- THE CHURCH
It was not the original purpose to extend the discussion of the question,
What is the Church, into a second lecture. It was supposed that you would
be able of yourselves to classify all New Testament uses of ecclesia
the several heads of abstract, generic, particular
prospective, by applying the principles of the first lecture.
But the nature and variety of your new questions constrain me to enlarge
the discussion somewhat and to supply you with a wider usage of the word
than the New Testament affords. Of the great number of instances from the
classics, read to you, at my request, by Mr. Ragland, our Professor of
Greek, your attention is recalled to a few, specially pertinent.
(1) Those which so clearly show the distinction between ecclesia
an organized business body and all unofficial gatherings, e. g.,
"Pericles seeing them angry at the present state of things - did not call
them to an ecclesia or any other meeting."
Again, "When after this the ecclesia adjourned, they came
together and planned - for the future still being uncertain, meetings
speeches of all sorts took place in the market They were
afraid the ecclesia would he summoned suddenly." - Demosthenes.
Compare this distinction with the town clerk's statement in Acts 19:39,
(2) Those concerning the ecclesias of the several petty but
independent Greek states, Sparta, Athens and others, bringing out clearly
the business character of theseir free and democratic
their final decisions by vote, and reminding us so forcibly of the proceedings
of independent Baptist churches of our day.
(3) Those showing the discriminating character of the Greek mind in the
use of panyegyros, as distinguished from ecclesia.
the particular and independent business assembly of any Greek state, however
small. Panegyros was the general assembly of the people of
all the Greek states. It was a festive assembly looking to rest, joy, peace,
glory, and not to business and war. Let not the Lacedaemonians come up
armed to this assembly.
It was a happy Greek conceit that all the Heavenly beings were present
at these Olympian meetings. How felicitously does the inspired author of
the letter to the Hebrews adapt himself to this discrimination, when in
contrast with the particular ecclesia on earth, he writes
of the general assembly and church of the first born in glory - panegyros
kai ecclesia. There, not Zeus, but God the judge. There
not a pantheon of inferior deities and demi-gods, but myriads of angels,
and the spirits of just men made perfect. There war and toil have ceased,
and peace and rest reign forever. There are bestowed not fading laurels,
but everlasting crowns of life, righteousness, joy and glory. (See I
Corinthians 9:25; II Timothy 4:8; James 1:12;
5:4; Revelation 2:10, 9:7.)
That general assembly is not bound by the limitations of the one Greek
nation but infinitely transcends the Olympian gatherings in a countless
multitude out of every nation, tribe, tongue and kindred. Jew, Greek, Roman,
Scythian, barbarian, bond and free mingle in one tide of brotherhood. (Revelation
Some of your questions induced me to supply you with the entire Septuagint
You have before you now all the instances of this use of
the readings of the several texts, in both the canonical books and Apocrypha.
To these have been added the additional instances from other Greek versions
of the Old Testament, Aquila (A. D., 130). The odotion (A. D. 160), Symmachus
(A. D. 193). et al.; i. e., so far as they are cited in the
concordance of Abraham Trommius (A. D. 1718) and the new mammoth concordance
of Hatch Redpath, Oxford (1893). These instances, about 114 in all, nearly
equal the New Testament number, giving us a total of about 230 uses of
the word not counting the classics. This is every way sufficient for inductive
study. Of course the post apostolic versions of Aquilla, Theodotion and
Symmachus had no influence in determining the earlier New Testament usage,
but as the work of Jews in the second century they confirm that usage.
It was to the classic and Septuagint usage the first lecture referred in
saying that the New Testament writers neither coined the word nor employed
it in an unusual sense.
They wrote in Greek, to readers and speakers of Greek, using Greek words
in their common acceptation in order to be understood. With this usage
before us let us seek an answer to your new questions:
I. (Q) As in the Septuagint ecclesia translates the Hebrew
word gahal, does it not mean, "All Israel, whether assembled
(A) My reply is, I see not how this question could have risen in any mind
from a personal, inductive study of all the Septuagint passages, since
in every instance of the 114 cited the word means a gathering
together - an assembly.
You can see that for yourselves by the context of your English version.
The Septuagint usage is as solidly one thing as the Macedonian phalanx.
Unfortunately in our broad theological reading our minds become so preoccupied
with the loose generalizations of the great Pedobaptist scholars, Harnack,
Hatch, Hort, Cremer and others, that we unconsciously neglect to investigate
and think for ourselves. Let not admiration for distinguished scholarship
blot out your individuality. Accept nothing blindly on mere human authority.
In determining this question, have nothing to do with the meaning of gahal
its other connections. Rigidly adhere to the passages where
it. Because a word sometimes serves for another, do not foist on it all
the meanings of the other word.
It is well enough to illustrate by synonyms, but do not define by them.
Definition by supposed synonyms was the curse of the Baptismal controversy.
Because a question about purifying arose between a Jew and
John's disciples, Edward Beecher must write an illogical book to show that
only to purify, and, of course, by any method. Study
Carson on Baptism and you will learn much about the principles of accurate
II. (Q) "But," another question asks, "do not some of these Septuagint
justify the meaning of unassembled?"
(A) While I accepted Pedobaptist ideas, I thought so, but never since I
looked into the matter for myself.
I do not know of even one such
passage. I never heard of a definite claim being set up to more
than four out of 114. Turn now to these four in your revised English Bibles.
I Kings 8:65;
I Chronicles 28:8;
The first two settle themselves by a mere reading.
In Ezra "the assembly of the captivity" might be supposed
to refer, in a loose way, to the people while captives in Babylon. But
in fact it has no such reference as the context shows. It simply means
the 42,360 who returned from captivity as a definite Jerusalem assembly,
repeatedly called together. In Ezekiel 32:3, an unreliable reading
has ecclesia for the English word company.
even then the idea is the same. "Many peoples" in that sentence signify
nothing against the usual meaning of the word. They do not constitute an
gathered into a company. Xerxes, Timour, Napoleon, the White Tzar, and
many others have formed a great company out of the contingents of many
Heretofore the advocates of the present existence of "an universal, invisible,
spiritual, unassembled church" have boldly rested their case on the Septuagint
usage. The premise of their argument was, that the New Testament
writers must have used the word in the sense that a Jew accustomed to the
Greek Old Testament would understand. A fine premise, by the way. But to
save the theory from total collapse some new line of defense must be invented.
