I came across this video through several different sources. I found it interesting, since intellectual history has always been one of my major interests.
Understanding the Biblical Teaching about “Ekklesia” (Church)
The English word “church” has a range of meanings that are different from the basic meaning of the Greek word “ekklesia” from which it is translated. The English word can mean 1. a building, 2. an organization, 3. a specific kind of Sunday event, 4. and all believers everywhere. The core meaning of the Greek word “ekklesia” is “gathering” or “assembly.” In the New Testament usage, it refers to any gathering of God’s people for mutual edification and growth through devotion to the apostles teaching, fellowship, prayer, worship and other activities (Acts 2:42). The early church met primarily in homes, but “ekklesia” refers to any “gathering” for mutual edification and growth, whether large or small.
What we learn from this is that biblical “ekklesia-church” is not a building or an organization, or even a specific large gathering on Sunday, but rather any gathering for mutual edification. Thus, small group gatherings in homes for Bible study, prayer and community are “ekklesia-church” just as are large group gatherings in larger spaces.
What are the key elements of Biblical church?
There is wide agreement that Acts 2:42-47 provides a summary of the key elements, marks and priorities of biblical church. Tim Keller and John Stott summarize them in virtually the same way. Tim’s list is the following.
1. Vibrant Worship
2. Intimate, Exciting, Loving Fellowship and Community
3. Teaching With Theological Depth
4. Effective Communication of the Gospel (Evangelism)
5. Compassionate Social Concern
Some Observations About Large and Small Gatherings
The first three elements listed above are primarily the activities of the in-gathered church for mutual edification. The next two elements have to do with the church’s mission in the world.
1. Worship and Prayer
Many feel that vibrant worship is best done in larger gatherings. Large gatherings permit many voices raised in joyful song, and permit a number of musicians to lead the worship. On the other hand, “worship” is not limited to “singing,” and some aspects of worship can be engaged in easily alone or in small group settings.
There is a growing consensus that genuine community can only be achieved by means of smaller group gatherings. How do you “bear one another’s’ burdens” in large gatherings? How can you practice the many “one another” commands in the New Testament? During a typical large group gathering, there is virtually no interaction between the participants, and many leave as soon as the service is over. A time for coffee and doughnuts and small talk after the worship service simply does not get at the depth of “shared life together” signified by the word “koinonia” and described more fully throughout the New Testament.
3. Devotion to the Apostles’ Teaching
Many understand this element from Acts 2:42 to be embodied in a Biblical “sermon” at large group gatherings. But the New Testament concept of “devotion to the apostles’ teaching” includes more than just listening to a sermon, especially in our current age. Since the invention of the printing press, believers have had personal access to the Word of God in a way the earliest believers did not. Devotion to the apostle’s teaching can take the form of reading Scripture, studying it, memorizing it, meditating on it, group discussion of the meaning of Biblical texts, discussion of personal and practical life application of Biblical texts, etc. It is obvious that some of these activities are best accomplished alone, or in a small group setting. The phrase “devotion to the apostles’ teaching” also carries with it the sense of faithfully putting the teaching into practice.
Tim Keller’s 5 clues that point to the existence of God in his book The Reason for God:
Clue 1: The Mysterious Bang — Either God created the universe, or it “just happened” – and both require faith.
Clue 2: The Cosmic Welcome Mat — This clue is also called the anthropic principle (or fine-tuning argument), which recognizes that humans could not exist in any other universe than this one. If any of this universe’s constants were different, we would not be around to observe them.
Clue 3: The Regularity of Nature — Continued regularity is a matter of faith. There is nothing guaranteeing the universe will be here tomorrow, or that it will operate according to all the cycles we’ve been observing throughout the years, with all its laws.
Clue 4: The Clue of Beauty — “We may, therefore, be secular materialists who believe truth and justice, good and evil, are complete illusions. But in the presence of art or even great natural beauty, our hearts tell us another story. … regardless of the beliefs of our mind about the random meaninglessness of life, before the face of beauty we know better. … Isn’t it true that innate desires correspond to real objects that can satisfy them? … Doesn’t the unfulfillable longing evoked by beauty qualify as an innate desire? We have a longing for joy, love, and beauty that no amount or quality of food, sex, friendship, or success can satisfy. We want something that nothing in this world can fulfill,” (134-135).
Clue 5: We Trust Our Belief-Forming Faculties — The belief that all of our beliefs and values are naturally selected and not to be trusted—is not to be trusted. The fact that we do trust our belief-forming faculties is a clue to God.
This is an excerpt of the summary found in this post.
This is part 3 of my notes and comments on Tim Keller’s talk on The Sufficiency of the Gospel in a Postmodern World.
Part 1 is here.
2. Gospel Realizing.
In Jonah 2:9 he says “Salvation is of the Lord.” Some say this is the whole message of the Bible. Didn’t Jonah know that? Yes, but he did not fully grasp it. We really haven’t begun to understand the gospel. It is a life-long process.
