A key scripture on ecclesiology is Acts 2:42. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” What is ecclesiology and is the Acts 2 model a viable model/blueprint for Spirit of Life Church in 21st century? In the bible we see 6 roles for a church:
Protect and provide for the congregation/assembly. Discipline and accountability. Encourage, equip, and train for mission. Teaching. Hospitality. Leading ordered lives following God’s ordinances: gathering, the Lord’s table, baptism.
Worship is deliberately omitted from the list as the Shemah of Deuteronomy 6:4, alongside 1 Corinthians, gives the foundational principle that all we do is worship:
- “In eating and drinking, and in all we do, we should aim at the glory of God, at pleasing and honouring him. In other words all we do is an act of worship.” 1 Corinthians 12:31
Here o Israel the Lord you God the Lord is one, you are to love the Lord your God with all you r heart, all your mind and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4
In teaching doctrine The authors of the New Testament needed a clear understanding of what church is. When referring to the gathering of those under the Old and New Testaments the authors of Scripture use the term ecclesia, translated into English as calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially religious congregation. A gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place. (136 OT, 114 NT) Ecclesia is a motif throughout scripture. Noah was called out from the sinful world before it was destroyed, Abraham left pagan Haran, and was promised a people more numerous than the stars. Under patriarchs, prophets, judges, and kings, the Jews were set apart as a nation under the true and living God (Jonah 1:9). This begs the question, why would translators from the original common greek and hebrew, adopt the term church in the new testament writings? After all, William Tyndale disputed the use of the term and was an advocate of the term congregation. The following information is from ACMTC Library and BenWilliamsLibrary.com: Let’s start by defining the word. “Church” comes from the Old English and German word pronounced “kirche.” In Scotland, it was “kirk.” The following entries are from the Oxford Universal English Dictionary: Church [Old English cirice, circe; Middle English chereche, chiriche, chirche; whence churche, cherche, etc.: -Greek Kuriakon…] Kirk The Northern English and Scottish form of church, in all its senses. In the earlier Greek It was pronounced “ku-ri-a-kos” or “ku-ri-a-kon.” As you can see, this word doesn’t even resemble the Greek word “ecclesia” whose place it has usurped. The meaning of “Ku-ri-a-kos” is understood by its root: “Ku- ri-os,” which means “lord.” Thus, “kuriakos” (i.e., “church”) means “pertaining to the lord.” It refers to something that pertains to, or belongs to, a lord. The Greek “kuriakos” eventually came to be used in Old English form as “cirice” (Kee-ree-ke), then “churche” (kerke), and eventually “church” in its traditional pronunciation. A church, then, is correctly something that “pertains to, or belongs to, a lord.” Therefore for the purpose of this essay I am submitting church is a vernacular term for what the Apostles would have understood as the congregation or assembly of believers. Remembering that the first converts had to wrestle with the question, ‘were gentiles even allowed to become Christians?’, Acts 10:28 and therefore be allowed into the congregation. Believers within the Spirit of Life Church are those who are descendants of Abraham beneficiaries of God’s Covenant Genesis 15:5, grafted into the line of David and members of a Royal Priesthood Romans 11:17. Our antecedents are the Israelites, we are within the kingdom (reign) of Christ, Matthew 12:28, and our primary mission remains; “to see all nations come to a knowledge of truth”
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.” Isaiah 2:2
Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. Psalm 2:8
This is a covenantal understanding of the role and position of the Christian, a position held throughout church history; most recently by the puritans and contemporary reformed believers. It is juxtaposed with the 19th century teachings of John Nelson Derby of the Plymouth Brethren, and the Texan Pastor Schofield, who wrote a popularized systematic theology. Their teaching is known as dispensational in which Christian history is divided into dispensations. God deals with different people under different dispensations. Our current dispensation is called the, ‘church age’. Israel is being dealt with under a different dispensation. It is a futurist view of eschatology. A dispensational conviction has a pessimistic view of history: The world is on a trajectory toward increasing oppression, persecution, and conflict. The popular phrase is, “the world is going to hell in a