The Ekklēsia – The Called Out Ones
One of the most important aspects of the church is the understanding that Christians are called out of the world to live lives dedicated to God and His vision for the church. If this point is not clearly understood, nothing else that the church does will have any meaning. Let us now look at our call to be a separate people, going back all the way to the beginning of time. God is jealous for us because He created us for Himself. Paul experienced this jealousy himself :
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2
It is always good, in any Bible study, to go to the first mention of a topic. Of course, the first time that “church” is mentioned, is in the verses below:
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”Matt. 16:13-19
The church consists of the “called out” – people that answered the call to come out of the world to live lives that are separate from the world.
The word church, translated from the Greek word ekklēsia, originally meant from ek, “out of,” and klesis, “a calling” (kaleo, “to call”), was used among the Greeks of a body of citizens “gathered” to discuss the affairs of State, Acts 19:39. In the Septuagint it is used to designate the “gathering” of Israel, summoned for any definite purpose, or a “gathering” regarded as representative of the whole nation. In Acts 7:38 it is used of Israel; in Acts 19:32, 41 of a riotous mob.
It has two applications to companies of Christians, namely
(a) to the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era, the company of which Christ said, “I will build My Church,”Matthew 16:18, and which is further described as “the Church which is His Body,” Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:23,
(b) in the singular number (e.g.,Matthew 18:17, RV marg., “congregation”), to a company consisting of professed believers, e.g., Acts 20:28; 1Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2; Galatians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:5, and in the plural, with reference to churches in a district. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary)
True believers are not cultural Christians, but those that were born again according to the words of Jesus Himself:
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8
The church is a body of believers that were called out of their carnal lifestyles, where everyone lives for himself, to follow Jesus and live for Him. They died to themselves to allow Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, to live in them. Paul gave testimony of his own new birth experience below:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14
As Christians we are in the world, but not of it; we are here on a mission as ambassadors with a message of reconciliation between man and God. In His last prayer on earth, Jesus prayed in this way:
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. John 17:14-18
The apostle Paul describes our mission as ambassadors:
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
The church, then, is everyone that has been called out of the world, now to serve in the world as ambassadors. Ambassadors are representatives sent on a mission; they live in a country that is not their own. Consequently, they do not establish themselves in their host country because their stay there is temporary. It is very important for ambassadors to be conscious of the fact that they are under orders from their own government, and never offer their personal opinion on local matters. Looking at the following verses, it seems that this is an area where the church became somewhat compromised in her mission:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
Jesus also spoke about this:
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:31-33
The church, the company of the called-out ones, is on a very different pursuit than the Gentiles who do not know God. Paul’s life is a good example of what can be accomplished when we seek the Kingdom first.
Do you live as a called-out one?
Part (3) to follow soon.