What does the term “Church” mean?

Old keys on a old book, antique wood background

According to Strong’s ekklésia (church) means an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of Christian believers. Now from what I recently learned this is the most basic definition. In other words the church or ekklésia means a group of people together. But what else does it mean? I will attempt to explain what I recently heard from two different minsters on two different occasion unrelated to each other.

According to ancient Greece the ekklésia was the senate of the government. It legislated what was allowed or forbidden or may I say bound or loosed (Matt. 16:19).

The ekklesia‘s powers were almost unlimited. It elected and dismissed magistrates and directed the policy of the city. It declared war, and it made peace. It negotiated and approved treaties and arranged alliances. It chose generals, assigned troops to different campaigns, raised the necessary money, and dispatched those troops from city to city. It was an assembly in which all members had equal right and duty. As the Roman Empire rose and supplanted the Greeks, the Romans adopted the term into Latin.

The concept that distinguishes biblical usage from classical Greek usage is the emphasis that it is God’s assembly. Ekklesia, therefore, means God’s people, called together by God to listen to or act for God. The emphasis is on the action of God, which has the force of a summons (as from a judge). The biblical ekklesia, the church, is a body of people, not so much assembling because they chose to come together, but assembling because God called them to Himself—not assembling to share their own thoughts and opinions, but to listen to the voice of God.  –  John W. Ritenbaugh

This should totally change your view of what Church means. Ritenbaugh also says about where the term “church” comes from:

Perhaps the best place to begin answering these questions is by tracing the etymology of the word “church” itself, and then looking at the way it is used in context. Many have assumed that it derives from the Greek ekklesia, but this is not true. The English word “church” descends from an Old English word cirice, akin to an Old High German word, kirihha. Both words derive from a Late Greek word, kuriakon, which comes from the Greek kuriakos, the possessive form of the word kurios, the term for “lord.” Kuriakos thus simply means “lord’s,” showing possession, or “belonging to the lord” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1985, p. 240). It can denote anything that belongs to the Lord.  –  John W. Ritenbaugh

When I think of ekklesia I also am directed to 2 Cor. 5:20 when it speaks of being ambassadors of Christ. We bring the current rule and reign of Jesus to this earth as His representatives. We legislate Heaven’s directives upon earth. Far too long the enemy has ruled and run this world but with Christ’s FINISHED work we bring what He brought. Didn’t He pray, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven? Let us create the footstool for our Lord and bring the restoration of all things so we can hasten His coming (Heb. 10:13, Acts 3:21, 2 Pet. 3:12)

We need His directives and wisdom to establish His kingdom. He is coming back for a BEAUTIFUL Bride and not a disjointed church. He is still looking for a place to lay His head…

I do not believe in the escapism that is preached by pre-trib eschatologists. I do believe there is a light that is and will shine brighter and brighter upon His Bride as she continues to make Herself ready. Isaiah 60:1 needs to happen and I believe it will be a literal shining according to Matt. 17:2 and 2 Cor. 3:18. If Moses received a lesser covenant with a glory so strong he had to cover his face then how much more will the greater shine forth on and through us! I’ll end with this scripture:

Romans 8:30Amplified Bible (AMP)

30 And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being].

We are the Throne of God on earth!

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20 comments

  1. I believe that the correct term for a New Testament church is the Hebrew word Kehilah which means community, i.e. the community of followers of Yeshua. Church comes from the Greek word kyriakon which is not in the New Testament. The word translated church is ekklesia which means ‘called out ones’ or ‘those called to assemble’ and comes from the Hebrew word kahal which means ‘audience’ or ‘assembly.’ Kehilah also comes from kahal and means ‘community.’ Ekklesia is a great word, because those who follow Yeshua are called out from the rest of the world and are grafted into the Commonwealth of Faith, the Father’s household. But, no matter what you think of the word church, a word is only as powerful as its meaning to its hearer, and most people hearing the word church today, think of buildings, not people.

    See: Identity Theft: How Jesus Was Robbed of His Jewishness by Ron Cantor, page 88

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    1. Meaning and context are essential; terms for their own sake which might direct people’s attention away from the pre-eminence of Messiah in all things are dangerously close to being doubtful disputation. “Ekklesia” is used in the New Covenant for the word “church,” and I recognize its Hebrew relative “kahal” or “kehilat.” This may have significance for witnessing to Jewish unbelievers at some level. However, the “kehilat” and “ekklesia” are not common assemblies. The Older Covenant roots of our faith in Messiah Jesus are valuable to show that Jesus has always been Lord, present in the shadows of Older Covenant feasts and in the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets. Nevertheless, these all point to the New Covenant Fulfillment of them in Yeshua/Jesus. Another observation: the word “kyrios” is used repeatedly in the New Covenant with regard to the word “Lord.” I believe what our writer friend has written is an accurate and potent piece directing the attention of all readers to the Truth that the Church–the Body of Messiah/Christ–is not an ordinary assembly; nor is it an Old Covenant assembly which stumbles at making Jesus pre-eminent in all things, cultural distinctives included. We are called out to declare and demonstrate that Yeshua is “Kyrios” in our lives according to Isaiah 9.7–to the Jew and to the “Greek.” In talmidim/disciples of the Lord Yeshua, His government is to be seen increasing and having no end in our hearts, souls and strength (Deuteronomy 6.5)… Delicacy, sensitivity are important, but not at the expense of speaking the Truth that Yeshua/Jesus is Lord; and not to the exclusion of another believer’s well spoken encouragement to the Body of Christ–in Whom there is neither Jew nor Greek (Galatians 3.28).

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  2. Excellent piece. Very concise and well ordered. Been thinking increasingly in these times how important it is for the Body of Christ to be demonstrative in their circles of influence that Christ truly is on the throne of their lives. Let there be increase of His government in us, and may there be no end to it in us… Isaiah 9.7

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  3. Good overview! Also implicit in the word “ekklesia” is not just the assembling of God’s people, but the fact that he has CALLED us to (ekklesia literally means “out-called”). Love the fact that, unlike the members of man-made religions, we did not call ourselves, but were called by God. “Where two or three gather in my name, I am there.” Matthew 18:20

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    1. Understood but the scripture were written primarily in Greek. Also the Septuagint was probably the most common Hebrew scriptures used at his time as well. Therefore, the word in question is correct according to Scholars.

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  4. What does the term “Church” mean? Unfortunately, as said above, for the most part the word “church” is relegated to a building. It is also tied to an “emotional” feeling. In my environment it is nothing for members to say we had “church” today, meaning they felt good. As with all words, the definition of the word is based upon the times. The word “gay” used 60 years ago has a totally different meaning today. We as the “church” must proactively reestablish the scriptural meaning and illustrate it to the “world”.

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  5. Thanks for sharing. This has been my first visit to your site. Please be encouraged to continue. We so often use language describing the church in historical and social terms, that we fail to consider fully what it means to be a “spiritual” body whose connectedness and integrity are exclusively expressed by and through the “person” of Jesus Christ, and not through carnal, intellectual, material and worldly things. Let’s agree keep to continue growing in grace.

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