"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Understanding Who "The Church" Really Is

The English word church is totally unrelated to the Greek word ekklesia, the word the Holy Spirit chose to use in the Scriptures. In the following article by my friend John Reisinger, the word ekklesia will be used instead of church until there is an agreed upon definition of the word itself. Though the article is rather lengthy, the careful study of the etymology of the word "ekklesia" will help avoid many of the pitfalls of the so-called "Baptist Identity" movement.

"One of the first difficulties in defining the word ekklesia is determining whether there are two different definitions for the word when it is applied to Christians. All agree the word is used for both a secular and a spiritual group. What about when the ekklesia is talking about the people of God? Does the New Testament Scripture use the word ekklesia two distinctly different ways or only one way? Almost all theologians since the time of the Reformation have spoken of the 'universal' (or invisible) and the 'local' (or visible) ekklesia and have given different definitions to both concepts. Different groups have emphasized one or the other of these two ideas.

The Plymouth Brethren magnify the universal/invisible concept. They insist the ekklesia is 'an organism' and not an 'organization.' They have no church membership (on paper), and no 'ordained clergyman.' Roman Catholicism and Landmark Baptists emphasize the local/visible concept of ekklesia. In their view the ekklesia is a visible physical organization, instead of an invisible organism, instituted by Christ and left in control of duly authorized leaders here on earth. Landmark Baptists call the universal ekklesia concept the 'doctrine of the great spiritual whore,' and Rome insists that one of the four marks of 'one the true church' is that the true church is 'visible.' Here are two quotes setting forth the Landmark position:

The New Testament usage of the term [ekklesia] denotes an assembly or a gathered group, a congregation . . . . . The words church and assembly are therefore synonymous. It is, therefore, essential for a church to church before it can be a church! That is, an 'assembly' must assemble before it can be an assembly. A church that has never assembled or met together in an organized fashion and for a specific purpose, never having been functional, would certainly not be a church in the scriptural sense! From: New Testament Church, by Dr. W.R. Downing, pp. 3 and 16.

As you can see, such a definition eliminates any possibility of a so-called 'universal/invisible' ekklesia. The ekklesia must be visibly assembled before it is an ekklesia. Any idea of the redeemed people of God bowing their hearts in worship all over the world being construed as the ekklesia is ridiculous to these people. There must be a visible gathering of individuals bound together under some form of constitution with leadership ordained by God and given authority to rule the ekklesia. This same group of individuals is not considered the ekklesia when they finish assembling and go their separate ways. It is only when they are 'assembled' that they are considered the ekklesia.

Mr. Downing uses the typical Landmark Baptist caricature of the 'universal church' to establish his position when he writes . . .

A "universal, invisible church" could have: No address or location, yet every church in the New Testament was located at a particular place… No pastor, elders or leaders that were functional…No deacons or property…No treasurer…No prayer meetings…No missionaries… etc. Ibid 18, 19.

It may seem strange that the Romanist and the Landmark Baptists are both so adamant against any idea of a 'universal' church. However, when we see that their respective concepts of authority are almost identical, it becomes very clear why they are kinfolk. Every group that emphasizes 'God ordained authority' for either their particular church practices or the authority of their 'duly authorized leadership' will always emphasize the so-called 'local/visible' church as the true ekklesia of Christ. Baptists who do this can be just as tyrannical as Roman Catholics. We will say more about this later. For now, I intend to argue that there is only one definition of the word ekklesia in the New Testament Scriptures even though there are two applications of the one definition.

The Definition of Ekklesia

The first question we must ask is, "What is the best way to translate the Greek word ekklesia."? Some people go into the various words used to define the meaning of 'church' in many different languages, Scottish kirk etc. This may explain history but it does not help us at all to grasp Scripture. The Plymouth Brethren use the word assembly and some other groups use congregation, but nearly everyone uses the word church which means nothing. I personally, until recently, would have said that 'assembly' was probably the best way to translate ekklesia. I would no longer do that. I would now translate it so that it clearly expresses exactly what everyone agrees is the actual meaning of the word. I would translate ekklesia as "the called out ones" since that is precisely what the word means. This is not only the true and accurate translation of the word ekklesia, it also demonstrates the first major truth, namely, that the ekklesia of Christ is they, meaning people, and not an it, meaning an organization. If you cannot speak of the ekklesia as 'they' but constantly think and speak in terms of 'it' you have not totally come out of Romanism!

Usually the first thing we do in trying to understand a specific doctrine in Scripture is translate the actually meaning of the word itself as clearly as possible into our language. We do that with words like justification, sanctification, and regeneration, etc. However, when we come to the word ekklesia we use the word church instead of actually translating the word ekklesia into its English equivalent. Ekklesia literally means 'the called out ones' and should be so translated. In failing to do that we ignore the first basic step that we otherwise always follow when trying to understand any specific doctrine. We always try, whether it is a Greek or a Hebrew word, to translate the word as closely as possible to an English word, or words. We try to stick as closely as we can to the original Greek or Hebrew. If we did that in the case of ekklesia we would say without hesitation, "the word ekklesia means 'called out (ones).'"

If everyone had a clear view of the true meaning of 'the ekklesia of Christ' issues like who should take communion, who should be baptized, when and how should discipline take place, the authority of eldership, etc., would all be looked at differently. All agree that the word Greek word ekklesia is a compound of two Greek words. The first word is "ek," and means "out," and the second is, kaleo (kal-eh'-o) and means 'to call.'

All agree that the word kaleo means 'to call' or 'called ones,' and the word ekklesia literally means the same thing except of the addition of the word 'ek.'' That means we merely add the word 'out' and it becomes 'the called out ones.' Ekklesia has nothing to do with 'calling an individual to join a local congregation.' In fact, biblical calling is totally spiritual and has nothing to do with the physical. We need only note a few verses where the word is used to clearly understand its meaning. These verses show that the 'kaleoed' and 'the Christians' are the same people.

Gal 1:6 "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel . . ." Does joining a local congregation have anything at all to do with being called (kaleoed) into the 'grace of Christ'?

Gal 1:15 "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace . . ." Did this calling have anything to do with Paul joining a local congregation or in any way coming under the authority of a local congregation?

A shorter form, klesis (klay'-sis), of the same word, is often used. Here are a few instances.

Rom 11:29 "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." What does that text have to do with membership in a local congregation? What do any of the following texts have to do with anything other than spiritual effectual calling?

Eph 4:4 "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling . . ." Phil 3:14 "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Heb 3:1 "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling…"

Did any local congregation, or any, or all, of the other apostles, or anyone else have anything to do with God calling Paul in the following verse? Remember this is the same word used in ekklesia. Rom 1:1 "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle…"

What does the calling in the following verses have to do with the concept of a local congregation? These verses are talking about regeneration, about being joined to Christ. The word ekklesia is talking about being 'called out' of death and being brought into Christ. The word has nothing to do with either defining or joining a local congregation.

Rom 1:6 "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ…"

Rom 1:7 "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…"

Rom 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

Is Romans 8:28 assuring us that all is well because one is a member of a local congregation or because one is part of the ekklesia of Christ? I am sure you know the answer. I am also sure you realize that the two things just mentioned, membership in a local congregation and being a part of 'the called ones' (ekklesia) of Christ is two totally different things. It is understanding just why these two things are so radically different that opens up the biblical doctrine of the ekklesia.

Eklessia Is Another Word for Christian

I think it is easy to see that the words 'the called ones' are nothing less than another name for a Christian. A child of God is called, a 'believer,' a 'sheep,' an 'elect one,' a 'brother,' a 'saved one,' etc., and the same person is often labeled or addressed as a 'called one.' The above texts are clear. The ekklesia is Christians. All Christians are in the ekklesia and no one but chosen sheep are a part of the ekklesia. All of the ekklesia have been 'called out' to Christ Himself. It is the experience of being kaleoed out of the world that makes them Christians. They did not join the ekklesia¾they were joined to the ekklesia by the Holy Spirit.

Let's take that descriptive name, 'called out ones', and ask these obvious questions:

(1) Who is included in this group described by the Holy Spirit as the ekklesia, or 'called out ones'?

(2) Who is the Person who is calling, or has called, the ekklesia?

(3) To where or to what have the ekklesia been called?

(4) From where, or what, have the ekklesia been called out from?

(5) Why have these particular ones been 'called out' to the exclusion of others?

(6) What is the exact nature of this calling?


(1). 'The called out ones' are the people of God. They are the 'sheep who hear my voice' and gladly respond. They are the saved, the justified, and the born again who have been baptized into the living body of Christ. Simply put, 'the called out ones' is a synonym for the word 'Christian.' The ekklesia is another name for saved people¾all saved people, but only saved people. It is impossible to have a lost person in the ekklesia, or among the 'called out ones,' and it is just as impossible to have a saved person who is not a member of the ekklesia. Both of these things would be a contradiction in terms.

(2). The Person is doing the calling is God. We need only one glance at the texts above to see it is God Himself Who is the 'Caller' in every case. The calling is directly due to both God's purpose in unconditional election and His sovereign power in regeneration. It has nothing to do with man's will or an organization.

(3). We can say that ultimately they have been called to heaven itself. We can also say they are 'called to holiness,' 'called to peace,' 'called to life,' and many other things. For our purposes, we insist that the 'called out ones' are called into membership in the ekklesia of Christ. Each 'called one,' or each member of the ekklesia, has been effectually called out of sin and death into a living fellowship with Christ Himself.

(4). All of the 'called out ones' were once dead in sin. It was 'the call' that brought them out of death and brought them into life. Their calling is spoken of as a resurrection out from the dead as well as regeneration.

(5). The 'called out ones' are the same as the elect. All of the elect are 'called' and all 'the called' are the elect. All the sheep, the elect ones, will always 'hear' the voice of their Shepherd calling them and will gladly come. All of the 'called out ones' become part of the ekklesia simply because they, and they alone, are the objects of this special 'calling,' and they are the special objects because they have been chosen to be sheep. All the chosen are 'called' but only the chosen are 'called.' That is the same as saying, "All the elect are in the ekklesia, but only the elect are in the ekklesia." There is not a single exception to this fact, and we must again emphasize that being a 'called out one' has nothing to do with birth, baptism, or joining something.

(6) This calling is nothing less than effectual calling. The 'calling' extended to the elect sheep is actually regeneration. It is being born again and in no sense whatever is it "joining something." It is 100% spiritual and it is 100% the work of God, and in every case it is successful. The ekklesia, or 'called out ones,' will have no missing members. All without exception who are chosen to be in the ekklesia will be effectually called by grace and power and will become a living part of the ekklesia. Again this fact has nothing to do with any or all visible congregations. Someone has said, "THE Church will be found in the churches, but the churches are not THE Church."

