One Book, Rightly Divided- II Timothy 2:15

Church – Part 1

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…)

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