According to the Oxford English Dictionary [OED], “etymology” is “the process of tracing out and describing the elements of a word with their modifications of form and sense.”
The English word church comes from a Scottish and North England term “kirk.” The term is still used in Scotland to refer to a church. “Kirk” is frequently found in British literature, but a serious distinction between “kirk” and “church” usage is to distinguish the Kirk of Scotland from the Church of England.
Kirk evidently has its etymology in the Greek “kuriakos,” (kurios-Lord, oikos-house) “a house belonging to the Lord.” The word church generally replaced “kirk” during the Fifteenth Century. This etymology no doubt led to not only a group of people but also a building being called a “church.”
B. Current Usage of the term, Church
The term church is used among English speaking people today and it has various meanings.
1. Any group or groups of worshippers: “Many churches held a joint Thanksgiving Service. It was the largest church meeting in Denver’s history.”
2. A local group of people: “The First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas.”
3. An action by a church: “He was churched in a business session.”
4. A different group from the rest of the world: “The world is fighting against the
5. A building where worshippers meet: “They tore down the old Goshen
6. The total body of saved people during this age of grace, regardless of denominational affiliation: “The Church will be raptured.”
Although the Bible never uses church to refer to a building (for true worship of God), it was inevitable that in the free usage of English the term would come to mean in certain contexts the place or building where the church gathered and an extension of this would be the descriptive use to describe associated items such as “church pews.” By the same usage, the term became a verb form as in “churching” a person, which did not mean to accept into the church but to dismiss from the church. A strange negative and common feature of English is also found in such profane terms as “church key” –a beer opener.
C. Bible Usage
1. Local church
A local church comes together at appointed times and there are many of them in various locales throughout the age. “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:”(Galatians 1:1-2) The “churches of Galatia” are not called by various names. The word of God does not dictate a specific name for a “church.” In fact, the Bible warns against using names of people or even the Name of “Christ” to distinguish one group of believers from another.
10 ¶ Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
2. Group of living believers in Jerusalem
This is a reference to the believers living in Jerusalem in the early First Century, and it is used in one passage. The passage does not include past or future believers in various locales as the term, body of Christ, does. Describing his persecution of believers before he was saved, Paul states “…that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:” (Galatians 1:13) The term “church of God” is not a denominational name. This is used to designate assemblies of people that met to worship God. The word “waste” is the same Greek word as is found in Galatians 1:23 and Acts 9:21 “But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.” (Galatians 1:23) Those who met Paul immediately after his conversion said: “But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?” (Acts 9:21) The church that is the body of Christ is positionally secure, “seated in heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6) and therefore, it can not be “wasted.” The “wasted church of God” must refer to local church(s) at that time in Jerusalem. You can reduce the membership numbers in local churches, burn and remove all buildings, and stop them from meeting together, but not one member of the church which is the body of Christ can ever be wasted: lost or removed from the church which is the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39).
Someone may argue the above passage is like God’s love for the world in John 3:16 or that it only has to do with separation of the believer from the “love” of Christ and “love” of God with no other distinction. In other words, we may die physically due to persecution or sword and know that God still “loves” us. But the passage is more than that. Not only are we assured of God’s love for us in various locations and situations, we are more than conquerors “because neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature…” (one’s self included) can remove or even touch our security “which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. This “love of God” is our position in the Second Person of the Godhead, Christ Jesus our Lord. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) That position has nothing to do with any membership in any church or organization on this earth.
2. Body of Christ
The KJB uses church in reference to (1) a local group of people, in reference to all living believers, and also (2) to all the people saved, past, present, and future during the age of grace. The people saved during this age of grace may never see, know, or meet each other on earth but one day they will all be gathered together at the Rapture. This church is also known as “the body of Christ.” “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as 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.” (Ephesians 5:24-27)
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
CHURCH: The word church is a Bible word, a word defined by contextual usage in the King James Bible. In order to understand the doctrine of the church, the term must always be defined by how it is used in the biblical context. The English word church is the usual translation of the Greek word, ἐκκλησία, (transliterated into English, the Greek term is ekklesia). The Greek word ekklesia is a combination of two words: ek “out of” and kaleo “to call.” A basic definition of the Greek term ekklesia is: A called out group of people; the nature and purpose of that group must be determined by the context. In Acts 19:32,39 and 41 the King James Bible (KJB) departed from the normal definition and wisely translated ekklesia as “assembly”. The context of Acts 19 events justifies the departure.
Since the reference in Acts 19:32 is to an uproar by an unruly crowd, the KJB translators put assembly, rather than “church”. “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly (ekklesia) was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together”. (Acts 19:32). Although this sounds somewhat like certain contemporary Baptist church business meetings, it is actually the silversmiths’ union meeting! In putting “assembly” instead of “church”, the King James Bible makes a doctrinal difference between an unruly union mob and an orderly congregation of God’s people. Thus, a distinction is made between just any meeting of people and an orderly meeting to worship the Lord. The context of usage determines the meaning of a Greek word, not the slavish adherence to Greek lexicons.
