What is the church?

 


Matthew 16:18  

(18) And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
 

In Matthew 16:18, the word Jesus used for "church" is ekklesia (Strong's #1577), and it is so translated in the King James Version 115 times. This Greek word means "an assembly" or "a group of people called together for a purpose." It contains no implication at all of sacredness or holiness.

In practical usage, it commonly identified people called by a magistrate for a public service of some sort. This is how it is used in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41:

Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together. . . . But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. . . . And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly. (Emphasis ours.)

Each time, ekklesia is translated as "assembly" and names what could easily be described as a mob of excited and confused people. However, the writers of the New Testament clearly agreed this was the word that best fit the groups of Christians called of God for service to Him. How did it come to be translated as "church" when the word "assembly" fits more accurately?

This change apparently has its beginning in another, far different Greek word, kuriakos (Strong's #2960). Kurios, the Greek word for "Lord," is easily recognizable as the root of kuriakos, which means "belonging to the Lord." Curiously, according to Joseph T. Shipley, author of The Origins of English Words, pp. 183-184, the root of kurios and kuriakos literally means "to bend or curve."

In the course of time, kuriakos was picked up by the Scots as kirk. Shipley shows that kirk and kuriakos share the same root. In the Scottish language, kirk indicates a place or a location, as in a building belonging to the Lord. The kirk became the place where the assembly bent before God in reverence, as in prayer, appealing to Him; or bent looking upward in praise of God; or where God bent in extending mercy.

As more time passed, the English pronunciation of kirk changed to "church." Thus "church," which indicates a building, a place where God is worshipped, gradually evolved to include, not just the place, but also the people who worshipped there and the worship services too. The modern English Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary reflects this in its definitions for church: "1. A building for Christian worship. 2. Regular religious services. 3. A local congregation of Christians." We regularly use all three in our everyday speech and writing, allowing the context to indicate which is intended.

However, in the Bible the word "church" never refers to a building or to worship services held within the building. It always refers to the assembly, group, or congregation of called-out ones who belong to the Lord, worship Him, and fellowship with others of the same mind.


 

Rate0

Replies

  • Well put.. and easy to understand!  Thanks for this... I will certainly use it to explain to my childrens clas.. :)

    Reply
Please Sign In to Add a Comment
or

This website is powered by Spruz

What Each Area of the Site is Meant For: Blogs - This is your personal space. This is where you should post thoughts that are not intended for extensive further discussion. Observations from personal study and events that have occurred in your life belong here. Unless your post ends with questions or makes it apparent that discussion is to follow, it should probably be a blog. As discussed later, blogs are limited to those who hold to historic Christian beliefs. Forums - This is for open discussion relating to the topic posted. Dialogue is encouraged to stay on topic, so if a side conversation begins, open a new discussion. This is where the majority of the activity has taken place so far. Topics should remain general in nature, while in depth discussion on narrow topics should take place in groups. Groups - This is a place to congregate with people who have similar interests and positions in order to have open discussion. The conversation in here is not required to remain on topic, so it is more ready to follow rabbit trails. This is where you should go if you want to gather with a particular kind of theologian. Before initiating a new group, we ask that you consider posting a question in the discussion forum area to see if there is enough interest to justify a separate group. The reason we encourage such action is that, in the event that a group is inactive for 6 months or more, the moderators of Scriptural Studies reserve the right to close down and delete the group due to inactivity. Events - This is available to anyone that wants to post an event that you think the members of Scriptural Studies may be interested in. Contact Denis, Rabbi Del, Rifkah, or Marti for more details on advertising. Our Attitude of conduct: In case you missed them on your way in, take some time to become acquainted with the conduct we expect on this site. You may find our Attidudes on the main forum page. Our purpose at Scripural Studies is that the conversations move in a Gracious way. We define Gracious in the following way: 1) Not closed minded 2) Not self-promoting 3) Not characterized by mass amounts of cut-and-paste proof-texting 4) Not characterized by mass amounts of cut-and-paste from other places 5) Irenic 6) Not slanderous 7) No spamming 8) Perpetual venting bitterness 9) Not confusing or disruptive But in all things you'll be welcome here