(Greek EKKLESIA). Appendix 186 To The Companion Bible.
1. The Greek word ekklesia means assembly, or a gathering of called-out ones. It is used seventy times in the Septuagint for the Hebrew kahal (from which latter we have our word call), rendered in Septuagint by sunagoge and ekklesia.¹ This latter word occurs in the New Testament 115 times (36 in plural), and is always translated "church" except in Acts 19:32, 39, 41 (assembly). 2. kahal is used (1) of Israel as a People called out from the rest of the nations (Genesis 28:3); (2) of the tribal council of Simeon and Levi, those called out from each tribe (Genesis 49:6); (3) of an assembly of Israelites called out for worship or any other purpose (Deuteronomy 18:16; 31:30. Joshua 8:35. Judges 21:8); (4) any assembly of worshippers as a congregation (Psalm 22:22, 25. Ekklesia in Matthew 16:18; (18:17. 1Corinthians 14:19, 35, etc.); (5) the equivalent ekklesia of separate assemblies in different localities (Acts 5:11; 8:3. 1Corinthians 4:17, etc.); (6) of the guild or "union" of Ephesian craftsmen (Acts 19:32, 41), and verse 39 (the lawful assembly). Finally, the special Pauline usage of ekklesia differs from all these. Other assemblies consisted of called-out ones from Jews, or from Gentiles (Acts 18:22), but this new body is of called-out ones from both. 3. Our word "church" ² has an equally varied usage.
¹ kahal occurs in the Old Testament 123 times; congregation eighty-six, assembly seventeen, company seventeen, and multitude three times. The Septuagint uses sunagoge and ekklesia as practically synonymous terms. But the sunagoge concerns the bringing together of the members of an existing society or body excluding all others, whereas the ekklesia calls and invites all men, including outsiders everywhere, to join it. Sunagoge being permanently associated with Jewish worship, was dropped by the early Christians in favor of ekklesia as of wider import.
² Is derived from the Greek kuriakos, of or belonging to the Lord, house (Greek oikos) being understood. It comes to us through Anglo-Saxon circe (Scottish kirk).
It is used (1) of any congregation; (2) of a particular church (England, or Rome, etc.); (3) of the ministry of a church; (4) of the building in which the congregation assembles; (5) of Church as distinct from Chapel; (6) of the church as distinct from the world, and, lastly, it is used in the Pauline sense, of the body of Christ.
4. It is of profound importance to distinguish the usage of the word in each case, else we may be reading "the church which was in the wilderness" into the Prison Epistles, although we are expressly told that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the "church which is His body". And when our Lord said "On this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18), those who heard His words could not connect them with the "mystery" which was "hid in God" and had not then been made known to the sons of men. Confusion follows our reading what refers to Israel in the past or the future into the present dispensation. Readers are referred to the various notes in the connections.
5. The word where qualified by other terms occurs thus:—
Church of God; Acts 20:28. 1Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:16 (pl.), 22; 15:9. 2Corinthians 1:1. Galatians 1:13. 1Thessalonians 2:14 (pl.). 2Thessalonians 1:4 (pl.). 1Timothy 3:5, 15 (c. of the living God).
Churches of Christ; Romans 16:16.
Church in . . house; Romans 16:5. 1Corinthians 16:19. Colossians 4:15. Philemon 2.
Churches of the Gentiles; Romans 16:4.
Churches of Galatia; 1Corinthians 16:1. Galatians 1:2. Of Asia; 1Corinthians 16:19. Of Macedonia; 2Corinthians 8:1. Of Judæa; Galatians 1:22. Of the Laodiceans; Colossians 4:16. Of the Thessalonians; 1Thessalonians 1:1; 2Thessalonians 1:1.
Church of the firstborn (pl.); Hebrews 12:23.
Church in Ephesus, Smyrna, etc. Revelation 2 and 3; and
Churches; Revelation 22:16.