The Visible Professing Church
What does the Holy Scriptures say about the “Church”? The Greek word for church is “ekklēsia” which means literally “to be called out”. It is my judgment the Greek word “ekklesia” is very similar to the Greek word “synagōgē” which means “to come or go together.” The early church did not meet in buildings except they did met in Synagogues sometimes. Many if not most of the early churches met in members homes. The Greek word “ekklēsia” means a group meeting together for some common purpose. A local church should be called “a church” while the universal church should be called “the Church”.
The word is sometimes used of secular and non-religious assemblies in the New Testament Scripture. The word derives from two Greek words “ek” which means “out of” and “kaleo” which means “to call” Both together literally mean “called out”.
The Church is a group of selected “called out” believers in the Lord Jesus Christ in theological terms. The church is a group of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who gather together for the purpose of worshipping the LORD, being taught HIS principles, and celebrating the two ordinances of the LORD and exercising church discipline.
The term “church” has taken on an institutional meaning to certain denominations.
The word “church” is an English word which is used in the New Testament for both local assemblies of believers and for the universal body of believers who do not currently meet.
The Greek word for church does not refer to a building, but to a gathered group of believers.
The word “church” in the K.J.V. is used in Acts 7:38 is used of “the church in the wilderness.” In Acts 19:41 the Greek word “ekklēsia” is translated “assembly” with reference of a riotous mob.
There are two or more reference to a home church in the New Testament.
5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Romans 16:5 (KJV
19 The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 1 Cor 16:19 (KJV)
Thus it is evident that the Greek word “ekklēsia” which is translated on most occasions in English as “church” is not a building. It was approximately 200 A.D. before an actual church building was built. Christians met in homes, caves, and other available locations.
The word “church” has taken on a churchianity connotation which somewhat undermines the true meaning of the word “ekklēsia”. The “church” local and the “church” universal are the people of God gathered together to worship God and do His will. If you will notice closely that the Holy Scripture usually refers to local churches by city such as The church of God in Corinth, and the church of God in Thessalonians:
“…church of God which is at Corinth,” 1 Cor 1:2 (KJV)
“…the church of the Thessalonians….” 1 Thess 1:1 (KJV)
The Seven churches of Asia:
“…church of Ephesus…” Rev 2:1 (KJV)
“…church in Smyrna …” Rev 2:8 (KJV)
“…church in Pergamos…” Rev 2:12 (KJV)
“…church in Thyatira …” Rev 2:18 (KJV)
“…church in Sardis…” Rev 3:1 (KJV)
“…church in Philadelphia …” Rev 3:7 (KJV)
“…church of the Laodiceans…” Rev 3:14 (KJV
Interestingly, Paul does not address his letter to the Romans as “the church of God at Rome”. More than likely the saints at Roman were scattered groups of Christians which had received the Gospel from someone who was at the Feast of Pentacost. Rome was a large city and probably had many small groups throughout the city.
When the KJV was translated, King James I insisted on the use of historic Christian terminology. As an illustration he stated that the word “church” should not be translated “congregation”. Actually, the word “congregation” is probably a better translation for the Greek word “ekklēsia”. The word “congregation” is not so much a churchianity type word which implies an organizational structure and/or building structure. The word congregation comes from two root words: 1) con= with or together, and “grex”= a herd of cattle. Thus the word means a group that gathers together.
The local church is a “visible professing church”. This terminology is what I see of the usage of the word “church” used in the local sense in the New Testament.
The first word is “visible” which mean that they actually meet together and can be seen. The universal church does not meet currently. While we know from Holy Scripture that there is a universal worldwide church we also know that it will not meet until Jesus Christ returns. Those who emphasize the “universal church” tend to lack loyality to the “local church”. The word “church” as it refers to the local church is mentioned many more times in the New Testament. Those who over-emphasize the “local church” to the exclusion of the concept of the “universal church” can become bigoted and self-centered.
There are some individual Christians that neglect meeting with other Christians in some type local assembly. There are sometimes called “lone ranger Christians”. This is not a desirable approach to Christianity because Holy Scripture calls us by various names which indicate group participation: 1) The body of Christ, and 2) the Bride of Christ.
The second word is “professing” which indicates that these alleged Christian claim to know Jesus Christ and profess it in their life and speech by lip and life. Their profession indicates that they know Christ as Saviour and Lord.