I should not have to make this application, but I do so for clarity. The reality, or actual spiritual entity, that is created by this calling of the ekklesia is the spiritual Body of Christ and it cannot possibly have anything to do with a physical organization. We are talking about a spiritual calling. If the kaleo, or calling, that creates the ekklesia of Christ is nothing less than regeneration, then the thing created by that spiritual calling, namely, the true ekklesia, must of necessity be a God produced spiritual creation. It has to be first of all a living spiritual entity. The words 'called out ones' cannot possibly have anything at all to do with the physical organization or assembling of that which we today call a 'church.' The spiritual experience of effectual calling (kaleo) creates, in and of itself, the ekklesia of Christ and since that effectual calling (kaleo) is totally spiritual it follows that the thing created by that, calling the ekklesia, must also be spiritual and not physical.

What we will see as we proceed is that the whole 'visible/invisible' or 'local/universal' concepts expressed by those terms are simply not biblical ideas. They do express an element of truth but they are also loaded with error. At the most we may say, "The Word of God recognizes that the word ekklesia basically means 'Christians.' Sometimes an apostle will speak of all Christians, the elect, or all of the 'called out ones' of Christ, and other times he may speak of all the Christians, or all the 'called out ones' meeting in a given town or even in a house. However, in both cases the basic meaning of the word ekklesia remains the same. It means 'the called out (ones),' or Christians, in both cases." The difference is not a 'local/visible' versus a 'universal/invisible' concept where one is an organism and the other is an organization. The only difference is how many of the 'called out ones' are you talking about. In both cases the word means 'all of the Christians' either all for whom Christ died or all those in a given described area.

Men can, and do, create organizations and call them churches or fellowships, but only God the Holy Ghost can create the ekklesia of Christ. The ekklesia that God creates is the Body of Christ. Every person in that ekklesia is 'in Christ.' When man creates a physical organization and calls it a 'church' it will be a mixed bag. As long as we argue about 'visible/invisible' or 'local/universal' as a means of distinguishing between a 'spiritual' (universal) ekklesia and a 'physical' (local) ekklesia, we are missing the real problem. The real question is this: Does the New Testament Scripture conceive of the ekklesia, the 'called out ones,' as a spiritual organism created by the Holy Spirit or a physical organization created by men of like mind? Is the Body of Christ (which is never spoken of in the plural) ever conceived of as anything less than all of 'called out ones,' or 'the ekklesia of Christ'?

Let me mention another obvious implication. If any individual person evidences the spiritual marks of being one of Christ's sheep, or a 'called out one' can they be denied total acceptance in a group claiming to be a sheepfold of Christ? Dare we say, "I know that Christ, the great Shepherd, has put His mark of grace on you and sealed you with His Spirit. He has unconditionally accepted you as one of His 'called out ones,' however, before we will accept you into this sheepfold, or before we allow you to eat with us at His table, we must put our mark on you also."

Nothing I have said rules out the need for an organized local congregation of like-minded Christians, with a constitution, church officers, church discipline, and a lot of other things. I believe every child of God should be a part of a congregation of Christians and submit to the love and oversight of their brothers and sisters in Christ. However, that does not do away with either my personal responsibility to Christ or to all of my 'called out' brothers and sisters in other congregations. What it does mean is that in every thing connected with our idea of ekklesia, we have to make sure we do not believe and practice a lot of things that grow out of a totally wrong view of the ekklesia, or the 'called out ones.' John Reisinger: The Ekklesia .

If we understood the Biblical use of the word translated "church" as described by Reisinger above, then a great deal of error in the Landmark Baptist Identity movement would be avoided.

In His Grace,



Joe Blackmon said...

I have a feeling that there are going to be some surprised guys and gals in heaven when they see how many people they thought would never be there actually are. I have no doubt that there are going to be plenty of people in heaven who I disagree with here on earth. What a day that will be.

Christiane said...


It's me, L's

Don't worry about it. When you see these people in heaven, you will recognize them as your brothers and your sisters at last.
It's just too dark to recognize them yet, here on Earth.

An old story from the Judaic tradition goes this way:

A young student asked a great rebbe (rabbi) this: 'at what point does the night become the day? Is it when you can see the darkness begin to fade?'

'No', said the rebbe. 'Not yet."

"Is it when there is enough light to be able to distinguish an animal from a human?," asked the boy.

'No, said the rebbe. 'Not yet.'

"When, then," asked the boy, " can we know when the night has truly become the day?"

The rebbe replied this:
"you will know when there is enough light so that you can look into the eyes of another human being and recognize that he is also your brother.
That is when the night has truly become the day.'

Baptist Theologue said...

To say that “ekklesia” only means “called out ones” is to fall into the root fallacy. Notice what D. A. Carson said about the fallacy in his book, Exegetical Fallacies:

“One of the most enduring fallacies, the root fallacy presupposes that every word actually has a meaning bound up with its shape or its components. In this view, meaning is determined by etymology; that is by the roots of a word. How many times have we been told that because the verbal cognate of apostolos (apostle) is apostello (I send), the root meaning of ‘apostle’ is ‘one who is sent’?”

The word “ekklesia” clearly includes the idea of an assembly. The word was used to mean “assembly” in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. In the New Testament it referred to a future assembly in heaven (Ephesians 5:25-27), the local churches, and to the church in an institutional or generic sense (Matthew 18:17). It also referred to a secular assembly in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41.

All the Christians on earth at the present time cannot be assembled. Thus, the universal church is not yet present. It will be present when all the redeemed of all the ages are assembled in heaven.

Wayne Smith said...


The Holman Bible Handbook

The Nature of the Church

The Inauguration of the Church
 The word church can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used to talk about a place where believers gather, a local organization of believers, a universal body of believers, a particular denomination (like the Presbyterian Church), or an organization of believers related to a particular area or nation (like the Church of Scotland).
The biblical idea of church must be understood from the usage of ekklesia (the Greek word for church) in the New Testament. The basic idea means a gathered group of people. In the Bible ekklesia has a variety of meanings, but most references point to a local body of believers. The term occurs 114 times in the New Testament, of which 109 refer to the local or universal church of Jesus Christ. In Acts 19:32,41 there is reference to an unruly mob, and in Acts 19:39 the term is translated as a lawful assembly. First Thessalonians 1:1 points to a specific church, 1 Corinthians 4:17 indicates a nonspecific church, while Galatians 1:22 refers to a group of churches. Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18 look beyond the local churches to the spiritual unity of the universal church. We can see that there are several usages of the word church in the New Testament.
The church was inaugurated at Pentecost (Acts 2) as God’s new society (Eph 2:15). It was founded upon the finished work of Christ (Acts 20:18) and the baptizing work of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13). The church was a mystery, was prophesied by Christ (Matt 16:18), and was revealed at the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost (1 Cor 2:7; Eph 3:13). The church was built upon the foundation of Christ’s apostles with Christ Jesus Himself the Cornerstone (Eph 2:20-21).


Wayne Smith said...


