WHAT THE CHURCH IS
BY KEVIN J. CONNER
Having seen what the Church is NOT, in this chapter we consider WHAT THE CHURCH IS from God’s point of view, which has to become our point of view also.
A. The Church is The Will of God
The Church is the central fact of God’s will. The Church is not a parenthetical revelation which came in because of Jewish blindness and unbelief in their own Messiah. Before there was a Gentile or Jew or Israelite, God had the church in mind. He desired to have a peculiar people for Himself, a Bride for His Son. The Apostle Paul speaks strongly of God’s will, especially in relation to the purposes of God in the redeemed and the Church (Ephesians 1:2- 11; Romans 8:26-30).
There are two aspects of the will of God that need to be recognized. One has to do with the sovereign will of God and the other the permitted will of God.
1. The Sovereign Will of God
a. Objective Will
Arndt and Gingrich write of the will of God. The Greek word “thelema” means “a determination” a choice; a decree, especially a king’s decree sent somewhere by his messenger.”
*It is objective, what is willed, what one wishes to happen (Matthew 6:10; Matthew 26:42).
*It is what one wills to bring about by his own action, since one has undertaken to do what He has willed (Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11; John 5:30; 4:34; Matthew 16: 18).
*It is what one wishes to bring about by the activity of others, to whom one assigns a task (Ephesians 1:1; II Peter 1:21; I John 2:17).
Therefore it speaks of the sovereign will of God, which is over and above all creation and creatures. His will is absolute. Nothing and no one can frustrate or violate that will of God.
Thayer says of this Greek word “that which one wishes or has determined shall be done” (i.e., objectively, thing willed) (Luke 12:47; John 5:30; Hebrews 10:10).
The Scriptures reveal that God’s will is over and above all and His will can be done in heaven and in earth (Matthew 6:10). In relation to the kingdoms of this world, He gives the kingdoms to whomsoever He wills (Daniel 4: 17, 25, 32). In relation to the crucifixion of Christ, God’s will was done over and above all, in spite of the part that Jew and Gentile played. God’s hand and counsel had determined before what should be done (Acts 4:25-28; 2:23,24; 3:18). All was founded on the foreknowledge of God and God’s determinate counsel based on that foreknowledge.
Jesus came to do the will of God, and He perfectly fulfilled it as the eternal Son of God (John 5:30; Luke 22:42; John 6:38; Matthew 26:42; Hebrews 10:10). He also said ”Upon this Rock I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18, 19).
b. Subjective Will
The Greek word “boulema” means “a deliberate design, that which is purposed”. The thought here in subjective will is what is desired. God is not willing that anyone should perish. He does not wish this (II Peter 3:9; Matthew 18:14).
It is not His deliberate design or purpose that people perish (John 3:16). He does deliberately design, purpose and wish that the heirs of promise believe His Word and so He attaches an oath to His promise to help their faith (Hebrews 6:17).
The Church is not merely God’s wish but it is God’s will. He willed it before Time began in the eternities past, before the creation and the fall of man. Nothing will frustrate God’s sovereign will and design. He desires a Church. He wills a Church. He will have this Church.
To see the perfect will of God as pertaining to the Church is to see that the Church is not a parenthetical plan of God because of Jewish unbelief. God had the Church in mind in eternity, and He willed it in eternity and manifested it in Time.
2. The Permitted Will of God
The Scripture reveals also that there are levels pertaining to the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). These being the following:
a. The Perfect Will of God.
b. The Permitted Will of God.
The Principle is illustrated clearly for us in Matthew 19:3-9 concerning the matter of divorce and remarriage. Divorce was never God’s perfect will. God permitted it for one reason–for the hardness of the heart of man.
We may illustrate this fact thus:
In the Beginning
Permitted Will or Accommodating Will
After the Fall
Deuteronomy 24–Hardness of heart
The complicating problems are seen in the fact of God’s ONE WILL and Man’s FREEWILL, and the bringing of them together in unity and harmony. Thus God does not compel us to go against our will but He does make us willing to go (Luke 12:4148). The servant who knew his Lord’s will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes; the other with lesser stripes who did not know it. Following we note a number of illustrations of these two levels as pertaining to the will of God.
God created angels and man with free will, the power of choice. He did not create robots or “zombies” or irrational creatures or machines.
Satan manifested self-will against God’s will. It was the abuse of free will. So did Adam (Isaiah 14:12-14; Genesis 3:1-6). God does not force or violate the free will He has given to man. God often permits or accommodates, in His wisdom, His will to man’s failures. He makes all things work together for Himself ultimately.
