Words mean things and when they are taken out of context or misrepresented the wordsmith in me surfaces. The words we use matter. In an era of political correctness there is a fear of stating the truthful obvious. People are constantly twisting phrases and words to their liking and Christian people are no different. A
great example of this is the word sin. We no longer call it “sin”. Instead, it is an innocent mistake, an error, or a lifestyle choice. The word “Christian” has also become so misrepresented that there are those who now have to qualify the word when using it. The correct definition of the word is to be “Christ-like.” But perhaps there is no greater misuse of a word in today’s religious circles as the word “church”.
Today church is most associated with a religious building, worship service, denomination, or even as all the saved. However, this is not the correct meaning of the word. My husband always reminds his congregation that “The church is a people not a place.” Where does he get this? Actually, it is from the definition of the Greek word used for church, “ekklesia” (pronounced “ek-klay-sea’-ah”). The word means a called out assembly or congregation. In fact, in older translations, like the Tyndale English Bible you cannot even find the word “church”. The word ekklesia is
correctly translated as “congregation or assembly”. Ekklesia is used 115 times in the New Testament and in most modern Bibles it is always incorrectly translated as “church” except in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41 where it is properly translated as “assembly”.
So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter? It matters because a misunderstanding of the “church” has far reaching implications. For example, there are those who claim that the church is all the saved. However, if you use “ekklesia” and its correct definition of “called out assembly” what you are saying is that all the saved is an assembly that is called out. Contextually “ekklesia” in the New Testament
is a local and visible assembly of believers who congregate for a specific purpose. The universal church is neither local nor visible and in order to be an assembly you have to be both. So, if you want a name for all the saved, call them “the family” as stated in Ephesians 3:15, “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” All the saved are not referred to universally until Revelations 21:9 when we see the “bride of Christ”. However, it is interesting to note that at this time the rapture has occurred and all the saved are local, visible, and assembled together.
Another reason it matters is because when people misunderstand the true meaning of the word “church”, they misapply the practices of it. For example, there are those who “home church”. While I understand the reason behind this movement it is still built on a cracked foundation. You can read about that here. Those that “home church” usually gather their family, read scripture, pray, and sing songs of worship. In truth, they are doing what God commands the family to do. He does expect the
father to lead his family spiritually. This practice is what the older generations called a “Family Altar”. This should be done daily. But don’t call it “church”. It is not the assembly. Every Christian family should have a daily family altar then, at times throughout the week, gather with other like minded believers for corporate worship.
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that
promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:23-25) The practices of the local assembly do not work within a single family
unit. For example, church discipline as commanded in scripture is impossible in a “home church” setting. Also, in this setting the Pastoral Epistles that Paul wrote become unnecessary. In addition, the roles of men and women within the assembly as found in I Timothy would not apply either. In scripture we do, however, see families assembling together as a local unit. This is necessary to fulfill the role of the
Words do matter. The study of words in the Bible is foundational to accurate exegesis. Let’s be true to the word (“ekklesia”) and use it correctly.