Part Six: Fellowship = Interaction
From SaveTheWorld - a project of The Partnership Machine, Inc. (Sponsor: Family Music Center)
The εκκλησιαν that Jesus promised to build profoundly differs from today’s churches not only in that it did not leave politics in the Darkness, but in that it was a body of God’s people who met together to reason with each other, as equals, not just to hear one or two people give “messages”.
The Greek word Jesus chose to describe His “church” (KJV) was εκκλησιαν, which referred to a Greek assembly with a primarily political function and only a secondary religious function. But more importantly, it was an assembly in which all had a voice. This is implied by the fact that all had an equal vote, and their city’s business was conducted by weekly meetings where everyone voted. The fact that everyone’s voice was welcome in the εκκλησιαν which Jesus built is clear in 1 Corinthians 14, the Bible’s most detailed format of a church service. Seven verses in that chapter make “all” welcome to speak. One of those seven promises that when all do, God will speak through each other. Another promises that when all do, visitors will become believers and will acknowledge that God is among us.
Jesus did not actually use the word “church”, in other words. Had he wanted a word describing today’s churches he would have used the Greek word for “temple” or “synagogue”. He used the Greek word ekklesia, εκκλησιαν, which described, at that time, Greek assemblies where all the free males met a few times a year to decide political issues and select leaders. “Town meetings” like that survive today in New Hampshire. They were pioneered in America by the Pilgrims in 1620 (See [www.1620.us www.1620.US]).
Jesus did not declare, ‘I will build My temple’ or ‘I will build My synagogue’, the two most prominent Jewish religious institutions at the time. Instead, He chose a secular entity first developed by the Greeks when He said, ‘I will build my ekklesia.” Ed Silvoso, Ekklesia
... in the pagan setting of Caesarea Philippi, the “Gates of Hades”, a city much like our nation today, dominated by immorality and idolatry, Jesus urged his disciples to not shy away from evil but to confront it and storm the gates of hell. He encouraged them to build an ekklesia that would overcome the worst evils, against which “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”
“The Ekklesia was not religious but governmental. … Every city had an Ekklesia. The Ekklesia had expansive authority in determining the affairs of cities and territories. It functioned as the legal ruling assembly of a city, meeting 40-50 times a year to lead and govern. Ekklesias were regularly summoned to actively participate in legislation, declare war, make peace, negotiate treaties, make alliances, elect officials, and more.” (A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities)
Christ’s use of the Greek word ekklesia is captivating since, in the Hebrew mind, “The temple is the place on earth where God rests his foot – it still belongs to the heavenly sphere: Yahweh sits on his throne in heaven as well as in the temple.” (Rolf Paul Knierim. 1928-2018, German American theologian, biblical scholar and worldwide authority in form-critical methodology and Old Testament theology.)
Jesus chose the ekklesia to be and function as His spiritual government, legislating heaven on earth
“The Gates of Hades,” says Pastor Greg Simas of Convergence House of Prayer in the SF Bay Area, “represents all that opposes God’s will. Crime, corruption, lying, sexual immorality, pornography, ungodly ways of doing business, humanism, abortion, to name a few. All these, and more, have come out of these gates into our society. Our responsibility is to co-labor with Jesus and bring the gospel to these ‘gates’, redeeming and reclaiming lives and systems.” ( gregsimas.org/the-ekklesia-and-the-gates-of-hades/) (quoted by David Lane, American Renewal Project, 12/3/2019 email)
These descriptions of εκκλησιαν do not very well match out word “church” as we define the word today. An English word much closer in meaning to εκκλησιαν is “Congress”, an assembly in which every member has a voice and may reason with each other about all important subjects that they can do something about. By contrast, “church”, as we define it today, is a place where members may not reason with each other about matters so important that the discovery of disagreement is disturbing (because that is the definition of “controversial”, so “debate” and “arguing” are the words used to describe reasoning about controversial things, “politics” being the most “controversial”) and where group action is way down on the group’s agenda, galaxies below having everyone listen to one person speak, which has become the single indispensible activity of Church, and the primary activity of what we have come to call “worship”.
“Congress” is not a perfect translation, since the most common meaning of Congress is the United States Congress, which may be confusing since the association in many minds between the U.S. Congress and Hell is not remote.
The U.S. Congress also differs from “ekklesian” in that Congress is a very limited body of decision makers, while the ekklesian welcomed all the free men of the city. But other bodies than the U.S. Congress call their assemblies a “congress”, and the word is related to “congregate”, meaning where people come together.
Besides, when we read Jesus saying “I will build MY Congress”, no one will mistake that for the U.S. Congress.
The Council At Jerusalem in Acts 15 is the Bible’s most detailed account of what was said at a fellowship gathering, and it was definitely not a sermon presented by one man. It was very much like a Congress, where there was debate, discussion, and a decision. The Bible does not say how unique that type of meeting was, but its use shows us that the people knew how to hold that type of meeting whenever there was disagreement; and however often they disagreed and met like that, it also shows us how we may meet if we would like to establish consensus as an alternative to dividing into a million denominations which rarely communicate with each other again.
