"If a word means anything, it means
something" a wise friend once said. Think about it. Serious writers select words
carefully, perhaps painstakingly, so they convey just the right thought. God was a serious
writer when He wrote the Scriptures; each word was exactly the right one for the meaning
He wanted to express. Notice that God did NOT write:
"And great fear came upon all the chapel,
and upon as many as heard these things" (Act. 5:11) "For first of all, when ye
come together in the chapel, I hear that…" (1 Cor. 11:18) "To
the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known
by the chapel the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10)
Listen carefully to many in your assembly and
you may hear things like:
"The correspondent of the
chapel…", "The chapel sent flowers to the funeral", "The chapel
is having a fellowship dinner next Sunday", "Our chapel is having special gospel
meetings next spring", The elders in our chapel…", "Our chapel had
fellowship with…" etc.. Really?? It would be very interesting indeed to watch,
for instance, a building use its phone to call the local florist to have them send flowers
to the mortuary or, to cook a meal, set up the tables, and put the tablecloth and
silverware in place. You can envision all sorts of strange, humorous, and fascinating
performances by this exceptional structure of wood and cement. These remarkable operations
would surely attract the newspapers who would hail this as very advanced technology!
Ridiculous you say. Absolutely. But
isn’t that what we’re often really saying in our everyday conversation?
True, it may not be too important in many
instances, but in others it is indeed important. For instance:
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art
Peter, an upon this rock I will build my chapel; and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18)
"Husbands, love your wives, even as
Christ also loved the chapel, and gave himself for it." (Eph 5:25)
Christ did not shed His precious blood and
suffer the holy wrath of God on sin for the benefit of some building of wood, cement,
roofing, and paint. No; that’s appalling and perhaps blasphemous. We reject that idea
with all the energy in our being.
The word church is, of course, the
translation of "ekklesia," a gathering of called-out ones, an assembly of people
— specifically, in the New Testament, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ called out
of the world and assembled together by the Holy Spirit. We often — and correctly
— refer to such a gathering as an assembly or congregation. In spite of our care to
honor the Lord by not calling the building a church and by saying that the assembly meets
in a chapel (or hall), we often get careless and refer to the gathered people of God as a
chapel; clearly, a chapel is a material structure not an assembled group of people, and
most certainly not a very special and blessed people redeemed by the precious blood of the
incarnate Son of God.
Then there’s that phrase that we often
hear, "Time to go to church," or "After church we went to…."
Really? Does the local body of redeemed saints have a starting or ending time on any
specific day? Notice also, we would think it strange if one were to say, "Time to go
to family," etc.
Happily, we don’t hear the word
"assembly" being used to refer to the chapel, such as, "we need to put a
new roof on the assembly", or is that going to be the next step?
Surely we’re not protesting about slips
of the tongue that most of us fall into at one time or another. But if our thinking is
muddled or too indiscriminate — or perhaps we are ignorant of the implication —
we need to rethink the matter more carefully.
Nor are we speaking of the legal or
incorporated name of a state-recognized body (nor the people of that organization) for the
purposes of holding property, handling funds, etc.. Obviously, the assembly and the legal
organization involve the same people, but we quickly realize that the legal name
("…Chapel") has quite a different meaning and is not a suitable reference
to God’s precious people gathered together by the Holy Spirit.
Why all the fuss? At least three things are
1) Accuracy. Scripture is consistent; we do
well to speak and write in harmony with God’s mind. He is a serious writer. Honor of
His Word is vital to sound growth.
2) The value of the great salvation Christ
has procured. He didn’t suffer for sin at the hands of a holy, eternal God on the
shameful cross on Calvary for mere material consumables such as a chapel.
Christ’s horrible agony and death was for eternal souls, made in the likeness
of God Himself. In humble moments we often wonder with amazement why "Christ died for
us" — an incredible statement if it didn’t appear on the pages of
God’s holy, inerrant Word. To infer, whether thoughtlessly or ignorantly, that His
marvelous redemption covered a meeting place is certainly an affront to the Sovereign of
all the universe.
3) It conveys to the untaught mind a terrible
error, a totally wrong idea. The chapel is not a source of preaching the Gospel, providing
comfort to the troubled heart, or refuge for the seeking soul. It is not a living body
which represents the resurrected Savior to the world. It is not in itself a holy thing. It
is indeed a tool for these and other purposes, but only a tool. Useful? Certainly.
To be respected for it’s purpose? Absolutely — and we should be thankful for
such a provision by God to help in carrying out His work.
Let our expressions thoughtfully follow
God’s perspective, especially in areas so precious to Him and His beloved Son. This
may require that we think carefully as we speak and write.
"And He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the
preeminence." (Col. 1:18)
"Saying, I will declare
thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto
thee." (Heb. 2:12)