A detailed study of the following accounts will reveal the two levels of God’s will.
1) Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (Genesis 16, Genesis 21; Galatians 3; Hebrews 6:12-17).
Ishmael was not God’s perfect will. God permitted his birth. He could have closed the womb. Galatians shows that these two sons are two covenants. The Law Covenant and the New Covenant. God permitted the Law Covenant. It was not His perfect will. It was of works, of the flesh, of man. Isaac was God’s perfect will, even though He blessed Ishmael.
2) Israel’s wanderings in the Wilderness for 40 years. Not God’s perfect will. The Breach Period. God’s altering His purpose (Numbers 13-14; Hebrews 3-4). Unbelief caused the promise to be postponed to another generation.
3) The Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant (Exodus 19:1-6). The Priesthood of the nation, then God permitted the priesthood of a tribe instead. His perfect will was the priesthood of Melchisedek.
4) Balaam and the will of God evidences this. God’s perfect will was for him not to go. God permitted it the next day, then overruled the prophetic word (Numbers 22-24).
5) Melchisedek priesthood was God’s perfect will. God permitted the Aaronic priesthood to illustrate the same truth (Hebrews 5-7; Exodus 19:1-6).
6) The Fall of Man into sin and the marring of the Divine image was NOT God’s perfect will. But He did permit it. Otherwise we make God the originator of sin (Romans 8:26-28).
7) Jonah was in the perfect will of God to go to Nineveh. God permitted the fish to swallow him, but the fish brought him up to the level of the perfect will of God again. Thus 3 days journey permitted.
8) Paul was in the will of God going to Rome (Acts 27-28). Paul knew what would happen. God overruled in it all. The ship owner’s self-will manifested, so it was not God’s perfect will for Paul to be shipwrecked. Paul was caught in another man’s will, but God permitted it and wrought glory for His Name on the island of Melita.
9) Divorce, as noted is never God’s perfect will. He permitted it for hardness of heart (Matthew 19:3-8).
10) King Saul was not God’s perfect will. God permitted Israel to have him as king. David’s was God’s perfect will in His way, in His time. It was God’s will for Israel to have a king (Genesis 17), but not then God’s time.
11) God has permitted Denominations, etc., also in Church History but these are not His perfect will. He permitted them but as His Church arises to the level of His perfect will, then many things will fade away.
I will build My church \ Gospels/Acts
Perfect Will of God
Purpose for the Church
Permitted Will of God
B. The Church is The Eternal Purpose of God
Arising out of God’s will there comes purpose; the purpose of God relative to the Church. The word “purpose” is defined as:
1. Object in view; end or aim; design; intention.
2. To design; to intend, definite object in view (Collins).
2. Greek (SC.4286), “Prothesis” = Plan, a setting forth; an intention; a proposal, especially refering to the Shewbread in the Temple as it was exposed before God. SC.4388. Greek “Protithemai” = To place before, to set forth, specifically to set forth with a view to be looked at, to expose to view, to exhibit, to determine.
Thus the Scriptures speak of the purpose of God. God has but ONE PURPOSE! Proverbs 20:18. Purposes are established by counsel. The Counsels in the eternal Godhead are established.
Proverbs 15:22; 24:6; 11:14. Without counsel purposes are disappointed. Isaiah 14:27. None can disannul the purposes of God. Isaiah 55:8-11.
Isaiah 48:11. God has purposed a thing and He will also do it.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-17. There is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 8:6. To every purpose . . .
Ephesians 1:9, 11. God has purposed in Himself a thing, and He works all things after the counsel of His own will.
Ephesians 3:11. It is an eternal purpose manifested in time. The Church is a manifestation in TIME of an ETERNAL Purpose.
Romans 9:11 (17). God’s purpose according to election will stand.
Romans 8:23; II Timothy 1:9. We are called according to that eternal purpose. We are part of the purpose of God.
Acts 11:23. Because of the above believers are to serve the Lord with purpose of heart.
Thus the purpose of God for the Church is ETERNAL. It cannot be disannulled. In the counsels of the eternal Godhead, in the Everlasting Covenant, God decreed THE CHURCH. The Everlasting Covenant is the foundation for all covenants on earth. Hebrews 13:20. Man was not the party to it, but the object of it. It was the covenant of redemption made in the counsels of the Godhead in the event of the entrance of sin into the universe.
