EKKLESIA AS CHURCH

1. What is your view on Church and Ekklesia? 

EKKLESIA AS CHURCH

Let me begin my statements on ekklesia by taking us back to Jenkins and The Rise of the New Christianity where makes some very interesting assumptions and projections concerning the state of the church in the near and far future in the two hemispheres. Although Jenkins paints a fairly grim picture of the Global North in the European theater, his assessment of the American church is not nearly as grim. Jenkins states that “for better or worse, in numerical terms at least, the United States is substantially a Christian country now, and Christian predominance is likely to be still more marked in decades to come (p. 133). He goes on to comment that of the main Christian based nations over the last 200 years, only the American expression of Christianity continues to occupy the role of leadership in the world of faith. This ascendancy of the American church experience should cause the American churchman a moment to stop and ponder the weight of impact that this position brings with it, and the immense opportunity that this level of responsibility unleashes.

A significant problem can easily happen when we attempt to blend the application of modern thought into ancient language. This seen in the distortion that some are applying to the term ekklesia. Biblically, the term simply means a gathering. At times, ekklesia referred to gathering to serve as a body politic, at times as a general gathering for religious purposes.[1] Here’s a basic definition is taken from a standard Greek Lexicon: Any public assembly or gathering of people in a political, religious, or informal sense.

INPORTANCE OF THE LXX AND THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES

In some instances, Old Testament quotations are closer to the LXX than the modern Hebrew text, which is why we rely on the LXX over the Hebrew text, as the modern Hebrew Scriptures are based on the LXX. In some places, the chapter, verse, and book divisions in the Septuagint differ from what is found in the Hebrew Bible, which is what most English translations use.[2]

In the New Testament ekklesia always refers to the assembly of the saints. After the New Testament ekklesia, wordslike synagoge referred to the assembly and the place of assembly, with synagoge becoming a Jewish assembly exclusively, while an ekklesia was exclusively a Christian assembly once the division between the Jewish and the Christian communities separated and became known as individual entities in Rome. The Greek word Ekklesia is used a total of 114 times in the New Testament, and the common English translation for the word church. The words assembly and congregation are also used. It’s also one of the most common used words used for Synagogue in ancient writings.

Some modern scholars, authors, and teachers are trying to reinterpret and reapply the term ekklesia by narrowing its focus to political force alone, or in its non-religious usage. In other words, they are saying that the ekklesia met to govern, therefore removing the general assembly meaning, which directly affects the way we understand Church and Synagogue as gathering places for instruction, inspiration, impartation, deployment.

This is a very troubling development in our understanding of the biblical usage of the word ekklesia. The basis of this misuse of the word is usually based on the understanding that the term is only used twice in the New Testament, and that they believe that Jesus two uses of ekklesia were intended to be understood in the secular sense of understanding the words meaning. That is a problematic view. It begs the questions how do you know that was the original intent? What are your source references and how do they fit into a hermeneutical application? Do you understand that proper hermeneutics calls for a minimum of three references scripturally for a doctrinal position to be created? If so, how do create an elaborate re-interpretation of biblical ideas and practices?

Ekklesia isn’t an easy word to distort from a meaning standpoint, as there are multiple manuscripts from both the secular and religious communities of the ancient world that used it. It’s pretty easy to extract an understanding of what the word meant to them, which is a basic hermeneutical principle of interpretation. That is why any assertion to grant a new understanding needs to be viewed with a healthy measure of suspicion. Ed Silvoso’s assertion that Jesus chose a secular entity to advance his understanding of community tells us that Silvoso does not see the Ekklesia as the body of Christ gathered together for fellowship, which has been the historic understanding in virtually every configuration the church has been known as from the New Testament forward.

Silvoso goes on to say that “during the days when Jesus walked this earth, however, ekklesia-the Greek word translated into English as “church”-was not religious in nature or connotation at all. In fact, by the time He first uttered the word in the Gospel of Matthew, it had been in use for centuries in both the Greek and Roman empires to refer to a secular institution operating in the marketplace in a governmental capacity.” Silvoso continues by asserting that he does understand that Ekklesia is used in the LXX, but he dismisses the relevance of the LXX understanding of the term, as he states “granted, the term Ekklesia is present in the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament to describe religious assemblies, but Jesus usage was related to the secular version.”[3]

The problems with the casual dismissal of the LXX’s use of ekklesia is stunning, as is the disregard for common hermeneutical practices in the establishment of biblical teaching. Any credible work that purports a new understanding of singular word that is only used twice in the new Testament would include a serious examination of the Septuagint and its use of the word ekklesia. The LXX gives us our best window into what the Jewish scholars and interpreters of Scripture thought as they made the Word of God available to the myriads of Jewish people who spoke Greek as a primary or only language. The use of a Greek word instead of an Aramaic word is also suggestive of a minor belief among scholars that Jesus spoke fluent Greek and that Greek was His primary language. I am including a pice that I wrote about this very subject, did Jesus Speak Greek?

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE GOSPELS and the LANGUAGE of JESUS

A relevant question relates to Jesus and Greek language. Did Jesus also speak and possibly write in Greek also? Could Jesus have even used Greek in His teaching on occasion, or in some conversations?