Although ekklesia in general usage became a Christian word, it had its own secular Greek, pre-Christian history. All language tends to be degraded by common usage and the Greek language is no exception. The inspired New Testament authors adopted Greek, and its major terms had to be redefined by inspired biblical usage. (The exception to prior language corruption is Hebrew; there was no other literature in the Hebrew language before the Old Testament.)
Ekklesia was the designation for an assembly of citizens in a free city-state. The term simply meant people called out for the discussion and decisions of public business and in itself had no particular religious connotation. The word ekklesia is employed of any assembly, and the word in the Greek language implies no more than a town meeting— or a mob. The translators of the KJB recognized the broad usage, and retained consistent translation of ekklesia as “church” when context demanded it. Israel is called out of Egypt and spoken of in the New Testament Greek as an ekklesia, translated in the KJB as “church in the wilderness.”(Acts 7:38). In no sense was it a New Testament church in organization or practice.
The translation by the KJB accurately defines the Greek ekklesia as well as the English usage of the word “church.” A careful reading of the KJB will always open up more knowledge. The mindset that “the Greek” carries many hidden truths the KJB translators missed, leads to more confusion.
For example, the KJB does another unusual thing with the Acts 19 passage. Right in the midst of translating “ekklesia” as “assembly” for the unruly silversmith mob, the KJB translates ἱεροσύλους as “robbers of churches.” The combination has as part of the Greek term, heiron: temple, a definite reference to a building; the other latter part is sulao: robbers.
For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess. (Acts 19:37).
By doing this, (translating ἱεροσύλους as “churches” in the context of paganism) the KJB makes a statement that every religious thing that calls itself a “church” does not necessarily have true worship of God. The translation gives prophetic warning that a “temple” filled with paganistic worship will also call themselves a “church.” Mere titles on a group of people or on a person guarantee nothing but the fact that “certain men crept in unawares” (Jude 4). Salt Lake City, Utah is a good place to see the prophecy illustrated. (Ecclesiology, or Doctrine of the Church will be continued…)
WHO IS MY FRIEND?
And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. (Matthew 26:50).
It would be a strange use of the word “friend” if Jesus had meant a dear or close friend in Matthew 26:50. Was His reference to Judas a knowledgeable, sarcastic, ignorant or careless reference? Bible critics have no answer.
There are three kinds of “friends” in the Bible:
1. A close, personal, and trusted friend.
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. (Matthew 11:19)
(The false accusation is blasphemous because their charge is that Jesus participates in all these sins with these types. They claim the gluttons, winebibbers, publicans, and sinners are all close and trusted friends of Jesus.)
These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. (John 11:11)
2. Parties of a recent agreement developed by persuasion.
And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king’s country. (Acts 12:20)
(People from Tyre and Sidon in some way made a “friend” of Blastus, the King’s chamberlain or keeper of the bedroom. This position was one of a very close nature to the king. Blastus would know of all the king’s escapades.)
3. A comradely association such as:
a. An employee/employer contact.
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? (Matthew 20:13)
b. A “friendship” created by a general invitation extended to both good and bad.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:9-14)
As stated above, it would be a strange use of the word “friend” if Jesus had meant a dear or close friend in Matthew 26:50. Jesus could not use “Friend” in the sense of a close and emotional tie with this devil (John 6:70) but He could claim somewhat common and broad association since Judas Iscariot was an apostle.
Was Jesus’ reference to Judas as ”Friend” sarcastic?
This is not spoken in sarcasm. It is no bitter or taunting term. In such a setting of the garden betrayal our Lord is not bitter but in perfect holiness, resigned to the “cup” He gladly and willingly will drink.
The term “Friend” is not used in ignorance or in a careless manner. Knowing all things (read carefully John 18:4; 19:28; 21:12) Jesus used the term to not only impress upon Judas the severity of his betrayal and to heap “coals of fire” upon his head (Romans 12:19-20) but to also mark the lesson for us. Be as kind as possible to even your enemies. You may not be able to claim a close tie with a betrayer but claim as close as you can without being self-righteous. In some cases, enemies may eventually become close friends. We can use the term “friend” when addressing total strangers at a town gathering, or as a term of endearment to those closest to us. Context always determines the meaning.
Judgment is simply making decisions; we do it constantly, without even thinking. You are reading this because you made a judgment or decision to do so. Life is filled with decisions to stop or start, go left or right, speak or be silent, and a thousand other judgments. Judgment is in the will of man and it is ingrained in every person. Those who say you shouldn’t judge others live in a dream world–they just “judged” you.
After being commanded by religious leaders to not witness, the apostles answered:
“But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” (Acts 4:19). Then, the apostles ignored the orders of men and went right on doing what they believed (judged) to be right in God’s eyes.
God gives child of God Bible standards on judgment. We are never to be unfair, dishonest or unreasonable in judgment; we are to keep in mind the same degree and nature of judgment we would prefer when others judge us.
“1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matthew 7:1-2).
