Jesus said very little about what a church should be like; Jesus was more concerned with the Kingdom. Or . . . maybe that is what He was talking about. However not many years after Jesus returned to His Father, His followers, of ‘The Way’, had begun to build the structure that became the Roman Church, it was supposed to be a picture of His Kingdom on Earth. The word ‘church’ that we use today comes from the Old English and German word pronounced "kirche." In Scotland, it was "kirk.", taken from the earlier Greek It was pronounced "ku-ri-a-kos" or "ku-ri-a-kon." However this is where we encounter yet another mistranslation from the original Greek. The word that has been translated into ‘Church’ in our modern scripture is actually the Greek word ‘ecclesia’. The definition of the word ‘Ecclesia’ is “mediaeval Latin, and Greek - from the word: ‘SUMMONED’ - a regularly convoked (called out) assembly, especially the general assembly of Athenians. Later used as, the regular word for church. ‘ Ecclesia’ appears in out Bibles 115 times
So "ecclesia" was originally a select civil body, summoned or convoked for a particular purpose. What, then, did the writers of the New Testament mean when they used the word "ecclesia" to describe a Christian body of people? We can assume that they intended to convey the original Greek meaning of the word: a body of Christians called out of the Roman and Judean system to come together into a separate civil community. It is also interesting that we are told in Acts 2:44 that these Christians “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” So whereas ‘church’ means a broad spectrum of people with certain things in common, an ecclesia is a group of people called out to have all things in common, a brother and sisterhood. So we can see that there is a great difference between a church and an ‘ecclesia’. Looking at the translations we find that, ‘Kuriakos’ (Greek) actually means ‘Church’ (English), but ‘ecclesia’ literally means ‘Community’.
Jesus doubtless instructed His disciples on how the ecclesia of Christ needed to be. What those original Christians had in mind when they established the early community, assuming that Jesus did instruct them in this, was something very different to today’s church. It would seem that what they founded was an autonomous body under one King, Jesus, and under no other jurisdiction than Jesus, in fact they recognised no other authority than Christ.
Here then, is the reason why Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was known for its religious tolerance, in fact Rome adopted or absorbed, almost every faith system they encountered, however they would not tolerate challenges to their authority. If the Christians refused to acknowledge any civil authority of Rome or even the Sanhedrin they would have certainly suffered arrest, crucifixion and martyrdom. The book of acts explains this well. Paul was in the habit of visiting synagogues and preaching the Gospel message [Acts 17:1], we are told that many Greeks and leading women, who heard the message, joined ‘The Way’ but the Jews were angered and formed a mob [Acts 17:5]. The mob then attacked the home of a believer, called Jason, where Paul and Silas seems to have been lodged. The mob could not find Paul so they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the authorities[Acts 17:6]. The Jews then accused Jason of “acting against the decrees of Caesar,” because they had another king, Jesus [Acts 17:7].
Acts 17:7 makes it abundantly clear what were doing was announcing Jesus as a king, not Caesar, and not the Sanhedrin, the Jewish authority. The ecclesia’ they were forming were civil bodies that did not look to Caesar as their king, or the Sanhedrin as the ultimate Jewish authority. They were forming a new nation under Christ.
“ I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the ecclesia of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” [1 Timothy 3:14-15]
If we can define "ecclesia," we will then have identified "the pillar and ground of the truth." Few endeavours are as important and rewarding as this because this is what Jesus/God had intended. Let’s take one more look at Ephesians 6:12, which says:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Note the verse first lists rulers (kings) and authorities (governments) and then moves on to the spiritual, was this because the earthly kings and governments were the most prominent and immediate issue and barrier? Could it be that the mistranslation was a purposeful substitution in order to cover-up the real meaning of ecclesia? This would avoid the conflict with kings and governments of future times, just as it did in the Roman Empire. Jesus tells Peter (petra=rock) “on this rock I will build my ecclesia, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Governments rely on legal authority, and a king also is born to authority, legal because they are the authority; but Jesus says that He has been given ALL authority on Earth and in Heaven [Matthew 28:18]. All authority over rules every government or authority on Earth, He is our Government and has the ultimate universal legal authority to rule. Jesus also told us a ‘truism’ in that no one can serve two masters, that it will result in him loving one and despising the other [Matthew 6:24]. These days it is self-evident that this is true, it is almost impossible to serve man and be a member of the Kingdom in the sense of ‘ecclesia’; the two are not compatible. In this verse the word ‘money’ is not exactly correct, the original word is ‘Mammon’ which is defined as “material wealth or possessions especially as having a debasing influence, ambition, ”you cannot serve God and mammon” So not exactly ‘money’ but could easily be defined as ‘The World’, of which we should distance ourselves from.
We are the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22, 23), made up of us, individual saints (1 Corinthians 12:20), comprised of all those who have been saved (Ephesians 5:23-25). "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” [1 Corinthians 12:12] > “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." [1 Corinthians 12:27]. Therefore, the church is made up of individual saints, called out from the world.
So is this the picture we have of today’s church, are we a group called out by God to establish His Kingdom? Is this what is meant by ‘The Kingdom’ and why Jesus is called a King rather than God? What do we think?
The big question as to why the early Christians were persecuted in the proactive way that they were can easily be answered by the definition of ‘ecclesia’. The answer is not because of their faith, but because they refused to acknowledge the Emperor and the Senate as their head of state, and this Rome could not allow. The Christians became a ‘theistic state’, where only one authority was recognised, that of our King Jesus. Even the word ‘King’ denoted an earthly authority; no other faith system has ever called their god a king, and related to a physical kingdom or group of people.
So not only did those first century Christians share all physical property but they were linked as persons of the same state, country or subjects under one King. Separate in all ways, one body, one King, one God. All hale the King!
In God’s Love