 There are four major languages that played a role in Palestine at the time of the birth of the church. Greek which was the universal language of commerce and trade and of the Roman empire, Latin, which was the official language of the Roman government. Hebrew was also a major language, as it was the academic language of the scribes and other scholars of the Old Testament, as shown by most of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Mishnah. Then there is Aramaic, especially “Jewish Old Palestinian Aramaic,” which was the mother tongue of the Jewish people.

GREEK INFLUENCES

As the Gospels were written in Greek, it helps to see that many, if not most of the early Christians, including those who followed Jesus during His ministry time on earth knew Greek and used it, possibly as their primary language. There are multiple Jewish writings from the time of Jesus written in Greek, including works like 2 Maccabees and 1 Esdras. This doesn’t include the LXX.

All the known Gospel manuscripts are in Greek. This puts us at a disadvantage in understanding what we have with Aramaic. This is because the Aramaic words and phrases have been transliterated word for word and are included in the Greek text of the Gospels. Any quotation of Jesus speaking in Greek would not stand out and would simply disappear in the Greek text.

I contend that many of the recorded sayings of Jesus imply that he knew Greek. This includes play on words that flow in Greek but not in Aramaic or Hebrew. That’s a strong assertion concerning Greek as the original point of thought. This works with some of the parables and teachings about things like taxes, Kings, armies, cities on hills, etc., which are allusions to Greco-Roman culture. However, any evidence for Jesus’ speaking Greek needs to be considered circumstantial, even though the evidence is weighty.

ARAMAIC EXPESSIONS It is also important to point out that it is highly likely that Jesus would have spoken Aramaic as his first or primary language, and that it would have been the language of a large portion of his teaching, especially when he was in Galilee, where Aramaic was the common language spoken by the people. Jesus probably spoke Hebrew also, as He would have learned Hebrew as a young Jewish boy in his family. His comprehension of the Hebraic language would have allowed him to read the biblical text in the Synagogue and to engage in discussions and debates with other Jewish teachers, like the Pharisees, the scribes and others.

There are Aramaic words and expressions in the Gospels Mark’s record of talitha koum (Mark 5:41), ephphatha (Mark 7:34), and Abba in Mark 14:36. There are also definite Aramaisms or at least semiticisms in the Greek text of the Gospels. That means that, although the words are in Greek, the syntax is Aramaic, or in some cases Hebrew. Like, “the sons of the wedding hall (Mark 2:19),” is a Semitic phrase meaning “the guests of the bridegroom,” and Matthew’s use of the word “debt” to give meaning to “sin” is an idiomatic Aramaic expression (Matt 6:12).

Alexander the Great conquered Palestine in 332 B.C. Since that time, Greek became the language of government, commerce and scholarship. Aramaic continued to be spoken, but Greek grew both in influence and acceptance. Educated Jews and Jewish business people and laborers who worked for Greek speaking people would have known and used Greek. This is similar to the use of English among immigrants in America or other countries. Tradesmen like carpenters, and government officials would have to be versed in Greek. Many Jews would have had a rudimentary comprehension of Greek which for business and travels to the cities.

Archaeology points to the incidence and generality of Greek in Palestine. This is demonstrated by a discovery in the Nahal Hever region of the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea. A scroll was found in a cave that contains substantial portions of the Minor Prophets in Greek. The Nahal Hever Minor Prophets Scroll, which has been dated around the time of Jesus, shows the use and popularity of Greek, even among highly religious Jews.

The Gospels do not answer the question of Jesus speaking Greek or not, but they do describe situations where it’s highly likely that Greek would have been the language that was spoken. Matthew 8:5-13 contains the story of Jesus entered into dialogue with a Roman centurion. The centurion undoubtedly spoke Greek. Matthew tells us that the Centurion and Jesus spoke without the use of a translator. It is possible that a translator was there, and that Matthew failed to mention it, although the Centurion could have spoken Aramaic. That’s highly improbable because of cultural considerations. Still, the sense of the story suggests more immediate communication, which would have been in Greek. Jesus’ conversation with Pontius Pilate prior to his crucifixion more than likely was in Greek (Matthew 27:11-14; John 18:33-38), and the story directs us to a Greek speaking Jesus. Pilate would have spoken Greek as his language. It is highly improbable that even if Pilate new Aramaic, he would not have used Aramaic in a conversation with a criminal.

So where did Jesus learn Greek? A plausible suggestion is that Jesus could have learned Greek during his years in Egypt with Mary and Joseph. An alternative explanation suggests that He would have learned Greek based on His location in Galilee. Aramaic may have been the language of preference in Nazareth, however Jesus hometown was an hour or so walk from Sepphoris, which was destined to become a major city and a city where Greek was spoken. Jesus probably had clients in Sepphoris or worked for a construction company that used His carpentry skills, and he would most likely have spoken with them in Greek.

Due to the multiple languages that were in use culturally where Jesus lived, it is easy to assume that Jesus would have been fluent in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. This is no different than most of the fluent world today, minus much of the American experience, due to the world’s use of English. Europeans often speak several languages, like English, German, Spanish, and French, even when their primary language is Italian. 

