to the
| Jewish audience (its
| called
| Hebrews-understanding the
| audience is important,
| Frank). The "ye" in
| Hebrews are Hebrews, but
| in this case, they would
| be those who moved on to
| the better way.

I just want to make sure we get this right, Kent: you're saying that me - a gentile - can't apply the theology of Hebrews to myself because I'm not a Hebrew, right?

Great argument. Air tight. I'm also not Titus or Timothy, so I guess I don't have to apply those to me either? How far do we take that argument until we see that it completely decimates the sufficiency of Scripture, Kent?

| Hebrews
| is obviously written to a
| mixed multitude, some are
| those who have received
| Christ, some have come to
| Him intellectually only,
| and other were rejecting
| Him. Hebrews is
| persuading those who
| haven't moved on to move
| on. And to those who
| have, to keep on keeping
| on. He is telling these
| Hebrews that by coming at
| one point in the past to
| this New Covenant, the
| Hebrew believers have
| come (perfect
| tense-ongoing results) to
| a whole bunch of great
| blessings-Mt. Zion, city
| of the living God,
| heavenly Jerusalem, a
| general assembly of
| angels, a regenerate
| assembly, yes, whose
| names are written in the
| Lamb's book of life, God
| as Judge, and the spirits
| of just men made perfect.
| I believe that the "just
| men made perfect" are the
| OT saints.

Not all the new creations in Christ, Kent? Be careful dude: you're about to say there are two ways to be justified before God.

| These phrases
| have nuances of
| differences. They aren't
| all the same.

That's actually pretty ironic, given your inability to see nuances of usage in the word "ekklesia". And funny.

| For
| instance, the festal
| gathering of angels-are
| the "ye" an actual part
| of those too? Of course
| not. One of the great
| blessings is this
| assembly of saved people.
| It isn't a nation of
| unbelievers any more, but
| the blessing of an
| assembly of believers.

That's actually an amazingly-bad straw-man, Kent. The passage says, "you have come ... to innumerable angels in festal gathering". Coming to "angels" is different than coming to "an assembly" - as one is coming to a type of creature and the other is coming to a type of gathering. When one comes to a gathering, one is generally part of it – which is the writer’s point here. They have come in faith to join the assembly in heaven.

| I
| don't have a problem with
| the idea that this is a
| church in prospect, and
| assembly of all the saved
| in the church (generic)
| who will gather in
| heaven, but making it
| something other than an
| assembly contradicts the
| meaning of the word.

OK: your next sentence is where you betray your own biases, historical short-sightedness, and the limits of your reasoning, so I wanted to make sure we set it off as a special case from the rest of your rambling here.

But let me say this about what you just said: my specific point about "ekklesia" is that it is used at least once to speak of all those who are elected to salvation – that there is an ekklesia which only God knows, but in which we can have a part of our assurance laid up. You have here said that you can’t object to saying that particular usage must be an assembly, but you have taken it apart to mean "only jews".

Let’s see why this must be true:

| The
| universal meaning of
| ekklesia came out of
| Roman Catholicism. They
| started the idea of the
| Catholic church.

In the words of Doug Pagitt, "wow. Wow. Wow."

[1] Given there was no Pope in the 4th century, it is impossible to say that the phrase "catholic and apostolic church" in the Nicene Creed means "Roman Catholic church". Since that creed probably had a relationship with both the Apostles’ Creed and the Anthanasian Creed, it’s pretty much impossible to say that it was the "Roman Catholics" or the "Catholic church" which invented that phrase.

[2] There’s no question that, by the time of Trent, that phrase had been changed in meaning. No question. The problem is whether or not it then becomes illegitimate to speak of the church at all places and at all times as a church – that is, the assembly God calls out – when Scripture says that such a thing exists.

[3] The –only- reason to say what you say here is to prey on fears of creeping "popery", or some other sort of yellow-journalism theology. The Pope also, on paper, affirms the Trinity – should we abandon that? How about the Resurrection – which the Pope affirms is the basis for having one Church? Or the eucharist – maybe we shouldn’t have the Lord’s table because the Pope says that the Table is a sign of universal unity?

