By Garreth L. Clair
In this lesson, I would like to discuss two more of those biblical terms used to describe the church of Christ. There are many terms used to describe facets about the New Testament church and these two will assist us in coming to a better knowledge of its nature. The study in this lesson considers the church described as “a kingdom” and as “the called out.”
The Church As “A Kingdom”
Through the years brethren have established several general rules by which they point out the use of the “kingdom analogy.” Some of those rules are scriptural in content and are:
1. The term kingdom implies:
A. A King (Christ – Luke 1:31-33).
B. Subjects (all the saved ones are citizens).
C. Territory (all the world – Matt. 28:18-20).
D. A set of laws (Heb. 5:8,9; Jude 3).
2. The term “kingdom” is used occasionally interchangeably with church:
A. Matthew 16:18,19, Jesus said to Peter: “Upon this rock I will build my church. . . . I will give unto thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” From this reading we are convinced that Jesus is speaking of one institution. In this passage Jesus promised Peter the keys to the institution that he intended to build (v. 18).
B. The same kind of conclusion may be drawn from those passages surrounding the institution of the Lord’s supper by Christ (see Luke 22:29,30; 1 Cor. 1:2; 11:18-34).
From these facts it is apparent that the term “kingdom” is a term that applies to the divine institution and is intended to portray the nature of its government.
3. The prophecies foretelling the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom (i.e., church) give additional evidence that the church of Christ established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Kingdom of Christ that they predicted. (In connection with this point see “The Church In Old Testament Prophecies. ” This lesson deals with those Old Testament prophecies in Isa. 2:2-4; Mic. 4:1-5; and Dan. 2:31-35.)
4. From the study it is evident that the kingdom of Christ is to be understood as the government feature of the divine institution. When we accept the plain teaching of the New Testament on this subject we are able to eliminate the false concepts surrounding the kingdom of Christ that exist in the minds of many today, including such ideas as:
A. The kingdom will be set up at Christ’s second coming. This false concept is referred to as premillennialism. A careful study of the scriptural evidence given herein will definitely create problems for those who advocate that false idea.
B. The kingdom was set up during the lifetime of Abraham. The view that Abraham established the kingdom of Christ is as false a view as that of premillennialism. The facts contained in lesson number four refute this idea.
C. The kingdom was set up by John the Baptizer during his personal ministry. This view establishes the church of Christ before the apostles received the Holy Spirit and before the prophets’ predictions came true (Acts 2:1-47; Dan. 2:31-35; Isa. 2:2-4; etc.). This concept would have the church established without a head.
Regardless of all the ideas advanced by man to the contrary, we must accept the teaching of the Scriptures as to the time of the kingdom’s establishment and the nature of the term as God intended we interpret it. If we will simply abide in the truth as it is revealed we will have no serious problems with the term “kingdom” as it is applied to the divine institution. On the other hand if we have arrived at a conclusion that is contrary to the revealed truth regarding this subject we may experience great distress in coming to grips with this differing view.
The Word “Church”
The Greek word translated “church” is ekklesia. If we had nothing else to determine the nature of the relationship we sustain to the world than this fact, we would know that we are called out of it.
The original word ekkiesia, translated “church,” occurs three times in Matthew, twenty-three times in Acts, sixty-two times in Paul’s letters, two in John, and twenty times in the book of Revelation. Jesus did not invent this word. He found it in common use.
Among the Greeks, ekklesia was the assembly of the citizens of a free city-state gathered by a herald blowing a horn through the streets of a town. In this sense the word is used one time in the New Testament to submit their case to the Greek ekklesia. (For a further discussion of the term see: E.W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance [p. 153]; W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, [pp. 83,84]; Gerhard Kittle’s Bible Key Words, Sec. “The Church,” Vol. 1).
Among the Jews (Hebrew people), ekklesia was the congregation of Israel assembled before the tabernacle in the wilderness by the blowing of a silver trumpet. In this sense the word is used two times in the New Testament (Acts 7:38; Heb. 2:12). Stephen, rehearsing the history of Israel, says Christ was in the ekklesia in the wilderness. The writer of Hebrews quotes a prophetic Psalm by David where the sense is “congregation” (Psa. 22:20). Israel in the land of Canaan is never called a church.
Both with the Greeks and the Jews the word (ekklesia) denoted an assembly of the people, not a committee or council, and it did not refer to a building made with hands.
The word as it refers to Christians means either, a local assembly or the church universal, as the following Scriptures attest:
1. Referring to the local church: Acts 5:11; 8:1,3; 9:31; 15:22; 20:28; Rom. 16:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; 4:17; etc.
2. Referring to the universal church (all the saved of all time): Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22; 3: 10; 3:2 1; 5:23,24,25,27,
29; Col. 1:18,24; 1 Tim. 3:15; etc.
Therefore, the Church as used by Christ refers to the saved and to the saved only, whether used of all the saved (universally) or of the saved in a specific location (local). Ekklesia, as used by Christ, means the assembly of the saved, called out of sin and darkness and into fellowship with him.
The calling out of the world is accomplished by the Lord through the gospel (Rom. 1:16). No one may be separated from the world who will refuse to comply with the conditions of the gospel (Heb. 5:8,9). To suggest that one may somehow be saved without being called out of the world and into fellowship with Christ is absolutely ridiculous simply because the saved ones are those who have been called out of the world by the word (John 6:44,45). Since the “called out” are the saved ones, how is their salvation accomplished?
1. We are saved through a new birth:
A. We must be born again (John 3:3).
B. That new birth is through water and the spirit (John 3:5).
2. We are saved through faith (John 8:24; Heb. 11:6; Mark 16:15,16; etc.).
3. We are saved through repentance:
A. Repent or perish (Luke 13:3).
B. The first converts were told to repent (Acts 2:38).
4. We are saved through a confession of Christ:
A. The confession is with the mouth (Rom. 10:10).
B. Peter made the good confession (Matt. 16:16).
C. The Eunuch made the good confession (Acts 8:37).
5. We are saved through baptism:
A. Peter says so (1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 2:38).
B. Baptism is for remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
C. Baptism is a burial in water (Rom. 6:1-5).
D. Baptism places one in Christ (Gal. 3:26,27).
Those who will comply with the Lord’s conditions of pardon will be saved from all past sins (Acts 2:38) and will be added to the body of the saved (the called out) by the Lord (Acts 2:47).
Those who have been “called out” of the world ought to recognize that they have certain benefits that others in the world do not have, the “called out ones” have:
1. Freedom from sin (Rom. 6:17,18).
2. Purified souls (1 Pet. 1:22).
3. Have been granted entrance into the kingdom (Matt. 7:21).
4. Can expect God to answer their prayer (1 John 3:22).
5. Know God (1 John 2:3,4).
6. Have demonstrated that we love God (John 14:15).
7. Know that our faith is alive (Jas. 2:17,20,24).
8. Know that we will not receive eternal destruction (2 Thess. 1:8,9).
9. Do not mind that the Lord is watching us (Heb. 4:13).
10. Know that we are children of light (1 Thess. 5:5,6; 1 John 1:6,7).
As you may now understand, the benefits of being a Christian (Acts 11:26) can be considerable. We bring this series to a close realizing that we have not presented nearly enough on this very important subject. We do hope though that the series might provoke the reader to a greater appreciation of the divine institution.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 13, pp. 392-393
July 7, 1988