The Ecclesia

Ecclesia. The word has been tossed around a lot recently. We’ve been centering in on the verse stating how Jesus responded when Peter mentioned that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God:
 
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:17-18
 
This verse turned out to be controversial, as many would claim that the church would be based on a lineage beginning with Peter – however, Simon’s name was not changed to the word for ‘Rock’, but ‘Petra’, or simply, stone. This verse has new controversy now, as we would find out that when Jesus was talking about church in the light of this verse, He was not actually talking about an actual building.
 
To redefine ‘church’as anything besides a building is not a new idea. It’s as controversial as it is old.
 
·       Stephen was known as one of the first martyrs, and in his famous speech before the Jewish Council, one of the things he stated goes as follows: ‘The Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands’ (Acts 6:48). This point was one significant reason why the Council had him stoned to death.
·        The crowd quickly turned into a mob that wanted nothing but to see Stephen dead. Our brother was taken into the outside of the city walls, and the Council trusted one man with their coats and robes while they stoned the apostle to death…
·       This man’s name was Saul, a self-professed Pharisee of Pharisee. Once a prodigy of all things regarding the Law, one personal, profound experience with the Creator of the Universe turned him into Paul, Apostle and messenger of the Good News to the Gentiles.
·       When Paul was in Athens, he was appalled at the vast number of idols that were present – there seemed to be an idol for everything, and it was still not enough, because when they ran out of things to build for, they made an altar with an inscription which states, ‘TO THE UNKNOWN GOD’.
·       Paul took this as an opportunity for him to share Jesus Christ, as written in Acts 17:22-32. Take note that in Acts 17:24, Paul states the following: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man..”
o   This sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? It doesn’t matter if you’ve just heard the Gospel for the first time, or if you’ve been religious all your life before hearing it, we would be wise to agree with Stephen and Paul that the Church is NOT a building!
 
 
SO WHAT IS THIS CHURCH CHRIST WAS TALKING ABOUT? WHAT CHURCH IS BUILT UPON THE ROCK?
 
Before we answer that question, let us bring ourselves back to the Old Testament, and let us talk about military tactics. The kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria were constant threats to the freedom and autonomy of Israel. The walls of Jerusalem fell and its kings hauled off to the land of the conquerors more than once.
 
He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, 7,000, and the craftsmen and the metal workers, 1,000, all of them strong and fit for war.
– 2 Kings 24:14-16
 
Nebuchadnezzar exiled everyone as a response to kingdoms that were unruly in particular. Besides overpowering them with military force, he would take every skilled worker and every person of influence into the his kingdom, to expose them 24/7 to the Babylonian culture.
 
We see demonstrations of how this assimilation worked – Daniel and the rest of the wise men with him were given Babylonian names, and were made to eat Babylonian food. This was deemed effective as there was a significantly lesser chance that the people would revolt after assimilation.
 
Fast forward to the New Testament. Whereas the Middle-Eastern kingdoms were adept in hauling people away to their own lands to transform them into their own people, the Greeks and the Romans in particular introduced a new strategy. Instead of expending vast resources on moving thousands of people to their land, they focused on establishing a single point of power to serve as governing authorities over areas of conquered land. These points of power were known as Ecclesia.
 
Ecclesia is literally translated as, ‘assembly’. To give you a picture of what an Ecclesia was like, think of them as our own city council – a gathering of influential people representing a higher power serving as authorities over a community. Herod was the governor of the Judean province, and was in a way part of the Ecclesia in that area. They enforced Roman culture and traditions to the people.
 
 
The Babylonians dragged people away to their land. The Greeks conquered, and established Ecclesia.
Sound familiar? Religions around the world are quite adept in attracting people into their organizations. They use the promise of better life, or the fear of eternal damnation to ‘drag’ people to their temples and lodges, assimilating them into their way of life. 
 
I’m not here to badmouth any religion, because we are all susceptible to falling into the same temptation of falling for the Babylonian style. We have established earlier that church is not a building, but our evangelism styles have us calling people to a building! We come to the people with subtle messages, such as ‘come and be blessed’
 
Let us go back to the verses we read earlier:
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:17-18
 
The word Christ used for ‘church’ in these verses is Ecclesia. Christ could have gone ahead and used any other word while speaking to the disciples – Temple, Kingdom, Government, Stronghold… No, He brushed all those words aside, and instead, used the word Ecclesia.
 
Today, we are called to view church in a different light. The Church of Christ is not a building. The body of Christ is not a religion – it is a gathering of people representing a higher power, with a solid foundation.
 
Christ was the first demonstration of how his Church was established. Before the creation of all reality as we know it, Lucifer rebelled against God and was consequently conquered – it was Jesus Himself that saw Satan fall from the heavens as lightning.
 
Since the Garden of Eden, God had the power and the authority to rub out and remove everything that He established.. but instead of taking everything away, He sent His Son to establish His rule and reign.
 
In the Old Testament, the shedding of the blood of the sacrifice ushered in an exchange – the filthiness of the individual or nation was transferred to the sacrifice, and the cleanliness of the sacrifice was transferred to the one making the offering.
 
Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for the entire world, and when His blood was shed, He literally became sin, and we became His righteousness, effectively establishing Himself,  not just to a province, not just to a country, but to the entire world.  
 
YOU ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST. YOU ARE THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. YOU ARE THE ECCLESIA.
 
Rest.

 

 


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