This purpose of God was planned:
a. Before the Foundation of the World
John 17:5, 24; I Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4, 9, 11; 2:10; 3:11; II Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2, 3. The hope of eternal life was promised before the world began.
b. From the Foundation of the World
Revelation 13:8; 17:8; I Peter 1:18-20; Titus 1:2, 3. Planned in eternity, but manifested in these last times for you.
The Church is therefore a manifestation in TIME of an ETERNAL Purpose. Because of God’s foreknowledge, He could will and purpose to bring forth the Church to His glory (Romans 8:26-30) before Jew or Gentile even existed!
The believer has to totally accept the fact that Christ in His Church is the central fact of God’s will and that the Church was and is the eternal purpose of God, NOT a parenthetical invention. Any other concept robs the believers both individually and corporately of proper motivation, goals and purposes as to the plan of the eternal Godhead.
A number of important things need to be noted about this purpose of God as it pertains to the Church.
1) The Purpose was determined by God Himself (Ephesians 1:9).
2) The Purpose of God for the Church is eternal (Ephesians 3:9, 10; 1:4; 11 Timothy 1:9; Acts 15:18;Titus 1:2.
3) The Purpose of God was hidden in the Old Testament Times (Ephesians 3:5; Matthew 13:17;I Peter 1:10-12;Romans 16:25-26).
4) The Purpose of God as a Progressive revelation (Isaiah 28:10-14; Hebrews 1:1, Amplified N.T.)
5) The Purpose of God was manifested in New Testament Times (Ephesians 3: 1-6).
6) The Purpose of God will never be disannulled. God will not change His plan or purpose. He will have a glorious Church (Ephesians 3:1-12; Colossians 1:26; Romans 16:25, 26).
7) The Purpose of God is to be realized in Christ and His Church (Ephesians 3:8-11). By the Church is to be made known the manifold wisdom of God.
C. The Church is The Mystery of God.
The will and eternal purpose of God in Christ find fulfillment in THE GREAT MYSTERY, which is the Church, the Body of Christ.
I. Definition of the word “Mystery”
Webster defines the word “mystery” as “something unexplained, unknown or kept secret”. The Greek Priests and Philosophers often initiated their people into the mystery rites and teachings of the cultic, initiating them into the mysteries of their religion.
Collins Dictionary defines it as “a profound secret; an object of curiosity and wonder; a religious truth or doctrine, not discernible by human reason; an enigma.”
The Greek word “Musterion” (SC3466), from a derivative of “muo” (to shut the mouth); a secret or mystery (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites).
W. E. Vine says “among the ancient Greeks ‘the mysteries’ were religious rites and ceremonies practiced by secret societies into which anyone who so desired might be received. Those were thus initiated into their ‘mysteries’ therefore became possessors of certain knowledge which was not imparted to the uninitiated, and were called ‘the perfected’ ” (Cf. I Corinthians 2:6-16).
A mystery, however, in the New Testament, is not an undiscovered secret, but a secret, undiscoverable by human reason, but now revealed by the Spirit of God.
Arndt and Gingrich say “Our literature uses it to mean the secret thoughts, plans and dispensations of God hidden from human reason, and therefore to be revealed to those for whom it is intended.”
Young’s Concordance defines the word as “That which can only be known to the initiated” (I Corinthians 2:14; Matthew 13:11-17).
The Church, therefore, is the great secret, the great mystery of God. It was hidden in God since the foundation of the world, but it was revealed to the holy men of God, the apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who initiates us into the mysteries of God (Ephesians 3:1-9; Deuteronomy 29:29).
Paul speaks much of “the mystery” in Ephesians, the Epistle of the Church.
* Ephesians 1:9. The mystery of His will.
* Ephesians 3:3. By revelation He made known unto me the mystery.
* Ephesians 3:4. Understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ.
* Ephesians 3:9. To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery.
* Ephesians 5:32. This is a great mystery but 1 speak of Christ and His Church.
* Ephesians 6:19. The mystery of the Gospel.
2. Stewards of the Mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1,2).
Paul counted himself a steward of the mysteries of God. The word “stewardship” means “dispensation”. It speaks of a householder, one who manages anothers affairs. It involves
(a) Responsibility, and (b) Faithfulness, and (c) Accountability (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:4148; I Peter 4:10).
Paul was given “a dispensation of the Gospel” (I Corinthians 9:16, 17). He speaks of the dispensation of the grace of God, and the distinctive Gospel entrusted to him (Galatians 2:7, 18; 1:6-12; I Timothy l:l; Ephesians 3:1-2; Colossians 1:25; Romans 2:16; 16:25).
