There are many definitions for the English word “church.” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “church” is defined as:
(1) a building for public and especially Christian worship; (2) the clergy or officialdom of a religious body; (3) often capitalized: a body or organization of religious believers: as a: the whole body of Christians, b: denomination <the Presbyterian church>, c: congregation; (4) a public divine worship <goes to church every Sunday>; (5) the clerical profession <considered the church as a possible career>. (Merriam-Webster Online)
These different definitions of the word “church” are why this English term is a poor choice for the New Testament’s original Greek term, which is the word “ekklesia,” a transliteration of the Greek word “ejkklhsiva.” “Church” is a poor translation of “ekklesia,” because this original Greek term doesn’t mean any of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s “church” definitions.
During the time of the Greek city-states, “ekklesia” was understood to mean a “called out assembly of citizens.” These people were ‘called out’ of their homes (summoned) to meet in a designated public place where they would discuss what to do about their corrupt government. Even in the time of Christ, the Romans and the Hebrews understood that “ekklesia” was a political term.
Not once in the one hundred and fifteen times “ekklesia” is used in the original New Testament does “ekklesia” denote or connote any religious meaning. The New Testament’s “ekklesia” always means a group of individuals assembled together for a particular purpose or cause. However, from the context in which “ekklesia” is used in the New Testament, the different kinds of assemblies can be determined. For example, in Acts 2:47, the English word “church” means an assembly (“ekklesia”) of fellowshipping believers to which Christ daily adds new believers. Indeed, in most of the New Testament places that “ekklesia” is used, the reference is to an “assembly” of believers in Christ who meet in rented halls or in believers’ homes. That’s why the word “assembly” is the best word to use for “ekklesia” instead of “church.”
Moreover, the word “church” (from the Old English “cirice” and the Middle English “churche”) has its origin in the meaning of lordship, which is derived from the Greek term “kuriakón” (transliterated as “kuriakos”), of which the root is kurios. Since Christ is Lord and the foundation upon which His New Testament “church” is built, and since the British monarchs considered themselves to be Lords over their kingdoms, of which included the Anglican Church, perhaps these are the reasons why the authorized King James Version’s translators substituted “church” for the original Greek word “ekklesia.” Whatever the reasoning, the result is that in one hundred twelve of the one hundred fifteen places “ekklesia” is found in the New Testament, “ekklesia” now is translated in English as “church.” Oddly, though, in the remaining three places “ekklesia” is found, the English translation is “assembly” (see Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
Furthermore, the Greek word “kuriakos” is found only twice in the original Greek text of the Holy Bible (once in 1 Corinthians 11:20, and once again in Revelation 1:10). In the first referenced Scripture, kuriakos refers to “the Lord’s supper,” and in the second referenced Scripture, kuriakos refers to “the Lord’s day.” For sure, the word kuriakos never is used in God’s Holy Bible to mean our contemporary definitions for “church.”
Lastly, although modern-day believers use the word “church” to mean any or all of those aforesaid Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definitions, in every context in which “ekklesia” is used, the people who have assembled together always are only believers in Christ. Furthermore, even though in various Scriptures these assembled believers also are referred to as either Christ’s Body, or Body of Believers, or Holy Temples, or Gospel CHURCH, or New Testament CHURCH, theologically speaking, the real truth is that these assembled believers are a spiritual building that human hands did not make.
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ “called out” every born again, saved believer so that He could assemble each of them together into ONE spiritual body by perfectly fitting each of them in place (in local assemblies) according to each individual’s spiritual gifts and assigned function (e.g., apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, and so forth). The Word of God confirms this last point, for the Apostle Paul writes that, “Under [Christ’s] direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16, NLT).
What then is a more accurate definition of the word “church”? I am glad you asked. The “church” is the “called out” Christians who globally are recognized as the spiritual body of loving, caring, born again, saved believers in Christ over whom Christ is the Head and the Lord, which means Christ has the authority and the power to add new believers daily to His spiritual body of “called out” Christians who are assembling for worship, praise, thanksgiving, prayer, fellowship, spiritual strength and growth, and edification purposes in public and private places located throughout this entire world.
For additional information, please read my blog entry: The False Pretense Of Being Divided By FAITH