For a guy who wants me to somehow return to Biblical truth, your excuse here for abandoning the text and saddling it with meaning that voids its application for 99.999% of all believers history-to-date is pretty lame.

At best.

| Augustine popularized it.
| It fit right in with
| their state church
| ecclesiology. It was left
| over in the Reformers,
| who were state church
| people. The NT teaches an
| assembly, local only.

Except in Heb 12:23, which is not just for Jews but for Gentiles also. To say otherwise is to remove the Scripture from the canon.

| This is also what you'll
| read in the first century
| patristic, Clement of
| Rome, as well. As
| hierarchicalism
| developed, the doctrine
| of the Nicolaitines, they
| looked also for
| catholicism.

{yawn} I see – Clement was a romanizer. Pray tell: who at that time thought so?

[stipulate my own text]
| Kent replies:
| All the Old and New
| Testament saints will be
| in the New Jerusalem,
| Frank, but the ekklesia
| in the text is
| differentiated with the
| OT saints. You quote Gill
| and Matthew Henry and
| we're supposed to just
| crawl into the fetal
| position and surrender to
| what they say. They give
| no proof of their
| position and you don't
| require it because you
| take the same position.

Ah. I see – pointing out that guys like Henry and Gill think this passage speaks to an assembly of all believers has no value.

Apparently, because they were somehow romanized – duped by Rome! Henry and Gill!

Nice one, Kent – and I thought you didn’t have a sense of humor!

| You read into the text a
| whole new meaning of
| ekklesia that is found
| nowhere in the NT,
| defending a catholic
| church, when the two
| terms contradict-catholic
| and church. Scripture
| doesn't teach that there
| are two churches-local
| and universal. We have
| all believers represented
| in the family of God and
| the kingdom of God. The
| assembly is an
| assembly.

See – you have asserted this "no universal church" thing over and over, but this verse specifically denies this. What’s even more damaging to you, Kent, is that you deny it in order to refute some other mistake. To affirm that there is an ultimate, final assembly of all the faithful, known only to God right now, does not affirm the idea that there ought to be a pope and a magisterium – in fact, there’s a long way to go before such a thing even seems credible, let alone tenable.

Asserting "not taught in scripture" when in fact that’s what Scripture here teaches is just whistling in the dark.

| Frank writes:
[stipulate my text]
| Kent replies:
| You say "the ultimate
| assembly." I have no
| problem with that, but
| that doesn't mean that it
| is something that is
| functioning in the here
| and now.

Kent: what are you talking about? Are you saying that the local church has no relationship to the elect? How can that be?

| Christ's church
| is not some future non-
| functioning assembly in
| heaven, but the one that
| fulfills the Great
| Commission now. An
| assembly in heaven
| prospect is fine, but
| that should not guide
| your interpretation of
| ekklesia as it operates
| now on earth.

Where, exactly, did I say it does? How does affirming that God knows the names of all the elect, and we can bank on being in that number if we are of the same faith as those in Heb 11, "guide my interpretation of ‘ekklesia’ as it operates now on earth"? What are you talking about?

You just want me to say, "Nothing good even came out of Romanism," right? You want to make sure I don’t accidentally say, "well, Augustine said some good things, and the creeds are useful for teaching, and Athanasius and even Nicea are useful to us today, and Jerome, God bless him, still did very important work in discerning the scope of the canon, etc."

It’s not gonna happen. One has to have a better grasp of history than all that and can’t be afraid that men – much like you and me – are a mixed bag and imperfect in spite of being Christians.

| However,
| you have trouble in
| Hebrews 12, because the
| text indicates the
| general assembly, the
| church, and the spirits
| of just men made perfect
| each to be different
| entities. The regenerate
| church on earth will be
| in heaven, but on earth
| that church assembles and
| functions.

Again, this is just raving, Kent. Who said that the assembly in heaven means there’s a Pope on Earth? What are you arguing against? Where is it in evidence?

| I believe the
| church will assemble in
| heaven, but for now it is
| assembling on earth._

Wow. Really? I wonder why I didn’t think of that ...

centuri0n said...

Honestly, Kent: the description of the "church" which I gave in my post was out of the LBCF. How do you read that to be an endorsement of Roman Catholicism?

Just admit you didn't read my post. Or else admit you didn't recognize the LBCF.