The Holy Spirit initiated Jesus, Paul, John and the New Testament writers into the mysteries of God and they were good stewards of those mysteries (Proverbs 25:2; I Corinthians 2:9, 10). The heathen temples and priesthood were but the counterfeit of the Divine.
3 Mysteries in the New Testament
There are about 19 particular mysteries spoken of in the New Testament, by Jesus, Paul and John the Beloved Apostle.
a. By Jesus
The Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven in parabolic form (Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10).
b. By Paul
1. The Mystery of God’s will in the fulness of times (Ephesians 1:9- 11).
2. The Mystery of the Father and of Christ (Colossians 2:2, 3).
3. The Mystery of Christ (Colossians 4:3).
4. The Mystery of the Gospel (Ephesians 6:19).
5. The Mystery of Godliness (I Timothy 3:16; John 1:1-18; 14:6).
6. The Mystery of Iniquity (II Thessalonians 2:1-12).
7. The Mystery of the Faith (I Timothy 3:9).
8. The Mystery of the Wisdom of God (I Corinthians 2:7-10).
9. The Mystery of the Body of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-11; Romans 16:24, 25).
10. The Mystery of Christ in you (Colossians 1:26-28; Galatians 2:20).
11. The Mystery of Israel’s blindness (Romans 11:25).
12. The Mystery spoken in unknown tongues (I Corinthians 14:2).
13. The Great Mystery of the marriage of Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:23-33).
14. The Mystery of the resurrected and immortalized saints (I Corinthians 15:51-55; I Thessalonians 4:15-18).
c. By John
1. The Mystery of the Seven Stars and Lampstands (Revelation 1:20).
2. The Mystery of God (Revelation 10:7).
3. The Mystery of Great Babylon (Revelation 17:5-7). The Mother of Harlots.
However, Paul gives us an admonition in I Corinthians 13:2. Though I understand all mysteries and have not love, I am nothing.
All of these mysteries basically fall into two Mysteries; the Mystery of Godliness and the Mystery of Iniquity. Or, Satan and his hosts against God and His hosts. Both streams of mysteries run parallel from the beginning of human history to the end of this age.
THE CHURCH is indeed “the great mystery”, once secret, and hidden m the mind of God but now revealed to be His eternal purpose and will.
D. The Church is The New Ethnic–The Holy Nation
According to I Corinthians 10:32 there are basically three ethnic divisions in the human race. These are the Jews (Israel), the Gentiles and the Church of God. God is at work in the nations, forming the third ethnic division–The Church. This relates to the Jew and the Gentile being baptized into One Body. It is not a nationalistic, or international thing, but ONE NEW MAN (Ephesians 2:11-22; I Corinthians 12:13).
Peter’s ministry is primarily to the Jews in Acts 1-12.
Paul’s ministry is primarily to the Gentiles in Acts 13-28. However, Paul is the apostle who sees both baptized in ONE BODY, the NEW MAN, the new creation Body of Christ.
It is very important to see this truth as it will help us to understand why and how we may use Old Testament things in application to the New Testament Church. (The following is taken from “Interpreting the Scriptures” by Conner/Malmin on the Ethnic Division Principle of interpreting Scripture).
I. Definition of the Word
The word “ethnic” has to do with the basic divisions of mankind distinguished by culture. The following are the main words used in Scripture relative to the ethnic divisions of mankind:
A. Old Testament Hebrew:
Ummah = “a collection; i.e., community of persons”
Nations–Ezra 4:10; Daniel 3:4, 7, 29.
People–Numbers 25:15; Psalms 117:1.
Goy = “a massing; a foreign nation; hence a Gentile”
Gentiles–Genesis 10:5;Isaiah 11:10; 42:1,6; 49:22; 54:3;
60:3, 5, 11, 16.
Heathen–Psalms 2:1, 8; 102:15; Jeremiah 10:2; Ezekiel
11:12, 16; 39:21; Malachi 1:11.
Nation(s)–Genesis 10:31, 32; Deuteronomy 9:1, 4, 5; 1
Chronicles 16:20; Psalms 22:27, 28; Isaiah 2:2, 4;
52:15; Malachi 3:12.
People–Joshua 10: 13; 11 Kings 6:18; Daniel 11:23.
Leom = “to gather; a community”
Nation–Genesis 27:29; Psalms 47:3; 57:9.
