IS ONE CHRISTIAN A “CHURCH”?
The New Testament meaning and usage of the word “church” is misunderstood widely. English dictionaries define words according to their present day usage; that is, dictionary definitions are determined by the way words are used today, rather than by the way inspired writers used them.
People today use the word “church” in many senses contrary to the New Testament meaning. (In time past, when talking to people about their church affiliation or religion, they answer “I’m a church of Christ.” JWS). The application of the word to only one person
is an erroneous usage, and it sometimes leads to harmful conclusions. Some who think that such an application can be made will ask in apparent sincerity, “Since one Christian may be may be the church in a certain place, what is it that a Christian can do that a congregation cannot do?” They think “it is a foolish thing to try to separate Christian work from church work, and what Christians do, the church is doing,” according to their erroneous and illogical thinking.
The word “church” in the New Testament is never used to designate only one person. Like the words “flock,” “group,” “herd,” etc, it is a collective noun and, therefore, is not susceptible to individual application.
He who does not know that one cow is not a “herd,” that one quail is not a “covey,” that one goose is not a “flock,” and that one Christian is not a “church” is very much in need of some lessons in grammar and the use of words. In 1 Tim. 5:16 the word “church” is used in contradiction to the designation of an individual Christian, “the woman that believeth.”
The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word “ekklesia.” This word appears one hundred and fifteen times in the Greek Testament, and is translated “church” one hundred and twelve times, and “assembly” three times. It is composed of two Greek words, ‘ek’ meaning ‘out’ and ‘kaleo’ meaning to call.’ Its literal meaning is a called out people or group, and it is used in four distinct senses in the New Testament.:
1. Eighteen times in the New Testament it is used to designate all the saved on the earth; that is, all who have been called out of Satan’s kingdom into the kingdom of God’s Son. In the term “church” as is used in Matt. 16:18, Jesus included every Christian on earth. Paul used the word in this universal sense when he said that Christ is “Head of all things to the church.” Eph. 1:22.
2. Ninety three times “ekklesia” us used in the Greek Testament with reference to one or more companies of Christians in particular locations. The First and Second Corinthian Letters are written to the “church of God which is at Corinth” meaning only the people of God in that particular city. Actually the best statement to use to show that one Christian is not a church, is found in: 1 Cor. 12:14, which says: “For in fact the body is not one member but many.”
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