Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

I Can’t Find “Church” In The Bible

In Church, The Bible on November 14, 2010 at 7:27 pm

I have recently discovered that the Greek word for church, kuriakos, is not in the Bible. Actually it is found in the NT a couple of times, but it does not mean “church” in those verses. (It means “the Lord’s supper” one time and “the Lord’s day” another time.)

By the way, “Bible” is also not found in the Bible, and many scholars agree that there is a difference between “holy scriptures” and “Bible” but that is a little off topic. As far as I understand, this is explained by the mere idea that God’s word (the words He speaks) is infallible, but the human written Bible, and especially our English translations, and even more especially the various interpretations, are most certainly fallible.

(The name “Jesus” is not found in the scriptures either, and that is off the subject too.)

The English word for church, according to the dictionaries means the building in which Christians meet together. When people use the word church, we know just what they’re talking about… that religious assembly with some type of clergy that meets every week, usually on Sunday morning. And nearly every Bible scholar and theologian agrees that this is definitely not the meaning of “ekklesia”.

So what does “ekklesia” mean? It was used throughout the Old Testament (usually translated congregation) and was a familiar term to the NT writers. From what the scriptures say, it is something along the lines of that body of “living” stones in which the Spirit of God dwells, ie, God’s people. I think there is a huge difference between “ekklesia” and church. I think that there is also a vast contrast between the ekklesia and the concept of gathering together, although perhaps not.
The scriptures say that where two or three are gathered together, the Spirit of Christ is there in the midst of them. This is pretty much stating the obvious though, because the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. He is with us when we are alone as well as when we are not alone. But perhaps Y’shua wanted us to be aware of his presence when we are with other people since there is a human tendency to forget all about him.

I have heard many pastors say (and not a few Christians repeat) that we must attend a church (not ekklesia) in order to have a true relationship with God. Is this for real? If we define the requirement for salvation from the Bible, then we would have to say that it is the opposite of the truth. For the only thing that is required to be saved is faith in the righteousness of Christ as our own, or faith in the unconditional grace of God. This SAME faith is also how we GROW as a Believer. (See Galatians 3 and especially Gal 3:3.)

What about Hebrews 10:25, “do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together….”? First of all, church as we know it today did not exist in the New Testament church at the time that the book of Hebrews was written. Most Believers gathered together in people’s homes, ate together, became friends, and everyone participated in the gathering. (1 Cor 14:26)

Synagogues existed at the time of the first century church, but the scriptures distinguish between “ekklesia” and the temples. “God does not dwell in buildings made with hands.” He dwells *within* people. Most churches today resemble Jewish synagogues, or the “Old Tabernacle”.

Back to “assembling together,” of Hebrews 10:25, we should understand that “ekklesia” is not mentioned in this verse. The Greek word for “assemble” is “episunagoge” and the whole phrase is pretty clear. It simply means to get together, or come together or gather together, which takes us back to Matt 18:19-20. Gathering together basically means coming together in the “name” of the Christ, which simplified, means agreeing together. We are one body filled with one Spirit, and we do not even necessarily need to be within the physical presence of each other, as much as we might enjoy that presence. There must be a unity. Where is this agreement/unity among church divisions?

So we could essentially say that this Hebrews verse is exhorting us to be our part in the living temple of God. Be the “ekklesia”.

The context of Hebrews 10 only confirms this universal mindset:

““Let us draw near [that is, let us “gather together” to God and to His holy house in heaven, see verse 21] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he [God] is faithful that promised).”Hebrews 10:22–23

What does Hebrews 10 have to do a with formal church meeting? Nothing. But it has everything to do with our faith. Of course, we must communicate with one another in order to encourage each other in the faith, but this agreement, or communication, can take place in an unlimited number of situations, especially in the age of technology.

Also, at the end of verse 25, the writer of Hebrews exhorts Believers to not forsake the assembling together… “and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Should we assemble together more and more and more? I think the author wanted the body of Christ to get rid of more and more divisions among them, and continually grow in the unity of the Spirit.

Doesn’t that make a lot more sense? There has been too much emphasis on this idea of church attendance as a Biblical mandate and yet we cannot even substantiate it with the scriptures. I imagine there are many more differences in church interpretations of the scriptures as well. Even churches that place a high priority on the Bible and teaching it seem to be primarily concerned with sustaining and growing their particular denomination or organization. And throughout church history, the Bible, within churches, has been interpreted with that goal in mind.

If we are God’s people, and I believe that we are all God’s people, for who exists apart from God or is not His offspring? then we do not need to attend a local institution in order to know God or to grow in our faith. We can simply be who we are created to be, daring to follow our God-given mind, heart and soul, and it is through the natural living of life that we will undoubtedly see our creator and know him too.

Be free from the human institution that calls itself the ekklesia, my friends. Although God is everywhere, and it is possible to worship Him in any place, it is much easier to know God without that distraction. And I speak from experience. Take it, leave it, or log it away for future reference. =)

  1. And, to throw a thought into the mix concerning the “assembly” passage in Hebrews, as a preterist, “that day approaching” has come and gone – somewhere in AD70.

    So, when, where, and why should be believer assemble NOW?

  2. John, because fellowship in Christ can be a sweet experience. 🙂 And there is a supernatural power among believers when they are in unity. If you have a chain reference Bible, begin with that verse in Hebrews and see where you end up. 😉

  3. Elizabeth, great article.

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