Skip to main content

Thoughts From Pastor Jeff on Understanding Scripture

Dear Friends,

Today I realized that sometimes we can assume too much. For instance, as a pastor I can assume (after many years of preaching) that many people do not know that the New Testament writers wrote their manuscripts in Greek (with a couple Aramaic phrases in them), and the Old Testament authors originally wrote theirs in Hebrew. That could be why some first-time visitors to my church some-times look at me with scrunched eyebrows wondering why (in my sermons) I will say, “In the Greek, or in the Hebrew, it says…”

They are probably wondering how Greek and Hebrew have anything to do with the English Bibles in their laps! In fact, in some cases, when I’ve been critiqued for using a newer version, I have had to remind people that any English version is a translation from manuscripts originally written in those two languages. That includes the King James Version, which I have jokingly had to remind some of my friends, “is not the version Paul used.”

Likewise, some do not know that in the Bible the word “church” never refers to a building. It refers to the believing people of God who often gather inside or outside buildings (in some type of structure or gathering place). The early church met in people’s houses, or larger groups possibly met in rented halls, or in times of persecution, they met in the woods, or underground caves called catacombs.

After almost 40 years of teaching in church circles I “assume” everyone knows that. But I am wrong. And though I could go on to speak of many other things as well, today I thought I would share some biblical basics regarding “the church,” lest I wrongly assume everyone already knows. And if by chance you happen to be one who does already know, please indulge me for the sake of others who don’t! Enjoy!

“What do I mean when I say, “the Church.” Lots of things obviously, since the Bible defines the church in many ways. Yet, I will start with the word itself, which in the Greek is “ἐκκλησία” and is transliterated “ekklesia.” It’s the Greek word from which we get our English word “ecclesiastical” or something that has to do with the church. Ekklesia is a compound word. “Ek” is from the Greek word that means “out” or “out of,” and “klesia” is from “kalein” which means “to call.”

The word “church,” therefore, means something along the lines of a gathering of people who are, “called out.” It is somewhat like people in a town, who upon hearing a bell, or siren, or alarm, or verbal call to gather in the town square, head there for some type of meeting, to receive some announcement, proclamation, or information (Acts 19:41). In reference to Christians, it appears to mean “the called out ones.” Those “called by God to belong to Jesus,” or those, “called out from the masses of humanity to be joined to the Body of Christ.” People whom God has called, rescued, or delivered, “out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).

Three other terms or phrases are used to describe the Church. And interestingly, they all relate to one of the three persons of the Trinity (another word I should probably expound on at some point). The church is called “the people of God,” “the Body of Christ,” and “the Temple of the Holy Spirit.”

God made the decision to take believers and make them His people. They belong to Him, and He belongs to them. This was true of His people in the O.T., where He chose Abraham and through him brought into existence the people of Israel, or “the people of God.” And although there was a sparsity of Gentiles (non-Jewish people) belonging to the people of God in the O.T. (ie: Melchizedek, Rahab, Ruth…) in the N.T. the Gentiles enter into the church soon to be the majority.

Today the church is still “the people of God.” He chose us. He called us. He gave us new birth by the Holy Spirit. He indwelt, washed, justified, and purchased us through the blood of Jesus. Therefore, together with believing Jews, we who are non-Jewish believers in Jesus, have become part of the people of God, or "the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16) -- a people made up of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. To use the imagery of Paul, there is but ONE olive tree (Rom. 11:11-31) made up of Jewish believers (the original tree), and Gentile believers who are like branches that have been grafted into that one tree. (See: Exodus 3:7, 10 / Acts 15:13-15 / Acts 18:9-10 / I Peter 2:9-10).
The picture of the Church as the “Body of Christ” is a very rich image. Yet, it is helpful to distinguish between the Body of Christ on earth (meaning all believers in Jesus presently living on the face of this earth), and the Body of Christ in heaven (consisting of all believers in Jesus who have gone ahead of us into heaven) – the “great cloud of witnesses” spoken of in Heb. 12:1). Both combined ultimately constitute one, indivisible, spiritual body.

Paul likewise speaks of THE Church or THE Body of Christ (all-believers in heaven and on earth), and local visible expressions of that body, like the “church” that met at the home of Priscilla and Aquila in Rome (Rom. 16:5). See also I Cor. 16:19 / Philemon 1:2). Ultimately, there is only ONE Body of Christ which consists of all true believers, whether in heaven or throughout the earth, but there are also many visible gathered bodies (large and small) meeting in houses, buildings, or congregating locations throughout the earth (I Cor. 12:20-27).