People–Genesis 25:23; Psalms 148:11; Isaiah 55:4
Am = “a people (as a congregated unity); especially, a tribe”
Folk–Genesis 33: 15; Proverbs 30:26.
Nation(s)–Exodus 21:8; Deuteronomy 30:3;
I Chronicles 16:24; Psalms 108:3.
People–Psalms 29:11; 102:18, 22; Habakkuk 3:13;
Zechariah 8:6; Malachi 1:4.
B. New Testament Greek:
Ethnos = “a race (as of the same habit); i.e., a tribe; specially a
foreign (non-Jewish) one”
Gentile–Matthew 10:5, 18; Mark 10:42; Acts 4:27; Romans 9:24, 30.
Heathen–II Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 1:16; 3:8.
Nation(s)–Mark 11:17; John 11:50-52;Acts 14:16;Romans 4:17, 18.
Genos = “offspring, family, nation, the aggregate of many individuals of the same nature, kind, sort, species”
Country (man)–24 Acts 4:36; II Corinthians 11:26.
Diversity–I Corinthians 12:28
Generation–I Peter 2:9
Kind (red)–Matthew 13:47; Acts 7:13, 19
Offspring–Acts 17:28, 29; Revelation 22:16
Stock–Acts 13:26; Philippians 3:5.
The above words indicate that an ethnic group is to be viewed as a community of persons sharing the same ancestry and participating in the culture. These words are applied to Israel/Judah, Gentile nations, and the Church.
The apostle Paul recognized that while God is no respecter of persons, He has instituted certain ethnic divisions and distinctions. Paul noted the three basic divisions in the human race in I Corinthians 10:32. “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God.”
Thus, in God’s mind, the three main divisions of the human race are the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church of God. The Word of God must be rightly divided in relation to these three classes of people.
From the creation of Adam to the Tower of Babel (Genesis 1:1; 11:9), mankind was one race, speaking one language. The event recorded in Genesis 11 gives us the background of the reason for the division of mankind into diverse nations. The origin of the nations is described in this chapter. Out of these nations God chose a nation for Himself and for His own redemptive purposes. In the Old Testament there are two major ethnic divisions: the chosen nation Israel, and the Gentile nations. The New Testament introduces the third major ethnic division, which is the Church, composed of both Jew and Gentile.
a. The Chosen Nation
1) The Choice–Scripture reveals that Israel was the nation which God chose to fulfill His own purposes. God took Israel as a nation from the midst of the nations and made a great nation out of them by His statutes, laws and judgments (Deuteronomy 4:6-8, 34). In the covenant with Abraham God said He would make him a great nation (Genesis 12:2, 3). God also promised Abraham that He would make him the father of many nations (Genesis 17: 1-7).
2) The Reason–God chose Israel to be a special people to Himself above all the people on the earth because of His love and the covenant He made with Israel’s fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 7:7-9; 9: 1-6). There were a number of things involved in the purpose for this Divine choice:
a) Chosen to bless all nations (Genesis 9:27; 12:2,3; 17:4-7; 18:18; 22:16-18).
b) Chosen to receive the oracles of God (Romans 3:2).
c) Chosen to receive the blessings of God (Romans 9:4, 5).
*The Adoption–Adopted as God’s son from among the nations (Exodus 4:22, 23).
*The Shekinah Glory of God–The visible manifestation of the presence of God in the Glory-Cloud.
* The Covenants–The Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Palestinian, the Davidic and the New Covenant.
* The Giving of the Law–The moral, civil and ceremonial laws.
* The Service of God–The Tabernacle of Moses, the Tabernacle of David, the Temple of Solomon, with their respective orders of worship.
* The Promises–Particularly as they relate to the Seed (as the sand and as the stars) and the Land.
* The Fathers–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being particularly the three fathers of Israel (Exodus 3:6; Genesis 48:15, 16).
* The Messiah–As pertaining to His human nature (Romans 1:3)
The summation of these shows the choice of Israel as a nation to receive and be the guardians of the written Word; and to be the progenitors of the Living Word through which all nations would be blessed.
3) The Division
Israel was a united nation from the time of the Exodus under Moses through the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon–under whom the nation reached its highest glory. After the death of Solomon the nation was divided into two houses, two kingdoms, two nations, known as Israel and Judah (I Kings 11, 12). God permitted this division in order to fulfill His distinctive purpose for each house or nation. It must be recognized that from that time on there were two dynasties, two kingdoms and two destinies. These two nations went into two different captivities, to two different places, at two different times, under two different world kingdoms. Israel went into captivity to Assyria and Judah to Babylon. This the prophets of each nation clearly foretold beforehand.