The Holman Bible Dictionary

CHURCH, Church is the term used in the New Testament most frequently to describe a group of persons professing trust in Jesus Christ, meeting together to worship Him, and seeking to enlist others to become His followers. A basic understanding of the church in the New Testament requires answers to the following four basic questions: What does the word “church” mean? What were the characteristics of the early church’s life? How was the church organized? How did the early church grow and expand?
The meaning of the term “church” Church is the English translation of the Greek word ekklesia. The use of the Greek term prior to the emergence of the Christian church is important as two streams of meaning flow from the history of its usage into the New Testament understanding of church. First, the Greek term which basically means “called out” was commonly used to indicate an assembly of citizens of a Greek city and is so used in Acts 19:32, 39. The citizens who were quite conscious of their privileged status over against slaves and noncitizens were called to the assembly by a herald and dealt in their meetings democratically with matters of common concern. When the early Christians understood themselves as constituting a church, no doubt exists that they perceived themselves as called out by God in Jesus Christ for a special purpose and that their status was a privileged one in Jesus Christ. (Eph. 2:19).
Second, the Greek term was used more than one hundred times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in common use in the time of Jesus. The Hebrew term (qahal) meant simply “assembly” and could be used in a variety of ways, referring for example to an assembling of prophets (1 Sam. 19:20), soldiers (Num. 22:4), or the people of God (Deut. 9:10). The use of the term in the Old Testament in referring to the people of God is important for understanding the term “church” in the New Testament. The first Christians were Jews who used the Greek translation of the Old Testament. For them to use a self-designation that was common in the Old Testament for the people of God reveals their understanding of the continuity that links the Old and New Testaments. The early Christians understood themselves as the people of the God who had revealed Himself in the Old Testament (Heb. 1:1-2), as the true children of Israel (Rom. 2:28-29) with Abraham as their father (Rom. 4:1-25), and as the people of the New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament (Heb. 8:1-13). As a consequence of this broad background of meaning in the Greek and Old Testament worlds, the term “church” is used in the New Testament of a local congregation of called-out Christians, such as the “church of God which is at Corinth”(1 Cor. 1:2), and also of the entire people of God, such as in the affirmation that Christ is “the head over all things to the church, Which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23).
What church means in the New Testament is further defined by a host of over one hundred other descriptive expressions occurring in relationship to passages where the church is being addressed. Three basic perspectives embrace most of these other descriptions. First, the church is seen as the body of Christ; and a cluster of images exists in this context as emphasis falls on the head (Eph. 4:15-16), the members (1 Cor. 6:12-20), the body (1 Cor. 12:12-27), or the bride (Eph. 5:22-31). The church is also seen as God’s new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), the new persons (Eph. 2:14-15), fighters against Satan (Eph. 6:10-20), or bearers of light (Eph. 5:7-9). Thirdly, the church is quite often described as a fellowship of faith with its members described as the saints (1 Cor. 1:2), the faithful (Col. 1:2), the witnesses (John 15:26-27), or the household of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
Major characteristics of the life of the church The preeminent characteristic of the church in the New Testament is devotion to Jesus Christ as Lord. He established the church under His authority (Matt. 16:13-20) and created the foundation for its existence in His redeeming death and demonstration of God’s power in His resurrection. Christ’s position as the Lord evoked, sustained, and governed the major characteristics of the life of the church in the way members were admitted, treated one another, witnessed to His power, worshiped, and lived in hope of His return.
Persons were admitted to the local congregation only upon their placing their trust in Christ as Savior (Acts 2:37-42), openly confessing this (Rom. 10:9-13), and being baptized (Acts 10:44-48). Baptism or immersion in water was performed because Christ had commanded it (Matt. 28:18-20) and was itself a dramatic symbolic picturing of the burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). Joining the church made one a fully participating member in it, unlike many of the religious groups in the first century in which there was a substantial period of probation before full acceptance. When Christ accepted the person, the congregation did also, even though the members might be aware of weaknesses (Rom. 14:1-4).
The way in which members of the church were called on to treat one another was modeled by what God had done in Christ for the church. They were to forgive one another (Col. 3:12-14) and to love one another (Eph. 5:1-2; 1 John 3:16) because God had done this for all of them in Christ. This foundation for Christian fellowship gave an ultimacy to its requirements that reflected on each church member’s relationship with God (1 John 2:7-11).
Members of the church were called on to demonstrate the power of Christ’s redemption in their own lives by exemplary conduct, embracing every area of life (Rom. 12:1-13:7; Col. 3:12-4:1). The overcoming of sins in the lives of Christians was a witness to the redeeming power of Christ in action in the community (Gal. 5:22-26), and the sins to which the communities were prone were clearly identified and challenged (Gal. 5:19-21). The Christians were expected to adopt a new life style that was appropriate to their commitment to Christ (Eph. 4:17-24).
The worship of the early church demonstrated the lordship of Christ, not only in the fact that He was extolled and praised but also in the fact that worship demonstrated the obligation of Christians to love and to nurture one another (1 Cor. 11:17-22; 14:1-5). In distinction from worship as it was practiced in the pagan cults of Greece and Rome, Christian worship not only stressed the relation of a person to the Deity but went beyond this to stress that worship should edify and strengthen the Christians present (1 Cor. 14:26) and should challenge pagans to accept Christ (1 Cor. 14:20-25). Christian worship was often enthusiastic and usually involved all Christians present as participants (1 Cor. 14:26). This openness both inspired creativity and opened the way for excesses which were curbed by specific suggestions (1 Cor. 14:26-33a; 1 Tim. 2:1-10) and by the rule that what was done should be appropriate to those committed to a God of peace (1 Cor. 14:33a).
All of these characteristics of the life of the church existed in the context of an urgency created by the awareness that Christ was going to return (1 Thess. 1:9-10). Christ’s return would bring judgment to the unbelievers (1 Thess. 5:1-10) and thus made witnessing to them an urgent concern. How central this belief was to the early church is illustrated by the fact that the Lord’s Supper, which they observed at His command was seen as proclaiming “the Lord’s death till he come (1 Cor. 11:26). The return of Christ was to result in glorious joy and the transformation of the Christians—a hope that sustained them in difficult times (2 Thess. 1:5-12).
Organization of the New Testament churches A striking feature of the organization of the early churches is that every member of the church was seen as having a gift for service which was to be used cooperatively for the benefit of all (Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Pet. 4:10). Paul used the imagery of the human body to illustrate this unique feature of the church’s life, stressing that every Christian has a necessary function and a responsibility to function with an awareness of his or her share in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-31).
In the context of this strong belief that every member has a ministry, certain persons were designated to fulfill specific tasks in relation to the functioning of the church such as apostles, bishops, elders, and deacons. As these offices are examined, it is important to remember that the organization of the early churches was not necessarily the same in every locality. A large church would need more organizational structure than a small one, and the presence of an apostle or his designated representative would cause the other leaders in a given church to be seen in a different light. In addition to these variables, the church was in a period of rapid growth; and as it responded to the needs of ministry, roles or offices, such as the appointment of the seven in Acts 6:1-7, were created to enable the church to fulfill its ministry in Christ.
“Apostle” usually designated one appointed as the authorized representative of Jesus Christ, and the term in the New Testament is most frequently applied to one of the Twelve (Acts 1:15-26) or to Paul (Gal. 1:1-24). The term was occasionally used in a wider sense to indicate the validity and importance of one of the early church’s leaders, such as James (Gal. 1:19) or Barnabas (Acts 14:4; compare Rom. 16:7); but there is no hint in the New Testament that an apostle could appoint a person to succeed himself and establish a continuing line. The office is, in fact, seen as foundational in the church’s history and not as continuing (Eph. 2:20).
Bishops and elders had quite similar responsibilities; and Paul, addressing the elders in Acts 20:17, stated that they were bishops or overseers (v. 28). Usually, however, the term “bishop” is in the singular (1 Tim. 3:1), and the term “elders” is plural (Jas. 5:14) as a specific church is addressed. The responsibilities of a bishop are described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9. He is described as representing the church in a way which would suggest that each church had one designated leader who functioned much in the way a contemporary pastor does.
Deacons were required to be exemplary Christians like bishops (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Since their duties are not specified and they are usually listed with the bishops, it is usually assumed that deacons devoted themselves to the larger work of the local church, assisting in whatever ways were most appropriate to the local congregation of Christians as the seven did in Acts (6:1-7).
The organization of the early churches was not governed by a rigid plan that each church had to follow. The guiding principle was that the church was the body of Christ with a mission to accomplish, and the church felt free to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit in developing a structure that would contribute to its fulfilling its responsibilities (Rom. 12:1-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:11-16).
The growth and expansion of the early church Jesus taught His disciples that by following Him they were to be involved in a movement that would continue (Matt. 16:13-20; John 14:12-14), but it was after the resurrection of Jesus that the mission of the church really began (Matt. 28:16-20; John 20:19-23; Acts 1:6-11). The earliest Christians were Palestinian Jewish followers of Jesus and found it difficult to witness to non-Jews (Acts 10:1-48). The bridge to the Gentiles was the Hellenistic Jewish Christianity, which sprang into existence with the conversion of Jews from the dispersion who were visiting in Jerusalem and converted at Pentecost (Acts 2:5-47). These Jews whose residence had been in the cities of the Roman Empire were called Hellenistic because they were generally more open to the Greco-Roman culture than their Palestinian colleagues. They spoke and wrote Greek as their primary language, gave their children Greek names (such as Stephen which means “crown” in Greek), and were more willing to relate to Gentiles. It was this group of the early Christians that was the major channel in spreading the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 19:11-26).
Paul was a Hellenistic Jew (Acts 21:39); and when he became a Christian, he was called to and accepted a ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21; Eph. 3:1-13). Significantly, he inaugurated his ministry of founding new churches from the base of a church composed of both Gentiles and Hellenistic Jewish Christians (Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-3). Paul’s strategy was to visit synagogues in the cities of the Roman Empire and to proclaim Jesus as the Christ (Acts 18:5). The usual result was that some Jews and some Gentiles who were interested in Judaism (called God-fearers, Acts 18:7) believed in Christ, were expelled from the synagogue, and formed the nucleus for a growing church (Acts 18:5-11; 19:8-10).
The Acts of the Apostles gives only a glimpse of the early Christian heroes and heroines with a focus on Peter, Paul, and a few others (Acts 18:1-4, 24-28). There were, however, many heroic Christian witnesses unknown to us who first carried the gospel to Rome (Acts 28:14-15) and to the limits of the Empire in India, Egypt, and the outlying areas of Europe. See Apostle; Bishop; Deacon; Elders; Missions.
Harold S. Songer


debbiekaufman said...

This is so good today Wade. And when scripture is read and interpreted in this manner, the rest of scripture fits together. This is what I believe is meant by "Upon this rock I will build my church."

debbiekaufman said...

BTW this is where emotion comes to play as I get goosebumps just thinking about this wonderful truth.

Jeff said...

Debbie, Don't let the goosebumps get too big. :) B.T. is right about D.A. Carson's view on word history.

missshunary said...

Joe said, "I have a feeling that there are going to be some surprised guys and gals in heaven when they see how many people they thought would never be there actually are."

I understand what you are saying Joe. But I actually think the exact opposite.

I think there are going to be some surprised guys and gals who thought they had done enough to get there, instead of solely depending on the One who did everything.

Joe White... said...


Here are some more things the mythical "Invisible Church" does not have... it has no Discipline, no Organization, no Baptism, no Lord's Supper, no Singing, no Association with sister churches., and no Identity.

What then, you ask, can it do for Jesus Christ? The answer; the same thing that glasses can do for a blind man, that a hearing aid can do for a deaf man, or that gloves can do for a man with no hands.

Our Lord established one Church not two. His one Church body has eyes that can see, ears that can hear, tongues than can witness, feet that can follow, and hands that can give Him glory.

Wade Burleson said...

Baptist Theologue,

You wrote: All the Christians on earth at the present time cannot be assembled. Thus, the universal church is not yet present. It will be present when all the redeemed of all the ages are assembled in heaven.

I am not concerned that all the Christians cannot be assembled at the same time on earth.

My concern is how those Christians who are not part of your "local" Baptist Identity church are treated while on earth.



Wade Burleson said...

Joe White:

You wrote: Here are some more things the mythical "Invisible Church" does not have... it has no Discipline, no Organization, no Baptism, no Lord's Supper, no Singing, no Association with sister churches., and no Identity.

Nobody is speaking of the "invisible church." I am writing about those called out believers. Surely I can disciple a brother in Christ under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, can I not? (the root word of discipline is disciple).

Surely the Lord knows everyone of His sheep by name, so how can you say there is no organization?

Every believer I know has made his profession of faith public through baptism - that is simply obedience to the command of Christ. I know some believers baptized in the Amazon under threat of death, in China in rice paddies under threat of imprisonment, in Bangalesh under threat of house arrest. These believers may not qualify to be missionaries for the IMB because they weren't baptized in a Baptist Identity church, but they darn sure are my brothers and sisters in Christ - so yes, there is baptism.

No Lord's Supper? Are you kidding me? I have had the Lord's Supper in the back roads of India, the deserts of the Middle East, the villages of the former Soviet Union, the homes of Transylvanian Christians. I can guarantee you there is remembering the Lord through the bread and the wine.

No singing? You haven't heard singing until you are in the basement of a home in China where women raise their voices to Christ in song while their eyes fill with tears. Their husbands are either dead or in prison, their families split by the communist government, and though there is no "Baptist Identity" I can guarantee you there is singing among the ekklesia.

No association with sister churches? Good night. Every believer I know in the nations of the world LONGS to fellowship with the ekklesia and will die for a fellow Christian.

No "Identity"? No, Joe, you are mistaken. These believers have an identity - it is found in Jesus Christ.

What they may not have is "Baptist Identity" - but they are the ekklesia.

In His Grace,


Christiane said...

Dear Wade,

Amen. :)

P.S. My word I.D. is
'fasting' rearranged as

Joe White... said...


You say... "Nobody is speaking of the "invisible church." I am writing about those called out believers."

Yes, but you are not talking about a true church. A true church is a called out assembly of believers. A true church has offices, ordinances, discipline, etc. I am sorry, but the word "Church" and "Christian" are not synonymous. Attending a church no more makes you a Christian, than sitting in McDonald's makes you a hamburger (and vice versa).

What you are doing is parroting the call of Ecumenicalism where all believers are a part of the "church". Sorry, I won't be going along on that ride.

