Term has started and study is underway. This week I have learned a few things about the word ekklesia. That’s the word translated as ‘church’ in our Bibles.
Some people, who want to sound very clever about ekklesia, can sometimes start going on about the ‘root meaning’ of it. I have probably done so myself. The ‘root meaning’ is discovered by cracking open the word and examining the fragments. So, they say, it comes from the preposition ek and the verb kaleo which mean, respectively, ‘out of’ and ‘to call’. So, the astute thinker puts two and two together and gets the doctrine of election.
What? Well, ekklesia must mean ‘the called out ones’ – it is the root meaning, isn’t it? There you have it – the church is God’s “called out ones”!
Well, not quite. The answer is four-ish. The conclusion is OK, but the line of reasoning is not. If the line of reasoning were valid then every use of ekklesia would refer to God’s ‘called out ones’. However, look at Acts 19:32. The rioting crowd is called ekklesia. Are they God’s ‘called out ones’? No.
They were called out in another sense. They were called out of the genneral rush of society to be in that particular meeting with Paul. But that’s all! This points to the more general use of the word in the 1st century. It simply meant ‘assembly’ and could be used in a variety of situations.
This does not mean that ekklesia is evacuated of its theological significance. But that significance does not derive from its ‘root meaning’. Rather, it derives from how the word is used in the Bible. In other words, ekklesia acquires its significance for the people of God from its context.
More later … possibly …