The third word is “church” which indicates a group of regenerate believers that meet together for the purpose of worship, study, and service to the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we determine who is a true member of the body of Christ? Well from an earthly point of view we cannot know a persons heart, however, we can tentatively know based on two factors:
Faith and Morals will indicate tentatively who is and who is not a true believer.
How do we know about a person’s faith? The word “faith” is here used a doctrinal understanding.
The word Morals is used about a person’s actual moral behavior in relation to what he says he believes.
What does a person believe?
How does a person act or behave
Sometimes this is expressed in terms of Creed and Deed, and Belief and Behavior.
If a person does not believe in the central doctrines of Christianity, he is not likely to be a true Christian. If his behavior is truly substandard, he may not be a true Christian. If either of these are off center, he needs to be talk with personally regarding either of these two matters.
There two things which needs to be questioned about what a person believes.
The Person of Christ: that is, who is Jesus Christ?
And What did He come to do?
So we need to know what a person believes about the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
The behavior may be a little more obvious. While we cannot determine what is in a person’s heart we can somewhat evaluate the heart by the behavior. Jesus said “out of the heart the mouth speaketh.” A person’s speech is very indicative of a person’s character and actual beliefs.
Thus we evaluate a person’s profession of faith by what he actually believes and what he actually does in the light of Holy Scripture.
Also, any group which claims to be a visible professing church must be prepared to exercise church discipline regarding serious offenses against biblical doctrine and biblical behavior. This is an essential of a true local church. Many churches no longer exercise any type discipline regarding offending members. This can even be accomplished in a Bible study group. We had to do this with a seriously offending participate member of our group of Northwest Gospel Fellowship. We formally took the steps that are required in Matthew 18:15-18 and other biblical passages.
There are basically three aspects or steps to dis-fellowshipping a person or persons.
Number one, a personal attempt is made on a one to one basis to resolve the issue with the offending person. If this fails to resolve the issue then a second step is to be taken.
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
Step number two is to take one or two persons with you as witnesses. This is the biblical procedure. Let everything be established in the mouth of two or more witnesses.
16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
Then if he refused to resolve the issue in the presence of two or more witnesses the matter is to be formally taken before the “church” body. If he refuses to resolve the issue before the gathered “church” he is to be excluded and shunned and be considered a “functional unbeliever.”
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Jesus states that the authority of heaven is behind this procedure.
18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again Jesus restates the authority of heaven on this action.
19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matt 18:15-20 (KJV)
In our case, we had warned our participant for over one year as many as ten or twenty times. Various group participants had attempted to get a reasonable compliance from the person but all the no avail. I as the leader of the group discussed this matter personally with every member of the group. All agreed to ask the person no longer to attend the group until he changed his mind and behavior about what he was doing. We informed the person that he was welcome when he agreed to observe the group civil order. He refused so we formally gave him a letter of disassociation which we also gave to the restaurant owner telling them of our action. He was free to come to the restaurant but he was not free to sit with us or to disturb our group. The restaurant owner was in total agreement with this action as he had bothered the owner as well as our group. If a church member flees to another church and after that church is informed of the fleeing member’s issue and that church does not take like action, that new church is to be considered as an apostate non-functional church.
Greek Strong’s Number: 1577
Greek Word: ἐκκλησία
Cross Reference: TDNT – 3:501,394
Part of Speech: n f
English Words used in KJV:
[Total Count: 118]
from a compound of <G1537> (ek) and a derivative of <G2564> (kaleo); a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both) :- assembly, church. —Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary
Do I recommend a house church? Not necessarily! However, there are many be times when this is a necessary thing to do. China and some other countries must take this approach because of persecution of Christians. Just as many Christians have decided to home school their children, there are many who likewise have decided to home church their children and other families. Many of the denominational churches have seriously failed to teach and win the lost. Even if a person takes his/her children to a denominational church or other church it is still the responsibility of the father and mother for the religious, moral, and spiritual training of their children. God’s admonition to the children of Israel is also applicable to the Christian family.
There may come the time that a house church is needed even in the United States.
5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deut 6:5-7 (KJV)
May God bless your today and forever.
Rev. Thomas L. Clark – Phil. 3:14