Jeff said...

Joe, I am confused by your response. Are you saying there are believers who do not belong to the church aka the body of Christ.

Paul Burleson said...


It's amazing how clear and understandable truths are when all the things read into words and the texts are removed and language is allowed to speak for itself. The divine text can then be heard as the writers, under inspiration, intended.

This has been one of my favorite studies on the Church for a long time. Thanks for giving it a wide readership.

Joe White... said...


Sorry I confused you. No, I am not talking about the "Body of Christ". What we need to distinguish in this discussion is the church present, and the church future. The church present is a called out assembly of believers; (local and visible) with offices, ordinances, discipline, preaching, etc. The church future is the complete body of Christ made up of all believers of all ages, Hebrews 12:23 calls this "the general assembly and church of the firstborn."

The word church means more than "called out ones". It carries with it the idea of assembly. All the Christians of all the ages will one day be called out and assembled and then the church (aka body of Christ) will exist. Right now, the Lord is building His church in that respect. At least that is my understanding, hope that helps.

Darby Livingston said...

Wade said,

"Surely the Lord knows everyone of His sheep by name, so how can you say there is no organization?"

The Bible also speaks of the church in familial terms. What ties children together in a family? Is it not relationship to the parents? The children are related to each other through their parents. So there is an organization revolving around the parents. The children don't have to organize because they already are by nature. Do the children have to be assembled together with a duly appointed leader in order to be part of the family? No. One sibling can be in California and another in Florida and another in China and they're all organized without any effort on their part. They're organized around their parents who may be in a different place than all the children.

Wade Burleson said...


Well said.

Bryan Riley said...

It strikes me that a focus on the local church alone is a focus on the seen, not the unseen; it is a focus on the flesh, not the spiritual. And something strikes me as inherently wrong in that.

bryan riley said...

I would also add to the essay this:

The Eklessia are those who are called out from the Kingdom of the world into the Kingdom of God.

We are called out to represent Christ to a dying world and to be ministers of reconciliation to the Father. We do so by living in the Kingdom of God (and by its principles - by the Spirit of God) rather than living as though the world and the flesh dictates our choices.

Matt said...


Is it just my imagination, or did you just completely sidestep the fact that Baptist Theologue pointed out that you committed an exegetical fallacy?

Quite a cavalier approach you have towards protecting the soundness of your arguments, brother Wade.

I just happen to have an extra copy of D. A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies. Would you like me to mail it to you?

greg.w.h said...

The other extreme of the "root fallacy" is the "ignore the etymology fallacy." Yes language changes over time and connotations become denotations at least for a while. The term ekklesia in koine usage outside of biblical usage supposedly traces to a town crier going through one of the Greek city states and calling for the assemblage of the freed men. If that is true, then the emphasis on the reason for the calling is as important as the emphasis on the gathering.

Similarly, the book of Ecclesiastes takes its name from the Septuagint name for the book. The entire nation of Israel did not assemble for the "preacher" of the book of Ecclesiastes to speak. That usage in translation from Hebrew to Greek predates any New Testament usage and obviously did NOT require a physical assembly. (You could argue that there was a different audience, but remember God inspired EVERY word and the book is in the canon which was also assembled by inspiration and therefore its present audience is at least the historical people of the southern kingdom as well as ALL citizens of the kingdom that is ruled by the son of David.)

What kind of startles me about Joe Blackmon's immediate response is that he acknowledges that there are people who will join him in heaven that he is not willing to extend the hand of fellowship to here on earth. I give you credit for the admission, Joe. I still wonder how you rationalize the effort to comparmentalize them as being different today than they are in heaven. You see, grace teaches us to see them as God sees them when they are completed, not as we see them today. And, pardon Christiane, but grace is sufficent light to see a brother or sister in the faith.

Grace makes the demand, in fact, that we willingly mistake a tare for wheat and leave it in the ground until the time for harvest comes. It is then, not now, that the wheat are separated from the tares and the tares thrown into the lake of fire.

And lest we miss the criteria for separation, Jesus made it plain and clear in Matthew 25: what you have done/not done to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done/not done unto me.

I'm not trying to chide you personally Joe, but you did answer Wade first with a comment and I appreciate the comment. I'd also offer that your central filter for who you're willing to deal with seems to be the comparison to the unrepentant, continuing sin of the homosexual. To the extent that we intentionally reject unity and prefer disunity with other believers, and to the extent that we are obligated by both grace and by faith in Christ Jesus to HONOR his high priestly prayer for unity (or if you prefer to permit God to lead us TO unity through perfection of our knowledge of Christ Jesus), then we may very well be sinning and then continuing in that sin. The same kind of continuing of sin that makes it clear that homosexuals aren't dealing with the Word of God seriously if we are correctly translating and interpreting that Word.

But I'm actually okay with that, believe it or not. I personally believe based on my own life experience around MANY pastors and missionaries that all of them have continual sin that they permit themselves that they never allow rooted out of their life. One of the key sins for most of these leaders is the sin of pride. God is able to use that pride, though, for his own purpose and redeems sin to the purpose of great accomplishments in the Kingdom.

That does not excuse the sin. It redeems it. I look forward to how God redeems our sin of disunity. And I look forward even more to the day when I am no longer and we are no longer sinning at all in any way. Oddly enough, I believe that God's ability to make progress with us on this subject is exactly a matter of our complete, biblical submission not just to God but to one another in love.

I support Wade because he has been the only one in the Convention for the past several years making precisely that argument. And he's exactly right regarding that central premise for all of his actions.

Greg Harvey

Wade Burleson said...


Enjoy your day at Southwestern Theological Seminary.

Of course, anything that absolutely deconstructs your Landmark theology would be called an exegetical fallacy.




P.S. Thanks, but I have Carson's book!

Matt said...


Might I humbly suggest you go back and selectively edit the exegetical fallacy out of this post to make it more accurate? It would be not unlike what you did for your initial post about the impending "Calvinist purge" at SWBTS which you fortuitously prevented.

Chris Ryan said...


Thank you for that comment. If Jesus eyes look on us with grace, let each of us have that same filter.

I can take communion with any body of believers because I know that they are redeemed by the same blood I am redeemed by. One Catholic friend of mine was having difficulty leaving some friends until she was reminded that no matter where they go, on each Sunday they are eating the same body and drinking the same blood. Eucharist language aside, it is so important for us to remember that we are all baptized into the same body and covered by the same blood. The Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, et all. We do not understand God fully, or how we should think and live in light of Him. But I can remember that they are a misunderstood brother for so long as they have Christ for their savior.

B Nettles said...

Baptist Theologue says: The word “ekklesia” clearly includes the idea of an assembly. ...

All the Christians on earth at the present time cannot be assembled. Thus, the universal church is not yet present. It will be present when all the redeemed of all the ages are assembled in heaven.

It appears that B.T. is making the same exegetical fallacy that he cries against by saying that ekklesia is always associated with assembly.

If one is "called out," then one has left one group behind and become part of another group. The groups (unlike the SBC) don't actually have to be assembled in order to exist. Of course, if one wants to say "ekklesia" always means assembly, I suggest a full review of Dr. Carson's book for what you have just claimed.

Wade Burleson said...


There is an old Chinese proverb worth memorizing: He who shouts insults at his opponent as he falls ought remember it's only his opponent who has the ability to help him up.

ml said...

Wade, you cannot build an adequate understanding of ekklesia based on the occurrences and semantic nuances of kaleo in the NT. The LXX uses ekklesia before the NT in reference to the assembly and there are other secular uses of the word to refer to assembly—See BGD. Paul colors the word with tou theou or tou kristou making it a specific kind of assembled group, namely “of God” or “of Christ.” Ekklesia does, however, generally refer to localized, individual groups. This is done through the locative via a preposition and the specific geographic place or, more prominently, by the possessive genitive via a specific geographic location [see for example Rev 2:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; cf., the expansion in 1 Cor, 1:1]. What’s more, Paul also talks about all the churches [plural form of ekklesia] in Macedonia and Galatia and not The Church [singular] of Macedonai or Galatia collectively in 1 Cor. 8:1 and 1 Cor 16:1. John, in Revelation, also uses the plural form when writing to the seven churches in Asia. This seems to speak against the article’s point of a universal called out group in a collective sense as the primary way to understand ekklesia. There simply would never be a need to use the plural form of the word if the contention of the article is correct. 1 Cor 11:16would make little sense if we substituted an erroneous usage of kaleo or “called out ones” to the translation as it would become doubly plural. Interestingly, in Romans 16:1, there is a reference to Phoebe’s church followed by an article that can be taken as a demonstrative pronoun “which” as seen in the NASB. You might argue a better translation is “who;” but, no translation takes that route and several gloss the pronoun altogether which seems to suggest that its presence does not add to the understanding of the word ekklesia in the verse. Nonetheless, we absolutely do need to capture the relational side of ekklesia, since we have rendered it more to refer to buildings rather than the organically functioning assembled group, although in the NT this is still usually localized to a specific place. Against the article and maybe even a better way to understand ekklesia would be to link it to the two Greek words ek and klhsis which means inviting or calling and is closer to the root than kaleo but still has calling inferences to it. Hence the word ekklesia may function more adjectivally about mission of the church in reference to the ministry of reconciliation rather than a description of its genesis as a collective group of called out [separatist] ones.

B Nettles said...

Joe White,

I have never seen a better example of the logical fallacy known as "begging the question" than you gave in you Thu Feb 26, 11:04:00 AM 2009 comment.

You have assumed that your definition of "ekklesia" is correct by assuming you definition is correct.

I believe what Dr. Reisinger's article is saying is that "church" is a poor word to use for "ekklesia" because of 1)historical abuse, 2)multiple usage, and 3)misinterpretation. (A similar situation existed in the Cold War with the phrase "peaceful coexistence." It meant different things to US and USSR.)

When you use the phrase "true church," are you referring to a local group of believers (I use this term to mean one who is definitely "credited with righteousness")? Are they a church ONLY when ASSEMBLED, or are they a church even when they are not ASSEMBLED?

What if a believer assembles with a local group of other believers? Are they part of a church?

I fully believe in the necessity of having local organization, accountability, encouragement, worship, elders, deacons, etc., but to say that that is the only meaning of "ekklesia" is the height of exegetical and logical fallacy.

Wade Burleson said...


It seems to me the article by Reisinger is clear, succinct and speaks for itself. It is also quite convincing because of its simplicity.

What I find astonishing is how simple and profound the Word of God is - but when we get into the doctrines of man (ie. Landmarkism), we must contort, explain, defend, deny, interpret, etc . . .

I'll take the Bible every time.

Wade Burleson said...

B Nettles,

Keep chipping away.

Good thougts.


Baptist Theologue said...

