Sessions 3: Understanding the Kingdom of God and the Ecclesiae

➡ Average Reading Time: 7 minutes

Sessions 3: Understanding the Kingdom of God and the EcclesiaeWhen you finish this session, you should be able to:

  • Understand three general facts about how the ecclesia came into existence
  • Comprehend the five concepts about the kingdom and the ecclesia
  • Know what binding and loosing means

In this session, we will observe the theology of why the ecclesiae and the kingdom are different. First, we will look at three facts that show how the ecclesiae came into existence. Then, we will observe five things that will help us understand why the ecclesia and the kingdom are different. Finally, we will determine what binding and loosing means in the context of its use.

Where We Are Going

Introduction
The Remnant Is The Ecclesiae
The Ecclesia And The Kingdom
Not Equal
Not the Same
Creation Of The Ecclssiae
Kingdom Witness
A Channel
Responsibility and Authority
Conclusion

Introduction

How are the kingdom of God and the ecclesiae to be identified? Are they different or the same? If they are not the same, what is their relationship to each other? These are important questions in light of the current language that often implies that the terms and concepts are interchangeable.

It was St. Augustine who first identified the kingdom with the ecclesia. The idea has been maintained since the Reformation. The suggestion has been made that Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom, but the results were the ecclesia. Some systems of theology still view the ecclesiae and kingdom as the same. The language we use today often exchanges the word kingdom and ecclesiae. We may say something like, “Let’s build the kingdom.” What we are saying is “Let’s build the ecclesiae.”

Dispensational Theology sees the ecclesiae and kingdom in a similar way. They believe that Jesus came to offer the Davidic kingdom to Israel and she rejected him. When Israel rejected the gift of God, he introduced a new purpose, the ecclesia, sometimes called a parenthesis.[ref]Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. 103-104. Eerdmans Publishing Co – Kindle Edition. [/ref]

It is my belief that the mission of Jesus was to intrude into this present evil age with his kingdom rule, the age to come. Those who chose to receive the proclamation of the rule of God are, in fact, the ecclesia.

The Remnant is the Ecclesiae

Focus

Jesus did not seem to begin his mission with the focus of starting a new movement inside or outside of Israel. He came as a Jewish man to the Jewish people. He accepted, as binding, the authority of the First Testament Scriptures. He conformed to the practices of the temple. He worshipped in the synagogue. He lived and worked as a Jew. While he would sometimes travel outside the Jewish territory, he insisted that his mission was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15.24). When he sent his disciples out to minister, he told them to go to Israel only (Matt. 10.5-6).

There are at least three exceptions to the above information:

  • the Samaritan woman: John 4.1-42
  • the Centurion’s servant: Matthew 8.5-13
  • the Caananite woman: Matthew 15.21-28

These three stories all seem to have mitigating circumstances that called for exceptional steps to be taken by Jesus.

His central mission was to proclaim to Israel that God was acting to fulfill his promises and bring Israel to her true destiny as his children.

| Rejection

Israel rejected the message of Jesus about the kingdom of God. His proclamation came early in his ministry (Mark 1.14-15) and drew instant denial (Mark 3.1-6) and only intensified during his ministry culminating in his sacrificial death on the cross.

| Remnant

While Israel refused to accept the offer of Jesus, the kingdom, a small group, a remnant, did respond in faith. The Jewish idea of discipleship was to call for a commitment to the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). Jesus’ idea of discipleship was to call for a commitment to himself and his message. So he raised disciples who were committed to him and his message.

The Ecclesiae and the Kingdom

Since Jesus proclaimed the kingdom to Israel as an offering of her fulfillment to her true destiny and they rejected, the mission was still accomplished in those disciples who received his message and became his disciples. These disciples were to become known as the ecclesia, the true Israel of God. The choice by Jesus of these twelve was an enacted parable in which Jesus authenticated that he was raising a new congregation to displace the nation who had rejected his message.

The following are some illustrations from the Late Dr. Ladd in this book A Theology of the New Testament that will make this concept clear.[ref]Ladd, A Theology… 109-117.[/ref]

The Kingdom and the Ecclesiae are not Equal

The kingdom and the ecclesiae are not equal to each other, i.e., they are not the same. Since the kingdom of God is dynamic (his rule) then the ecclesiae and the kingdom are not the same. The ecclesiae is made up of those who are ruled by the King of the kingdom, but the ecclesiae is not the kingdom.