Therefore, in interpreting the prophets, the distinction between the kingdoms to which they were prophesying must constantly be kept in mind. Some prophecies were distinctly given to Israel and others to Judah; these should not be confused. The Lord foretold through the prophet Jeremiah that He would make a New Covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-13). The prophet Ezekiel foretold that God would make Israel and Judah (two sticks) one in the hand of the Son of Man (Ezekiel 37:15-19). ”And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all” (Ezekiel 37:22). This union can come about only through the New Covenant in the Lord Jesus Christ.
b. The Gentile Nations
1) Their Condition–In Scripture the term “Gentiles” is used to refer to all nations besides Israel/Judah. It denotes all peoples not in Covenant relationship with God, as Israel was. Paul aptly describes the condition of the Gentiles in Ephesians 2:1 1, 12.
* Gentiles in the flesh–as to natural and national birth.
* Uncircumcision in the flesh–not in Abrahamic Covenant relationship with God.
* Without Christ–having no Savior, no Anointed One.
* Aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel–estranged and outlawed from the rights of Israel as a nation (unless they became proselytes).
* Strangers from the Covenants of Promise–the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Palestinian and Davidic Covenants, and the promises, privileges and blessings therein.
* Having no hope–no Messianic expectation.
* Without God in the world–having general, but no special revelation of God.
* Afar off–no nearness of relationship to God.
Paul, later on in the same Epistle, summarized the spiritual condition of the Gentiles as ”having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness that is in their heart” (Ephesians 4: 18; read also Romans 1:18-32).
2) Their Salvation
The writers of the Old Testament Scriptures were concerned primarily with the chosen nation and only dealt with the Gentile nations as they related to it (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26). However, the Scriptures also plainly declare that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34,35). As already noted, Israel was chosen as a nation to eventually bless all other nations. The following Scriptures attest to this fact:
* All nations to be blessed through the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18).
* All families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 26:4).
* All kindreds of the nations to worship God (Psalms 22:27, 28).
* All nations to flow to the house of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2, 3).
* Gentiles to seek the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10).
* Messiah to sprinkle many nations with His blood (Isaiah 52:15).
* Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day (Zechariah 2:11).
* The name of the Lord to be great among the Gentiles (Malachi 1:11).
* The Gentiles shall trust in His name (Matthew 12:21).
The great commission involves the taking of the Gospel of Christ to every creature, making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). The Book of Acts shows God’s turning from the chosen nation to the Gentile nations in order to take out of them a people for His Name (Acts 9:15; 13:44-49; 14:1, 2; 15:14-18; 28:23-31). The Scriptures clearly show that the Gentile nations would be blessed through the chosen nation by “the Seed”– Messiah. “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying in thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).
c. The Church
1) Definition of the Church–The third group mentioned by Paul in I Corinthians 10:32 is “the Church of God.” The word Church is a translation of the Greek word EKKLESIA, which is made up of two other words: EK, which means “out of” and KALEO, which means “to call.” Thus the word EKKLESIA means literally “the called out ones.” It is used in Scripture to refer to the nation of Israel and to the Christian community of believers, whether in heaven or on earth.
a) Israel–The Church in the Wilderness (Acts 7:38).
b) Saints in Heaven (Hebrews 12:23).
c) Saints on Earth (Revelation 1: 11).
In these three the word “Church” is used in its two basic senses: universal and local. We understand the universal Church to include the redeemed of all ages both in heaven and earth, and the local Church to be a visible expression of it.
2) Composition of the Church–The Church, as it is revealed in the New Testament is composed of both Jew and Gentile. As God called Israel as a nation from the midst of the nations and constituted them as His Church in the Old Testament, so God now calls people unto Himself out of every nation, whether Jew or Gentile, and constitutes them as His Church in the New Testament. The New Testament Church is revealed as the Body of Christ composed of Jew and Gentile:
* Christ is the builder of His Church (Matthew 16:18).
* The Lord adds to His Church (Acts 2:47).
* Christ is the Head of the Body, the Church (Colossians 2:19).
* The Church is Christ’s Body (Ephesians 1:22, 23).
* Jew and Gentile are all baptized into one Body (I Corinthians 12:13).
* Jew and Gentile are one new man in Christ (Ephesians 2:15, 16).
* Jew and Gentile are fellow-heirs in the same Body (Ephesians 3:6).