Bill Nettles, you said,

“It appears that B.T. is making the same exegetical fallacy that he cries against by saying that ekklesia is always associated with assembly.”

Nope, let me explain it again. The root fallacy can be illustrated by an extreme case. A butterfly is neither “butter that flies” nor “a buttery fly.” The meaning of the word “ekklesia” does have something to do with its root words “called” and “out of,” but the word’s true meaning is greater than the sum of its parts. I have not committed the root fallacy by saying that the word “ekklesia” is always associated with an assembly.

John Fariss said...

Just a thought, but it occurs to me that those who see the church only as an assembly, i.e., visible and physical, are insisting on looking at something God called into being only through human eyes. In other words: presuppositions, presuppositions, presuppositions! The presupposition under which those seem to be operating is that God looks at things exactly as we do. Scripture tells us differently, however, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," according to Isaiah 55:8. Those of you who understand church solely as a local assembly seem to be insisting that God cannot see things differently from us. And yes, we have this Scripture passage and that one, but your conclusions are deductions from Scripture, not Scripture itself, and there are "exegetical fallacies" possible in that. You--at least some of you--have defined church in terms of an organization: officers, rites, formality, etc., which is to say the least, not what the definition of church implied in 1 Corinthians 12:27 is about ("Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it"). This may well be an personality issue: those with one personality largely see "church" as an organization because that is how they organize and understand the world, while another sees it as an "organism" because that is how they organize their world. To some extent this is generational, although the "lines" here are somewhat vague. I also suggest that you have put your theological cart before the horse. You have determined that there is no church but the local assembly, and now interpret everything about church from that perspective, whether the text supports it or not.

B Nettles said...

ml...sorry, I can't resist...

I guess that means that only the church at Ephesus and Christ is modeled by marriage, (Eph. 5:32), since Paul was writing specifically to the saints who were in Ephesus (Eph. 1:1)

Consider that idea for semi-serious fun, i.e., exactly what "church" is Paul talking about in 5:32?

John Fariss said...

Dear BT,

I have read that what we call a "buttefly" was originally called a "flutterby," which did very aptly describe the insect, or at least one aspect of how people perceived it. The "fl" and "b" sounds were eventually switched because of the resonance in the language, just as "sideburns" were originally called "burnsides" after Union General Ambrose Burnside, who popularized them. So you might want to find a different example.


greg.w.h said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darby Livingston said...

Let's face it, the reason there are so many "local" expressions of gatherings is because of sin and ignorance. Folks are called out of the world and into Christ. They're not called into First Baptist church or Wesley United Methodist church. They're called into Christ. The only reason there's a baptist church and a methodist church from which to choose to associate is because sinful ignorant people don't know how to get along with other sinful ignorant people without giving up the gospel. From Heaven's perspective, there's just the body of Christ, because God doesn't have the sin and ignorance that we suffer from. We Baptists might just be shocked to find out some day that the presby's had it right on baptism. I wouldn't count on it though. :)

B Nettles said...

Okay, maybe not the "root fallacy," but there is still a problem in your argument. I don't have Carson's book here in my office...it's at home...so I can't put his words to it. I would liken it to the root fallacy, that is saying that a Greek word always carries a singular connotation. That's what it appears you've done.

Thanks for the reply.

Anonymous said...

Ditto to what Baptist Theologue said about the root fallacy. Reisinger's argument makes sense if you look only at the individual components of ekklesia; his argument falls apart when you try to apply it to the whole word and its use in both the NT and secular sources. Context is everything, and ekklesia has to be defined by context.

Even Reisinger understands this, with his caveat at the end -- "Nothing I have said rules out the need for an organized local congregation of like-minded Christians, with a constitution, church officers, church discipline, and a lot of other things." Uh, actually his argument does rule out all those things. Those things make no sense if ekklesia means what he says it means. As just one example, Jesus' instruction to "take it to the ekklesia" becomes meaningless when the ekklesia is an amorphous, undefinable blob (well, undefinable by we humans in this life).


Wade Burleson said...


You wrote, Jesus' instruction to "take it to the ekklesia" becomes meaningless when the ekklesia is an amorphous, undefinable blob.

That's absurd.

Read again what Reisinger writes:

Nothing I have said rules out the need for an organized local congregation of like-minded Christians, with a constitution, church officers, church discipline, and a lot of other things. I believe every child of God should be a part of a congregation of Christians and submit to the love and oversight of their brothers and sisters in Christ . . . (At) the most we may say, "The Word of God recognizes that the word ekklesia basically means 'Christians.' Sometimes an apostle will speak of all Christians, the elect, or all of the 'called out ones' of Christ, and other times he may speak of all the Christians, or all the 'called out ones' meeting in a given town or even in a house. However, in both cases the basic meaning of the word ekklesia remains the same. It means 'the called out (ones),' or Christians, in both cases."

Please, don't insult the intelligence of those who actually read the post.

Benji Ramsaur said...

I believe there are instances where the word "ekklesia" cannot mean an assembly when read in context.

Acts 8:1

1And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the CHURCH which was at Jerusalem; and THEY WERE ALL SCATTERED abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Comment: A "scattered assembly" is a contradiction. If one says the word church here means "assembly", then that would mean the assembly was scattered. Hence, a "scattered assemble".

However, if one says the word church here means "called out ones", then it would mean that "people" were scattered. Hence, a "scattered people" and thus no contradiction.

Acts 8:3

3As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Comment: A singular assembly could be found in a singular house. A singular assembly could not be found in houses [plural].

This church [singular] was found in houses [plural]. Therefore, the word "church" here could not have been an assembly.

However, the called out ones [people] could be found in plural houses.

1 Corinthains 14:23

23If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

Comment: A whole assembly does not assemble. A whole assembly is already assembled because it is "already" a whole assembly.

However, "people" can assemble.

God Bless,


Joe White... said...


It seems you may have to add one more caveat to your list concerning the BF&M.

"VI. The Church

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. (Present)

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. (Future)"

**The words "Present" and "Future" are mine, and are not actually part of the BF&M.

greg.w.h said...

Chris Ryan,

Thanks. I think it's interesting that while the Bible speaks of one baptism, all Christians don't practice the same physical baptism. I think, again, grace explains why God permits that. Whether it is disunity or not is a matter of judgment by the only one who is worthy to judge.

That it is present reality should cause us to seriously pause about dividing over matters even as important as the "mode" of the physical baptism. We see such a clear example of how the early church (there was definitely a sense that the Jerusalem church was the elder sister among all of the churches in deciding such matters after all, not "just" the local body) resolved the problem of eating meat sacrificed to idols.

That model seems the best biblical model for resolving peripheral theological and doctrinal nuances/shading. In the case of baptism, for instance, the most important thing is the willing act of obedience as a signal of the public profession of faith. It isn't the method nor is it the bureaucratic result. The baptism by the Holy Spirit is the actual event that seals the believer into heaven with the Holy Spirit acting both as a promise--earnest money in terms of today's home purchase process--and an identifying mark of authority on the believer.

How is the Holy Spirit an identifying mark of authority? Well, when the believer willingly submits to baptism, you see that role of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled. Someone can FAKE the baptism, though, but then the lack of fruits of the Spirit becomes the indication of a counterfeit faith.

And we shouldn't expect all of those gifts to emerge at once being patient for the Holy Spirit to produce them in us just as we are patient for fruit to be produced by a berry bush, by a strawberry patch, or by a tree. I note with great glee for Joe Blackmon's sake that some of the best "fruits"--like pecans--take years for the tree to season. Yet some of the sweetest fruits and occur between the time you plant the patch in late March or early April and it flowers and produces deep, red, sweet strawberries as early as late May or June (thinking Texas timeframes...turns out in Iowa they don't follow the same seasons!!)

Some fruits of the Spirit are a more enduring indication of our faith than others. And through general revelation and general grace every person on the earth might receive some spiritual leadership that causes them to produce real fruit that is not a direct result of baptism by the Holy Spirit. I think all of these thoughts are reasons for wearing our grace-colored glasses all the time in evaluating the fruit of others.

I'm also reminded how Paul repeatedly counseled the elder brothers in the faith to be patient with those that were weaker in the faith. My mom--who if I recall correctly did a Theological Education by Extension programmed instruction module on Romans in Indonesian (she had an MRE/MA in RE from SWBTS)--pointed out to me that Paul might not have been precisely complimenting those elder brothers as much as reminding them that our faith requires us to be conscientious in our relationships with each other. She also pointed out that Paul had a repeated tendency to play two groups that would not get along OFF of each other in order to bring about unity especially on peripheral issues that had kind of become treacherously tall molehills.

If we fully understood how our efforts to clarify often either are or at least appear to be efforts to control, I believe that we would feel obligated to curtail the effort. That kind of leads us back to Christiane's comments about the mysteries of God. I meant to reply to her comment that it is interesting that the Orthodox Church even uses the term "mysterion" to describe what the Catholics call sacraments and what we Baptists usually call ordinances.

Mysterion is the best term. There is nothing magical about baptism or the observance of the Lord Supper from a Baptistic viewpoint. It's exactly and precisely a symbol and an act of obedience. But participating in it is participating fully in the mysteries of God as revealed--but not fully explained--in Christ Jesus. If you don't get shivers up your spine as you read that, you're dead in the (Holy) Spirit. ;)

Greg Harvey

P.S. The body of the comment was prior to ml's comment about plural, local ekklesias. I note the church in Jerusalem had tremendous influence over the local ekklesias as indicated via various NT portions of the discussion of food sacrificed to idols. They were not independent but interdependent a point that Paul also reinforces first by calling for support for the church in Jerusalem and then commending it as well.

That STRONGLY implies it isn't just local despite the use of locatives and plurals. A point I think you'd (ml) would actually acknowledge if you weren't mostly concerned about upbraiding Wade. And Bill dug up the other example before I could get it on electronic "paper".

The ekklesia is systematically both a local and universal phenomenon, both visible and invisible. And that is not a Hegelian, dialectic statement seeking to create "real truth" (or compromise either) through synthesis of partial viewpoints. It's how the Bible presents this truth. Any attempt to avoid one context or the other is, in my opinion, a rejection of inerrancy.

By the way: going back to D.A. Carson's fallacy. I can state as a fact that Hebrew consistently reuses verbs as roots for nouns. So either Carson ignores that etymological history of language or he means something different with his comment. I'd suggest that he means that the etymology provides a meaningful context, but that the actual usage of the word can drift away from that context towards a completely different meaning, i.e. take on a voice, slant, spin, or viewpoint that once might have been merely a connotation as its only meaning.

I don't think Carson's broad statement by itself eliminates viewing ekklesia within a context that includes both the process of calling out and the sense of assembly. But the use of the term ekklesia to ONLY mean a visible, local gathering MUST include the reason for the gathering or the term "mob" becomes a better translation than "assembly."