The Kingdom and the Ecclesiae are Not the Same

The writers of the Second Testament never equate the ecclesiae with the kingdom. As their first preachers, they never preached the ecclesiae but proclaimed the kingdom (Acts 8.12; 19.8; 20.25; 28.23, 31). One will have great difficulty in substituting the word ecclesiae for the word kingdom in these verses. John Bright is correct when he says in his book, The kingdom of God, that there is never the slightest hint that the visible ecclesiae can either be or produce the kingdom of God.[ref]John Bright. The Kingdom of God. Abingdon Press. Nashville, TN. 1980. 236. [/ref] It is safe to say that the ecclesiae is the people of the kingdom, but never the kingdom itself.

The Kingdom Creates the Ecclesiae

The rule of God as presented in the words and works of Jesus confronted men and women to respond and come under his rule, forging a new relationship with him as King (Mark 3.31-35). When the powerful rule of God impregnates an individual, they are made a part of the body of Christ, the ecclesia. “The church is but the result of the coming of God’s Kingdom into the world by the mission of Jesus Christ.”[ref] Ladd. A Theology…. 111.[/ref]

The Ecclesiae is the Witness to the Kingdom

The mission of the ecclesiae is to give witness to the kingdom of God. The ecclesiae cannot build the kingdom or become the kingdom. The ecclesiae is the vessel through which the powerful redeeming acts of Jesus are performed. This is illustrated in the commission of Jesus to the Twelve (Matt. 10) and to the Seventy (Luke 10). The proclamation of the Apostles in the book of Acts reinforces it.

The ecclesia was to witness to all humankind about the kingdom.

The ecclesia was to witness to all humankind about the kingdom. The seventy disciples that Jesus sent out was symbolic. Jewish tradition believed that there were seventy nations in the world and that the Jewish Torah had been first given in seventy languages. The sending of seventy missionaries appears to be an implicit claim that the message of Jesus must be heard not only by Israel but by all humankind [ref](Ladd, A Theology…. 112.[/ref]

The rejection of God’s offer of the kingdom by Israel became irreversible. Jesus soberly announced that Israel was no longer to be the people of God’s rule. Their place was going to be taken by others who proved trustworthy (Mark 12.1-9; Matt. 21.43 i.e., the inclusion of the Gentiles.

Since the ecclesiae is the recipient of the life and fellowship of the kingdom, then one of her main purposes is to demonstrate in the life and power of the age to come in this present evil age. The ecclesiae lives in two ages at the same time.

We are the people of the age to come living in this present evil age. The ecclesiae must provide a model to display the life of the future perfected order.

The Ecclesiae is a Conduit Through which the Kingdom Works

The ecclesia is the conduit through which God’s kingdom acts are performed (Matt. 10.8; Luke 10.17). This makes discipleship important. The ecclesia has often fallen short of making true disciples of Jesus. However, the ecclesia tends to promote character and a sense of community to the neglect of performing such kingdom ministry as praying for the sick and casting out demons. Proclamation of the kingdom must be words and works combined.

Responsibility and Authority

Jesus left the keys to the kingdom in the hands of Peter (Matt. 16.19). The background of this idea comes from Isaiah 22.22 where God gave Eliakim the keys to the House of David commissioning him with its care. The art of caretaking is often understood as conserving or protecting. We must not make the mistake of the third servant in the parable of Jesus found in Matthew 25.13-40. He received his talent, conserved it by burying it, and by doing so earned the wrath of his master. Jesus redefined caretaking as risk-taking.

Binding means to prohibit or forbid Satan from harming the ecclesia.

According to Jesus, the ecclesia is built on the rock of Jesus’ messiahship. Hell will not prevail against it. To ensure that the ecclesia understands its authority, Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matt. 16.19).” Loosing denotes freeing those under the control of Satan. Binding means to prohibit or forbid Satan from harming the ecclesia. Binding and loosing do not automatically mean that God will do what the ecclesia speaks. Binding and loosing mean that the ecclesia does in this age what the Father has already ratified and determined in the age to come. The ecclesia is attentive to what God is doing, binding what he has bound and loosing what he has loosed.

Conclusion

The kingdom of God is his rule and reign. The ecclesiae is the fellowship of those who have experienced the rule of God and entered into its blessings. The kingdom creates the ecclesiae, works through the ecclesiae, and through her demonstrates the rule of God to the world. The kingdom is not the ecclesiae and the ecclesiae is not the kingdom.[ref] Ladd, A Theology… 109-114.[/ref]

Community Discussion Questions

➡ |CDQ Info|

  • How well do you conform to your religious beliefs?
  • How does this fit into a Dispensational theological view of the past, present, and future?
  • How are you a part of the remnant?
  • How often do you interchange the word kingdom for ecclesiae? What difference does the language make?
  • What are your responsibilities as kingdom people?
  • Does our Christian practice have both words and works?
  • In what ways are you a witness of the kingdom of God?
  • If you could make a disciple, how would you do it?
  • How do you participate in the caretaking of the kingdom?

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Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)