Can we know for certain at this point in time that Jesus spoke Greek? No. Is it reasonable to assume that he could speak Greek and did often? Yes. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that some of the variations in the Gospels that contain the sayings of Jesus echo that Jesus said the same things in Aramaic, Hebrew, and/or Greek. 

MATTHEW AND EKKLESIA

It’s difficult to say that Jesus coopted the term ekklesia for the biblical community as a political force. I humbly say this based on the minuscule number of references in Matthew 16:16 and 18:17, which is a paltry two or three instances in the Gospels. One is a redundant inclusion, in the Gospels. In both Matthean instances where Jesus used the term ekklesia, it was used in the direct context of building His body, or community, not governing His body. James uses both ekklesia and Synagoge as a referral to Christian congregations (James 2:2, 5:14)[4]. It is easy to extrapolate that James was speaking to the transitioning terminology that was beginning to be employed as he disputed doctrine with Paul.

Paul, on the other hand, used the term often, with a total of 64 usages of the term ekklesia. Interestingly, Luke uses the term 23 times with the meaning of church, government as in town councils, and other secular and religious usages. However, all of Luke’s instances are in the second half of his Magnum Opus on the life of Christ Jesus and the ensuing immediate aftermath of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension, The Acts of the Apostles.[5] This makes sense with his Judeo-Roman background, education and mission once he began accompanying one of the two main Apostles that are featured in The Acts, Paul who had been known as Saul of Tarsus.

Internal evidence allows us to see that Luke probably had a Nautical Background, possibly serving in the Roman Navy. This is deduced from the detailed information Luke includes about the storm that ship wreaked the Prison Transport Ship that was bringing Paul and others to Rome in Acts 27:27 – 28:5. He apparently had some medical knowledge also, which would be a requirement for Naval Officers who served in the Navy. My added contention is that Luke joined Paul on his trip to Rome to serve as his Legal Counsel, serving as his Lawyer, which would make the original manuscript of Luke/Acts a Legal Brief that would be presented to the Court. Luke would have written it as a document explaining the rationale and reasoning for Paul’s arrest and ensuing trial as Hellenized Jew who was a legal Roman citizen by birth.

Empowerment is a great way to describe what Jesus said about ekklesia. In Matthew 16 Jesus used the budding revelation of who the disciples were discovering who Jesus is as the foundation for the church to be built upon. Faith in Jesus is the key to entrance into the Kingdom.

Matthew 18 contains the other two instances where Ekklesia occur.[6] In both instances, the issue is forgiveness and repentance as means of inclusion into His corporate body or Synagogue community, if you will. We are empowered to believe and to forgive or exclude on occasions. The gates Hell cannot stand against the force of forgiveness, which is the basis of Jesus real culture. In my opinion, the LXX is where we need to find our definition of the meaning of ekklesia, as there is a huge body of material that we can examine.

Jesus and Synagogue Jesus habit was to attend synagogue regularly, just like we attend church. Interestingly, we can call church synagogue because it means the same thing and functions in the same way as the synagogue. They both mean ‘an assembling’ or ‘gathering.’ At the synagogue, God’s people joined together in worship, education, and ministry. Leaders would be chosen and responsible for caring for the people.


In This Changes Everything, Wagner discusses paradigm shifts that he has went through over the years concerning theological ideas and practical implementation of biblical dynamics.[7] Chapter 13 contains his thoughts on the shifting emphasis of ministry from the church structure into the workplace. Much of his argument is based on his understanding of the Greek word, ekklesia. Ekklesia, in its various forms, addresses the idea of gatherings, and it is the main word that is translated as church. On p. 164-5, Wagner proposes the idea that not all the uses of the word ekklesia directly address the church as believers gathered together as the body of Christ. He states that “about half the time it (ekklesia) is used in the traditional way of believers gathered, but the other half it is used for believers scattered.”

The phrase scattered implies church outside the traditional norms of church life according to Wagner. He continues, “for example, in the book of Ephesians, Paul makes nine references to the ekklesia and not one of them signifies a church building, a geographic location or a certain congregation.” In my opinion, this a specious argument concerning the use of Ekklesia in Ephesians, as the letter was written to the ekklesia that was located in Ephesus, which a locational congregation. Paul was talking to a specific church about specific church issues. Addressing the members of a church as the extended church when they are in their marketplaces is fine, but it is disingenuous and misleading to reidentify biblical terminology in new ways that do not fit the textual constraints of original intent. This is how serious doctrinal error is birthed when left unchecked and unchallenged.

I include a recent FaceBook post by a former Associate who decided to pursue his calling through his career as a physical trainer. Nate Furlong has been Ordained to the Ministry and has been Ordained as a Marketplace Apostle through the church I pastor, FloodGate Renewal Fellowship. His experience and views are relevant to the discussion:

FaceBook Discussion:

WHAT IS SUNDAY MORNING CHURCH FOR? 