No one so far has refuted the ineptness of the word church which traces to kyri(a)kon or "lord's house/domicile". That, unfortunately, strongly implies building even more than place. That makes the word church, while truly honoring when the facility is designed to glorify and magnify God, very constraining especially with respect to seeing the community of believers as the only edifice that endures.

Baptist Theologue said...

John Fariss, you said,

“I have read that what we call a ‘buttefly’ was originally called a ‘flutterby,’ which did very aptly describe the insect, or at least one aspect of how people perceived it. The ‘fl’ and ‘b’ sounds were eventually switched because of the resonance in the language, just as ‘sideburns’ were originally called ‘burnsides’ after Union General Ambrose Burnside, who popularized them. So you might want to find a different example.”

I looked up “butterfly” in my Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. Here’s the derivation: “butere butter + fleoge fly, perh. fr. the belief that butterflies or witches in the shape of butterflies stole milk and butter.”

I think my example is still good. If I were not a native English speaker, did not have a dictionary handy, and did not know the meaning of “butterfly” but did know the meaning of “butter” and “fly,” then I might assume that the roots indicate the meaning of “butterfly,” and I would thus fall to the root fallacy.

Joe White... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greg.w.h said...

nJoe White:

The words future and present completely reverse the intention of Article VI of the 2000 BF&M which ACKNOWLEGES that Scripture deals with both views of the "ekklesia". And you're chastising WADE for the Burden of Proof fallacy?

It is unfortunate that your presentation is bolstering the perception that Southern Baptists simply do not care what the Bible says because we only focus on doctrine, theology, and the sales-cycle of evanglism and don't really care about the heart change that we claim has occurred in us because of Jesus saving us and the Holy Spirit sealing us, conforming us to the eikon of Christ Jesus, and creating unity in us by perfecting our knowledge of Christ Jesus.

Our knowledge of Christ Jesus, by the way, is not "what we know". It's what we do and do not do to the least of these his brothers. That's Scripture. Those who mistreat "fellow" believers are goats. And I'll offer that the excuse "I didn't know they were believers" isn't going to carry the day, since Jesus EXPLICITLY rejected it in Matthew 25.

Greg Harvey

B Nettles said...

Joe White,
**The words "Present" and "Future" are mine, and are not actually part of the BF&M.

You have just committed a "Burden of Proof" fallacy by adding your Present and Future opinions to the BF&M without support.

And the burden of proof is on you to disclaim the "begging the question." As you said, the burden of proof is on the affirmative, and I am in the negative on your definition of church. Prove that your definition is correct and exclusive. You made your argument that "church" means "local assembly" by assuming that "church" means "local assembly." I see no rebuttal from you that you didn't do that.

BTW, I like the way you quote this website without giving them credit. Unless you actually wrote the website, someone might accuse you of plagiarism. Be careful!

Actually, a burden of proof fallacy is one side of the "argument from ignorance." the example which you gave of "innocent until proven guilty" is an allowed/required use of the argument from ignorance fallacy which legally places the burden of proof on the prosecution (Introduction to Logic, Copi, 3rd edition, pg 63). Where there is no prescription of burden, there is no burden of proof fallacy, only the argument from ignorance, i.e. "it is argued that a proposition is true simply on the basis that it has not been proved false, or that it is false because it has not been proved true." (Copi).

Neither Wade nor Dr. Reisinger have committed this fallacy as far as I can tell. Dr. Reisinger has offered positive support for his positive definition. You might not agree that his support is sufficient, but he is not making an argument from ignorance.

Your "definition" is circular, therefore is "begging the question." (Copi, pg 116.)

Chris Ryan said...


I agree with you that the model for handling meat offered to idols is a very good model for a great many issues faced by our churches.

The problem is that, for some reason, we all want to be the weaker brothers. We all want people to defer to us. I think that is why there is a small addendum when Paul treats the issue in Colossians from his treatment in Corinthians. He adds to the free brother, "Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink..." While the strong may defer, they should not let what is acceptable for them be spoken of as evil. It should be clear that "I abstain for you sake, until such a time as you too are aware of how free the Gospel makes you."

We want to be the weak because then everyone has to change to accomodate us. But it should be clear that their is every expectation of the weak growing in grace and becoming strong. Accomodation is meant to inspire change in the weaker brother, not demand it of the stronger.

greg.w.h said...

Chris Ryan:

Yes. I think I'm going to print out your comment and put it under my pillow tonight in the hope that osmosis moves it directly and permanently into my brain.

Greg Harvey

ml said...

B Nettles, I am not saying there are no expressions of an "at large" ekklesia, whatever that means. I am saying, there is a preponderance of instances where local expressions and plural designations of ekklesia speak to individual and/or local assemblies of believers in Christ distinct from others similar expressions of assembled gatherers. To be sure, the "in Christ" or "of God" descriptions challenge the landmark expression of church controlled and maintained by hierarchy structures which I am not advocating. I simply believe the deficiency of this article happens from the outset and, therefore, invalidates its conclusions since it tries to understand ekklesia from the semantic nuances of kaleo in the NT as opposed to the actual instances of the word ekklesia and the related contexts.

volfan007 said...

Dr. John McArthur has some wise words concerning 1 Corinthians 1:10 that may apply here. He says that this passage was about the unity of doctrine in the local assembly of Believers, not the spiritual unity of his universal Church.

He goes on to say,"Doctrinal unity, clearly and completely based on Scripture must be the foundation of all Church life. Both weak commitment to doctrine and commitment to disunity of doctrine will severely weaken a Church and destroy the true unity. In it's place, there can be only shallow sentimentalism or superficial harmony."

Wise words.

Kevin M. Crowder said...

Allow me to put this all into perspective. First of all Don Carson is prolly laughing if he is reading. He is saying to himself, "self, I bet none of the spines are broken on the many books these folks say they have...that or they failed to read the parts where I mention the many exceptions to the many fallacies and the grace with which we teach these linguistic truths..."

Secondly, let me use some of the missionaries from Emmanuel, Enid as an example. I find 3 ways to apply the word ekklesia to them. First they are part EBC, a local assembly of believers. Secondly, they are part of a foreign assembly of believers as they work on the field and make disciples. Thirdly, and most importantly, they are part of a "Kingdom Club," a group of people united in Christ, assembled in His name, called out of darkness into His marvelous light.

For the OT scholars among us, liken this concept to Israel/True Israel, and Humanity/The Israel of God(G6:16).

Local expressions are a necessity because of a sinful fallen world. We could not unite if we tried. This is why only in Christ we are one.

© 2009 RevKev

Benji Ramsaur said...

I personally do not have a "commitment" to disunity of doctrine.

I would like to see believers in Christ come to more and more unity in doctrine.

However, I do not believe this unity should come through heavy handedness, but through the body of Christ functioning towards one another in a way that pleases the Head.

A strong commitment to doctrine would also include a strong commitment to the heart of Christ in John 17.

greg.w.h said...

David (Volfan007) wrote:

Dr. John McArthur has some wise words concerning 1 Corinthians 1:10 that may apply here. He says that this passage was about the unity of doctrine in the local assembly of Believers, not the spiritual unity of his universal Church.

He goes on to say,"Doctrinal unity, clearly and completely based on Scripture must be the foundation of all Church life. Both weak commitment to doctrine and commitment to disunity of doctrine will severely weaken a Church and destroy the true unity. In it's place, there can be only shallow sentimentalism or superficial harmony."

Wise words.

Wise words, indeed, but MacArthur is silent on the perspective that once this book became part of the canon, its audience became broader. It now speaks also to the universal church of all believers that is specifically mentioned in Article VI of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

MacArthur very likely is putting a human filter on the problem and concluding that it is impossible from a human perspective to imagine that unity will prevail. I'm sympathetic to that pragmatic viewpoint, but I'd remind everyone that we serve a God with whom nothing is impossible. I'd also point out that MacArthur refers "to all Church life", not the more accurate--if your viewpoint is correct of his position--"to the life of each Church". MacArthur is implicitly demonstrating a sentimentality for a universal church by his choice of wording.

Now why do I care? Because when we as Baptists beget a new church plant, historically we do not actually provide to that church plant autonomy until it is self-supporting. That act alone is proof that there is not only a local ekklesia given that the churches in Asia Minor made no such demand on the church in Jerusalem when they sent support.

I think, though, that overall this is one of the best of David (Volfan007's) comments over the time I've read his comments on various blogs. Thanks, David for the insights and participating in the discussion so amenably. I deeply appreciate it.

Greg Harvey

Joe White... said...

B Nettles,

Thanks for the heads up about the copyright on that website. I really need to be more careful with my citing and should have just gone with the free encyclopedia version. Comment deleted... sorry Dr. Michael C. Labossiere.

Nevertheless, the burden of proof still holds for Wade!

You charge that I made my argument that "church" means "local assembly" by assuming that "church" means "local assembly." I did nothing of the sort. I made an argument that Church does NOT mean Christians, by stating that church means church. :)

The word is ἐκκλησία... ekklēsia
ek-klay-see'-ah... literally it means a calling out, that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation, assembly, church. (see Strongs' Concordance)

You want to talk about a circular argument? Let's apply Wade's definition of church to the events in Acts 2. Those that gladly received his word and were baptized (i.e. the church per Wade's definition) were then added to the church. So the church is added to the church? (See definition of circular in Webster’s Dictionary for this example).

Baptist Theologue said...

Bill Nettles, you said,

“BT, Okay, maybe not the ‘root fallacy,’ but there is still a problem in your argument. I don't have Carson's book here in my office...it's at home...so I can't put his words to it. I would liken it to the root fallacy, that is saying that a Greek word always carries a singular connotation. That's what it appears you've done.”

Carson seems to take that concept a bit far. For instance, I believe that there is great significance in the fact that Jesus asked Peter twice about whether he loved (agapao) Him, and then the third time Jesus used “phileo.” Carson disagrees with me:

“But the question arises whether the well-known exchange between Jesus and Peter reported in John 21:15-17, using the two different verbs, is intended to convey a distinction in meaning, or to provide an example of semantic overlap, of synonymy. . . . For various reasons, I doubt very much that there is an intended distinction.”

D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 52.

The late A. T. Robertson commented on the verse: “Lovest thou me? (phileis me). This time Jesus picks up the word phileo used by Peter and challenges that. These two words are often interchanged in the N.T., but here the distinction is preserved. Peter was cut to the heart (elupethe, first aorist passive of lupeo, to grieve) because Jesus challenges this very verb, and no doubt the third question vividly reminds him of the three denials in the early morning by the fire. He repeats his love for Jesus with the plea: ‘Thou knowest all things.’”