And that is intimated in your next question:
III. (Q) "As Christ was establishing a new institution, widely different
from the Greek state ecclesia, or the Old Testament
was not ecclesia in the New Testament used in a new, special
and sacred sense? Does not the word in the New Testament commonly mean
the same as the Kletoi, or the called, without reference
to either organization, or assembly?"
(A) On many accounts I am delighted with the opportunity to reply to this
question. The reply is couched in several distinct observations:
(1) This question demonstrates hopeful progress in the controversy and
prophesies a speedy and final settlement. It not only necessarily implies
a clean cut surrender of the old line of defense, but also narrows a hitherto
broad controversy into a single new issue, susceptible of easy settlement.
If this new position proves untenable there is no other to which the defense
can be shifted. This is the last ditch. And the fact that it is new
the extremity of its advocates.
(2) Like the former contention, this, too, is borrowed from the Pedobaptists.
They tried hard and long to make it serve in the Baptismal controversy.
Their contention then was that though Baptizo meant to dip
or immerse in classic Greek, yet in the Bible it was used in a new and
sacred sense. The scholarship of the world rebuked them. Words are signs
of ideas. To mean anything they must be understood according to the common
acceptation in the minds of those addressed. I know of no more dangerous
method of interpretation than the assumption that a word must be taken
to mean something different from its real meaning. Revelation in that case
ceases to be revelation. We are at sea without helm, or compass, or guiding
(3) There is nothing in the difference between Christ's ecclesia
the one hand, and the classic or Septuagint ecclesia on the
other hand, to justify a new sense in the word. The difference lies not
in the meaning of the word, but in the object, terms of membership and
(4) This proposed new sense destroys the two essential ideas of the old
word, organization and assembly, and thereby leaves
Christ without an institution or official,
in the world. From the days of Abel the Kletoi, or called,
have been in the world.
If, therefore, the New Testament ecclesia means only the
"called," then what did Christ establish in His time?
If by ecclesia, only the called in their scattered
capacity are meant, why use both ecclesia and Kletoi?
How can there be a body of Kletoi if the essential ideas
of ecclesia are left out? If there be no organization, no
assembly, how can there be a body? Miscellaneous, scattered,
unattached units do not make a body.
(6) Finally there is not the slightest evidence that ecclesia has
any such arbitrary meaning. But this will more clearly appear if you examine
the usage passage by passage.
IV. (Q) "But when Paul says, I persecuted the church, surely that can only
mean that he persecuted the disciples?"
(A) But it does mean much more. It means exactly what it says. The mere
individuals as such counted nothing with Paul. It was the organization
to which they belonged, and what that organization stood for. As proof
of this our Lord arrested him with the question: "Why persecutest thou
I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." Jesus was not persecuted in person by
So when "Herod the King put forth his hand to afflict certain of the church"
he aimed at the organization, in what it stood for, though directly his
wrath fell only on James and Peter.
V. (Q) "But if the church means assembly does not that require
it to be always in session?"
(A) No ecclesia, classic, Jewish or Christian, known to history,
held perpetual session. They all adjourned and came together again according
to the requirements of the case. The organization, the institution, was
not dissolved by temporary adjournment.
VI. (Q) "But if the earthly ecclesia exists now, though many
of its members forsake the assembling of themselves together, and if it
continually receives new members, why may we not say the general assembly
exists now, though all be not actually assembled, nor all its members yet
(A) This is the most plausible objection yet offered, and one that greatly
perplexes some minds. Your rigid attention, therefore, is called to the
reply. It is admitted that the particular assembly on earth is not always
in session either as a worshipping or business body. The word ecclesia
did require perpetual session. Nor does it now. There has been no change
of requirement in that respect from the days of Pericles till now. Nor
does the word require that all its Kletoi or members shall
be present at every session. Nor does the word itself forbid the accession
of new members.
Moreover, a particular ecclesia might continue as an historic
institution so long that there might be an entire change in the personnel
its members many times. There are particular Baptist churches now existing
in which these changes have actually occurred. Seldom does the roll of
members remain the same even one year. Some die, some are excluded, some
move away into other communities, new members are received. The attendance
upon the sessions for worship and business continually varies. Some are
sick, some travel, some backslide. Conditions of weather, politics or war
affect the attendance. Yea, more, storms, plagues, or persecution may for
the time being scatter the members of a particular church over a wide area
of territory. None of these things in the slightest degree affect the meaning
of the word.
throughout an organized assembly whose members are properly called out
from their private homes or business to attend to public affairs.
The difference between the earthly and heavenly ecclesia in
regard to the foregoing mutations does not arise at all from the word but
from the nature of the case.
By its very nature the earthly ecclesia is imperfect. It
is a time institution. By the conditions of its earthly existence there
are fluctuations in attendance and membership. By its location in a world
of lost people and by its commission to save them, there is constant accession
The changed nature of the case and of the conditions make these things
different with the general assembly. It can not increase
in members because there is no salvable material from which to gain accessions.
Character has crystallized and probation ended. The lost then, are forever
lost, and Hell admits of no evangelism. The word would not forbid evangelism
but the nature of the case does.
Not only the word, but the nature of the case renders present existence
of the general assembly impossible. Into the earthly house
material enters according to credible evidence of regeneration as men judge.
