by Jerry Shugart

V. The Church (ekklesia) at Acts 2

I will begin the study by quoting this verse which speaks of the "church" at Acts 2:

"Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church (ekklesia) daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).

The Greek word translated "church" is ekklesia and that word can be found in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the LXX). Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish convert to Christianity and a respected Bible scholar, wrote the following:

"Nor would the term 'Church' sound strange in Jewish ears. The same Greek word (ekklesia), as the equivalent of the Hebrew 'Qahal,' 'convocation,' 'the called,' occurs in the LXX. rendering of the Old Testament, and in 'the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach' and was apparently in familiar use at that time. In Hebrew use it referred to Israel, not in their national but in their religious unity" [emphasis added] (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. M. Eerdmans Publishing 1971] Book 3, Chapter 37, p.84).

According to Edersheim the Greek word translated "church" was in familiar use and "it referred to Israel...in their religious unity."

Next, let us look at the events here which were in regard to the ekklesia of Acts 2:

"For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:16-17).

The following prophecy was totally in regard to the religious unity of Israel and Israel alone:

"Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation (ekklesia) , assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts...And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:16,27-28).

So the ekklesia mentioned at Acts 2:47 is referring to Israel in her religious unity and it is not referring to the Body of Christ.

VI. The Body of Christ Not Found in OT Prophecy

Charles Ryrie writes that "dispensational premillennialism has insisted that the mystery is something unrevealed in the Old Testament (though now revealed) in order to demonstrate the distinctiveness of the church from Israel and to emphasize its unique place in God's program for this age...this whole age with its program was not revealed in the Old Testament, but constitutes a new program and a new line of revelation in this present age" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, "The Mystery in Ephesians 3," Bibliotheca Sacra, Jan. 1966).

We also know that the present "dispensation of the grace of God" is described as a mystery truth, or something which was not revealed in the OT:

"...and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things" (Eph.3:9).

Peter said that what was happening on the day of Pentecost was in fulfillment of the OT prophecy found at Joel 2:27-28:

"For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:16-17).

It is also evident that what Peter said in the following passage on the same day was also in regard to prophecies found in the OT:

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, that the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days" (Acts 3:19-24).

From this we can understand that since what was happening on the day of Pentecost was foretold by the OT prophets then the Body of Christ did not come into existence on that day.

VII.Tell It To The Church (ekklesia)

Let us look at the following words of the Lord Jesus where He speaks of the church (ekklesia):

"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church (ekklesia): but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"(Mt.18:15-18).

In his commentary on this passage Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., writes: "...two or three witnesses should be taken along for a clear testimony. This was in keeping with Old Testament precedents, as in Deuteronomy 19:15. If the sinning brother still failed to recognize his error, the situation should be told before the entire church, or 'assembly.' The disciples probably would have understood Jesus to mean the matter should be brought before the Jewish assembly" [emphasis added] (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament, 62).

In the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges we read that the word ekklesia in this passage means "either (1) the assembly or congregation of the Jewish synagogue, or rather, (2) the ruling body of the synagogue (collegium presbyterorum, Schleusner) is meant. This must have been the sense of the word to those who were listening to Christ."

In the next section we will see how the words about binding on earth and in heaven of verse 18 relate to the Jewish ekklesia.

VIII. The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven

Let us now look at another verse where the Greek word ekklesia refers to Israel in her religious unity:

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church (ekklesia); and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt.16:18-19).

Here the Lord refers to the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," the same kingdom referred to here by John the Baptist:

" And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt.3:2).

Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., writes that John "announced a coming kingdom, which simply means 'a coming rule.' This rule was to be heaven's rule: 'the kingdom of heaven'...John must mean that God's heavenly rule was about to be extended directly to earthly spheres" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament, ed. Walvoord and Zuck [Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1983], 24).

Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote that "it may be concluded that the term 'kingdom of heaven' as used in the early ministry of Jesus referred to the Messianic, Davidic, earthly kingdom seen in the Old Testament" (L.S. Chafer, "The Kingdom in History and Prophecy," 51).

Since the nation of Israel failed to recognize the Lord Jesus as their promised Messiah the setting up of the earthly kingdom has been postponed until the return of the Lord Jesus to earth:

"And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand" (Lk.21:27-31).

It will not be until the kingdom is brought to earth when the Apostles will "bind on earth" what "shall be bound in heaven." That will not happen until the Apostles will sit upon twelve tribes judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the kingdom:

"That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Lk.22:30).

"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Mt.19:28).

This speaks of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus, the time when Israel will be restored to her previous position of being a special people unto the Lord. Therefore the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" have nothing to do with what is happening now within the Body of Christ.

Next

6