THE NEW TESTAMENT DEFINITION
and NEW TESTAMENT USAGE
OF THE WORD ‘CHURCH’,
as Being THE CHURCH THAT JESUS FOUNDED.
THE DEFINITIONS OF DOCTRINE
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
by C. D. Cole
Please, Preach & Teach and Translate this, etc.
In this chapter we will examine
the Scriptural definition of a ‘church’.
A. THE COLLOQUIAL USE OF THE WORD CHURCH.
1. The NEW TESTAMENT Definition
of The CHURCHES that JESUS BUILT,
DOES NOT INCLUDE
OUR MODERN ‘USAGE’ for ‘a Meeting House’
that we now familiarly speak of as ‘a church’.
OUR MODERN ‘USAGE’ for ‘a Meeting House’,
is foreign to any New Testament use of the word,
The New Testament Churches
were not ‘the house’,
but the Saved Souls, “in the house.”
“Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.”
“The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house”
(I Corinthians. 16:19);
“Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house” (Colossians 4:15).
2. Christianity is usually referred to as the ‘church’ to distinguish the followers of Christ from the state and from the World.
‘Church’ History, therefore,
is nothing more than the History of Christianity.
3. Denominations of Christians are commonly spoken of as ‘churches’, embracing believers in various groups without regard to faith and practice.
B. SOME MODERN NOTIONS OF THE CHURCH.
1. The Universal Visible Theory,
also called the Imperial Theory.
This finds expression in the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. The ‘church’, by this erroneous definition, is a visible empire with a visible human head.
2. The Universal Invisible Theory.
The ‘church’, by this erroneous definition, makes all the saved, members of the ‘church’.
3. The Church Branch Theory.
The ‘church’, by this erroneous definition, makes the various denominations mere branches of the main stem (of ‘a church'(?)
which no longer exists.
C. THE PRE-CHRISTIAN
USE OF THE WORD CHURCH.
The word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which means to call out for the purpose of assembling.
The government of ancient Greek cities was democratic, being administered by duly qualified citizens in a lawful assembly, called together from time to time to transact business for the public good.
And this ‘assembly’ was called an ekklesia.
The Greek word ekklesia, or ‘church’, in itself
has no religious connotation.
The Greek word ekklesia, or ‘church’,
simply means ‘assembly’
regardless of the kind of ‘assembly’.
In Acts 19:39;
“But if you inquire any thing
concerning other matters,
it will be determined in a lawful assembly”
In Acts 19:39;
“a lawful assembly” is used
of the Greek word ‘assembly’
corresponding somewhat to our city council
or board of aldermen.
The word ‘ekklesia’
is also used of the church (congregation)
in the wilderness (Acts 7:38).
By accommodation ‘ekklesia’
is applied to the mob gathered against Paul
In Acts 19:32, we read
that the ‘ekklesia’ (assembly) “was confused,”
referring to the mob or unlawful ‘assembly’.
The townclerk told Demetrius
and his craft
to take their complaint against Paul
to the lawful ‘ekklesia’ (assembly).
And having restored order,
the townclerk dismissed the ‘ekklesia’ (mob).
“And when he had thus spoken,
he dismissed the ‘assembly” (Acts 19:41).
D. THE ‘EKKLESIA’ or ‘ASSEMBLY’,
The ‘church’ of JESUS CHRIST.
The English word ‘church’
comes from the Greek word ‘kuriakon’,
“of or Belonging to the Lord.”
Kuriakon occurs only two times
in the Greek New Testament.
The Greek word ‘kuriakon’,
“of or Belonging to the Lord”
is used of the Lord’s Supper
( in I Corinthians ll:20),
and of the Lord’s Day
( in Revelation 1:10).
The Greek word ‘kuriakon’,
“of or Belonging to the Lord”
is never translated ‘church’
in the New Testament.
Kuriakon was used
by the early Greek Christians
for the Lord’s house or meeting place.
The Teutonic tribes,
when converted to Christianity,
adopted this Greek word
for their house of worship.
It is found in the German Kirche,
the Scottish Kirk,
and the Anglo-Saxon Circe.
The Greeks never employed kuriakon
for the people, but only for the house.
In using the word ‘ekklesia’
Jesus Christ did not coin a new word,
but Jesus Christ the word ‘ekklesia’
in current use and easily understood
by both Jew and Greek.
did not Employ the word kuriakon,
but Jesus Christ used the word, ‘ekklesia’
which can only refer to people,
a people ‘called out’ to form an ‘assembly’.
In response to Peter’s confession of His deity, Christ said,
“You are Peter (petrol)
and Upon this Rock (petra)
I Will Build MY ‘ekklesia’ (assembly),”
in Matthew 16:18.
Jesus Christ thus Distinguished
between His ‘assembly’ and other assemblies.
Paul makes the same distinction
in his letter to the Thessalonians.
Paul writes to the ‘ekklesia’
which is in God the Father
(this distinguishes it
from the Greek political assembly),
and “in the Lord Jesus Christ,”
distinguishes Jesus Christ’s ‘assembly’
from the Jewish synagogue.