“When people gathered around Jesus, they gathered to learn about Scripture from a pastor/teacher. There are so many people talking about how they don’t like that local church seems to center around an individual teacher, but that’s the model Jesus and the disciples gave…worked pretty well. Thanks to my pastor, I know so much more in the past couple of years than I’ve known my whole life being in church. In fact, some of the methods I was taught were downright harmful to my walk. As much as I love marketplace ministry, Marketplace ministers simply cannot attain the depth and intensity of study that an educated pastor/teacher can. I believe a well-educated individual who is not bi-vocational and is solely devoted to the study of the word is extremely important. I think too many people are becoming pastors of churches who have great hearts but are unwilling to put in years of intensive study and regurgitate bill Johnson sermons on Sunday. They mean well, but it’s a blind leading the blind scenario.

I think it comes in part from people not understanding how important the marketplace is. So they feel a call to ministry and start a church, even though they’re not willing to go through formal education… their call to ministry was probably to the marketplace. There is a HUGE distinction between Marketplace ministers and pulpit ministers…but people want to minister so you have a group of 5 or 6 pastors who have some leadership ability, a pastoral anointing and a bookshelf full of John Bevere books who become the primary source of theological knowledge for a community… When you say it that way, that’s messed up. Pastoral anointing and leadership ability doesn’t mean someone should shepherd a flock. 

The Biblical model is for pastors to get paid to pour themselves into the word and teach it, not to be bi-vocational and study some books for a Sunday service. In my opinion, that’s why people devalue the church gathering so much- their pastors are great leaders, communicators, and motivators. PLUS, they’re charismatic and likable…but because of the lack of education, the congregation is only being taught inspirational/motivational messages, rather than a good mix of motivation and deep theology that can only be gained by intensive study.

Yes, the Ekklesia should have church all week but the Sunday morning gathering is for marketplace ministers (saints) to gather to be equipped by the four fold ministers for the work of the ministry (which happens outside the church building), according to Ephesians 4:11-12.

In Ephesians 4:12, Paul uses a phrase that includes energon (works/energy). Hagios (saints), and Diakonia (deacon/ministry). Wagner refers to this in his argument for the extended church, but as my friend Nate Furlong has said, there is a marked difference between those who are trained to lead the church and those who lead in their chosen fields. All are saints. All are called to be equipped. All work for the King. Not all vocations are the same, nor is the training that may be necessary for the work the same. I include a graph with the phrase attached[8].

saints   for   the   work   of   ministry
ἁγίων5 εἰς6 ἔργον7 διακονίας8
ἅγιος εἰς   ἔργον   διακονία
JGPM P   NASN   NGSF

Mark 3:38-39 Is a story about the stilling of a storm by Jesus that contains a significant subtext that is often overlooked by most commentators. It is a story that stipulates the beginning of a Synagogue that would be dedicated to Jesus Himself. The storms rage must have been intense, as even the seasoned sailors were fearful and afraid. The sea of Galilee isn’t like an ocean with rolling waves in a storm. It has short, choppy waves that are especially treacherous in creating ship wreaks, kind of like the Great Lakes. The rebuke of Jesus was a basic statement that said in effect, “cut bait or swim.” I love Jesus response, peace, be still. Jesus was organizing His Synagogue and they were the core group that were needed in order to qualify legally as a recognized group of faith.

This is where Jesus transitions from being a traveling speaker to becoming a legitimate Rabbi, thus the greater emphasis on teaching at the Mountain and it’s sermons, the seaside sermonizing and the use of parables, etc.

Jesus travels don’t cease, however. He simply takes His core Church/Synagogue with Him as He travels.

Here’s my 2 cents. Jesus was organizing His Synagogue and they were the core group that were needed in order to qualify legally as a recognized group of faith.

This is where Jesus transitions from being a traveling speaker to becoming a legitimate Rabbi, thus the greater emphasis on teaching at the Mountain and it’s sermons, the seaside sermonizing and the use of parables, etc.

Jesus travels don’t cease, however. He simply takes His core Church/Synagogue with Him as He travels.

The words translated “rebuked” and “be still” were used in 1:25 concerning an exorcism. This consideration may imply a demonic element in the storm. In fact, the latter word (pephimosō) can be translated “be muzzled[9].” The word is from the two words epí, upon, and timáō, to evaluate. In the NT, it means to punish, rebuke, charge, however, this is a subpoint.

Anthropomorphic Nuances The greater reality in the disciples’ rude rousing of Jesus from His sleep in Mark, should be contrasted with the more reverential ‘prayer’ in Matthew of LORD save us! We are going to drown! (Matthew 8:25), and continued in the account of Jesus’ response. In Matthew’s account, Jesus has time to rebuke their lack of faith before getting up to address the situation, in Mark Jesus acts first and talks later. His authority is asserted in strikingly anthropomorphic (very human) commands, as He ‘rebukes’ the wind as if it were a living being, and addresses the lake like it was an unruly heckler, ‘Be quiet! Shut up!’ Both the verb ἐπιτιμάω (epitimauo) and the command πεφίμωσο (pephimoso) are the same as in 1:25, where they were also used in an account of exorcism, where the demon was rebuked and silenced by Jesus. Both terms occur elsewhere, in connection with deliverance, and the conjunction of the two verbs in 1:25 and here, has led some commentators to suggest that Mark sees the calming of the storm as a sort of ‘exorcism.’ In this scenario, the demonic forces which control wind and water are ‘bound’ and subdued.