hand-basket.” (pessimillenialism) These fundamentally different eschatological positions have a significant impact on ecclesiology. If, as Matthew 24:14 teaches, the gospel has already been preached to all nations (oikoumene), that the old covenant system with its temple sacrifices came under judgement and was destroyed in AD70 and the kingdom or rule of Christ is growing, then Christ’s church is the means by which this is being achieved. Alternative, if persecution of the church is set to increase, and ultimately lose its battle for nations, our church’s roles and functions as salt and light to the culture is limited. However, I hold to the understanding that mustard seeds will grow to large trees, and that Psalm 110:1 teaches that Christ’s enemies are one by one being made His footstool. As a church under the Kingship of Christ we are marching forward to the beat of His drum, looking to serve Him as He takes the nations for Himself and he puts His enemies under his footstool. There are 100,000 Christians in China, a growing population in India, and biblical Christianity is standing in opposition to Catholicism, and synchronism in Africa and South America. Therefore when continuing in the Apostles doctrine we look to model our lives and community on that which we see across Scripture. Onward Christian Soldiers is a song of victory within history. Scripture’s Model for Church Accountability Acts 9:31 – The church is peaceful multiplied, built up, walking in fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Acts 9 context: Paul being brought into the church and preaching boldly, he is protected from the Hellenists by the church. So what? Paul is assessed before being allowed into the body. Therefore, assess those who join the congregation. Support and protect those who are preaching. Walk in the fear of the Lord that He might use the church for His purposes. For example: Romans 16:1,2. “…Phoebe,,,that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” Teaching Romans 16:23 – “Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church”. Gaius is a Macedonian who accompanied Paul on his travels. Unknown Christian to whom John’s third epistle is written. So what? Be known to the church. Gaius lives out the Apostles’ teaching, therefore live out teachings of the Apostles. Ordinances Hebrews 10:19-39 – The passage gives the context and purpose of gathering. Giving acknowledgement and gratitude in worship for the sacrifice recorded in 10:1-18. Mission Matthew10:32,33 – So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but pwhoever denies me before men, qI also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Therefore,confess Christ, speaking boldly, with compassion, urgency and wisdom. Discipline Matthew 18:17 – If he refuses to listen to them tell it to the church. Function of the church – discipline, accountability. 2 Corinthians is a stern letter. Paul speaks of his concern for people’s salvation. 2 Corinthians 13:3 Disciplined threatened as a means to show that Christ is working through Paul. Therefore, a continued theme is for the need of church discipline to be exercised, for false converts to be identified ch13:5, and members to conduct themselves as ambassadors Ch 5. Protect and Provide Letter to the Corinthians corrects a church that has been compromised by the culture. Therefore don’t allow the culture to compromise the church. 1 Corinthians 4 – Timothy sent to remind of the way of Christ, as Paul teaches them everywhere in the church. Therefore in the church we reminded of the ways of Christ. Therefore invite a Timothy that we may be transparent and open to correction. Summary (Ephesians 1:22, 3:10, 3:21, 5:23, 5:24, 25, 27, 29, 32) The Ecclesia is the bride of Christ, His perfect and spotless bride, Ephesians 5:27. In this capacity Spirit of life has the authority, following the sovereign will of her groom, to invite whom she will to the wedding celebration. Our daily celebration is seen as we live repentant lives for Christ. We live and work separated by time and space but are united as the bride with one Lord and when we gather it is culmination, continuation and preparation for ongoing worship. The Bride may tell the guests the required garments, and the consequences for failing to dress appropriately. She stipulates the way of entering and warns of the penalty of finding other routes. She dictates behaviour, and exercises corrective measures for disobedience. The bride is the groom’s pride and joy, she is all He wants, and it is her joy to conform to His will because His love for her is immeasurable. She sets her affections for Him above any concerns of conformity, tradition and convention and fears the cost of contravening His ordinances. The fear of her Lord keeps her from harm and steers her to joy, trust and contentment despite toil, tempest and temptation.