In this way Paul made sure
that his letter would reach the right ‘assembly’.
In the Greek New Testament
the noun ‘ekklesia’ occurs 115 times.
It is translated ‘church’ 112 times
and ‘assembly’ three times.
The word church actually occurs 113 times
in our King James Bible,
but in Acts 19:37 it is not ‘ekklesia’
but the word for temples.
The King James translators
tried to use ‘church’ for ‘ekklesia’ in all cases,
but in Acts 19:32, 39, 41 to do so
would have been manifestly absurd;
and so in these instances
The King James translators
had to give the correct rendering; ‘ASSEMBLY’.
Jesus Christ Himself Set us the Pattern
for the use of the word ekklesia.
In Matthew 16:18 when Jesus Said,
“I Will Build My ‘church’ (ekklesia),”
Jesus used the word abstractly of an Institution, without Defining, Particularizing, or Locating it.
Just as we speak of the American home,
the American boy,
and other institutions
without referring to any particular home or boy.
In Matthew 18:17 our Lord
Used the word ‘ekklesia’ (assembly)
in the concrete sense of a ‘particular assembly’
to which one might tell his grievances.
And so when Jesus Christ’s ‘ekklesia’,
as a Divine Institution,
becomes concrete and operational
it is an actual ‘assembly’ of His followers
in a SCRIPTURALLY Organized Capacity.
When Jesus Christ’s Speaks of HIS ‘ekklesia’,
as a Divine Institution,
it is ALWAYS a Visible Organization
inasmuch as Jesus Christ’s ‘ekklesia’,
as a Divine Institution,
is ALWAYS composed of visible people.
J. W. Porter says, “If there is any other sort of ‘church’ other than that of a visible ‘congregation’,
revelation and investigation have alike
failed to locate its whereabouts
or define its functions.
Such an inconceivable, intangible,
as the imaginary invisible ‘church’
has never been known to convert anybody
or to perform any functions
of an actual church.”
When Christ said,
“Upon this Rock I Will Build My church,
and the gates of Hell (hades)
Will not prevail against it,”
Speaking of the church prospectively
something to be built “I will build.”
The ‘church’ was a Concept
in the Mind of Jesus Christ
just as the building is a concept
in the mind of the architect
before it is erected.
Jesus Christ Saw all the material
that was to make up this Holy Sanctuary,
every Living Stone that would go into it,
before it had been Quarried
from the hard rock of sinful humanity.
“Christ also Loved the church
and Gave Himself for it;
that He Might Sanctify and Cleanse it
with the Washing of Water by the Word,
that He Might Present It
to Himself a Glorious Church,
not having spot, or wrinkle,
or any such thing;
but that it should be
Holy and without blemish”
And so the ‘churches’ Jesus Christ Founded
to Build the church for which He died,
is Promised Perpetuity and Glory.
The ‘churches’ of Jesus Christ
as a Divine Institution finds expression
in two kinds of ‘assemblies’:
the local ‘assembly’ here on earth;
and the General ‘assembly’ of Firstborn ones,
now enrolled in Heaven
and to be Gathered there as a Glorious church.
CHURCHES OF CHRIST
Whenever the word ‘church’
is used in the New Testament
of something larger than a particular,
visible, ‘assembly’ here on earth’
the word ‘churches’ is always plural,
like the churches of Galatia, Asia, and Judaea.
The ‘church’ of Christ here on Earth
in many particular ‘assemblies’
of visible people who have Obtained Salvation
and are Alive on Earth;
The church of Christ in Heaven
will find expression
in one universal ‘assembly’ of visible people
whose salvation has been completed,
But there is no such thing
as an invisible ‘church’ here on Earth
or in Heaven.
To a man in Florida
who would not unite with any ‘church’
or particular congregation,
and who insisted
that he belonged to the big ‘church’ of Christ,
the writer said something like this:
In the New Testament the ‘churches’
could be located and written to.
I would like to write to your ‘church’;
please give me its address
and the name of its pastor.
Needless to say, he was shut up.
In his commentary on Matthew,
Dr. Broadus says:
“The word ‘church’
is not used in the New Testament
to denote a congregation,
actual or imaginary, of all professed Christians, unless it be in Acts 9:31 (correct text),
and in I Tim. 3:15.
In the former the word ‘church’
the original church at Jerusalem,
were widely scattered
throughout Judaea and Galilee and Samaria
by the persecution
and held meetings wherever they were,
but still belonged
to the one original organization.
When Paul wrote to the Galatians
nearly twenty years later,
these separate meetings
had been organized into distinct ‘churches’;
and so he speaks (Galasions 1:22)
in reference to that same period,
of “the churches of Judaea
which were in Christ.”
In I Timothy 3:15, the ‘church’
is naturally the particular local ‘church’
with which one is connected.
The New Testament
never speaks of one particular ‘assembly’
or ‘church’ as a part of the whole,
but of each ‘assembly’ as “the whole church.”
In I Corinthians 14:23,
Paul says, “If therefore the whole ‘church’
be come together into one place….”