Marvin Vincent also commented on the verse: “Here Jesus adopts Peter's word. Canon Westcott, however, ascribes Peter's use of φιλεω to his humility, and his hesitation in claiming that higher love which is implied in αγαπας. This seems to me to be less natural, and to be refining too much.”

Christiane said...

Lenten Prayer

God of Power and Might,

we praise you through your Son,
Jesus Christ,
who comes in your name.

He is the Word
that brings salvation.

He is the hand
you stretch out to sinners.

He is the way
that leads to your peace.

God our Father,
we had wandered far from you,
but through your Son
you have brought us back.

You gave him up to death
so that we might turn again to you
and find our way to one another.

Chris Ryan said...


The passage in Acts is far from circular, even in the definition of Wade's post.

Those who were outside the community (non-Christians) have now, by virtue of faith and baptism, been added to the community (Christians). It is not saying that the church has been added to the church. It is saying that (for lack of better terms) the initiation rites have been completed and the community of God has been expanded.

Don't read that to mean salvation by works. I don't mean that and I think all of you are intelligent enough to figure that out.

B Nettles said...

Joe White,
You said I made an argument that Church does NOT mean Christians, by stating that church means church. :)

That's about as circular as they come. You just admitted it.

If I said, "The trunk is in the trunk," would that be circular? No. And there are at least 5 ways that the statement works, for the word trunk can refer to one of many different things.

Wade did not say, as you are trying to imply he did, that an individual Christian comprises the total Church. As people become believers, they ARE added to the church, both corporately and eventually locally as they commit to fellowship and worship with other believers in their locale. They also can fellowship and worship with other believers.

I guess I don't understand your reluctance to say that Christians are the parts of the Church, and when the Bible speaks of the church it is speaking of Christians.

B Nettles said...

What? Carson isn't perfect? :) Yeah, I read that and still struggle with it. I like the distinction between agape and phileo, but Carson is right many more times than I, so I have to give him some/much weight.

I don't think you're going to throw Carson under the bus for disagreeing with you (or me.)

So, are you going to stay with Carson as reliable on Greek fallacies or not?

Joe White... said...

B Nettles,

Perhaps I am not articulating my point as well as I should, either that or my sarcasm is not fully expressed by my smiley faces. :) ;)

I have 3 main points of contention and disagreement with this post:

1) The definition of church is wrong. When Reisinger moves from "assembly" to "the called out ones", he has done great harm to the meaning of the word. This was the main point of Baptist Theologue. His point has gone unanswered up until this point, minus of course the diversions you have provided.

2) Because his definition is wrong, his assumption is wrong... "I think it is easy to see that the words 'the called ones' are nothing less than another name for a Christian." The word ekklēsi, as far as I can tell, is never translated as Christians. You get closer when you suggest that... "Christians are the parts of the Church". Nevertheless; the two words are not synonymous, neither in their historical or biblical sense.

3)Because he starts with the wrong definition and make the wrong assumption, his conclusion is wrong... "Dare we say, "I know that Christ, the great Shepherd, has put His mark of grace on you and sealed you with His Spirit. He has unconditionally accepted you as one of His 'called out ones,' however, before we will accept you into this sheepfold, or before we allow you to eat with us at His table, we must put our mark on you also."

This ecumenical conclusion is one that I am not willing to accept. I do not believe it to be Biblical! We are never called to sacrifice truth for unity, rather we should seek to unity around biblical discipleship.

Christiane said...

The connection of Christians to the Lord Christ is illustrated in the Holy Writings.

Paul had been one of the greatest persecutors of Christians UNTIL, he was confronted by the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

Christ didn't ask Paul why he was persecuting His followers.

Instead, Christ asked Paul this,

'Why persecutest thou ME ?'

Christiane said...

"Christians are called to be instruments of God's steadfast and reconciling love in a world marked by various kinds of separation and alienation.
Baptized in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and professing faith in the crucified and risen Christ, we are a people who belong to Christ, a people sent forth to be Christ's body in and for the world.

Christ prayed for this for his disciples:
"May they be one, so that the world may believe."


Ezekiel's vision of two sticks, inscribed with the names of the divided kingdoms of ancient Israel, becoming one in God's hand, is a powerful image of the power of God to bring about reconciliation, to do for a people entrenched in division what they cannot do for themselves.

It is a highly evocative metaphor for divided Christians, prefiguring the source of reconciliation found at the heart of the Christian proclamation itself.
On the two pieces of wood, which form the cross of Christ,
the Lord of history takes upon himself the wounds and divisions of humanity.
In the totality of Jesus' gift of himself on the cross, he holds together human sin and God's redemptive steadfast love.

To be a Christian is to be baptized into this death, through which the Lord, in his boundless mercy, etches the names of wounded humanity onto the wood of the cross, holding us to himself and restoring our relationship with God and with each other."

Baptist Theologue said...

Bill Nettles, you said,

“I don't think you're going to throw Carson under the bus for disagreeing with you (or me.) So, are you going to stay with Carson as reliable on Greek fallacies or not?”

You’re right. I’m not going to throw him under the bus. He’s a “keeper.” I thought that his explanation of the root fallacy that I quoted above was very good.

You’ll notice in the index that Carson referred to Johannes Louw six times. Here’s what Louw had to say about “ekklesia”:

“Though some persons have tried to see in the term εκκλησια a more or less literal meaning of ‘called-out ones,’ this type of etymologizing is not warranted either by the meaning of εκκλησια in NT times or even by its earlier usage. The term εκκλησια was in common usage for several hundred years before the Christian era and was used to refer to an assembly of persons constituted by well-defined membership. In Greek usage it was normally a socio-political entity based upon citizenship in a city-state (see εκκλησια, 11.78). For the NT, however, it is important to understand the meaning of εκκλησια as ‘an assembly of God’s people.’”

Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, vol. 1 (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988), 126.

The above was found under #11.32. Paradoxically, notice the entry under #11.33: “the totality of congregations of Christians—‘church’. . . Mt 16.18.” (Ibid., 127)

I suppose that Louw still sees the assembly concept in “the totality of congregations of Christians.” Still, that concept would not include infants on earth who will die in infancy. Such infants will be included in the universal assembly in heaven made up of all the redeemed of all eras.

By the way, my younger son enjoyed your physics class. Your brother was my favorite teacher at SWBTS.

Christiane said...


God instructs the prophet to take two sticks

and write on one "for Judah and the children of Israel his companions" – i.e. the tribe of Benjamin, which remained attached to Judah even after the split of the kingdom –

and to write on the other "for Joseph the stick of Ephraim and all the House of Israel, his companions".
The latter are the Ten Tribes, because when the kingdom was divided, Jeraboam, who was from the tribe of Ephraim, became king, and accordingly the Ten Tribes were called by the name of Ephraim (verse 16 as explained by RaDaK).

The prophet was to join the two sticks together to make one stick (v 17) to symbolize that in the end of days:

the great fissure that has divided the Children of Israel since the death of King Solomon will be healed, and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who are called the "Jews" (cf. Esther 2:5), will be reconciled with the lost Ten Tribes

and become "one in My hand" (v 19) –

"they shall become ONE NATION before Me" (Targum ad loc.).

Thy Peace said...


Thank you Pastor Wade for the great post. I do not fully understand all the details of the post, but I get the heart of it. For some reason, it gives me great hope and joy.

I read with interest your comment here. Maybe someday in some future posts, you can expand on that comment, especially with your missionary trips to these countries, that would be great. I like the stories. Thanks.

Will said...

I don't have much respect for John Reisinger's theology, especially his position with the NCT.

If anyone is to be worth considered as a solid theological source, it is his brother, Ernest Reisinger.

debbiekaufman said...

david:If my memory serves me, John MacArthur believes in both the Universal church and the local church. He would therefore agree with Wade. I have been listening to John MacArthur for close to twenty years as well as reading his writings. Not that it matters the Bible is the final authority.

Christiane said...


It's me, L's

You wrote this to me:

"And, pardon Christiane, but grace is sufficent light to see a brother or sister in the faith."

When I was writing my 'words of comfort' to Joe, I had in mind the Book of Corinnthians 13 where we are told that, for now, we know only in part.

There is this to think about:

"For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known."
Cor 13:12

That very old story from the Judaic tradition speaks of the coming of light, enough so that we may look into the eyes of another human being, as so, finally, to see and to be able to recognize in him, our brother. This may be the grace you speak of, and surely, Greg, we will all live in that Light when the Day of the Lord comes.

The story from Jewish tradition did not exclude ANY person as one's brother so I think it refers to caring for a stranger as one would care for one's own brother. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I saw that you were writing to Chris about 'mysterion'. Wow.
About your reference of the taking of the bread and wine, I know this: that when Christian people eat of this bread and wine in His Holy Name, even as a memorial, some precious gift of faith is strengthened in them.
And, in this way, they are united to the whole Body of Christ in communion,
and they are blessed,
and they are nourished.
I know this. L's

Ron Phillips, Sr. said...


Just curious then... If you are going to be consistent in your new definition of εκκλεσια, would one not logically conclude that the tithe and offering would NOT go to the local visible church, but to any "called out ones"?

I would venture to guess that your view of εκκλεσια is not that charitable. :)


Ron P.

Chris Ryan said...


Let me risk being a Baptist heretic and ask if the NT tithe is really the 10% check we turn in to appease our consciences or is it something more?

Wade Burleson said...

Ron Phillips Sr.

On the contrary, I believe a Christian should give his money wherever the Spirit of God directs him. If that is the local organization where he meet other Christians, great! If not, who am I to argue with the Spirit.

I have found that when Christians see ministries where the kingdom of Christ being advanced, they give.

Benji Ramsaur said...


I understand what you are saying, but I totally disagree.

My view is that John Reisinger and Jon Zens were two courageous individuals in the 20th century to say that the New Covenant is not anything else but the New Covenant.

I do not believe it was a case that they were so brilliant that they came up with some new theological idea.

I believe it was about courage--simply saying what was there in the Bible all along.

The New Covenant is the new covenant.

God Bless,


gereja said...

Chris Ryan,

Tithing is tax money in OT to finance the temple and Levites. Not anywhere tought in the NT.morimories

Steve said...

(Looking at picture)
Man, you could sure put a mess of hay in that space!
So, what's the big room in your church look like?

Lin said...

"My view is that John Reisinger and Jon Zens were two courageous individuals in the 20th century to say that the New Covenant is not anything else but the New Covenant...

I believe it was about courage--simply saying what was there in the Bible all along.

I totally agree.

And Wade, this was an excellent post.

Rex Ray said...

You state the amount of hay, but I’m afraid Wade is partial to ‘back row’ Baptists because look how much longer the benches are than ‘front row’ Baptists. :)

Huge choir! Seriously: Can they be heard, or are drowned out by the song leader and the organ? And occasionally, is it possible to hear the congregation sing?

