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Ekklesia--The Called Out

January 01, 2006

This sermon was presented before the Load, Kentucky, Church of Christ, on January 01, 2006. It is my heartfelt belief that not only all members of the Churches of Christ, but also all who profess Christianity, would greatly benefit from a better understanding of God's called-out assembly.  Bernie Parsons

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Called Out

By Bernie Parsons

January 01, 2006

On this first day of a new year, I wanted to investigate something that we all so often take for granted--that is, the origin of the Lord's church, and what it means to us.

First, it is good to take a careful look at the word church, as words so often define how a thing is understood or perceived. The English word "church" is said to have derived from the Greek, "kyriakos", meaning "of the lord". This may well be why so many refer to a building as the church. If one uses the expression, "house of the Lord", as many do when referring to the building, it can also easily be called the "church house", or "house of the Lord".

Sadly, the Greek word used in the Bible that has been translated into the King James Version of the Bible is an entirely different word, and therefore should not have been translated "church", or "kirk", as the Scottish call it. The Greek word under discussion is "ekklesia", and most agree that it is best translated as "called-out assembly", although a few will argue that it should merely be translated,

With this understanding, when we see the Biblical expression "church of God" in the New Testament, we understand it to be saying the "called-out assembly of God".

Acts 20:28: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."

1 Corinthians 1:2: "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:"

If you substitute the expression "called-out assembly of God" in place of "church of God", it makes more sense, and you will have the true meaning of each verse, leading to a much better understanding of it.

Furthermore, when we read in:

Matthew 16:18: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

we can now recognize it as saying, "Upon this rock I will build my called-out assembly".

Of what does this called-out assembly consist? What makes it unique—apart from—any other called-out assembly? Some in the Churches of Christ say that the denominational groups ought not be called churches. If we understand "ekklesia" to mean "called-out assembly", then we have to admit that these other groups are indeed "called-out assemblies", or churches, if you will.

Here is an important distinction: from what were they called out, who called them out, and why were they called out? The denominational churches were called out of various practices, such as Roman Catholicism, or doctrines and practices of Protestant groups with whom they disagreed. They were called out by preachers, orators, and writers of their distinctive religions. Why were they called out? They were called out because their leaders did not agree with the practices held by the parent religious body. In the strict sense, then, they are "called-out assemblies" of their respective bodies.

The denominations hold to various creeds and confessions that have been set forth by men at various points along the past two-thousand years, in order to qualify, certify, and confirm the beliefs of individuals within those certain groups. They wanted to ensure that every member believed the same thing as regards certain points of doctrine. The result was many denominations with differing standards of qualification.

What of the called-out assembly of God--the one bought by the blood of Jesus, and which is sanctified through believing Him? From what was it called out, by whom, and for what purpose? It was called out of the world of superstition and pagan idol-worship.

Some are confused by Stephen’s reference to the church in the wilderness. They think that the word church refers to only one called-out group—the one established by Jesus Christ.

Acts 7:38: "This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:"

Substituting the phrase "called-out assembly" clearly indicates that Stephen was speaking of the Israelites. Abraham was first called out of his father's house, and later the Israelites were called out of Egypt. They were separated from the idol worshippers. Realize the parallel between that called-out assembly, and the ones that Jesus called out of the world.

Deuteronomy 4:5: "Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6: Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7: For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?

8: And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?"

Ezekiel 5:5: "Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.
6: And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them.
7: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye multiplied more than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you;
8: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will
execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations."

Israel was called out of the pagan, idol-worshipping nations to be a light to them, to show them what it is like to serve the true and living God. After Israel turned from God to serve those same idol gods, He determined to use them as an example to the nations as to what happens to those who do NOT serve the true and living God.

Isaiah 49:6: "And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth."

It was God's intention that the Israelites, whom He had called out of the world, to be a light to the world. Israel failed in this regard, breaking this first covenant with God, who then called out of the world a new people, which was to be a light to all the nations.

2 Corinthians 6:14: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15: And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16: And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18: And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

What Paul is saying is that God's people--those who listen to and obey Him--are sanctified. Sanctify comes from a root word that means to "set apart". That is why that the Apostle Paul wrote that the followers of Christ are not to be partakers of idol worship. They are to separate themselves from the idol-worshippers, and worship only the true and living God. Does this sound familiar? The called-out assembly under the old covenant was to be a separate people, and was not to participate in worship of false gods and idols.

John 17:13: “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
14: I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15: I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16: They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18: As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19: And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."

We are sanctified, or set apart, when we hear, believe, and obey the truth of God. The called-out assembly of God is set apart through faith in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 6:9: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10: Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11: And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

Washed by the word of God; washed in the blood of the Lamb of God; washed in the waters of baptism, we are separated from the world, sanctified to be a light to the world.

Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26: That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."

2 Thessalonians 2:13: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:"

2 Timothy 2:19: "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
20: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
21: If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work."

Hebrews 2:9: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
10: For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
11: For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
12: Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee."

The set apart are one with Him who sets us apart. As the Apostle Paul says, we are the body of Christ. We are to remove sin from our lives, for we are the called out assembly of God, and of Jesus Christ. That is what means to be “the church”, and to be sanctified. We are the body of Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul wrote.

Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19: For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20: And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

1 Corinthians 12: 24: “For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
25: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26: And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27: Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

As Christ is blameless and without spot, so must His body be. We must let our lights shine, as a city set on a hill that cannot be hid, or as a candle is placed on a candlestick for light to the whole room. Or, as we might likely say today, as a light bulb placed in a floor lamp or a ceiling fixture, to give light to the whole room.

That is what it means to be the church of Christ—His ekklesia, His called-out assembly, and His body here on earth. We are here to light the way for those who are trapped in the darkness of sin and ignorance. We must always let our lights shine by loving God with all of our being, and by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.



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