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Archive for the ‘Scripture’ Category

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.

2. Fellowship/Community/Koinonia

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.

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Five Marks (or “Vitamins”) of a Renewed, Vital, Revived, and Dynamic Church

From the sermon:

Blueprint for Revival; Introduction 2
From the series: Revival
by Dr. Timothy J. Keller
August 5, 1990
Acts 2:37-47
Duration: 41:01

5 things:

1.  Vibrant Worship

2.  Intimate, Exciting, Loving Fellowship and Community

3.  Teaching With Theological Depth

4.  Effective Communication of the Gospel (Aggressive Evangelism)

5.  Compassionate Social Concern

Keller lists these things at the 10 and 19 minute marks in the sermon.

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I hope to supplement this post in the near future.

     

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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.
1Jo 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.  

 

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My thoughts on “good fear” and “bad fear” will follow in another post.

The full lectionary for this day is here.

         

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With the demise of Zhubert.com for copyright reasons, we desparately need a reliable version of the Greek New Testament that is available to all online with no unreasonable copyright restrictions.

Leave a comment here if you are interested in helping or are aware of efforts to create one already.

     

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They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Acts 2:42, NIV.

The early believers “devoted” themselves to several things.  What kind of devotion is involved here?  Here is the lexical entry for “proskartereo,” which will give you an idea of the semantic field (range of meaning) of the Greek word:

  • to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one
  • to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing
  • to continue all the time in a place
  • to persevere and not to faint
  • to show one’s self courageous for
  • to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly
  • It is worth meditating on what this means for each of the things to which they devoted themselves.

    Does devotion to the apostles’ teaching mean simply listening to a sermon once a week?  How do we apply this today?  Could it include reading, study, meditation, memorization, discussion, dialogue, pondering, self-examination and application?  Does it mean going deep or staying shallow?

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