Most important; what type of songs are sung? But that question is big enough for another post.

BTW, I learned a lot from this post. Thanks

Thy Peace said...

Off Topic:

Pastor Wade, if this comment is out of bounds, please delete it. Thanks for your forbearance.

Fbc Jax leadership has extracted their pound of flesh.

FBC Jax Votes on Blogger Resolution Brought By Trustees

"The Anti-Criticism Doctrine" of FBC Jacksonville

This is the "Biblical Pattern" for Church Discipline?

EFF: Bloggers' Rights

Chilling Effects Clearinghouse

Wade Burleson said...

Thy Peace,

I am contemplating a post about FBC Jacksonville. I have it half written, butI will not publish it until I personally call Pastor Mack and his wife Debbie, because it involves them both.

One of these days leaders will become smart and recognize that the most effective way to deal with anonymous attacks is to IGNORE them.

If and when I write about my experiences with the Brunsons, it will not be anonymous.



greg.w.h said...


I indeed recognized that you were alluding to Paul's comment about seeing through a glass darkly/dimly. And I understood where you were coming from. I loved the story that you shared with us! I hope you don't see me as chastising you for that story.

I believe the grace that I speak of, though, is available to us right now. It is a choice we make to extend grace to others as the Father has extended grace to us through the Providence of Jesus Christ as the single, complete sacrifice for our sin and the vessel of reconciliation between us and the Father. You know all of this and you speak graciously of it when you write! The mystery of which you speak--that we are united when we eat of this bread and take of this cup--is true unity regardless of the ritual we wrap that action in or the theological speculation that is wrapped around the ritual.

Grace is a choice. When it is continually made as a choice, it becomes a mark of character of the being that chooses it. Disunity is the exact, polar opposite of grace. And if God were to have chosen not to be graceful, as we often do with other Christians in the name of doctrinal consistency and purity, we would all be tares headed towards the great lake of fire.

God have mercy on our souls so that he never chooses to spit us out of his mouth for being such clumsy, graceless children of the King. And may our recognition of that specific mercy transform us into being vessels of mercy as much for believers as we claim to be for unbelievers.

We choose whether or not to reflect the character of God when we make a choice. And if we choose to reflect the character of God often enough, we become conformed to the eikon of Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit, of course, is there in every single choice cheering us on along with that great cloud of witnesses!

Greg Harvey

Christiane said...


Thank you for responding.
It's me L's/Christiane.

I can see a parallel in how you speak of the gift of grace and how we speak of being able to hear with our spirit when we are called, and our ability to respond with our spirit to that calling.
It is indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit for us to be able to silence the noise of the world around us and listen for the still, small Voice of the Lord that comes, so powerfully, that we are able, then, to hear.

I was surprised by Wade's use of 'ekkesia' which in my faith, we call 'ecclesia'.

I didn't know that Protestants understood about the Body of Christ in that way.

This understanding may then reframe the idea of practicing 'exclusion' in ways that violate that understanding.

If this is possible, among the ones in a 'visible church' who have been 'called out' then healing of a visible church's wounds can begin through the cooperation of the ones who understand. This would be a healing at the deepest level of a Christian community, honoring the One in Whom we have our unity.
There is such a need to let go of 'pride', to say 'I'm sorry I hurt you', and to embrace the 'other' as a brother.
It was our 'pride' put up all the barriers between ourselves and God and ourselves and each other.
In the Presence of the Holy One, we see it is Christ at our center: the Repairer of the breach,
through Him, what was once beyond our grasp, is now within our reach.

Greg, you are from a missionary family, so you know the importance of 'ekklesia' and its unity:
with Him
and in Him
and through Him,
'that the world may believe'.

greg.w.h said...


Amen. When you speak of Protestants understanding Christ's Body that way, it prompts two separate responses from me:

1. From a liturgical and ritual perspective, Protestants generally do not agree with the doctrine of transubstantiation where the elements become the physical body. Lutherans are the closest with the doctrine of consubstantiation. Baptists teach that it is a mere ordinance or ceremony whose substance is purely symbolic but whose result is obedience. This is how we (supposedly) treat both baptism and the Lord's Supper. That was what I was getting at by the difference in both the ritual around the act of obedience and the theological speculation that is wrapped around the ritual.

2. Baptists aren't organized into a unified Bride from a human organizational perspective. There is no international church, no national church (except Paige Patterson's claim that Southwestern is a church, but I think he properly allowed that claim to take advantage of the American view of separation of church and state), and no regional church. We use the term church to only refer to the local body that typically has the same group of people who regularly meet, traditionally in the same location week after week. Traditionally that local body also eventually builds a building that is also referred to as either a church or a church building.

So we have no meaningful structure for ensuring doctrinal consistency other than the association can disfellowship member churches and the state and national conventions can reject gifts and thereby also refuse seating of members at the annual convention meetings.

So when we talk about a universal body of Christ, it is completely "virtual" rather than physical and there is no equivalent bureaucratic structure unlike in Catholicism, Orthodox practice, Lutheranism, and the Anglican national bodies. But our Baptist Faith and Message acknowledges that the Bible refers to a universal Bride/Body/Church.

Because I am from a missionary family, it is true that I received an earlier understanding of the necessity of unity of the Body of Christ. We served with many missionaries of other groups. When my parents were in language school, my siblings attended a C&MA (private) school that was in fact a boarding facility for their elementary age children. In Madiun where we lived there was a family from Germany serving on mission with a mission society based in Europe. We fellowshipped with these folks regularly family to family.

Strangely enough (everyone should enjoy the irony of this), it was the Minister of Religion, though, that enforced harmony within the nation as a whole regarding where missionaries could serve IF I recall correctly. They often would deny permits for groups to go into areas where other missionaries already were serving.

I sometimes think we as Christians are too fatalistic over our inability to love each other and create peace among the faith traditions. As I noted before, with our God nothing is impossible.

Greg Harvey

Dienekes said...

I think a lot of the legalism vs. unity argument has parallels to Jesus' parable of the prodigal son and his elder brother.

I also see the prodigal/elder brother scenario in this issue of local vs. universal church. The elder brother's faithfulness to the father is clearly laudable, but he was castigated for his self-righteousness and exclusionism. Similarly, no one should deny the great worth of meeting with a local assembly of believers with all the biblical benefits that brings. But we all, I think, stand ourselves up for judgment when we fail to embrace everyone whom He has redeemed as brother and sister.

I am becoming increasingly aware that my understanding of God is directly related to my "prodigal" years. And I am strangely almost thankful. Not that I wouldn't take all the sin back if I could, and all the hurt I caused, but I am amazed that God has used all of that now to let me understand His heart in a way that I never could have otherwise.

Prodigals understand the heart of the Father experientially in a way that elder brothers do not.

And the shock of the Father's embrace of a worm like me causes me to look with grace-filled eyes
at every other thieving, scheming, obnoxious sinner whom my Father adopts as my new brother.

The trick is in realizing that we're all prodigals. None of us has a monopoly on sonship or daughtership. It's not of us. He's the Adopter.

Christiane said...

Hi Greg,

Thank you so much for sharing those insights about your missionary family's experiences.
We had, in our family, a missionary, now of blessed memory, who gave his health in the service of the Lord Christ in South America.
I am particulary devoted to helping those in the missionary field, in memory of that good man, who never gave a thought for himself.

When I spoke of 'ekklesia' and of 'the Body of Christ', it was not in the sense of the Lord's Supper, but rather in what some refer to as 'the mystical Body of Christ' as described in the Holy Writings.

And who are the 'ekklesia' ?
Were they the ones who answered long ago when they heard Him say,
'Come, follow Me." ?

Are they the ones who hear His Voice today, as He beckons to us from the slums of our cities and from the nursing homes, from the jails, the rehabs, the food banks and soup kitchens, and those places where children must live and where we wouldn't be caught dead?

Who are the 'ekklesia'?

I think they must be the ones who hear His Voice and who respond.

What binds this 'ekklesia' together?
Like little canine Bella and the much larger pachyderm Tara,
this 'ekklesia' must share a bond of love and trust strong enough to overcome the pitiful limits of doctrinal divisions. L's

Anonymous said...

from J. Vanier

"So Jesus begins to make the passage:

from the One who is healer

to the One who is wounded;

from the Man of compassion

to the Man in need of compassion;

from the man who cries out:

‘If anyone thirsts let him come to me to drink,’

to the man who cries out:

‘I thirst.’

From announcing the good news to the poor,

Jesus becomes the poor.

He crosses over the boundary line of humanity

which separates those whose needs are satisfied

from those who are broken and cry out in need."

"The Call to Wholeness in the Body of Christ:

He came to transform fear into trust,

so that the walls separating people into enemies

would disappear,

and we could join together in a covenant of love,

‘So shall we fully grow up into Christ,

who is the head,

and by whom the whole body

is bonded and knit together,

every joint adding its own strength

for each individual part to work according to its


so the whole body grows until it has built itself up in


Yes, this is the vision of Jesus for our world

announced by St Paul:

one body –

with the poorest and weakest among us at the heart,

those that we judge the most despicable, honoured;

where each person is important

because all are necessary.

His body, to which we all belong

joined in love,

filled with the Spirit.

This is the kingdom."

From 'The Broken Body',
by Jean Vanier

Kevin M. Crowder said...

"I was surprised by Wade's use of 'ekk[l]esia' which in my faith, we call 'ecclesia'."

L's, it is obvious to me that your tradition just "C's" the church differently than do we Baptists.


Christiane said...


I love it ! L's

Anonymous said...


Just to share: if I prayed in one of the four liturgical and patriarchal rites of my Church that have Greek for the liturgical language, then 'ekklesia' would be used.
But ALL the liturgical rites of my Church have traditionally prayed the 'Kyrie Eleison' in Greek or in the vernacular, so, yes, I CAN say that I have said this particular prayer in Greek. L's

knnuki said...

Eklessia is used in the NT to describe the "churches of the Gentiles" (Ro 16.4), the "whole church" (Ro 16.23), The church in Corinth (I Cor 1.2), the church in Corinth (II Cor 1.1), etc. Where were the addresses, locations of these churches? We assume there was not only one assembly of believers in Corinth or in the are of Macedonia. Scripturally, there's no way the word eklessia was always used to describe one assembly with a specific location. Scripture uses the word more widely than this! For what it's worth, knnuki

D Anderson said...

Interestingly, churches are never said to be "planted" but rather persons are added to it. Likewise, no person is said to be a "church planter."

Is that really significant? Maybe.

The house metaphor should offend no one, imo. The prophets and OT historians repeatedly referred to particular groups as a house.

Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: Jeremiah 2:4