There is no absolute guaranty against self deception or hypocrisy. Moreover,
this material even when the profession of faith is well founded, is never
in a perfect state, but must be continually made better by progressive
sanctification of soul. The earthly ecclesia is a workshop
in which material is being prepared for the Heavenly house. Death is the
last lesson of discipline for the soul. The resurrection and glorification
of the body, its last lesson. No rough ashlar goes into the Heavenly House,
no unhewn, unpolished, unadorned cedar timber. No half stone or broken
column would be received. If a soul, even one of the spirits of the just
made perfect, were now put into that wall, the building would have to be
reconstructed and readjusted to admit the body part of that same living
stone after the resurrection. There is no sound of hammer, ax, or chisel
when that building goes up.
All preparatory work of every stone in
that building, and of every timber, must be completed be fore that building
It was this heavenly ecclesia, which as a coming event,
cast its shadow before David and Solomon and constituted their inexorable
plan for the typical temple. Because the plan given them was a shadow of
better things to come they were not allowed to vary a hair's breadth from
the pattern of the Divine Architect.
There is nothing in the word ecclesia itself to forbid its
application to "the Spirits of the just made perfect" now in heaven
and continually receiving accessions. They are an assembly in fact. And
Thayer seems to so understand Hebrews 12:23. I do not agree with
him in making "general assembly and church of the first born" synonymous
with "the spirits of the just made perfect." To my mind, they represent
two very distinct ideas. But he is certainly right in supposing that the
assembled spirits of the righteous dead may be called an ecclesia.
But when one defines the general assembly to be the aggregate of all the
elect, and then affirms its present existence,
he does violence to philology, common sense and revelation.
ecclesia is an organization now, an assembly
now, though not always in session. The general assembly is not an organization
now, is not an assembly now, and therefore exists only as a prospect.
VII. You ask for a particular explanation of several Scriptures which seem
difficult to harmonize with the contentions of the first lecture, all of
which in turn will now receive attention:
(1) Acts 9:31 - "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee
and Samaria had peace, being edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord
and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied" (Revised Version)
To my mind, this is the only use of ecclesia in all Biblical
or classic literature that is difficult of explanation. The difficulty
is frankly confessed. Nor am I sure that such explanation as I have to
offer will be satisfactory to you. In any event, nothing is ever gained
for truth by lack of candor. Judging from the uniform use of the word elsewhere
one would naturally expect here a plural noun with plural verbs as we have
in the King James Version. And this expectation would be entirely apart
from a desire to serve a theory. The difficulty here does not help the
theory of "the now existing universal, invisible, spiritual church."
It is quite easy to explain it so far as any comfort would accrue to that
theory. The difficulty lies in another direction entirely, and seems to
oppose a Baptist contention on another point, in whose maintenance my Baptist
opponents in the present controversy are fully as much concerned as myself.
On its face the passage seems to justify the provincial or
use of the word church on earth which all Baptists deny. That is
the only difficulty I see in the passage. All the context shows that the
reference is to the earth church and not to the heavenly. The limits of
this lecture forbid a discussion of the text question. The texts vary.
Some manuscripts and versions have the very plural noun with its plural
verbs that one would naturally expect from the uniform usage elsewhere.
The King James Version follows these. The oldest and best manuscripts,
however, have the singular noun with corresponding verbs. The Revised Version
Now for the explanation:
(1) The reading, "Churches," followed by the common version may be the
right one, leaving nothing to explain. In all other cases, whether in Old
or New Testament, where the sense calls for the plural, we have it in the
text. Not to have it here is an isolated, jarring exception. See Acts
16:5; Romans 16:4, 6; I Corinthians
7:17; 11:26; 14:33, 34; 16:1, 19;
II Corinthians 8:1, 18, 23; 11:8, 28; 12:23;
Galatians 1:2, 22; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; II Thessalonians
1:4; Revelation 1:4, 11, 20; 2:7, 11,17,
20, 23; 3:6, 13, 22; 22:16;
26:12; 68:26; Ecclesiastes 24:2. It is well to note that
Murdock's translation of the Peshito Syriac cites a Greek plural in the
(2) But accepting the singular, according to Revised Version, then, says
Broadus, "the word probably denotes the original church at Jerusalem,
whose members were by persecution widely scattered throughout Judea and
Galilee and Samaria, and held meetings wherever they were, but still belonged
to the one original organization. When Paul wrote to the Galatians nearly
twenty years later, these separate meetings had been organized into distinct
churches; and so he speaks (Galatians 1:22), in reference
to that same period, of the churches of Judea which were in Christ."-
(Commentary on Matthew, page 359) This was the church which Saul persecuted
and of which he made havoc. Concerning the effect of this persecution the
record says "they were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea
and Samaria." (Acts 8:1) "Now they who were scattered abroad
upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice,
and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word." (Acts 11:19) So,
when in the paragraph just preceding our Scripture, there is an account
of Saul, as a convert, worshipping and preaching with the church he had
formerly persecuted, we may not be surprised at the statement "So the
church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace." Meyer
says the "So draws an inference from the whole history in vv. 3:30: in
consequence of the conversion of the former chief enemy and his transformation
into the zealous apostle."
But you may say, when they are thus scattered does not that break up the
in the word? This question has been previously answered in this lecture.
It has been said that a storm, like that which swept Galveston, or a plague,
like the yellow fever in Memphis, or war, as during the colossal strife
between the states, or persecution, as in this case, might scatter far
and wide, for the time being, the members of a particular church, but that
would not change the meaning of the word church. When Tarleton made a dash
at the Virginia legislature the members fled in every direction. When Howe
moved on Philadelphia the Continental Congress dispersed and sought rest
in safer places, but who would infer from these cases a change of meaning
in legislature or congress? Under the advice of Themistocles the entire
Athenian ecclesia abandoned their sacred city and sought
safety from Persian invasion on their ships, but ecclesia retained
(3) There is a third explanation possible. You may like it better than
I do. It is not in harmony with one statement of my first lecture. It certainly,
however, excludes comfort from the theory of the invisible general church.
Meyer understands ecclesia in Acts 9:31 in a collective
not of Christians collectively, but of churches collectively.
His language is: "Observe, moreover, with the correct reading ecclesia
number) the aspect of unity, under which Luke, surveying
the whole domain of Christendom comprehends the churches which
had been already formed, and were in process of formation."
