What is the Church? [3: Occurrences in the New Testament]

Following is a list of the occurrences of ekklesia, the Greek word for “church,” in the New Testament (depending on the textual tradition you follow of course). Just skim over this list to get an idea of the frequency with which it occurs. We will then focus on a few key passages that play a role in determining the meaning of the concept of ekklesia in the New Testament.

The progress of revelation recorded in the very early church: Acts 1-12; James

Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17; Acts 5:11; Acts 7:38; Acts 8:1; Acts 8:3; Acts 9:31; Acts 11:22; Acts 11:26; Acts 12:1; Acts 12:5; James 5:14

The progress of revelation recorded in the years of Paul’s first journey and the “Jerusalem Council”: Acts 13-15; Galatians

Acts 13:1; Acts 14:23; Acts 14:27; Acts 15:3; Acts 15:4; Acts 15:2; Acts 15:41; Galatians 1:2; Galatians 1:13; Galatians 1:22

In the years of Paul’s second journey: Acts 16:1–18:22; 1, 2 Thessalonians

Acts 16:5; Acts 18:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:4

In the years of Paul’s third journey, arrest in Jerusalem, detainment in Caesarea Maritima, and voyage to Rome: Acts 18:23–28:16; 1, 2 Corinthians; Romans

Acts 19:32; Acts 19:39; Acts 19:41; Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 6:4; 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Corinthians 11:18; 1 Corinthians 11:22; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 14:4; 1 Corinthians 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:12; 1 Corinthians 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:23; 1 Corinthians 14:28; 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Corinthians 14:35; 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Corinthians 16:1; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:19; 2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 8:24; 2 Corinthians 11:8; 2 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 16:1; Romans 16:4; Romans 16:5; Romans 16:16; Romans 16:23

In the years of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome: Acts 28:17-31; Colossians; Ephesians; Philemon; Philippians; 1 Peter

Colossians 1:18; Colossians 1:24; Colossians 4:15; Colossians 4:16; Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 3:21; Ephesians 5:23; Ephesians 5:24; Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:27; Ephesians 5:29; Ephesians 5:32; Philemon 1:2; Philippians 3:6; Philippians 4:15

In the period of Paul’s post-Acts (4th) journey: 1 Timothy; Titus

1 Timothy 3:5; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Timothy 5:16

In the period of the Neronian persecution: 2 Peter; Jude; Hebrews; 2 Timothy

Hebrews 2:12; Hebrews 12:23

In the period toward the close of the apostolic age: 1/2/3 John; Revelation

3 John 1:6; 3 John 1:9; 3 John 1:10; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:11; Revelation 1:20; Revelation 1:20 (2 references); Revelation 2:1; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:18; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 3:22; Revelation 22:16


The majority of uses of ekklesia in the New Testament are clearly references to local churches, such as the epistles addressed to churches “at” a specific city. The seven churches of Asia in Revelation are also explicitly local assemblies. Philippians 4:15 also points to an explicitly local assembly in that Paul says that the church of Philippi supported him but no other church did. However, there are some passages that will shed extra light on whether we have any justification in bringing into the text a meaning even somewhat foreign to that which the people in that culture would have understood. I will look very briefly at a few of those passages next time.

The question that will structure how we will discuss these passages is this: “Is there anything about this passage that forces me to compromise or abandon what the cultural conceptual antecedent would have made me expect the hearer to understand?” If there is nothing to absolutely require this, then we will maintain the original cultural concept of a local assembly.

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