Oftentimes, the best way to understand a word is to understand where it comes from. In our case, the original word for church, ekklesia, is particularly insightful as to its original definition. Ekklesia is a compound word in the Greek, composed of a preposition, “ek,” which means “from, after, out,” and “kleth-,” which means “to call, to bid.” Therefore, at its base, ekklesia means “called out,” or when applied to people, as it is, “those who have been called out.” This definition by itself raises two very points–those who are of the ekklesia have been called by someone and have been called out for something. The first chapter of Ephesians, vv. 3-10 gives some insight on these two points:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Though in this text we do not see verbatim “those who have been called,” we do clearly see the idea of the church and the definitions of the aforementioned two variables. First, we see that those who have been called have been called by the Father through Jesus Christ. The Apostle writes, “Even as he [the Father] chose us in him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world.” It is the Father who has called the Church through his instrument, Jesus Christ, before the world existed.
In this statement alone we can deduce that the Church is established outside of the power of men (for it is establish by God), it is established through an intermediate (i.e. Jesus Christ), it is established outside of the dominion of man (i.e. the world), and it is established outside of the existence of man (i.e. before the creation of the world). In other words, the Church is an institution established and called by God alone beyond the realm of human influence.
Second, we see what the Church is called to. The Apostle writes: “He chose us in him . . . that we should be holy and blameless before him.” In other words, the
Church’s purpose in being called out is for the creation of a holy people that will be to praise of God’s glorious grace through the work of his intermediary, Jesus Christ.
This is the Church at its very base. From this base I build the rest of my evaluation of the doctrine of the Church.