Shallow is sometimes defined as a mile wide and an inch deep. Most of life, quite frankly, is shallow that way. But there’s no place for shallow in the Kingdom of God – in its earthly manifestation, the ecclesia. So we’re drilling down on church.
What is the church and how does it differ from what Jesus set up in scripture (the ecclesia)? Yes, there is a difference. Go back and read the articles that preceded this one. But we’re not stopping there. This is not a mission to destroy but to resuscitate. Some call for revival, others for reformation, but let’s go for a revolution – a complete turning around, 360 degrees, back go what Jesus set up 2000 years ago. And when we encounter conflict with what currently exists, let’s let scripture rule. That’s Ground Rule # 1.
When somebody comes along and asks questions that seem to fly in the face of what we have been taught / conditioned to believe at church, do we do what the scriptures (see Acts 17:11) say to do (search the scriptures themselves for the truth and not just take at face value the words of any man) … or do we do what the pastor says to do (i.e., ask the pastor)? The scriptures are deep – deeper than any man. Let’s go deeper.
Are we Baptist? Presbyterian? Methodist? Reformed? Do we treat someone of a different persuasion as less than us, as somehow not as close to God as us, because that denomination does or believes this, that or the other thing that we just KNOW is unbiblical … which we got right and they got wrong? Let’s go deeper. (Hmm, what denomination was Jesus?)
If we understand that God never set up a church – that He established His ecclesia, the Body of Christ, His family on earth, and that only men came along later and tried to stuff it in a man-made box that THEY called “church” – then we are compelled to read all of the Biblical instructions and examples that seem (on the shallow, surface level) to be about “church” quite a bit differently.
This writer is passionate for and about the Body of Christ – the ecclesia. Some call it “the church” because they don’t know any better. A deeper study of history, however, shows us that Constantine came along 300 years after Christ and invited Christ’s followers to withdraw into a protected shell (a pagan template), receive official recognition (should remind us of Satan’s offer to Jesus on the mountaintop overlooking all the kingdoms of the earth), and be able to grow and flourish for a change … and then Bible translators came along later and replaced “ecclesia” with “church” and substituted “offices” of authority for gifts of grace. But Constantine was the emperor of Rome, which ruled the world as well as it could at the time. And what was this little group of holdouts (The Way) who, no matter how badly they were persecuted and killed, continued to grow … to hold out with their cries, “No King but Jesus!”? Not the “early church” … but the ecclesia.
Ah, but, you say, Jesus did not come to set up a government on earth. No, something much, much bigger and, as such, certainly over - if not inclusive of - earthly government. (Though it was surely no accident that the word that Jesus used for what He was setting up – His “ecclesia” – was in that day, in the Greek world, a term used of governmental bodies. It meant nothing like the religious term “church.”) It – His ecclesia – was to be built, He told Peter, upon the deep, deep Rock of Himself, and the gates of hell could not flourish against it. (It was stronger and far deeper than any human form of government.) And King James, try as he may to cover it up (which he had to do in order to lay claim to what he believed to be the strongest human government on earth), could not hide the clue to the larger meaning of ecclesia that slipped by in Acts chapter 19, verses 32, 39 and 41, where it was accurately translated as “assembly” … in what is clearly a “civil government” context. (“Assembly” does not revolve around the act of “assembling,” either.) Think “legislative assembly” or “town council” … and that is more accurately the meaning of “ecclesia” than anything we have come over the past 1700 years to associate with “church.” And if we will go back and read the New Testament with this larger – DEEPER – meaning of “ecclesia” wherever we now read the word “church,” we can start to understand, perhaps, the larger, grander, DEEPER meaning and intent that God had for his family of followers. It is HUGE, my friends – far bigger and far DEEPER than the vast majority of churches dare to believe and proclaim!
The written, living Word of God, and God’s Holy Spirit – Who inspired that writing and Who still inspires and indwells men today to greater understanding – are DEEP – DEEPER than can be dug out by any seminary degree or displayed on any church marquee.
If this series of articles is stirring you up, great! There are two purposes intended:
First, (for the sake of the body of Christ – the ecclesia – within it), for the church to become more relevant, preaching the whole counsel of God about all areas of life, not just that which is commonly rendered as “religious,” and …
Second, for the ecclesia, while in the “religious” realm, to go far deeper into the love of God, and to know Him way more intimately than is often conveyed and/or demonstrated in most church settings.
Church tends often to be about politics, about personalities, about partisanship of one sort or another (well address that next); the Body of Christ can never be. We are family, and that’s deep.