Real Faith Expressed What I think is cool about this is that it shows us that the same faith that is needed to cast out a demon is the same level of faith that it takes to still a storm. When together with 6:45–52 (the other lake miracle), this periscope or story places Jesus in a more starkly ‘supernatural’ light even than the healing miracles. Why? Because we like the disciples see the control of nature as more extraordinary and inexplicable than the restoration of humans. It’s why in the Old Testament storm control is a frequently noted attribute of God in distinction to we mere mortals who find ourselves helpless before the forces of nature.

The disciples’ question for Jesus strongly rebukes Jesus and is another example of Mark’s candor, which Matthew 8:25 and Luke 8:24 tone down. I think Moffatt’s rendering: “Teacher, are we to drown, for all you care?[10]” is a good one. The teachers of the law come from Jerusalem. We should also see that the open rebuke of Jesus by the disciples demonstrates for us the veiled nature of the Christ. They just didn’t get who He was.

The 12 as the Taught

This passage is important to the transition of Jesus ministry as it contains the first of twelve times Jesus is addressed or described as “Teacher” (5:35; 9:17, 38; 10:17, 20, 35; 12:14, 19, 32; 13:1; 14:14). The similar term “Rabbi” is used in 9:5 (10:51, “Rabboni” in Greek); 11:21; 14:45. The verb “to teach” is used concerning Jesus fifteen times (see the references in the comments on 1:21). Obviously, Mark emphasized that Jesus was an authoritative teacher.

The separation of the 12 who are now in the boat with Jesus has always intrigued me, and I have wrestled with the ideas of modern vs. ancient Apostles due to these passages. Once again, I am rethinking what my perspective is based on this latest go around with Mark. Mark is the primitive Gospel protoevangelium/1st case). Although most Bibles use the Header Appointment of the Apostles in Chapter 3, Mark does not use the term, Apostle. Jesus was organizing His Synagogue, and these men were the core group that was needed to be an officially recognized community of faith. This is where Jesus transitions from being a traveling speaker/healer to a legitimate Rabbi, and this verse is the first record of anyone using that designation for Jesus. Jesus travels don’t cease, but His new modus operandi is to take His church with Him.

Q and Mark Part of my shifting perspective is based on the nature and age of Mark’s Gospel. The recently discovered fragments of Mark that were found in an Egyptian Sarcophagus are dating in the 40 AD’s[11], which would make Mark by far the earliest target document. It appears that Mark is the real “Q.” If so, Mark’s lack of identification of these disciples as Apostles could be compelling, as it may imply that Matthew’s and particularly Luke’s Gospel accounts use a later designation that the readers would identify through their position as Apostles. Mark doesn’t make the Apostolic designation in his early account, which is suggestive of personal recollection, unlike Luke’s more sterile legal treatise, or brief.


Israel was made up of 12 Tribes originally. By the time of the New Testament, when a groups’ leader chose twelve co-leaders, they served as something like a Cabinet and gave the group legal status within Pharisaic regulations. This is what the Community that authored the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran did. Groups did this to demonstrate their belief that their group was the only real remnant of Israel, and it usually had a note of protestation toward the Temple culture of the Sadducees. The later Gospels use the phrase “Apostle,” which sort of means commissioned representative, and it was a term that had its origin in Nautical terminology, which seems to indicate that the Gentile Luke had a significant role in the terminology of the New Testament as he worked alongside Paul. The closest thing that we have today that carries the nuanced meaning in secular society would be an Ambassador to a foreign country. In this context, the Kingdom of God could be seen as an Embassy. It is reasonable to assume that Apostolic Ministry happened in the Ekklesia, as the Ekklesia is the Embassy of Heaven.

Even though it is officially on foreign soil, the Embassy grounds have the same force as the Country that their Ambassador represents, as they are truly dignitaries of another land. In biblical times, the Apostle/Ambassador would have a Signet Ring that was the official seal of the land they came from initially. Any message they brought to the reigning potentate of the land where they were currently residing had the same authority as the King they served. The point of this is that Jesus’ authority to expel demons and to proclaim the kingdom continues through his followers, which began with the 12 Synagogue Quorum members.

there are so many people talking about how they don’t like that local church seems to center around an individual teacher but that’s the model Jesus and the disciples gave…worked pretty well.there are so many people talking about how they don’t like that local church seems to center around an individual teacher but that’s the model Jesus and the disciples gave…worked pretty well.When people gathered around Jesus, they gathered to learn about scripture from a pastor/teacher

When people gathered around Jesus, they gathered to learn about scripture from a pastor/teacher

there are so many people talking about how they don’t like that local church seems to center around an individual teacher but that’s the model Jesus and the disciples gave…worked pretty well.

Thanks to my pastor, who has a PhD in theology, I know so much more in the past couple of years than I’ve known my whole life being in church. In fact, some of the methods I was taught were downright harmful to my walk.

As much as I love marketplace ministry, Marketplace ministers simply cannot attain the depth and intensity of study that a educated pastor/teacher can. I believe a well educated individual who is not bi-vocational and is solely devoted to the study of the word is extremely important.

I think too many people are becoming pastors of churches who have great hearts but are unwilling to put in years of intensive study and regurgitate bill Johnson sermons on Sunday. They mean well, but it’s kind of a blind leading the blind scenario.

