This Greek term, ekklesia, is from two words, "out of" and "called."  This word had secular a use (i.e., citizens called to a meeting, cf. Acts 19:32,39,41) and because of the Septuagint's use of this term for "congregation" of Israel (Qahal, BDB 874, KB 1078, cf. Num. 16:3; 20:4; Deut. 31:30), a religious use. The early church saw themselves as a continuation of the OT people of God. They were the new Israel (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3:29; 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6), the fulfillment of God's worldwide mission (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6; Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

This term is used in several senses in the Gospels and Acts.

1. secular town meeting, Acts 19:32,39,41

2. universal people of God in Christ, Matt. 16:18 and Ephesians

3. a local congregation of believers in Christ, Matt. 18:17; Acts 5:11 (in these verses, the church in Jerusalem); Acts 13:1; Rom. 16:5; 1 C or. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon v. 2

4. the people of Israel collectively, Acts 7:38, in Stephen's sermon

5. the people of God in a region, Acts 8:3; Gal. 1:2 (Judah or Palestine)

The church is a gathered people, not a building.  There were no church buildings for hundreds of years.  In James (one of the earliest Christian books) the church is referred to by the term "synagōgē" (the assembly).  This term for the church occurs only in James (cf. James 2:2; 5:14).


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