Note that he says that the word church "comprehends the churches,"
not Christians. Some Baptists follow Meyer. Hovey, in Hackett on Acts,
seems to quote Meyer approvingly. This explanation necessarily implies
the existence, at this time, of many organized assemblies in Judea, Samaria
and Galilee of which we have no definite historic knowledge. True, Philip
had evangelized the city of Samaria and there was time enough, in the three
years since Paul's conversion for forming some churches, if only the record
would say as much. If Meyer be right, of course, I was wrong in saying
that ecclesia could not be used in the collective sense of
comprehending many particular churches.
My own explanation is given in (1) and (2). Now, if a theory harmonizes
all of 231 uses of a word but one, and gives a possible explanation of
that one, the theory is demonstrated.
VIII. The next class of Scriptures which you wish explained is represented
Ephesians 1:22, 23;
I Peter 2:5;
My first remark is that the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians were
meant to be read to other churches with equal application. Hence the use
of the term church in a more general way than in other letters. The general
use, however, does not forbid, but even requires, specific application
to any one particular church, as Ephesians 2:21, 22, (Revised
Version), shows. In like manner Peter's first letter was written to Jewish
saints of the dispersion in Asia Minor, but not specifically to any particular
church. Hence, when he says, "Ye, also, as living stones are built up
a spiritual house," he does not mean that all the Jewish saints in
Asia Minor constitute one church. To say the least of it, that is certainly
an unbaptistic idea. It also contradicts the record in Acts showing the
planting of many particular churches in this section, made up of Jews and
Gentiles, and also ignores the seven churches of Revelation, all in the
same section. But Peter means, using the word "house" in a generic
sense, that whenever and wherever enough of you come together to form a
particular church, that will be a spiritual house in which to offer up
spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Just as in
2:21, 22 (Revised Version), the apostle in the same breath converts
the general or abstract idea of church into particular churches. Murdock's
translation of the Syriac Peshito reads: "And ye also, as living stones,
are builded and become spiritual
I Peter 2:5.
It is characteristic of circular letters to use terms in general form that
must find concrete expression in particular forms. A man writing a circular
to Texas Baptists at large, or to all Baptist churches of Texas would find
it difficult to refrain from using some general expressions which must
be left to the common sense of each particular church for making specific
application. It is a matter of congratulation that since the circular,
called the letter to the Ephesians, employs more of these general terms
than any other letter, we have been so thoroughly safeguarded from misconstruction
of its generalities by three distinct instances of specific application,
in Acts 20:28, 29; Ephesians 2:21, 22; I
Timothy 3:14, 15, to this Ephesus church. The epistle
to the Hebrews is even more general in its address than the two just considered,
and we have only to apply the same principles of interpretation heretofore
set forth to understand Hebrews 3: 6 - "Whose house are we."
The writer certainly never intended to convey the impression that all Hebrew
Christians constituted one church. That also, to say the least of it, is
an unbaptistic idea. We know it to be an unscriptural one, because it contradicts
Paul in Galatians 1:22. It is utterly illogical to claim either
8:6 or I Peter 2:5 for examples of the so-called "universal
church" idea. If the advocates of this idea insist on denying the particular
church in these cases because one letter was addressed to all the Hellenist
converts of Asia Minor, and the other was addressed to all the converted
Palestinean Hebrews, then I demand that they also stick to the text, and
claim for either case Jews and Jews only. This not only shuts them off
from the general assembly in which Jew and Gentile form one new man, but
forces them to the absurdity of having on earth one Jewish church big as
Asia Minor - that big - no more - and the other big as Judea, that big,
no more, and that leaves still running at large all the rest of the converted
Jews of the dispersion, and puts them in conflict with Scripture history
which shows many particular churches in these sections. To show you the
difference between the general use of the term "church' in a circular
miscellaneous address and its direct and particular use in a document addressed
to specific churches, compare the use of church in Revelation with the
use of church in the letter to the Ephesians. In the twenty times of Revelation
we have more than one sixth of the New Testament usage.
A few words will dispose of John 10: 16 - "other sheep I have,
which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear
my voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd." This passage
is strong confirmation of my first lecture. Considering the church abstractly,
that is, in the sense of an institution, Christ purposed to make of twain,
Jew and Gentile, one new man. In each particular church where Jew and Gentile
blend, Christ's purpose is partially fulfilled. But in the general assembly
in glory it is completely fulfilled.
When in some of the foregoing Scriptures, Christ is represented as head
over all things to the church; His body, you easily meet all the requirements
of the language by saying:
(1) He is head over all things to His earth church as an institution.
(2) He is head over all things to any particular earth church.
(3) He is head over all things to His general assembly in glory.
There remain for consideration only two other Scriptures and then all your
questions are answered, Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 12:18-24.
And these will receive particular attention because they were cited in
the first lecture as referring to the general assembly. On Hebrews 12:23,
you inquire, Does not the tense of the verb "Ye are come * * to
the general assembly, etc.," prove the present existence of the general
assembly? How else can it be said, ye are come to it?
To which I reply:
In Galatians IV, Paul says that Hagar and Sarah, under an allegory,
represent the two covenants. Hagar, or Mt. Sinai, in Arabia, answering
to the Jerusalem that now is, is the law covenant
Sarah, or Mt. Zion, answering to the Jerusalem above, is
the grace covenant gendering to freedom.
So, when in Hebrews XII it says, "Ye are not come unto the mount
that might be touched" (i. e., Mt. Sinai), it simply means ye are not
under the law covenant, with its threats and horrible outlook. And when
it adds: "Ye are come to Mt. Zion, etc.," (perfect tense), it simply
means that we are under the grace covenant with its promises and glorious
outlook. In other words, what we have actually reached is a covenant, a
a standard of life, and are under its requirements and incited by its glorious
But an exegesis, based on the tense of that verb, which claims that Christians
have already attained unto all the alluring elements of the outlook of
the grace covenant, enumerated in that passage, is as mad as a March
That Jerusalem is above, and because not yet, is contrasted
with the Jerusalem that now is. It is the city and
country set forth in the preceding chapter, toward which the faith and
hope of the patriarchs looked. It was a possession to them only in the
sense that they were the heirs of a promised inheritance reserved in Heaven.
