. . . fully after the LORD                  I Kings 11:6                      by Steve Flinchum

Chapter 2


    Although the subject of this chapter has been addressed well by a few other writers, it seems that the facts of the matter are not widely known. Furthermore, those facts have been neglected by some and, with increasing frequency, they are being blatantly ignored, apparently with the attitude that man has come up with a better plan than God's plan. In I Timothy 3:14-15, Paul said:

These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

If it is our desire to know the truth, it should be beyond dispute that we should want to know where to find it. The purpose of a "pillar and ground" is to hold something up. If one thing is holding up another thing, we should expect both of those things to be found together. With "the church of the living God" being "the pillar and ground of the truth," it must be admitted that it is important that we know the true definition of "church." It must also follow, that when a "church" quits holding up the truth, it is no longer the same kind of "church" spoken of in these verses (a "church of the living God"). In pursuit of truth, we have no choice but to use God's definition of the word and reject men's definitions, ammendments, and appendages.

    Some attention to definition is necessary for, and basic to, effectively communicating the intent of the pages to follow. Much of the false doctrine preached today has been perpetrated and advanced by falsely defining the word translated in The King James Version of the Bible as "church." For these reasons, and those listed above, I will attempt a brief overview of the subject. To borrow some words from Buell H. Kazee in The Church and the Ordinances:

In any study of the subject here undertaken, it seems necessary, even though we must repeat what is found in so many works of this nature, to indicate the various uses of the word "church" or the Greek ekklesia from which our word "church" is translated.

Webster's Dictionary (1978) gives the following definition:

church (church) n. building for Christian worship; collective body of Christians; a denomination or sect of the Christian religion; the clergy; the church service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [O.E. circe, belonging to the Lord].

Encyclopedia Britannica (1957) gives the following :

CHURCH. The word church refers both to the Christian religious community and to the building used for Christian worship. This article, after discussing the etymology of the word itself, will deal with these two subjects.

Etymology of the Word Church.--According to most authorities, the word is derived from the Gr. kuplakov (owua), "the Lord's (house)," and is common to many Teutonic, Slavonic and other languages, under various forms--e.g., Scottish kirk, Ger. kirche, Swed. kirka, Dan. kirke, Russ. tserkov, Bulg. cerkova, Czech. cirkev, Finn. kirkko, etc. The word was originally applied to the building used for Christian worship, and subsequently extended to the Christian community (ecclesia) itself. Conversely, the Greek word ecclesia (ekkhnoia) was transferred from the community to the building, and is used in both senses, especially in the modern Romance and Celtic languages (e.g., Fr. eglise, Welsh eglwys, etc.).


The World Book Encyclopedia (1985) has this entry:

CHURCH comes from a Greek word meaning the Lord's house. The word has many meanings. It may mean the world community of Christians. Church may refer to any denomination or group professing the same Christian creed, as the Methodist Church. It may also signify a national religious body, such as the Church of England. It may refer to the formal institutions of a religion or to the ecclesiastical organization, power, and authority of a religious body. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Church is also a building used for public Christian worship. Early Christians met secretly outdoors, in catacombs, or in private houses. The earliest-known Christian sanctuary, a private house in Dura, eastern Syria, dates from about A.D. 200. After the Roman Emperor Constantine stopped the persecution of Christians in the A.D. 300's, Christians began building churches.

    It is seen from these sources that the word "church" has accumulated quite a few different meanings and uses. If it is our aim to know the meaning of Jesus' teachings and of the inspired Word of God, we must look beyond the accumulation of man-made definitions. It is certain that some of these meanings were not used in the Bible because those meanings were not developed or used until a much later date.

    The Greek word for church is kuplakov, as noted in the above quotation from Encyclopedia Britannica, transliterated kuriakos. Reference to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible reveals that that word occurs only two times in the Greek New Testament. The first occurrence is in I Corinthians 11:20, and is translated "Lord's," referring to "the Lord's supper." The second occurrence is in Revelation 1:10, and is again translated correctly as "Lord's," there referring to "the Lord's day." Strong's "Dictionary of the Greek Testament" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible) gives this definition to kuriakos (Strong's word number 2960):

from 2962; belonging to the Lord (Jehovah or Jesus):--Lord's.

The word "church," or "churches," however, is used numerous (114) times in the King James Version. In I Peter 5:13 the word was added by the translators, as is indicated by its appearing in italics. In Acts 19:37, "robbers of churches" is used to translate hierosulos, which Strong's "Dictionary of the Greek Testament" defines as "a temple-despoiler." A quick look in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible shows that in each of the other one hundred-twelve cases (as well as in the subscriptions to the books of Romans, II Timothy, and Titus), "church" or "churches" is used to translate the Greek word ekklesia in the singular or plural.

    In order to properly understand the intended meaning of a word, it is necessary to know the meaning or uses of the word at the time and place the user of the word spoke or wrote the word. In The Meaning Of Ecclesia In The New Testament, Edward H. Overbey listed the following, in his chapter titled "ECCLESIA IN THE CLASSICAL GREEK":

Liddell and Scott define ekklesia as "an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly." [R. Scott, and H.G. Liddell, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 206.] Thayer's lexicon says, "an assembly of the people convened at the public place of council for the purpose of deliberating" [J.H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 196]. Trench gives the meaning as "the lawful assembly in a free Greek city of all those possessed of the rights of citizenship, for the transaction of public affairs" [R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, 7th ed., pp. 1-2]. Seyffert's dictionary states, "The assembly of the people, which in Greek cities had the power of final decision in public affairs" [Oskar Seyffert, A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, pp. 202-203].

It is clear from those sources that an ekklesia was an assembly of persons called together for a purpose, autonomous, independent, and a democracy. Notice, also, that an ekklesia was a definitely municipal body. I know of no source that would indicate a different use of the word prior to or during the writing of the New Testament.

    The Holy Spirit has blessed us with the inspiring of the record and description of a Greek ekklesia in Acts 19. There, the word ekklesia was properly translated by the translators of the King James Version as "assembly" (in verses 32, 39, and 41). Notice, also, from Acts 19, that an ekklesia can be either a lawful one or an unlawful one. Acts 7:38 speaks of "the church in the wilderness." That ekklesia in the wilderness is not to be confused with the one Jesus said He would build. We have no more justification for equating that ekklesia in the wilderness with the one Jesus built than we do to equate the ekklesia in Acts 19 with the one Jesus built.

    King James' translators, however, substituted "church" for ekklesia in Matthew 16:18, and in all one-hundred-eleven other occurences of the word in the New Testament. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "I will build my ekklesia." He may have spoken in Aramaic, but the New Testament was written in Greek, which as World Book Encyclopedia says, "was widely spoken during the time of Jesus." Jesus did not indicate or give any reason to believe, there or any where else, that He was giving a new or different meaning to the word. He used the adjective "my" to distinguish it from any other, and used the word ekklesia in the generic sense, like God did with the word "man," in Genesis 1:26, when He said, "Let us make man." Jesus did not make any modification to, or give any new meaning to the word ekklesia in Matthew 16:18, or any place else. If He had, He would have told us. The Holy Spirit did not give a new or different meaning to the word as He inspired the rest of the New Testament. If He had, He would have told us. That there is confusion about this matter is undeniable, but we can be certain that the confusion is the work of man and the Devil because God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33).

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