I think it comes in part from people not understanding how important the marketplace is. So they feel a call to ministry and start a church, even though they’re not willing to go through formal education…really their call to ministry was probably to the marketplace. There is actually a HUGE distinction between Marketplace ministers and pulpit ministers…but people want to minister so you have a group of 5 or 6 pastors who have some leadership ability, a pastoral anointing and a bookshelf full of John Bevere books who become the primary source of theological knowledge for a community…

When you say it that way, That’s messed up.

Pastoral anointing and leadership ability doesn’t mean someone should shepherd a flock.

The Biblical model is for pastors to get paid to pour themselves in to the word and teach it, not to be bi-vocational and study some books for a Sunday service.

In my opinion, that’s why people devalue the church gathering so much- their pastors are great leaders, communicators and motivators. PLUS, they’re charismatic and likeable…but because of the lack of education, the congregation is only being taught inspirational/motivational messages, rather than a good mix of motivation and deep theology that can only be gained by intensive study.

Yes, the Ekklesia should be “having church” all week…but the Sunday morning gathering is for marketplace ministers (saints) to gather to be equipped by the 4 fold ministers for the work of the ministry (which happens outside the church building), according to Ephesians 4:11-12

HEBRAIC VIEW OF EKKLESIA

It is clear by the use of ekklesia in the LXX that the word had a deep and reverential meaning for the Greek-speaking Jews, which was well over 90% at the time the New Testament was written. Although an ekklesia could be merely a crowd of people as in 1 Samuel 17:47 (LXX 1 Kings 17:47) or an assembly of evil-doers (Psalm 26:5, LXX 25:5), the ekklesia of the LORD was the Covenantal Assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:10). When assembled, they gathered to worship God (2 Chronicles 29:28, 31, 32), present appeals to God (2 Chronicles 20:5), and repented to God (Joel 2:16). They also made choices for the nation as a whole (1 Chronicles 13:2,4; Ezra 10:12, LXX 2 Esdras 10:12). Standing in the midst of the ekklesia was a major responsibility (1 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Chronicles 20:5). Failing to gather as the ekklesia was a serious let down of duty (Judges 21:5; Ezra 10:8 LXX 2 Esdras 10:8). Although the ekklesia could include men, women, and children (Ezra 10:1 LXX 2 Esdras 10:1), there are no examples of women addressing what the LXX calls the ekklesia.

Ekklesia in the LXX[12] 

It goes without saying that the Greek Septuagint (LXX) was widely read among Jews in the years before Christ, and Christians after the first century, as more than 90% of the then Jewish community were Hellenized Jews, living in regions outside of Israel. Nicene writers attest to this by their frequent quotations from the LXX in their comments on New Testament writings. It is my opinion that Holy Spirit used this familiarity in the word choices and the use of words that the New Testament used to convey thought and structure. A lot can be understood about New Testament words and phrases by looking at the LXX for background and contextual use. This is a compilation of the term ekklesia.

Moses

Ekklesia was used habitually in the LXX, including first use, which dictates basic laws for interpretation (the law of first use). The assembly at Horeb, where the Lord spoke directly to the Israelites is: on the day of the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 4:10). This is where God commanded Moses to “gather

[verb for ekklesia]

the people before Me” (Deuteronomy 4:10), and when God made His First Covenant with Israel (Deuteronomy 5:2). Scripture significantly plays down the status of this day by simply logging that it was on the day of the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 9:10; 18:16). Additionally, the sacred assembly of Israel for both worship and business was identified as the ekklesia of the LORD. The Law of Moses contained strict regulations about who was part of the ekklesia and who as to be excluded from the ability to enter the ekklesia of the LORD. The emasculated were denied access to the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 23:1). People who were born of illegitimately and their offspring for ten generations were excluded (Deuteronomy 23:2). Ammonites, Moabites and their offspring for ten generations could not be part of the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 23:3), Interestingly, the Edomites and their descendants were only excluded for two generations (Deuteronomy 23:8). The Song of Moses was to be recited at the close of the Book of Deuteronomy in the hearing of all of the ekklesia of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:30).

The Judges

Once the Israelites were officially in Canaan, the concept of the ekklesia as a covenantal as is maintained. When Joshua reads the commandments, blessings, and curses of Moses, it is in the hearing of all of the ekklesia of Israel (Joshua 8:35, LXX 9:2). The story about the Levite’s Concubine’s death informs the reader that all the leaders of the tribes came together and took their place in the ekklesia of the people of God (Judges 20:2). Failure to attend the ekklesia washarsh and frowned upon by the Ekklesia. If you failed to attend the ekklesia, you were put to death (Judges 21:5).