Abraham, with the other heirs of that promise, patiently dwelt in tents,
"for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and
maker is God." And all the patriarchs "died in faith," not
having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted
them afar off, yea, "and these all, having had witness borne to them
through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some
better things for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect."
11. And so we also (Hebrews 12:1) run the race set before us,
not yet having attained the goal or received the prize. Compare
9:25-27; Philippians 3:7-14; II Timothy 4:6-8.
Our Lord Himself held out the promise, "The pure in heart shall see
God." But not yet have we actually come "to God, the judge."
But John, in his apocalypse of the Heavenly City, with its general assembly,
tells the time of attainment: "And they shall see his face." Revelation
The imagery of Hebrews XII, is that of the Olympic races. A goal
marked the terminus of the race. There sat the judge, who, when the races
were over, awarded the prize to the victor. In the Christian race the goal
is the resurrection and then only comes the prize. (See Philippians
3:7-14 and I Timothy 4:6-8.) It is then we come to God the judge
who awards the prize.
The example of our Lord is cited, Hebrews 12:2, "The joy set
before him" was prospective and reached when he sees the travail of
his soul and is satisfied.
The angels of that category, make unseen visits to us now in our
home, but then we shall in fact go to the myriads of shining ones in their
Now, on earth, with the blood of Christ, our consciences are cleansed from
dead works to serve the living God. But there, we enter the true Holy of
Holies, and behold where Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, did place
the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things for us than the blood
of Abel, on the true Mercy seat to make atonement for sin. As our fore-runner,
the Lord, Himself, has passed through the veil. But to us, this safe passage,
is as yet only a glorious hope, and we "have fled for refuge to lay
hold of the hope set before us; which we have as an anchor of the soul,
a hope both sure and steadfast". Hebrews 6:17-19.
We, yet in our bodies, have not joined "the spirits of the just made
perfect" nor entered "the general assembly and church of the first
born, who are written in heaven." When we read Revelation 21
and 22, we sing: "0 when, thou city of my God, shall I thy courts
Your question on Ephesians 5:25-27 is similar.
(Q) "Verse 29 declares that Christ
nourishes and cherishes
church, as a husband does his wife. Does not this demand the present existence
of the general assembly?'
To which I reply:
(A) (1) The nourishing and cherishing of verse 29 refer 'to after marriage
conduct, as the context shows, and Christ's marriage with the bride is
far away in the future. (See Revelation 19:7-9; 21:2, 9,10.)
But let it be misapplied to the prenuptial state, it matters not. The force
of any argument in the question is all in the tense of the verbs "nourisheth
and cherisheth." Let us turn that argument loose and see what it proves.
In the whole passage, Christ and the church come before us under the figures
of bridegroom and bride. The church is conceived of as a unit, a person,
and all the verbs employed, namely, "loved, gave himself for, might cleanse,
might present, nourishment and cherisheth" follow the requirements of the
figure. But when we come to historical facts we find:
(1) That the love, in eternity, preceded the existence of any part of the
(2) The giving Himself preceded the existence of the greater part of the
(3) The cleansing (and the nourishing and cherishing if misapplied) applies
to the process of preparing the members, as each in turn comes upon the
stage of being throughout the gospel dispensation from Adam to the second
(4) The presentation of the completed and perfected church follows the
(5) The nourishing and cherishing (rightly applied) of the perfected church
follows the presentation.
Now if the present tense of the nourishing proves present existence of
the general assembly, does not the past tense of "loved" prove past existence
of the general assembly before man was created? Why should the tense of
one of the verbs have more proof force in it than another in the same connection?
To grant this, however, proves too much and so the argument based on tense
is worthless in this case.
The object of this appendix is to enable the "average" preacher with few
books, and who knows nothing of Greek, to form his own conclusions as to
the meaning of ecclesia, based upon an inductive study
of the usage of the word. A few instances only are cited from the classics,
out of the great number read to my class in second lecture, but enough
for the purpose. These citations will be particularly helpful in showing
the distinction between the particular ecclesia, or
business body of even the smallest Greek state, and panegyros (general,
festive assembly) when the people of all the Greek states assembled. By
this means even an uneducated preacher may understand the fitness of calling
the great heavenly gathering in glory the "general assembly and church
of the first born" (panegyros kai ecclesia) in contra
distinction to the particular business assembly on earth.
The New Testament usage is given entire because so few country preachers
have the Englishmen's Greek Concordance.
The Septuagint usage is also given entire so far as the Trommius Concordance
(A. D. 1718) cites instances. This usage is regarded as particularly valuable
for three reasons:
(1) Only about one preacher in a thousand has access to a Septuagint concordance.
(2) Nearly all their ideas of the meaning of the word in the Greek Old
Testament have been derived from the loose generalizations of the great
Pedobaptist scholars, Harnack, Hatch, Hort, Cremer, et al., who seeing
ecclesia sometimes translates the Hebrew word "qahal,"
foist upon ecclesia all the meanings of qahal
in other connections. You have nothing to do with qahal except
where ecclesia translates it.
By an inductive study of all the ecclesia passages, you will see
for yourselves that in the Septuagint it never means "all Israel whether
assembled or unassembled", but that in every instance it
means a gathering together, an assembly.
(3) This classic, and particularly this Septuagint usage, are specially
valuable to you, because as the first lecture states, the New Testament
writers neither coined this word nor employed it in an unusual sense. The
apostles and early Christians were more familiar with the Septuagint than
with the Hebrew Version. From it they generally quoted. They wrote in Greek
to a Greek speaking world, and used Greek words as a Greek speaking people
would understand them.
is a fiction of Pedobaptists that they used "baptizo" in
a new and sacred sense. Equally is it a fiction that ecclesia
was used in any new, special sense. The object of Christ's ecclesia,
and terms of membership in it, were indeed different from those of the
classic or Septuagint ecclesia. But the word itself retains
its ordinary meaning. In determining this meaning we look to the common,
literal usage. If occasionally we find it used in a general or figurative
way, these few instances must be construed in harmony with the common,
- Primary meaning: An organized assembly of citizens, regularly summoned,
to other meetings.