Thus the Church, being the third major ethnic division, is a called out company, consisting of Jew and Gentile, circumcision and uncircumcision, chosen nation and Gentile nations in the one Body of Christ. National divisions are determined by natural birth, but by spiritual birth all national distinctions cease to exist, for “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Galatians 6:15).
3) Significance of the Church–This Church taken out of every kindred, tongue, people and nation (Revelation 5:9) now constitutes God’s nation. It is the true Israel of God entitled to the spiritual promises in the Abrahamic Covenant:
* Those in Christ are “an holy nation” (I Peter 2:9).
* The Kingdom of God was taken from Judah and given to a nation that would bring forth the fruits thereof (Matthew 21:43).
* The prophets foretold of a righteous nation that would keep the truths (Isaiah 26:2).
* Salvation was offered to a nation not yet called by His Name (Isaiah 65:1 with Romans 10:20, 21).
* All those who are new creatures in Christ constitute the Israel of God (Galatians 6:15, 16).
* The Gentile by faith in Christ is brought into the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:12).
* The believing Gentile is grafted into the olive tree of Israel (Romans 11).
* The Israel after the flesh are necessarily the Israel after the Spirit (Romans 9:6-8).
* The true Jew and true circumcision are of the heart and in the spirit, and not of the flesh or the letter (Romans 2:28, 29).
* The believers in Christ are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:16, 29).
These Scriptures attest to the fact that the Church, composed of Jew and Gentile, is God’s holy nation, the true Israel of God, the seed of Abraham, and the called out company. This is the “mystery” revealed to Paul: that Jew and Gentile would become one Body in Christ (Ephesians 3:1-9).
The Church is God’s spiritual and eternal Israel. The interpreter must realize that the name ”Israel” is used in Scripture to refer to:
a) The Patriarch Jacob (Genesis 49:1, 2).
b) The twelve tribes of ”Israel” (Exodus 19:3).
c) The 10-tribed House of Israel, the northern kingdom (I Kings 12:21).
d) The 2-tribed House of Judah, the southern kingdom (Ezra 6:21)–spoken of here as the children of Israel.
e) The Church, the spiritual Israel of God (Galatians 6:16; Romans 9:6).
In conclusion, it can be seen that the three main ethnic divisions mentioned by Paul in I Corinthians 10:32 are supported by the testimony of Scripture. These three distinctions can be traced through the Book of Acts in the development of the New Testament Church. Therefore, this Church of which Christ speaks is to be composed of the redeemed of every nation, but these national distinctions were to cease in the Church, the Body of Christ, the one new man (Ephesians 2: 14- 16).
E. The Ekklesia–Matthew 16:18, 19; 18:15-20.
W. Barclay, in New Testament Words (pp. 68-72) gives some excellent information concerning the true meaning of the word “Church”, which is adapted here. The New Testament word for “Church” is a most important word in New Testament words. It has a double background. It comes from two Greek words: EK, meaning “out of”, and KALEO meaning “to call.”
1. The Hebrew Background
The Septuagint Version translates the word “Qahal” (or Kahal), coming from the root word “to summon”, as “assembly” or “congregation” of the people of Israel. Note–Deuteronomy 18:16; Judges 20:2, Assembly. I Kings 8:14; Leviticus 10:17; Numbers 1:16, Congregation.
This Hebrew word occurs over 70 times in the Septuagint. In Hebrew sense it means “God’s people called together, in order to listen to or to act for God. ”
KAHAL Jehovah = “the called and assembled people of God.” Or, the Congregation or the Assembly.
Numbers 10:7; 20: 10; I Kings 8: 14; I Chronicles 29:20; Psalms 40:9; 107:32; 149:1. Kahal = Septuagint Version for “Ekklesia”. They assembled before the Door of the Tabernacle to hear God speak.
Thus a congregation is a company of people who have been “called out” of their tents or dwelling places, and have “come together. ” This is the Hebrew “Qahal”
2. The Greek Background
Greek background of the word “Church” in Paul’s day is seen in the following. In the great classical days of Athens, the EKKLESIA was the convened assembly of people. It consisted of all the citizens who had not lost their civic rights. Apart from the fact that its decisions had to conform to the Laws of the State, its powers were to all intents and purposes unlimited.
a. Elected and dismissed Magistrates.
b. Directed the policy of the City.
c. Declared war, made peace, contracted treaties and arranged alliances.
d. Elected generals and other military officers.
e. Assigned troops to different campaigns and dispatched them from the city.
f. Ultimately was responsible for the conduct of military operations.
g. Raised and allocated funds.
