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8. Ecclesiology: The Church

The term “ecclesiology” (from Greek ecclesia meaning “meeting,” or “assembly” and logos meaning “word,” “matter,” “topic”) refers to the study of the church as the assembly of those who know the Lord and in whom the Spirit of God dwells (Romans 8:9). It often deals with such topics as the nature of the church, including NT metaphors used to describe the church, the church’s relationship to the kingdom of God, to Israel, and her purpose in the world. Other related topics include the government of the church, her God-given ordinances, as well as the spiritual gifts graciously bestowed on her by God for her maturity and growth in Christlikeness.

IA. The Nature of the Church

1B. The Problem of a Starting Point for a Defintion

2B. The Term ekklesia

1C. Classical Greek
2C. Septuagint (LXX)
1D. The Term lh^q*28
2D. 1 Kings 2:3
3D. Numbers 22:4
4D. Genesis 35:11
5D. Deuteronomy 9:10
6D. 2 Chronicles 20:5
7D. Joel 2:16
3C. New Testament—114x (not in 1, 2 Peter)
1D. Home Church—1 Cor 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1
2D. Church in a Region—Acts 9:31
3D. Church in Asia—1 Cor 16:19
4D. Universal Church—Eph 4:4; Hebrews 12:2329
4C. The Use of The Issue of Unity ekklesia
5C. The Church Visible and Invisible

IIA. Metaphorical Expressions in Reference to the Church: Certain Examples and Their Significance

1B. The Body of Christ

1C. 1 Cor 12:12-27
2C. Ephesians 1:22-23

2B. Family—2 Cor 6:18

3B. Vine and Branches—John 15:1-11

4B. Pillar and Ground of the Truth—1 Tim 3:15

5B. Building—1 Cor 3:9

6B. A Living Temple that Grows—Eph 2:20-21

7B. A Holy Temple in which God Dwells—1 Cor 3:16

8B. A Holy Nation—1 Pet 2:9

9B. A Royal Priesthood—1 Peter 2:9

10B. Living Stones around the Cornerstone—1 Pet 2:4-8

11B. Salt and Light

1C. Matt 5:13-15
2C. Acts 13:47
3C. Col 4:5-6

IIIA. The Church and the Kingdom of God

1B. The Kingdom of God: A Definition

2B. The Church and the Kingdom: Five Observations

1C. The Church Is Not the Kingdom
2C. The Kingdom Creates the Church
3C. The Church Witnesses to the Kingdom
4C. The Church Is the Instrument of the Kingdom
5C. The Church Is the Custodian of the Kingdom30

IVA. The Church and Israel

1B. The Issue

1C. Statement of the Question
2C. Key Factors in the Debate
1D. The Use of the OT in the NT
2D. The Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants
3D. “National” vs. Solely “Ethnic” Israel and Romans 9-11
4D. The Interpretation of Revelation 20:4-6
5D. The Issue of the Land Promises in the NT
3C. Some Key Texts
1D. Matthew 21:43
2D. Acts 1:5; 3:19-21
3D. Acts 13:33
4D. Galatians 3:29
4C. Extreme Positions
5C. Mediating Positions

2B. Importance of the Question

VA. Purpose & Service of the Church

1B. General Statement

1C. John 14:13-14
2C. Acts 1:8
3C. Acts 13:47

2B. The Godward Focus of the Church

3B. The Inward Focus of the Church

4B. The Outward Focus of the Church

5B. The Church’s Reliance on the Spirit, Word, and Informed Tradition

VIA. The Government of the Church

1B. Various Church Government Structures

1C. Episcopalian
1D. Archbishop/Bishop/Diocese/Rectors/Vicars
2D. Methodist, Anglican, Catholic Church
2C. Presbyterian
1D. Local Church Elects Elders to Sessions (Presbyterian)
2D. Local Church Elects Elders to Consistory (Reformed Church)
3D. Some Elders Are Members of Higher Body: Presbytery (Presbyterian)
4D. Some Elders Are Members of Higher Body: Classis (Reformed)
5D. Some Members of Pres. Or Classis Chosen to Form Synod
6D. The General Assembly: Lay and Clergy Representatives
3C. Congregational31
1D. Focus in This Government: Autonomy of Local Church and Members
2D. The Priesthood of all Believers
4C. Non-Government