The Time of the Kingdom

During the time of the Kings when David spoke to Goliath, he said that all this ekklesia should know that the battle is the LORD’s (1 Samuel 17:47, LXX 1 Kings 17:47). The use of the word ekklesia is more general here, however, as it includes the company of Philistines and the Israelites together. Ekklesia was also used to refer to smaller religious assemblies. When Saul sent his men to capture David, they came to the ekklesia of the prophets, who had Samuel as their leader. Remarkably, they prophesied along with the Prophets when they entered the ekklesia (1 Samuel 19:20; LXX, 1 Kings 19:20). When David was preparing to bring the ark from Kirjath Jearim to his city Jerusalem, David spoke to all the ekklesia of Israel, who consequently agreed to help David with his undertaking (1 Chronicles 13:2,4). When the announcement was made concerning the selection of Solomon as the builder of the Temple of YHWH, David stood up in the midst of the ekklesia (1 Chronicles 28:2). It was during his speech that David charged the people to be faithful in the sight of all the ekklesia of the Lord and in the hearing of our God (1 Chronicles 28:8).As David instructed the people about Solomon, they were referred to as the ekklesia repeatedly(1 Chronicles 29:1,10,20). Solomon escorted all the ekklesia to Gibeon and the ark (2 Chronicles 1:3), where the ekklesia inquired of the Lord (2 Chronicles 1:5).

When the Temple was finished, Solomon blessed the ekklesia (1 Kings 8:14, 22, 55, LXX 3 Kings 8:14, 22; 2 Chronicles 6:3). Solomon stood in front of the altar and prayed before all the ekklesia of Israel (2 Chronicles 6:12,13). The ekklesia feasted for seven days (1 Kings 8:65 [LXX 3 Kings 65; 2 Chronicles 7:8). Following Solomon, all the ekklesia of Israel came to Rehoboam to ask for relief from their burdens (2 Chronicles 10:3).  

Jehoshaphat stood in the ekklesia of Judah as he prayed to God (2 Chronicles 20:5). After Jehoshaphat prayed, a prophet stood up in the ekklesia and urged them to follow Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:14). When Joash was crowned as King, all the ekklesia of Judah made Covenant with him in the house of the LORD (2 Chronicles 23:3). When Hezekiah restored worship in Judah, the ekklesia laid their hands on the male goats for a sin offering (2 Chronicles 29:23), and the ekklesia worshipped with singers and trumpeters (2 Chronicles 29:28). Once the people were consecrated, the ekklesia brought sacrifices of 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs to be offered to the LORD (2 Chronicles 29:31,32). Hezekiah had all the ekklesia in Jerusalem keep the Passover, as the practice had ceased to be enacted from the time of David and Solomon (2 Chronicles 30:2,4,13,17,23, 24,25). 

The prophets spoke a lot about the ekklesia.  It was in the ekklesia of Lord that land was divided by lot (Micah 2:5). When Joel pushed Israel to repent, Joel prodded them to consecrate 

Ekklesia (Joel 2:16). The ekklesia held a sacred place of importance to the Prophets of Israel.

Ekklesia was used as a synonym for the word therapeian, which means a service in the LXX (Joel 2:15) in the same way we use the word service for our church gatherings. When Babylon conquered Jerusalem, and the Jewish Temple was destroyed, Jeremiah said that those who God had commanded not to enter had come into Your [God’s] ekklesia” (Lamentations 1:10). This probably reflects an association of the place of ekklesia with the ekklesia itself.

Synagogue was used synonymously with ekklesia in the LXX. The LXX refers to religious assemblies of the Jews. By the first century, a synagogue referred to an assembly and the place of the assembly. In the New Testament, congregations of Christians were usually called an ekklesia, but the congregation could also be called a synagogue in the earliest New Testament writings(James 2:2).

Poetic Books

During his days of sorrow, Job says I have stood in the ekklesia crying (Job 30:28). In the Psalms, praise happens in the midst of the ekklesia (Psalm 22:22, LXX 21:23) and in the great ekklesia (Psalm 22:25, LXX 21:26). The Psalmist stays away from the ekklesia of evildoers (Psalm 26:5, LXX 25:5). The Psalmist give thanks in the great ekklesia (Psalm 35:18, LXX 34:18). The Psalmist proclaims his willingness to talk about God’s loving kindness and truth to the great ekklesia (Psalm 40:10, LXX 39:10). When ekklesia is used in the plural, it typically refers to the smaller assemblies of each tribe, which has the overtone of the body politic as well as religious applications. The Psalmist calls for the reader to bless God in the ekklisias (Psalm 68:26-27, LXX 67:27-28). Ekklesia can also refer to the repeated assembling of the great ekklesia. The Psalmist also promises to bless the LORD in the ekklisias (Psalm 26:12, LXX 25:12).

Scripture declares that even the heavens praise God’s wonders and His faithfulness in the ekklesia of the saints (Psalm 89:5, LXX 88:6). The Psalmist admonishes us to exalt God in the ekklesia of people, which is what happens in the ekklesia of our day, in the church service (Psalm 106:32). The Psalmist admonishes Israel to worship God in the in the ekklesia of the saints (Psalm 149:1).

Post-Exile 

After the exiles return, Ezra prays that a very large ekklesia of men, women and children from Israel gathered to him (Ezra 10:1, LXX 2 Esdras 10:1). When Ezra realized that a multitude of the men had pagan wives a proclamation to gather in Jerusalem was made. Those who refused to assemble would be separated from the ekklesia of the settlement (Ezra 10:8, LXX 2 Esdras 10:8). When the people gathered, Ezra told the gathered men that they must leave their pagan wives and all the ekklesia agreed to the stipulation (Ezra 10:12, LXX 2 Esdras 10:12]. Nehemiah recognized that Moabites and Ammonites were not to enter the “ekklesia of God (Nehemiah 13:1, LXX 2 Esdras 23:1). Ezra read from the book of the Law before the ekklesia, and the assembly kept the feast of Tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:2, 17, LXX 2 Esdras18:2,17).