2,22: - "Pericles, seeing them angry at the
present state of things * * did not call them to an assembly (ecclesia)or
any other meeting."
Demosthenes 378,24: - "When after this the assembly (ecclesia)
adjourned, they came together and planned * * For the future still
being uncertain, meetings and speeches of all sorts took place in the marketplace.
They were afraid that an assembly (ecclesia) would be summoned
suddenly, etc." Compare the distinction here between a lawfully assembled
business body and a mere gathering together of the people in unofficial
capacity, with the town clerk's statement in Acts 19:35, 40.
Now some instances of the particular ecclesia of the several
Thucydides 1,87: - "Having said such things, he himself,
since he was ephor, put the question to vote in the assembly (ecclesia)of
Thucydides 1,139: - "And the Athenians having made a house
(or called an assembly, ecclesia) freely exchanged their
Aristophanes Act 169: - "But I forbid you calling an assembly
(ecclesia) for the Thracians about pay."
Thucydidcs 6,8: - "And the Athenians having convened an
assembly (ecclesia) * * voted, etc."
Thucydides 6,2: - "And the Syracusans having buried their
dead, summoned an assembly (ecclesia) ."
This historical reading concerning the business assemblies of the several
petty but independent, self governing Greek states, with their lawful conference,
their free speech, their decision by vote, whether of Spartans, Thracians,
Syracusans or Athenians, sounds much like the proceedings of particular
and independent Baptist churches today.
Panegyros - A general, festive assembly of the people of
all the Greek states.
Decret. ap. Demos: 526,16 - "Embassies to the festal assemblies
(panegyros) in Greece."
Plato,Hipp. 363: - "Going up to Olympia, the festal assemblies
(panegyros) of the Greeks."
Pindar: - "The general assembly (panegyros)in
honor of Zeus (Jupiter) ."
Isocrates 41 A: - "I often wondered at those who organized
the general festivals (panegyros) ."
Aeschylus Theb. 220: - "May this goodly, general company
(panegyros) of gods never fail the city in my life time."
Thucydides 5,50: - "And fear was produced in the general
assembly (panegyros) that the Lacedaemonians would come in
arms." Upon this usage note how bright and discriminating the Greek mind.
This general assembly was not for war but peace. Let not the Spartans come
to it with arms in their hands. It was not for business but pleasure, a
time of peace, and joy and glory.
In the happy Greek conceit all the heavenly beings were supposed to be
present. How felicitously does
inspired apostle adapt himself to the Greek use of the word, and glorify
it by application to the final heavenly state. God the judge, not Zeus,
is there. Myriads of angels, not Greek demi-gods and inferior deities,
There is a general assembly in magnitude, multitude and constituency, transcendentally
above the poor limitations of a small Greek nation, this is made up of
every tribe and tongue and kindred, Jew, Roman, Greek, barbarian, Scythian,
bond and free. Here warfare is over and rest has come. Here crowns are
awarded, not of fading wreaths of time, but crowns of life, righteousness,
joy and glory.
- USAGE IN SEPTUAGINT
Cited in the concordance of Abraham Trommius (1718). Chapters and verses
here given according to Revised Version for Canonical books; and according
to Haydock's Donay Bible for Apocryphal books.
Greek text used for verification Henry Barclay Sweet - Cambridge, 1891.
The underscored English word is the translation of Ecclesia.
Leviticus 8:3 - "Assemble thou all the congregations."
Here the verb (ecclesiazo) is used. Though Trommius cites a reading which
has the noun.
Deuteronomy 18: 16 - "In the day of the assembly"
(referring to the convocation at Sinai).
Deuteronomy 23:1, 2, 3, 8 - "Shall not
enter into the assembly of the Lord." Here four times used
to proscribe certain specified classes from admission into the Lord's assembly."
Deuteronomy 31 :30 - "And Moses spake in the ears of all the assembly
of Israel the words of this song."
Joshua 8:35 - "Joshua read before all the assembly of
Judges 20:2 - "And the chiefs of all the people presented themselves
in the assembly of the people of God." The place of this
assembly was Mizpah.
Judges 21:5 - "And the children of Israel said, Who is there among
all the tribes of Israel that came not up in the assembly unto
Judges 21: 8 - "There came none to the camp from Jabesh-Gilead to
I Samuel 17:47 - David said, "That all this assemblymay
know there is a God in Israel."
I Samuel 19:20 - And when Saul's messenger "saw the company
the prophets prophesying."
I Kings 8:14, 22, 55, 65 - "Blessed
all the congregation" - "in the presence of all the congregation"
"blessed all the congregation" - "and all Israel with
him, a great congregation."
I Chronicles 13:2, 4 - "David said unto all the assembly
Israel" - "And all the assembly said."
I Chronicles 28:2 - "David stood up upon his feet - (in the midst
assembly) ." Nothing in Hebrew text for the words
in parenthesis, and hence nothing in English version.
I Chronicles 28: 8 - "In the sight of all Israel, the congregation
I Chronicles 29: 1 - "The King said unto all the congregation."
I Chronicles 29: 10 - "David blessed the Lord before all the congregation."
I Chronicles 29:20 - "David said to all the congregation."
II Chronicles 1:3, 5 - "Solomon, and all the congregation
him." "Solomon and the congregation sought unto it" (the
II Chronicles 6:3, 12, 13 - "The King turned his
face and blessed all the
congregation." "He stood * *
in the presence of all the
congregation." "He kneeled
down * * before all the congregation."
II Chronicles 7: 8 - "Solomon held the feast * * and all
Israel with him, a very great congregation."
