Ekklesia is a Greek word which occurs over one hundred times in the New Testament. It is usually translated ‘church’ or ‘church.  The ecclesia is a group of people who have been ‘called out’ to be a people for their God.  The word comes from two words:

ek (‘out of’) and kale¯o (‘called’)

Ecclesia can refer to groups of believers in specific locations [1] or to believers as a whole [2]. It is also used of Israel in the wilderness [3].

To avoid confusion with the way the word ‘church’ is used, Christadelphians usually use the word ‘ecclesia’ to describe a group of people who regularly meet together.

The ecclesia and the promises

The Greek word ekkl¯esia is used [4] to translate the Hebrew word qahal (‘congregation’) in a quotation from the Psalms [5]. So qahal is an Old Testament word for ecclesia. The first occurrence of qahal is in Genesis where it is translated ‘multitude’ [6]. So the ecclesia has its roots in the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Later on in Genesis, Jacob set up a stone as a pillar and called it “God’s house” [7] . Paul alludes to this in writing to Timothy, when he likens the ecclesia to a house and a pillar [8].

The ecclesia and Christ

The ecclesia is likened to a body, with Christ as the head [9]. Just as a body has many different parts, each with its own function, so the ecclesia is made up of many ‘brethren and sisters’ of Christ, each with their own role [10]. As parts of this body, brethren and sisters should avoid schisms (divisions), and “care one for another” [11].

The ecclesia is also likened to a bride with Christ as the bridegroom [12]

  • The husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the ecclesia.
  • Wives should be subject to their husbands, just as the ecclesia is subject to Christ.
  • Christ loves the ecclesia as a husband should love his wife; such is his love that he gave himself for the ecclesia.
  • The bride is to be cleansed by “the washing of water by the word”

and so the Word of God should play a central part in the life of an ecclesia.

Ecclesial life

A central aspect of ecclesial life is remembering the sacrifice of Christ by breaking bread and drinking wine at a weekly meeting [13]. This meeting is also an appropriate time for exhortation [14] and for collections to be taken [15] .

Another Old Testament word which matches with ekkl¯esia is the Hebrew word miqra. This word is made up of the Hebrew words for ‘out’ and ‘called’ [16] . Strong’s Concordance defines it as meaning ‘something called out’. It is translated ‘convocation’ [17] or ‘assemblies’ [18] . In Nehemiah 8 v 8 miqra is better translated ‘in convocation’ or ‘in assembly’ [19] .

This assembly provides an example of the kind of things an ecclesia should do when it meets together:

  • gather together as one (v. 1)
  • read the Word of God (v. 3)
  • worship God (v. 6)
  • expound the Word (v. 7)
  • teach (v. 9)
  • have joy in understanding the Word (v. 12).

Revelation chapters 1 to 3 also provide instruction and warning about ecclesial life. The ecclesias mentioned there varied in their spiritual health. For example:

  • The Ephesians were commended for their works, labour, patience, refusal to bear evil, and their hatred of things which Christ hated, although they had left their “first love” [20].
  • The Laodiceans were rebuked for being materially rich but spiritually “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” [21]

Bible references

1 Acts 8 v 1
2 1 Corinthians 15 v 9
3 Acts 7 v 38
4 Hebrews 2 v 12
5 Psalm 22 v 22
6 Genesis 28 v 3
7 Genesis 28 v 22
8 1 Timothy 3 v 15
9 Colossians 1 v 18;1 Corinthians 12 v 27
10 1 Corinthians 12 v 17-18
11 1 Corinthians 12 v 25
12 Ephesians 5 v 23-26
13 Acts 20 v 7
14 Hebrews 10 v 25
15 1 Corinthians 16 v 2
16 Hosea 11 v 1
17 Exodus 12 v 16
18 Isaiah 1 v 13
19 Nehemiah 8 v 1-12
20 Revelation 2 v 2-6
21 Revelation 3 v 17