In this image of the Church Christ is seen as “the Head” of His Body, and every believer is seen as a part of that body – a hand, arm, eye, foot, mouth, and so on. It conveys our connection to Christ, His headship or Lordship over us, our dependence upon Him, the direction we receive from Him, how we must look to Him and not another. How we must work together, be interdependent (rather than independent), because each part relies on all the other parts. How we must honor one another, and value the contributions of all. The Body of Christ on earth (made up of all its smaller bodies in all their various locations) is the center of Christ’s saving and redeeming activity now, just as Christ’s own physical body was when He carried out His earthly ministry (Romans 12:3-8 / I Cor. 12:4-26 / Eph. 1:22-23 / Eph. 4:1-16).

The Church is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” or “born of water and the Spirit.” On Pentecost (Acts 2) the Holy Spirit was poured out making possible the birth of the Church (ie: those who have received and been filled with the Spirit).

The believer is one who has been made alive by the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, walks in step with the Spirit, is led by the Spirit, prays in the Spirit, is empowered by the Spirit, washed by the Spirit, and much, much more! In fact, says Paul in Rom. 8:9-11, “If one does not have the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit which He pours out on His people – Acts 2:33) we have no part of Him…” Without the Holy Spirit we cannot be Christian.

But it’s not just us as individuals. The Spirit lives in, through, and among the Church, empowering, enlivening, making it holy, and making it one (Acts 4:32 / I Cor. 3:16-17, 19 / I Cor. 12:13 / Gal. 5:16-26 / Eph. 4:4-6). The Church cannot function, nor bear any true and lasting fruit, apart from the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Spirit who works in and among us to give us spiritual gifts as Jesus determines and apportions. It is the Spirit that mobilizes, energizes, unifies, guides, and fills the church. And Paul considers this such basic Christian teaching that in I Cor. 3:16 he can ask the Corinthians, “Do you not know that you yourselves (you as the entire church body in Corinth who meet and function together as a group) are God’s temple, and that the Spirit lives in you?” (“you” is plural as in “you together as a group”). Not only is our individual body a temple of the Holy Spirit, but each church is also, as it gathers together to meet as a body. We (in gathering) are like “living stones” who create a “temple” in which the Spirit dwells.”

Hope that helps. In fact, if any of that short (yes, short!) summary had parts that were new to you, please let me know. It helps to know what I can send out to be beneficial and encouraging to you.

Seeking to Make Him Known, Pastor Jeff


Popular posts from this blog

Thoughts On the Holy Spirit

Dear Friends, A. W. Tozer once said, “I think you will agree with me when I say that many people are confused about the Spirit of God.” What Christian who has walked in church circles for any length of time could disagree? That’s why I want to offer some helpful thoughts regarding the Holy Spirit from well-known saints, past and present. I trust you might find them useful in helping you listen to His guidance, respond to His leading, walk in His power, exercise His gifts, and be transformed by His presence in your life. Enjoy. “The Holy Spirit is not enthusiasm. Some people get enthusiastic and imagine it is the Holy Spirit. Some who get all worked up over a song imagine that this is the Spirit, but this does not necessarily follow. Some of these same people go out and live just like the sinful world. But the Holy Spirit never enters a man and then lets him live just like the world that hates God. In fact, that is the reason most people do not want to be filled with the

Thoughts From Diana Gruver

Dear Friends, In recent years I have found more and more people of all ages wrestling with depression, despite their faith in Christ and assurance of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Part of that (for the older folk) seems to be their struggle with a world so different from the one they grew up in, that they no longer feel at home in this world, while with younger people it seems to have a lot to do with the social isolation caused by their phones and social media. I know it sounds odd to say that social connectivity can lead to loneliness and depression, yet it’s true. It’s one thing to be connected electronically to others and another altogether to enjoy face to face “in the flesh” presence, eye contact, conversation, affection, laughter, and physical touch – even if it’s a simple handshake, hug or pat on the back. Better to have one committed, caring, loyal, ‘there in the flesh friend,’ than 1000 followers on Instagram merely leave a comment in your thread on occasion. Yet please do

Thoughts From Alianore Smith

Dear Friends, Today’s “thought” comes from “across the pond” as a couple of my friends in England like to say! It’s a short message on pride. Actually, the sin of pride – a suggestion that might come as a surprise to many in America where pride (especially pride of self) is seen as a virtue. And while it is true Paul does suggest there is a good form of pride (Galatians 6:4), we must be extremely careful that we do not in any way condone (or feed) those forms of sin which God condemns. Today’s excerpt from Alianore Smith - Associate Speaker for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity - helps us to distinguish between the two forms of pride, and clarifies the types of pride God is sure to oppose. Enjoy. Amos and the Sin of Pride “The Sovereign LORD has sworn by himself – the LORD God Almighty declares: 'I abhor the pride of Jacob and detest his fortresses; I will deliver up the city and everything in it.'” Amos 6:8 Last week