II Chronicles 29:5, 14 - "Jehosaphat stood in the congregation."
"Then upon Jahaziel * * came the spirit of the Lord in the midst
II Chronicles 23:3 - "And all the congregation made
a covenant with the King."
II Chronicles 28:14 - "So all the armed men left all the captives
and the spoil before the princes and all the congregation."
II Chronicles 29:23, 32 - "And they brought * * the
sin offering before the King and the congregation" - "And
the number of the burnt offerings which the congregation brought."
II Chronicles 30:2, 4, 13, 17, 23,
- "The King, his princes and all the congregation." "In the
eyes of the King and all the congregation." "A very great
in the congregation who had not sanctified themselves." "And
the congregation took counsel." "Hezekiah did give to the
congregation." "And all the congregation."
Ezra 2: 64 - "The whole congregation together was
Ezra 10: 1 - "There is gathered together a very great congregation."
Ezra 10:9 - "That whosoever came not within three days * * should
be himself separated from the congregation of the captivity."
Ezra 10: 12 - "Then all the congregation answered."
Ezra 10: 14 - "Let
* * rulers of the congregation
Nehemiah 5:7 - "And I held a great assembly against
Nehemiah 5: 13 - "And all the congregation said Amen."
Nehemiah 7: 66 - "The whole congregation together
Nehemiah 8:2 - "Ezra brought the law before the congregation."
Nehemiah 8: 17 - "And all the congregation of them
* made booths."
Nehemiah 13:1 - "An Ammonite and Moabite shall not enter the
Job 89:28 - "I stand up in the assembly and cry for
Psalms 22:22 - "In the midst of the congregation will
Psalms 22:25 - "Of thee cometh my praise in the great congregation."
Psalms 26:5 - "I have hated the congregation of evil
Psalms 26: 12 - "In the congregations will
I bless the Lord."
Psalms 35: 18 - "I will give thee thanks in the great congregation."
Psalms 49:9 - "I have published thy righteousness in the great
Psalms 68:26 - "Bless ye God in the congregations."
Psalms 89:5 - "Thy faithfulness in the assembly of
the holy ones."
Psalms 107:32 - "Let them exalt him in the assembly of
Psalms 149: 1 - "Sing his praise in the assembly of
Proverbs 5: 14 - "In the midst of the congregation and
Jeremiah 31: 8 - "A great assembly" - instead
of "company" is a variant reading.
Lamentations 1:10 - "They should not enter into the congregation."
Ezekiel 32:3 - "Here Codex A has assembly (ecclesia)
instead of "company."
Joel 2: 16 - "Sanctify the congregation."
Micah 2: 5 - "Cast the line by lot in the congregation of
6:2 - "Ozias took him from the assembly to his house."
7:29 - "Great weeping in the assembly."
13:29 - "In the assembly of the people."
14:6 - "Saw the head of Holofernes in the hand of one of the assembly."
15:5 - "In the midst of the assembly she shall open his mouth."
21:20 - "The mouth of the prudent is sought after in the assembly."
23:34 - "This woman shall be brought into the assembly."
24:2 - "Wisdom shall open her mouth in the assemblies of
the Most High."
26:6 - "My heart hath been afraid of the assembly of the
31:11 - "And the assembly shall declare his alms."
33:19 - "Hear me, ye rulers of the assembly."
38:37 - "They shall not go up to the assembly."
39:14 - "The assembly shall show forth his praise."
44:15 - "Let the assembly declare his praise.
50:15 - "Before all the assembly of Israel."
50:22 - "Lifted up his hands over all the assembly of the
children of Israel."
ON SEPTUAGINT USAGE
The testimony here is univocal. It is as solid as the Macedonian phalanx.
Some have tried to make it appear that four of these ninety-two instances
refer to an unassembled ecclesia. Look at them, read
the context and judge for yourselves. The four passages are:
2:56 - "Caleb for bearing witness before the congregation."
3:13 - "Judas had assembled a company of the faithful."
4:59 - "Judas, his brethren and all the assembly."
5:16 - "A great assembly met."
14:19 - "Read before the assembly in Jerusalem."
I Kings 8:65;
I Chronicles 28:8;
Ezekiel 32:3. The first two settle themselves.
In Ezra "the assembly of the Captivity" simply means the 42,360 that returned
from the captivity and are repeatedly gathered together.
In Ezekiel 32:3 an unreliable reading has ecclesia in
the place of
company. But whether company or
idea is the same. The "many peoples" signify nothing, they do not constitute
an ecclesia until formed into one company. Xerxes, Timour,
Napoleon and many others formed one great company out of the contingents
of many nations.
Observe prescribed conditions of membership in Deuteronomy 23 and
The new and mammoth Septuagint Concordance of Hatch and Redpath, five folio
volumes, Oxford, 1893, gives the following additional instances (not cited
by Trommius) from one text or another:
Deuteronomy 4:10; 9:10;
I Kings 12:3 (from Codex A.)
II Chronicles 10:8; 29:28, 31; 3:25; all rendered
our Revised Version, and
Ezekiel 32:28 (from Codex A.) rendered company.
Judith 6:19, 21, assembly.
I Maccabees 14:9 (assemblies instead of streets).
OTHER GREEK VERSIONS OF OLD TESTAMENT
Leviticus 4:14, 21; 16:17;
Psalms 40:9, 10;
Jeremiah 26:17; 44:14. All rendered
our Revised Version. And
Ezekiel 23:47; 26:7; 27:27; 32:22, all rendered
This makes the Old Testament usage amount to about 114 cases, nearly equal
in number to New Testament usage. In no one of the 114 instances does it
mean an unassembled ecclesia.
TESTAMENT USAGE OF ECCLESIA
Matthew 16:18 - "I will build my church."
Matthew 18: 17 - "Tell (it) unto the church: but
if he neglect to hear the church."
Acts 2:47 - "the Lord added to the church daily."
Acts 5:11 - "fear came upon all the church."
Acts 7:38 - "he, that was in the church."