Religion is – I obey, therefore I am accepted. The Gospel – I am accepted, therefore I obey.
The Gospel is scary because we are not in control. There is nothing God cannot ask of you.
The self-worth of many ministers is tied to attendance. If your self worth is tied to anything but God, you do not understand the gospel.
We are like Coke machines- the money has gone in but the pennies have not dropped. God has to pound us to get the pennies to drop.
From studying revival, he learned that revival is when the pennies drop for a whole group of people. It is when the wonder of the gospel is understood, and lives become radiant.
From The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard:
Two Harmful Myths
Unfortunately, a number of myths associated with this part of disciple training on behalf of Jesus are now dominant. One is the idea that questions about God as creator have recently been conclusively settled in the negative by the progress of “scientific knowledge,” and that nothing of significance can be known of God from examining the order of nature — or anything else there may be.
One hundred years ago, by contrast, the general assumption was that those questions had been settled in the positive: God was regarded as manifestly present in nature. These positive answers were routinely taught as knowledge in schools at all levels, and the few dissenters were heard. No doubt the dissenters often were not treated with dignity.
Now the pattern is almost exactly reversed. But just as the positive answers in earlier times were sometimes based more on readiness to believe then on accurate thinking — though there was really no need for that — so the negative “answers” that now dominate our culture are mainly based on a socially enforced readiness to disbelieve. And those negative answers, which find no God in nature, really do need help from social conditioning.
As I said earlier in a similar connection (chapter 3), absolutely nothing of substance has changed in the last century or more with regard to the basic issues about God, the world, and the human self. [Footnote 11*] In this type of book we can only state that the reasons for believing God is the creator, which were good reasons in other years still are good reasons, and in training the apprentices of Jesus we should present them thoroughly and carefully, updating them in any way appropriate.
To understand why the negative prejudice is so strong now, just reflect on how the entire system of human expertise, as represented by our many-tiered structure of certification and accreditation, has a tremendous vested interest in ruling God out of consideration. For, if it cannot do that, it is simply wrong about what it presents as knowledge and reality — of which God is no part. As we noted earlier, God currently forms no part of recognized human competence in any field of knowledge or practice.
*Chapter 9, Footnote 11: The technical discussion of “Intelligent Design” in nature is currently at a very exciting and intellectually profitable boil. See Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box (New York: The Free Press, 1996).
Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, pp. 330-1.
In footnote 8 in Chapter 9, Willard directs readers to his essay “Language, Being, God, and the Three Stages of Theistic Evidence,” in Does God Exist, edd. J. P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990, pp. 196-217. This is now online, and I have provided the link.
This is part 2 of my notes and comments on Tim Keller’s talk on The Sufficiency of the Gospel in a Postmodern World.
Part 1 is here.
Six point approach to communicating the gospel in a post-modern society.
The first 3: 1. Gospel theologizing 2. Gospel realizing 3. Gospel urbanizing.
1. Gospel Theologizing
Jonah 1:1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, “Go to Nineveh and preach.” Keller used to think that the gospel was the basics, and theology was the advanced stuff. Now he sees that all theology has to be an exposition of the gospel.
Mark Thompson has a book called Clear and Present Word about the clarity of the Word in a postmodern setting. He comes up with a view of human language that is gospel-based. It is based on the trinity. The goal of God speaking is divine saving action. Human language is an imperfectly utilized gift from God. The whole purpose of language is gospel.
Every part of our theology has to be an exposition of the gospel.
We also have to bring theology to bear on the gospel. Keller has not seen a gospel presentation that really addresses postmodern people.
The older ones (four spiritual laws) were: God, sin, Christ, faith. They got across grace not works, but there was no story arc. Systematic theology but no biblical theology. As a result, they were individualistic and almost consumeristic. The idea of the Kingdom of God was not there. The lordship of Christ over all of life is not part of them. It does not follow on from them.
When you go to the emerging church, the post-liberal church, it is all about the kingdom. The redemption story is there. We had a world that we wanted, lost it, Christ has created a people, brought the kingdom. Now you need to be part of God’s kingdom program which is going to heal the world of injustice. Emphasis on corporate, not individual, but you lose the emphasis on grace v. works and substitutionary atonement. In the end it is kind of a liberal legalism.
We need to develop user-friendly gospel presentations that merge both so that people can grasp it rather quickly and easily. But there has to be a process.
Comments to follow.
I am meditating on 1 John 4:7-21 this week.
Perfect loves casts out fear. The following is the NASB with links to the Greek Lexicon at Crosswalk.com.
- 1Jo 4:16
- We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
- 1Jo 4:17
- By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
My thoughts on “good fear” and “bad fear” will follow in another post.
The full lectionary for this day is here.