Ekklesia Word Group

There are two other words in the ekklesia family are in the Septuagint that is not in the NT. Ekklesiazo a verb that means to call an ekklesia and ekklesiastes, a noun that speaks of the agency for one who speaks to the ekklesia which has the same implications of a pastor/teacher or Elder/Overseer in the New Testament.

The common name of the Book of Ecclesiastes is taken from the Septuagint’s title, and the reference throughout the book to the “preacher” (Ecclesiastes 1:2,12; 7:28; 12:8,9, 10). The verb form occurs when the people are called before the Tabernacle for the consecration of Aaron and his sons: and all the synagogue was called to an ekklesia at the door of the tabernacle of testimony (Leviticus 8:3).

Scripture uses the verb form of ekklesia when God tells Moses to call the synagogue to an ekklesia (Numbers 20:8). The call refers to the time when Moses presumptuously strikes the rock, and it gushes water at Kadesh. The result was that Moses himself was condemned for his outburst of anger by striking the rock instead of speaking to it as YHWH had instructed him. This action excluded Moses from entering Canaan, The Promised Land. The Lord told Moses, you did not believe me to honor me before the children of Israel (Numbers 20:12).

The verb ekklesia is also used when YHWH commanded the congregation of Israel to gather together at Horeb. This is the incident in the Scriptural record where God spoke from the cloud and the fire to the Israelites. God ordered Moses, call to ekklesia the people before Me (Deuteronomy 4:10). This event was simply known as being on the day of the ekklesia (Deuteronomy 4:10). The verb form for ekklesia is also used when the Law stipulated that the people of faith gather every seventh year for the reading of the Law. God commanded that a call to ekklesia the people: the men and women and their offspring and the proselyte in your cities (Deuteronomy 31:12). When Moses called an assembly of the leaders of the tribes to read the Law to them, he uses the verb ekklesia, call to the ekklesia before me the leaders of the tribes and the elders and the judges and the court-scribes (Deuteronomy 31:28).

The verb ekklesia is also used when David called out to ekklesia all Israel when the Ark was returned to Israel (1 Chronicles 13:5). The same verb ekklesia is also used when a fast is called to pray for deliverance from the edict to kill the Jews in the Book of Esther. Esther sent a message to Mordecai, saying call to ekklesia the Jews in Susa and fast for me (Esther 4:16).

Final Thoughts

It is clear by the use of ekklesia in the LXX that the word had a deep and reverential meaning for the Greek-speaking Jews, which was well over 90% of the entire Jewish population at the time the New Testament was written. Although an ekklesia could be merely a crowd of people as in 1 Samuel 17:47 (LXX 1 Kings 17:47) or an assembly of evil-doers (Psalm 26:5, LXX 25:5), the ekklesia of the LORD was understood to be the Covenantal Assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:10).  When assembled, the Covenantal Assembly gathered to worship God (2 Chronicles 29:28,31,32) and presented appeals to God through prayer and petition (2 Chronicles 20:5). The ekklesia also repented to God for sin, both individually and corporately (Joel 2:16), and to make directional decisions and choices for the nation of Israel as a whole (1 Chronicles 13:2,4; Ezra 10:12, LXX 2 Esdras 10:12). To receive the honor of standing in the midst of the ekklesia was a major responsibility and privilege (1 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Chronicles 20:5). Failing to gather as the ekklesia was a serious let down of duty (Judges 21:5; Ezra 10:8 LXX 2 Esdras 10:8). Although the ekklesia could include men, women, and children (Ezra 10:1 LXX 2 Esdras 10:1), there are no examples of women addressing what the LXX calls the ekklesia.


[1]Bromiley, Geoffrey, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged, Eerdman’s, Article on Ekklesia, Grand Rapids MI, 1985, pp. 397-402

[2] Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey by Gleason L. Archer & G.C. For a thorough analysis of all texts SEE THIS WORK.

[3] Silvoso, Ed, Ekklesia, Chosen Books, Bloomington MI, 2017, pp. 19, 20.

[4]Kittle, Gerhard & Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Article on Ekklesia, Kittle, Gerhard & Gerhard Friedrich Eds., Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids MI, 1985, pp. 487-536

[5] Bible Works TM, Copyright 1992-2002, Bible Works L.L.C. all rights reserved, article on ekklesia by Luke

[6] Cleon, Rogers Jr & Cleon, Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI, 1998, pp. 37 & 41

[7] Wagner, C Peter, This Changes Everything, Chosen Books, Minneapolis MN, 2013

[8] Logos Bible Software, 7.9 2017

[9] France, R. T. (2002). The Gospel of Mark: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 180). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press,

[10] Knowles, A. (2001). The Bible guide (1st Augsburg books ed., p. 450). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.

[11] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2015/01/20/earliest-fragment-of-marks-gospel-apparently-found/

[12] Archer, Gleason, Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament: A Complete Survey  Moody Press, Chicago, 1983

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.