It is advisable, to read Parts 1 and 2 (even if to just refresh your memory) before reading Part 3. While they can stand as independent studies, they are interrelated and therefore, one clarifies another.
The other side of this coin is that of those who believe the “ekklesia” is a group of individuals called to step up as the leaders of the modern global church and create something new from what has been handed to us. In fact, some are more radical than this and seem to believe that not only are they to rule and reign, but are not of the church at all (rejecting the word church altogether) and setting up a society which secedes from the world's society and accepts Jesus Christ as their only ruler.
The claim is that the First Century apostles left an example in building the Body of Messiah by way of “Christian Communities”. The most extreme example I could find of this particular perspective was from a public website from an organization apparently known as “Aggressive Christianity*”. In their article on “Ekklesia” they lay out a very different picture. They believe the apostles of the First Century were establishing communities and NOT churches at all. They cite the body of believers having all things in common of Acts 2:44. There is merit to this particular cite, in that it does seem as though there was a commune of sorts being established. Let's examine the story from the Word.
Acts 2:42- 47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
It really does appear as though the writer(s) of the
above mentioned article could be onto something.
Let's further examine their perspective before coming to any conclusions though. They further express that the apostles were establishing these communes everywhere they went. They also state, as if fact, that the success of these preachers was creating a stir because the communities were seceding from the Roman Empire and claiming Yeshua Himself as their governing leader.
Where is the Scriptural proof of such a plot?
While I can concede to the appearance of some measure of truth in what the author(s) say, I cannot conclusively say their entire narrative is accurate. It would seem, on the surface at least, that the apostles may have been trying to secede from Roman rule in order to establish the rule of the Kingdom of God upon the believers of the earth, but the one thing which almost immediately pops into my head is “Then why didn't Yeshua just let the people exult Him into a place of ruling and reigning?"; as was likely Judas' agenda. Judas may have even thought betraying Him might force Yeshua's hand. Judas was a Zealot; a sect of Judaic society which, at the time of Christ, were actively looking to find a leader who could rally the people against the Romans as the Maccabees had when they finally overthrew the Greeks following repeated failures. Yeshua was just such a charismatic and authoritative figure. It is noteworthy to include here that Barabbas, the man the people chose for release from crucifixion over Yeshua, at the prompting of the priests, was a Zealot also.
Perhaps the priests thought that they could get rid of their problem (Yeshua) and still have a patsy of a leader (Barabas) capable of rallying the people to overthrow the Romans, then they could be in full control of the nation of Israel. It obviously didn't take much to convince the crowd to turn on Yeshua. After all He's offended many of His followers by telling them they'd have to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood to be His followers. His point was that as the forefathers had eaten manna from heaven and died, it was just a foreshadow of His coming in the flesh. That to have eternal life, they would need intimate and personal relationship with Him and not follow just for what He could do – specifically the miracles of healing, turning water into wine, feeding thousands with a few fish and bread, etc. He may very well have discerned that in their hearts they were desiring Him to become a Kingly figure to help overthrow the Roman oppressors.
William Tyndale is a central figure (as mentioned before) who could have shed light on this subject of the ekklesia/ecclesia during his short but powerful life. He was an expert in Biblical Greek and became and expert in Biblical Hebrew via rabbis who tutored him while he was literally running for his life from "The Church" and King Henry VIII. For now, let's consider that he refused to translate ekklesia as church except in two places of his translation work of the 'New Testament'. In the remainder of his NT work Tyndale* translated 'ekklesia/ecclesia' as "congregation" - the same was usually used by the sixteenth century reformers instead of "church.".
If the word 'church' indeed does not come from the word ekklesia/ecclesia; if it truly comes from the word used to name the Circular arenas in which early believers in Yeshua HaMashiach were martyred for their faith, and if the association of the customary meetings of early believers sitting in circles, is the only reason which can solidly connect the modern meeting place of believers with the word 'church'; then WHY would we want to continue in such a custom? To coin a phrase which has come to represent absurd observations - "I mean SERIOUSLY?!?!".
I am no advocate of the views of the above mentioned perspective. I will say though that while they have obviously carried their views to extremes, they are the furthest extreme of this particular point of view. The concept presented at the start of this chapter is obviously about as far as one can go in the opposite direction from the idea of the "church" being the ekkelsia/ecclesia.
Now that we have covered the two extremes customarily taught in various Christian spheres of influence, let's begin diving into a research of the history of the use of the word ekklesia and see where it takes us. Then, by examining the information we have, considering the cultural context of the First Century believers...
...perhaps we can discover exactly what the ekklesia is, what God's intention for the ekklesia is, and where each of us may fit into it.
<<<<< Shortcut to Part 4