These meetings began with prayer and sacrifice. It was a true democracy. Two great watchwords-were “equality” and “freedom”. All had equal rights, and equal duty to take part. In cases of ostracism or banishment, at least 6000 citizens had to be present.
Thus for the secular Greek society, the word EKKLESIA came to mean “assembly of free citizens who were called out of their homes and/or places of business to assemble together and give consideration to matters of public interest.”
Cf. Ephesians “assembly” (Ekklesia–to illustrate this).
Acts 19:32, 39, 41. Acts 7:38. Israel was the Church in the Wilderness, God’s Ekklesia.
Exodus 12:3, 6. The children of Israel were the whole assembly, celled together by Moses and told what to do in their homes for their deliverance. They had the Lamb for a house, as the congregation of the Lord and were summoned together to hear the word of the Lord through Moses.
“Congregation” (SC.6951) also means “convocation, assemblage. The congregation was gathered by the Trumpet; a summons (Numbers 10:7).
Psalms 22:22. In the midst of the congregation.
Psalms 35:18. Give thanks in the great congregation.
Psalms 149:1. Praise Him in the congregation of the saints.
When Israel was called together out of their tents or homes to the Door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, that was THE CHURCH, THE ASSEMBLY, THE CONGREGATION! NOT just ”called out ones” but “called out TO ASSEMBLE TOGETHER!”
Greek = Ekklesia. Latin = Ecclesia. The Church is God’s assembly, God’s muster, and the Convenor is God Himself. It is the free citizens of the heavenly community summoned by the Gospel trumpet to assemble together to hear from God. In the New Testament the word “Ekklesia” is used 114 times, and 110 of these of the Church!
The Church therefore is not just used in the exclusive sense of being ”picked out” from the world. In the Hebrew and Greek sense, it was not exclusive but inclusive. The summons was not to any selected few. It was a summons from the State to every man to come and shoulder his responsibilities. Today it is a summons from God to every man to come, listen, acknowledge the Word of God.
In essence therefore, the Church (The Ekklesia) is a body of people, not so much assembling because they have chosen to come together, but because they have been chosen to come together to assemble, because God has called them to Himself; not so much to share their own thoughts and opinions, but assembling to listen to the voice of God.
It is the “called out company”, and ”assembled together” people (Revelation 5:9). It consists of living people, an organism and not a mere organization.
A. Abraham was “called out” of Ur of the Chaldees, out of Babylon (Genesis 12:1; Hebrews 11:8).
B. Israel was “called out” of Egypt’s world, religion, life and world. They were called to be a peculiar treasure to God, a chosen and holy nation unto the Lord, the Church in the Wilderness (Acts 7:38). A marvelous and prophetic picture of the Church.
C. The House of Judah was “called out” of Babylon unto restoration of the Temple at Jerusalem. These things are types and ensamples (I Corinthians 10:6, 11).
D. The New Testament Church is also “called out” of every kindred, tongue, tribe and nation to be His Church (Revelation 18:14; II Corinthians 6:14-18; Hosea 11:1. Revelation 5:9).
E. This calling is:
1) Being called out of darkness into light (I Peter 2:9).
2) Being called to a vocation (Ephesians 4:1).
3) Being called to a calling of hope (Ephesians 4:4).
4) Being called with a holy calling (II Timothy 1:9).
5) Being called to a high calling (Philippians 3:14).
6) Being called to a heavenly calling (Hebrew 3:1).
7) Being called unto eternal glory by Christ Jesus (I Peter 5:10).
8) Being called to His kingdom and glory (I Thessalonians 2:12).
Read also I Peter 1:14-16; 2:1-12; I John 2:14-17; lames 1:27; Romans 8:30; II
Corinthians 7:1; Matthew 2:15; Exodus 4:22, 23.
The Church consists of those who obey the call, world-wide, regardless of nation or culture. Called out from the world, the flesh, and the Devil, they come to hear from God. It is the Church of the Firstborn ones (Hebrews 12:22-24. Hebrews 2:12 with Psalms 22:22 where “Congregation” is translated “Church”).
THE CHURCH is the burden of Ephesians 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32. The Church is not national, international, denominational, undenominational, sectarian or non-sectarian–it is ONE NEW MAN, a NEW THING that God has created in the earth.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, AND PUBLISHED BY BT PUBLISHING, 1982, PAGES 12-25. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.