(Of course that is a kingdom command and has to do with behavior, works, and judgment by God under the Law. Most know nothing about the prophetic judgments of God upon men and nations. However, it is applicable to all ages in that how you treat others, to a large degree influences others’ treatment of you. The believer in this present age has a definite, doctrinal appointment at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is not to determine salvation; it is to reveal the true nature of our work for Christ. A reward is promised to those whose work is like “gold, silver, precious stones”, a loss of reward to those whose work is like “wood, hay, stubble”. Salvation is never an issue at that Judgment. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Is it ever right to judge another religious system to be wrong? The Lord had some stiff judgment regarding religious hypocrites and we can be sure His judgment was true:
“56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
57 Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” (Luke 12:56-57)
“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24).
Judgment is not right when it is done without all the facts. We must judge, God gives a command to do so, but when we do judge, it must be based on facts and not hearsay, personal opinion, or appearance. We are not equal to Deity but when His words clearly condemn others actions or beliefs, we must agree with God.
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48).
Jesus placed the word of God above all when He spoke these words. Our judgments must be made with the Bible being the final authority. God has even magnified His word above His Name! (Psalm 138:2). We must obey the word of God above our opinions or the opinions of men.
“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46).
A wise man will not assume to judge a matter himself, but will defer the judgment between God and the sinner as Paul and Barnabus did here. That is the real issue in true judgment: the offender has sinned against God by going contrary to His word.
WHAT ABOUT FORGIVING?
“He wised off and I cold-cocked him.”
Forgiveness is a complex subject, and difficult for many Christians to understand, much less practice. It is not easily practiced—all because (as Christians) we are still in the flesh and the ‘old’ man (the flesh) knows nothing but revenge against anything or anybody that ‘does him wrong’. It is a sweet, easy thing to say this from a pulpit but very hard to hear and obey while living in this evil world: We should not yield to this fleshly impulse but “walk after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). “Walking after the Spirit” sometimes means eliminating the source. A Christian is not a “peace-nik”, loving everybody and everything, bowing to evil and wickedness.
“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1Timothy 5:8). This does not just mean food and clothing; whatever it takes to provide safety as well as provision for his “own house” is a man’s God given responsibility.
Whether we do the right thing or not, our relationship and position (‘born of God’) will not change; if we failed and “walked after the flesh”, our relationship as a son is NEVER affected but our fellowship with Jesus is affected. That is easily corrected by our godly sorrow, forsaking our own will, and following God’s will. We will know this from the witness of the Holy Spirit within us. Remember this: if a saved person does not “walk after the Spirit”, but follows the flesh, we are capable of any sin.
An unsaved man may ‘forgive’ someone of an offense. But this forgiveness is a product of the will, a consciousness of man that God placed in Adam, but this conscience was marred by the fall. A lost man’s forgiveness is always based on some self-advantage to be gained; on the other hand, he is capable of turning around and killing. He is not saved and he does not have the Spirit of God in him, nor is he capable of “walking after the Spirit”.
Forgiveness is not easily understood because we confuse (1) God’s forgiveness to man with man’s forgiveness to man, (2) right division of scripture, (3) as well as ‘individual justice’ compared to ‘social justice.’
Example of “right division”: God’s forgiveness is based on our works–forgiving others. This is under the Law and before Jesus died on the cross.
Matt. 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
Matt. 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
But notice now, after the cross, we are already forgiven–because of that, we are to forgive others. Quite a difference! We are under grace.
Eph 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
There should always be a desire within us to forgive an offender rather than seeking some revenge. As sinners saved by grace and with such mercy shown us when we were “enemies of God” (Romans 5:8), how can we not seek first an avenue to forgiveness, rather than seeking vengeance upon our enemies?
UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES OF REQUIRED JUDGMENT AND FORGIVENESS
Justice demands payment for wrong.
Righteousness cannot allow unrighteousness to continue.
Holiness cannot co-exist with unholiness.
DIVINE Love must hate wrong, otherwise, DIVINE LOVE WOULD NOT exist.
A debt continues owed, until paid.
Where pure, complete light is, there is no darkness.
We know from scripture that the very essence or nature “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Go back with me to the Garden of Eden—before sin was in the world. Adam and Eve were created in “unconfirmed holiness.” By that, I mean there was no temptation or opportunity to sin or transgress God’s will, no test had been given. They were innocent and in perfect communion with God. But the Tempter entered the Garden, the test came, and Adam disobeyed God.
Did God, Who is Love, simply overlook or ‘forgive’ Adam, and let Adam continue in the bliss of the Garden? Was there not some payment for the disobedience? Of course there was; Adam fell from his created position “in the image of God”. A temporary covering (coats of skin) was made for his sin and required the death of an innocent animal. An immediate judgment was his loss of close communion with God and a loss of the “image of God” to his posterity. His children were born in Adam’s fallen image and sin entered into the world (Genesis 5:1-5), Adam died physically, as all his descendants after him. This all continued until the “Lamb of God” came and completely paid by His life and death, the debt for Adam’s and his posterity’s disobedience.
All of man’s disobedience to God, the judgment and payment for sin is covered in these passages:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
John 3:21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Just in case there is any doubt:
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)