1 Corinthians 14 is the Bible’s most detailed outline of the format of an ordinary Biblical worship service, and it is definitely not a sermon presented by one man. “All”, the chapter says in seven verses, are urged to verbally contribute.
Paul “preached” a very long time, according to Acts 20:7 in the King James Version, but the Greek word is “dialog”, the same Greek word which KJV elsewhere translates that Paul “reasoned” with people. Acts 17:2, 18:4, 18:19, 24:25. 17:2 says that was Paul’s “manner”.
See Guidelines For Relationshipsfor Bible clues how we can get along with each other even if we let each other talk freely. This is a Bible study about how to reason with each other, what subjects should dominate our meetings, and how to infuse love into discussions.
The centuries have seen progress towards worldwide acceptance of Biblical relationships, compared to prior pagan brutality. In about two thirds of the world, life is better between husbands and wives (wives now have property and voting rights and legal protection from beatings), parents and children (children no longer suffer long hours of hard labor, and are educated), employers and employees (slavery is outlawed), elders and church members (Christians are no longer tortured to death by church leaders for sincerely held theological disagreements classified as “heresies”), and even between government and citizens (hereditary tyranny, called “monarchy”, is virtually nonexistent; in most of the world citizens have some choice about who will rule them and by what laws).
So what remains to be done? Will there be any more progress before Jesus returns? Should we try to get closer to the Bible’s vision for our relationships, or shall we give up hope that God, Who made time, made enough of it for us to see our “Mountains” fall?
It is commonly argued that since the world will get “worse and worse” towards the end, it is no use showing our civilization the way to a better life with God. And yet the prophesy is also often repeated that the Gospel will reach the whole world before the End, while it is understood that doesn’t mean everyone who hears it will accept it. Can’t we at least be part of that proclamation of the Gospel – proclaiming not only what people can do spiritually for themselves but also what they can do spiritually and physically for others?
Since what we call a “worship service” is made the centerpiece of Christian activity in 21st Century America, and since the indispensable feature of a “worship service” is the uninterruptible sermon, (Catholics put their Mass in first place), and since that kind of assembly is not at all found in Scripture and vigorously, deliberately displaces what God calls us to do when we meet, well, to the extent we stubbornly continue to disregard Scripture, then of course we may expect world immorality and terror to get worse and worse. But can’t even a few of us obey God at least in the basics of how we meet? And if that happens, can’t we expect improvement all around however much Darkness is hit by that Light?
The Pilgrims did it from 1620 to at least about 1690 when the English King forced them to merge their government with that of the Puritans in Boston, and out of that 1 Corinthians 14 laboratory emerged Freedom of Speech and Religion, and a vote for all, that sputtered in America’s churches but came to define America’s governments. America’s official “Founders” - the authors of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution – refined that work, with the help of more robust Bible study. They didn’t think politics was too “dirty” to be cleaned up through Christian witness, fortunately. But American Christians have since turned down their spotlights, and America is sinking.
Conclusion: Jesus’ statement to Peter pits the politics of Hell against the Congress of believers. It says the reality-denying crazy, irrational group-think of suffering, sacrificing, and murdering to appease an imaginary unsympathetic “god” cannot crush a flood of free, truth-bearing, reasoning believers. Jesus will build His Congress out of free, “living stones”, against which Satan’s biggest tyrannical rock will have no power.
On a political level – the level specified in Daniel 2, Jesus will build His Republic out of free citizens, of which the United States today consists, and the most tyrannical monsters from Hell – represented today by the tyrants of Islam – are helpless against it, except to the extent free citizens feel sorry for them.
This is consistent with Jesus’ statement to Pilate: Jesus has a Sword, but that Sword coming out of His mouth is Truth, against which all the swords of steel throughout human history cannot stand.
In fact, to make His point, and to get His apostles started on the right foot, Jesus brought them to the darkest place possible, and let the light of divine revelation through the mouth of Peter shine on these Gates of Hell at the base of the Rock of the “gods” at the foot of Mount Destruction in the Land of the Serpent.
This was the ribbon cutting for the Christian Congress Jesus established. It is our example today.
Jesus’ promise that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church should also be considered in the light of God’s promise to Abraham that his offspring would possess the enemies’ gates (Genesis 22:17). By possessing an enemy’s gate, a hostile city could be controlled and ultimately conquered. Jesus’ words about the keys of the kingdom and the powers of binding and loosing (which appear in Matthew 16:19, immediately after His words about the Gates of Hell) also refer to the bold control He planned for His followers to exercise over the culture of death through His resurrection power. - http://palmquists.glorifyjesus.com/blog/2017/11/gates-of-hell/