The Assembly

The New Testament usage of the term “assembly” is based on the language and imagery of Israel when the nation was assembled before Yahweh for worship outside the Tabernacle. The Greek noun rendered “church” in many English translations is ’ekklésia’, which means “assembly, congregation, convocation.” In secular Greek, it could refer to an “assembly” of citizens gathered to conduct matters of state, but that is NOT how it is used in the Greek New Testament.

In the Bible, the term ‘ekklésia’ occurs only twice in the four gospel accounts, and both times it is heard on the lips of Jesus. Thus, its original application to congregations of disciples can be traced to him (Strong’s - #G1577 - Matthew 16:18, 18:17).

Tiny Church - Photo by Mario Dobelmann on Unsplash
[Photo by Mario Dobelmann on Unsplash]

The term
occurs over one hundred times in the Greek New Testament, most often it is applied to congregations of believers. However, it is Paul’s usage of ‘ekklésia’ that is the most instructive for followers of Jesus.

First, the Apostle employs both the singular and plural numbers when applying ‘ekklésia’ to local gatherings of believers, but he does so with discrimination. Invariably, when referring to a local congregation, he uses the singular form (e.g., the “ASSEMBLY in Corinth” - 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1).

Second, when he refers to different groups of believers collectively, he uses the plural noun. For example, he wrote that God is not “a God of confusion, but of peace, as in ALL THE ASSEMBLIES of the saints– (1 Corinthians 14:33, Romans 16:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:14).

This does not mean that each city’s congregation was independent of the others, and certainly not that each maintained its own doctrinal traditions and practices. However, each congregation represented THEchurch” assembled for worship in its respective location.

Several times, Paul describes the local congregation as the “Assembly of God,” and collectively, he labels all his congregations as the “ASSEMBLIES of God” - (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10:32, 11:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:14).

ASSEMBLY OF YAHWEH


Paul’s usage reflects the influence of the Hebrew Bible, especially its descriptions of the “Assembly of Israel” gathered before the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Several times Israel is called the “Assembly or the convocation of Yahweh” - the ‘qahal Yahweh’. For example:

  • (Exodus 12:6) – “So shall it be yours to keep until the fourteenth day of this month, then shall all the convocation of the ASSEMBLY OF ISREAL slay it between the two evenings.”
  • (Leviticus 16:17) – “And no man shall be in the tent of meeting when he comes in to make a covering by propitiation in the holy place until he goes out. So shall he put a covering about himself and about his household and about all the ASSEMBLY OF ISRAEL.
  • (Deuteronomy 23:1-2) – “Neither he that has been mutilated by crushing nor he that has had his privy member cut off shall enter the ASSEMBLY OF YAHWEH. A bastard shall not enter the ASSEMBLY OF YAHWEH. Even to the tenth generation shall none of his enter the ASSEMBLY OF YAHWEH.

The ancient prohibition against anyone in an “unclean” state participating in the “Assembly of Yahweh” is echoed in several of Paul’s declarations about proper and improper behavior in the Assembly. For example:

  • (1 Corinthians 11:22) – “What! Have you not houses for your eating and drinking? Or the ASSEMBLY OF GOD do you despise and put to shame them who have nothing? What am I to say to you? Shall I praise you? In this, I praise you not.”
  • (1 Corinthians 14:34) – “As for the women, in the ASSEMBLIES let them be silent, for it is not permitted them to be speaking; but let them be in submission, even as the law declares.”
  • (1 Timothy 3:15) – “But if I should tarry that you may know how it behooves you in a house of God to behave, the which is an ASSEMBLY OF A LIVING GOD, a pillar and basement of the truth.”

Winter church - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash
[Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash]

Rather than ritual impurities as defined in the Levitical regulations, Paul was concerned with conduct that occurred in the “
Assembly of God.” Immorality and disruptive behavior could not be allowed among believers when they gathered for worship.

Thus, in the New Testament, the “church” or “Assembly” is not a building or the designation for a sect or denomination, but the local Assembly of saints gathered before the Lord in worship, the place where God’s presence is found among His New Covenant people.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Mission - (The mission of the church between until the return of Jesus is to proclaim the Good News of his Kingdom to all nations – Matthew 24:14)
  • Salvation for the Nations - (The Gospel of the Kingdom announced by Jesus of Nazareth offers salvation and life to men and women of every nation and people)
  • One Spirit, One People - (By his death and resurrection, Jesus formed one covenant community - One New Man - based on faith in him – Ephesians 2:11-22)

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