Thoughts on the Church
The letter at the head of this article is self-explanatory. Surely the truths that led our aged brother to associate himself with those who meet in simplicity toward Christ over 65 years ago, the truths that he expressed in his article, the truths that mean so much to him after nearly 77 years in Christ, ought to be of importance to every believer in the Saviour.—Ed.
Dear Brother J. G.
A few days ago I received the enclosed manuscript … “Thoughts on the Church.” The subject has been very clearly set forth by the brother who edited it. It needs no one’s commendation as he has put the truth in language as understood by the majority of those who meet together on Lord’s Day mornings to carry out our Lord’s express desire, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” While he has embodied what appears in my article, I would not want my name to appear as editor.
How well I remember the first Lord’s Day I was privileged to join with a company of young men from the assembly who were spending the Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evangelizing in the villages south of London, England, 65 years ago. On the Lord’s Day we broke bread in a small meeting place in a country village. The leading brother who was a well-to-do business man, having a lucrative business situated in London, gave us sleeping accommodation in his beautiful home on the Saturday and Sunday nights.
Soon after I found myself in Bruce Grove Hall and Brook Street Chapel, Tottenham. Twenty-four years later I left for the United States.
My conversion at the age of 19 was a right-about-face; all who were acquainted with me knew it … Now the Lord has let me live to be nearly 86, and I am comfortable in body and happy in the Lord. I stop to weep for joy when I think of His mercy to this unworthy confessor of His name…Praise the Lord! May be He can make use of me a little while longer. I am content…
May the Lord continue to use you.
Yours in Christ,
Ernest G. Haines.
The Meaning Of “Ekklesia”
The Greeks used the word “ekklesia” to denote a convened assembly of citizens who were called out of home or business to participate in the public functions of the community. Luke uses “ekklesia” in this sense in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41, where it is translated “assembly”. Elsewhere in the New Testament, it is translated “church”.
The Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint gives “ekklesia” as the translation of the Hebrew word, “qahal”, which was used to denote a gathering of Israel called together in public assembly.
One can readily understand, therefore, that as translations of “ekklesia”, the words “church” and “assembly” in the New Testament signify a group of People called out into public association for a specific, united purpose.
Just as God called the children of Israel out of Egypt; sheltered them under the blood of the passover lamb; separated them from the Egyptians; and brought them to a place where He could dwell with them: so now too, He is calling out a people from the nations; sheltering them under the blood of the Lamb of God; separating them from the world; bringing them into the closest communion with Himself; and dwelling within them and amongst them. This called-out company of people is the Church.
The Meanings Of Church
In modern speech, the word “church” is used with three different meanings: a company of people gathered together for religious or spiritual purposes; the clergy or leaders of a religious company; and a building used for religious gatherings. In the New Testament, however, “ekklesia” signifies only the first of these three. (In Acts 19:37, “churches” should read “temples”.)
At the same time, nevertheless, the word “church” has various connotations in the New Testaments, signifying at different times: the entire Church, including all members, past, present, and future (Eph. 5:27); the whole company of believers found upon earth at a given time (1 Cor. 15:9); and also a single assembly of believers in a particular locality (1 Cor. 1:2).
The Membership In The Chuch
The Church began at Pentecost, having been still future when Christ was upon the earth (Matt. 16:18. Acts 2:1-4). Since then, sinners have been joining the Church by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sins; by doing so, one becomes automatically a member of the Church the body of Christ.
A member of the Church is one who, through God’s grace, has been led by the Spirit of God to see himself a lost sinner; who has come to know that the Lord Jesus Christ has died for him; who has trusted Him for salvation; who knows that all his sins are forgiven and blotted out by the blood of Christ. As he becomes better acquainted with the Word of God, he discovers many more precious truths, including the assurance that he is saved eternally, and that he is a member of the Church which Christ loved and for which He gave Himself (Eph. 5:25).
The Meetings Of The Church
Today, many companies of Christian believers still meet together as did the early saints. Born again sinners gather in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is recognized as the leader, and He uses whom He wills, as He wills. The brethren participate in public prayer and teaching (1 Tim. 2:8-14. 1 Cor. 14:34-35).
The assembly convenes meetings for the breaking of bread on the Lord’s day (Acts 20:7). When the assembly is gathered thus to worship, the ministry of God’s Word directs the hearts of His people to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.
Other meetings are convened for prayer, gospel preaching, and teaching of the saints. To the Church, Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Through these gifts, the saints mature, and become themselves servants and contributors to the up-building of the Church (Eph. 4:11-16).
For the Church to-day, there is still no better order of Christian fellowship than the original simple order seen in the New Testament. Let each of us seek to discern increasingly all of the precious truths concerning the Church which is His body (Eph. 5:30), and to fulfil diligently all of our responsibilities regarding the edification of the Church, to the praise and glory of its risen, exalted Head!