Assembly Teaching – The Ekklesia

Its Composition

The “ekklesia” of God is composed of “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling.” The words “sanctified” and “saints,” and indeed the usual word translated “holy,” have the same root and the same sense in that they all refer to having been set apart by God and for God, and thus they speak of a holiness unto God. Many of the secular “ekklesias” of the era would have been characterized by anything but holiness. Those who comprised the church in Corinth had been the objects of a positional sanctification and thus they had become saints by calling. The words do not refer to sinless perfection but rather to the position into which they had been brought. There is a personal sanctification as well. This is expressed in the words of the Psalmist, “The Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself” (4:3). The local church is not a mixed company of saved and unsaved.

Its Communion

“With all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” A Christian is not to be an isolated unit. He is meant to be part of a fellowship of believers. Nor is an assembly to be an isolated unit for it is seen here as being in fellowship with other local churches of God “with all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord!” Is His Name honored? Is His Word the final authority? Is His Lordship recognized? Every believer has been brought into “the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1:9). We all participate in Him and jointly share in Him and through Him with other believers. The local church is the place where that fellowship is expressed in a local area. The local church is first of all an expression of a fellowship and secondly it is in fellowship with other local assemblies where His Lordship is recognized. It is important to state here that the local church, while in fellowship with other similarly gathered companies, is nonetheless autonomous. It is a lampstand existing on its own and responsible to the Lord alone and not to another assembly or to a central oversight.

Its Confession

“Who call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” Is this not the confession of the local church of God in that it calls upon His Name in all its fullness, thus owning His Lordship, following His Word, and fulfilling the words of the Lord Jesus when He said, “Where two or three are gathered together unto My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20)? The local church is a body of believers in a gathered state. We learn this from the tense that is used in the word “gathered.” It is the perfect tense, which is the tense of result, of something having been done in the past but with effects abiding up to the present. Further, the word, “gathered,” is in the passive voice telling us that the gathering was done by someone other than themselves. In this case, it is undoubtedly the Holy Spirit who draws the believers together into this that is called “body of Christ” (12:27). It is a confession to the world that His authority is recognized and that He is supreme. Calling upon His Name and keeping His Word cannot be separated!

Its Competence

As Paul continued to commend the believers in Corinth who comprised this church of God, he wrote, “I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, that in everything ye are enriched by Him in all discourse and in all knowledge.” The grace of God in our text is not the grace that saves but is rather the grace that serves through the grace gifts given by God to the members of the body. This is the competence of the local church. The Church at Corinth had been enriched. God had graciously given, and all the public ministering gifts were in evidence. God intends that a church of God be a self-functioning body. Paul’s pattern when he left a new testimony was to leave behind a person or persons who would care for the flock of God in its infancy and bring it to maturity. These persons were not the pastors in the modern ecclesiastical sense but were the true pastor-teachers of Ephesians 4:11-14 whose purpose was the equipping of the saints for the work of ministering. When we study 1 Corinthians 12-14 we see these gifts of grace functioning in body-like fashion in a competent church.

Its Center

One cannot but be impressed in the opening nine verses of this epistle by how many times we read, “Jesus Christ,” “Christ Jesus,” “Jesus Christ our Lord,” ” Lord Jesus Christ,” and other references to His Name. It seems to be teaching us the lesson of Colossians 1:18, “that in all things He might become preeminent.” There is no room for any other name among those who gather alone unto His Name. If an activity in any way exalts the flesh, then it detracts from that which is rightfully His. This not only applies to the immoral aspects of the flesh but to any attempt, consciously or unconsciously, to attract attention to self.

Its Confident Expectation

In Corinth, they were “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This will be the end of the dispensation of the church-age but will not be the end of the church. Its birth was at Pentecost. It will be taken out of the world at the Day of Christ when He comes to the air and raptures away His Bride before the judgments associated with the Day of the Lord come upon the earth. Thus will end the church age. The Church, the Bride, will forever be the consort of the Christ. “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”