Writing to the Romans from Corinth,
in his closing salutation,
Paul says, “Gaius mine host,
and of the whole ‘church’, saluteth you”
Speaking of the ‘church’
under the metaphor of the human body,
in I Corinthians 12:27,
Paul says “Now you are the ‘body’ of Christ,
and members in particular.”
The article is absent in the Greek.
The same is true when the ‘church’
is represented under the figure of a ‘temple’.
The ‘church’ at Corinth is called
“the temple of God” in I Corinthians 3:16
and also in II Corinthians 6:16.
In the second chapter of Ephesians
the ‘church’ is in view
under the figure of a building or temple.
Local ‘congregations’ are in view in verse 21;
“In whom (Christ) all the ‘building’
fitly framed together
grows into an Holy ‘temple’ (sanctuary)
in the Lord.”
In verse 22 the church at Ephesus
is referred to:
“In whom (Christ) you also
are ‘builded’ together
for an Habitation of God
through the Spirit.”
We have given the correct text
in these quotations.
In Ephesians 3:21;
“Unto Him Be Glory in the ‘church’
by Christ Jesus throughout all ages,
World without end. Amen.”
Jesus’ Redeemed people,
Making up the Glory ‘church’,
Will Be Christ’s Eternal Monument as Savior.
“When He Will Come
to Be Glorified in His Saints,
and to Be Admired in all them
that believe (because our testimony
among you was believed) in that day”
(II Thess. 1:10).
The ‘ekklesia’ or ‘church’ in Glory
Will Be the One Real ‘temple’, ‘body’,
‘flock’, and ‘bride’ of Christ.
In Glory the ‘church’ Will Have Been Built
and Be Forever to His Glory.
And because each local particular ‘assembly’
on Earth is a representative of His Institution
called the ‘church’,
all the figures applied
to the Future ‘church’ in Glory
are also applied
to each and every local ‘assembly’ of saints.
(Note: See introduction of this volume
as to the belief of the publisher
about Bride of Christ.)
A man once said to B. H. Carroll,
“How dare you apply such broad terms
as ‘the house of God,’
‘the body of Christ’,
and ‘the temple of God,’
to your little fragment of a denomination!”
“I do not apply them to any denomination,
nor to any aggregate of particular ‘churches’,
but the scriptures
do apply every one of them
to the particular ‘congregations’
of Christ’s disciples.”
In the Scriptural sense
there is no such thing as the Methodist ‘Church’,
or the Presbyterian ‘Church’,
or the Baptist ‘Church’, etc.
We should never speak
of The American Baptist ‘Church’,
or the Southern Baptist ‘Church’,
because there is no such thing.
The Southern Baptist Convention
is made up of individual messengers
sent to it from thousands of Baptist ‘churches’,
and these messengers
have no delegated authority.
Naturally, we Baptists believe
that our form of ‘church’ government
conforms more nearly
to the New Testament pattern.
There is no hierarchy
or grades of ministry among us.
All members are equal in authority
and this authority is expressed by vote.
One may have more influence than another,
but all have the same authority.
There is more and more being said today
about “One ‘church’ in one world.”
This means one big ‘church’
made up of the churches of all denominations.
But such a thing is utterly foreign to scripture,
so far as Christ’s ‘churches’ are concerned.
Such an idea is retrogression
rather than progress.
It reverses the missionary program.
In the early days Christ’s churchas,
as a Divinely Established Institution
found expression in one ‘church’,
the ‘church’ at Jerusalem.
Under persecution that ‘church’ was scattered,
and the members went everywhere
preaching the word.
And wherever disciples were made
another ‘church’ was organized.
And some years later,
we read of the churches of Judaea.
And when the church at Antioch
sent Paul and Barnabas as missionaries,
we soon read of ‘churches’ in Galatia
and other provinces.
If and when we have one ‘church’ in one world, who is to be the head of this one big ‘church’?
Will the Head be Christ or Anti-Christ?
The writer ventures the prediction
that the head of this one big ‘church’
will be a man living in a big house
in the city of Rome, the City of Seven Hills,
on the banks of the Tiber.
Let no Protestant ever suppose
that the Roman system of a graded ministry culminating in the supremacy of the pope
will ever be relinquished or compromised.
Yet with a sad heart we fear
that Christendom is headed in that direction.
Suppose History repeats itself,
and there again becomes one big world ‘church’:
such as the Roman Catholic Church
before the reformation;
suppose the reformation under Luther
and others reverse itself
and the Protestant denominations
return to Rome;
will this mean
that the perpetuity promised by Christ
will be repealed?
Perish the thought!
Just as in the past,
the true ‘churches’ of Christ
will not be a part of the big world ‘church’,
which will really be the Roman Catholic ‘Church’.
The Divine Institution
Christ Promised Perpetuity to
Will Not Perish from the Earth,
and these Divine Institutions
Will Always find expression
in particular ‘assemblies’;
which will not be swallowed up
by the big ecumenical body,
WHICH HAS NEVER BEEN,
NOR EVER WILL BE A ‘CHURCH’,
by NEW TESTAMENT DEFINITION.