Acts 8:1 - "the church which was at Jerusalem."
Acts 8:3 - "He made havoc of the church."
Acts 9:31 - "Then had the churches rest."
Acts 11:22 - "the church which was in Jerusalem."
Acts 11:26 - "assembled themselves with the church."
Acts 12:1 - "to vex certain of the church"
Acts 12:5 - "without ceasing of the church unto God."
Acts 18:1 - "Now there were in the church."
Acts 14:23 - "elders in every church, and
had" - Acts 14:27 - "had gathered the church together."
Acts 15:2 - "on their way by the church."
Acts 15:4 - " they were received of the church."
Acts 15:22 - "elders, with the whole church."
Acts 15:41 - "confirming the churches."
Acts 16:5 - "so were the churches established."
Acts 18:22 - "gone up, and saluted the church."
Acts 19:32 - "for the assembly was confused."
Acts 19:39 - "determined in a lawful assembly."
Acts 19:41 - "thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly."
Acts 20:17 - "called the elders of the church."
Acts 20:28 - "to feed the church of God."
Romans 16:1 - "is a servant of the church."
Romans 16:4 - "all the churches of the Gentiles."
Romans 16:5 - "the church that is in their house."
Romans 16:28 - "mine host, and of the whole church."
Romans 16:16 - "The churches of Christ salute you.
I Corinthians 1:2 - "Unto the church of God which."
I Corinthians 4:17 - 1 teach everywhere in every church."
I Corinthians 6:4 - "least esteemed in the church."
I Corinthians 7:17 - "so ordain I in all churches."
I Corinthians 10:32 - "nor to the church of God."
I Corinthians 11:16 - "neither the churches of God."
I Corinthians 11:18 - "come together in the church."
I Corinthians 11:22 - "or despise ye the church of
I Corinthians 12:28 - "God hath set some in the church."
I Corinthians 14:4 - "that prophesieth edifieth the church."
I Corinthians 14:5 - "the church may receive edifying."
I Corinthians 14:12 - "to the edifying of the church."
I Corinthians 14:19 - "in the church I had rather
I Corinthians 14:28 - "The whole church be come together."
I Corinthians 14:28 - "keep silence in the church."
I Corinthians 14:33 - "as in all churches of the
I Corinthians 14:34 -"keep silence in the churches."
I Corinthians 14:35 - "for women to speak in the church."
I Corinthians 15:9 - "I persecuted the church of
I Corinthians 16:1 - "to the churches of Galatia."
I Corinthians 16:19 - "The churches of Asia salute
you." - "with the church that is in their house."
II Corinthians 1:1 - "unto the church of God which."
II Corinthians 8:1 - "on the churches of Macedonia."
II Corinthians 8:18 - "gospel throughout all the churches."
II Corinthians 8:19 - "was also chosen of the churches."
II Corinthians 8:23 - "the messengers of the churches."
II Corinthians 8:24 - "to them, and before the churches."
II Corinthians 11:8 - "I robbed other churches, taking."
II Corinthians 11:28 - "the care of the churches."
II Corinthians 12:13 - "were inferior to the churches."
Galatians 1:2 - "unto the churches of Galatia."
Galatians 1:13 - "I persecuted the church of God."
Galatians 1:22 - "unto the churches of Judea."
Ephesians 1:22 - "gave him (to be) the head over all (things) to
Ephesians 3:10 - "might be known by the church."
Ephesians 3:21 - "glory in the church by Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 5:23 - "Christ is the head of the church."
Ephesians 5:24 - "the church is subject unto Christ."
Ephesians 5:25 - "as Christ also loved the church."
Ephesians 5:27 - "to himself a glorious church."
Ephesians 5:29 - "even as the Lord the church."
Ephesians 5:32 - "concerning Christ and the church."
Philippians 3:6 - "Concerning zeal, persecuting the church."
Philippians 4:15 - "no church communicated with me."
Colossians 1:18 - "the head of the body, the church."
Colossians 1:24 - "body's sake, which is the church."
Colossians 4:15 - "the church which is in the house."
Colossians 4:16 - "in the church of the Laodiceans."
I Thessalonians 1:1 - "unto the church of the Thessalonians."
I Thessalonians 2:14 - "followers of the churches of
II Thessalonians 1:1 - "unto the churches of
II Thessalonians 1:4 - "in you in the churches of
I Timothy 3:5 - "take care of the church of God."
I Timothy 3:15 - "the church of the living God."
I Timothy 5:16 - "let not the church be charged."
Philemon 2 - "to the church in thy house."
Hebrews 2:12 - "in the midst of the church."
Hebrews 12:23 - "assembly and church of the first-born."
James 5:14 - "call for the elders of the church."
III John 6 - "thy charity before the church."
III John 9 - "I wrote unto the church."
III John 10 - "castest (them) out of the church."
Revelation 1:4 - "John to the seven churches."
Revelation 1:11 - "unto the seven churches which."
Revelation 1:20 - "the angels of the seven churches."-
"are the seven churches."
Revelation 2:1 - "the angel of the church of Ephesus."
Revelation 2:7 - "the Spirit said unto the churches."
Revelation 2:8 - "the angel of the church in Smyrna."
Revelation 2:11 - "the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Revelation 2:12 - "to the angel of the church in
Revelation 2:17 - "the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Revelation 2:18 - "the angel of the church in Thyatira."
Revelation 2:23 - "all the churches shall know."
Revelation 2:29 - "the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Revelation 3:1 - "angel of the church in Sardis."
Revelation 3:6 - "the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Revelation 3:7 - "to the angel of the church in."
Revelation 3:13 - "the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Revelation 3:14 - "the angel of the church of the
Revelation 22:16 - "these things in the churches."
ON THE NEW TESTAMENT USAGE
Only four of these passages present any difficulty in either classification
or exposition, namely:
Acts 9:31 (Revised Version);
Colossians 1:18, 24, and these with "flock" in John 10:16,
and "house" in I Peter 2:5, are considered in Lecture
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