2B. Qualifications for Elders and Deacons

1C. A Plurality of Elders32
1D. Acts 14:23
2D. Acts 20:17
3D. 1 Timothy 4:14
4D. Titus 1:5
5D. James 5:14
6D. Hebrews 13:17
7D. 1 Peter 5:1-2
2C. Is There A Need for Presbyteries and General Assemblies?
3C. The Qualifications Proper
1D. Elders—1 Timothy 3:1-7
2D. Elders—Titus 1:5-9
3D. Deacons—1 Timothy 3:8-13

VIIA. Ordinances Given the Church

1B. Ex opere operato? 33

2B. Baptism

1C. The Context—Matthew 28:19-20
2C. The Meaning and Mode of “Baptism”
1D. Meaning of Baptizo?
2D. The Mode: Immersion not Sprinkling
1E. John Baptized in the Jordan River
2E. Jesus’ Baptism34
3E. John 3:23
4E. Acts 8:37-3835
5E. 1 Peter 3:21
6E. Romans 6:4 (Col 2:12)
3C. The Subjects of Baptism
1D. Acts 2:41
2D. Acts 8:12
3D. 10:44-48
4D. 16:14-15
5D. Households (Infants?/Unbelieving Adults?)—Acts 16:32-33
6D. 1 Corinthians 1:16
4C. Baptism and Salvation
1D. Acts 2:38 and the Meaning of the Preposition eis
2D. Repentance Can Proceed Baptism in Acts
1E. Acts 3:19
2E. Acts 26:20
3D. Salvation Is Totally by Grace in Acts
1E. Acts 10:43, 47
2E. Acts 13:38-39, 4836
4D. Other Important Texts and Considerations
1E. 1 Corinthians 1:17
2E. 1 Peter 3:21
3E. Romans 4:1-12
4E. Ephesians 2:8-9
5E. Titus 3:5
6E. Luke 23:43
5C. Summary of Baptism

1B. The Lord’s Supper

1C. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper Compared
2C. The Frequency of Observance
1D. Matthew 26:27-29 (and Parallels)
2D. The Lord’s Supper as “Reminder”—1 Cor 11:24-26
3D. “For Whenever…”—1 Cor 11:26
3C. Relationship of Elements to Christ’s Literal, Physical Body
1D. Key Issue: Christ’s Presence in the Supper
2D. Catholic Transubstantiation and Salvific Grace
3D. Luther, Consubstantiation, and Christ’s Body
4D. Calvin: Signs of Christ’s Real Spiritual Presence
5D. The Lord’s Supper and Non-Baptized Believers
6D. Summary

VIIIA. Gifts Given the Church

1B. God’s Church, His Indwelling Spirit, and the Spiritual Gifts

2B. The Gifts Are Given at God’s Discretion

1C. 1 Corinthians 12:11
2C. 1 Corinthians 12:18

3B. The Gifts Are Given for the Common Good—1 Corinthians 12:7

4B. Confusion Can Exist Regarding the Gifts—1 Corinthians 12:1-3ff.

5B. The Lists of Gifts

1C. Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 12-14 (Acts 21:9); Ephesians 4:11-12; Hebrews 2:3-4, and 1 Peter 4:10-11.
2C. Some Observations
1D. No Two Lists Agree Completely
2D. “Gifts of…”
3D. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
4D. The Personal Context for Their Use Is Christlikeness—1 Cor 13
5D. The Corporate Context for Their Use Is Genuine Love—1 Cor 13
3C. A List of Some Gifts (see the passages above in VIIIA, 5B, 1C)
1D. Prophesying
2D. Teaching
3D. Serving
4D. Encouraging
5D. Giving
6D. Leading
7D. Wisdom
8D. Knowledge
9D. Healing
10D. Discerning
11D. Tongues and Interpretation of Tongues
12D. Apostleship
13D. Pastoring
14D. Evangelist

6B. Difficulties in the Interpretation of Certain Gifts

1C. E.g., The “Message of Wisdom”
2C. E.g., The “Message of Knowledge”

7B. The Continuation or Cessation of Certain “Sign” Gifts

1C. Confusion over the Real Questions
2C. Statement of the Question(s)
1D. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
2D. Hebrews 2:3-4
3D. Statement Proper
3C. The Issue of Theological Method: Experience and the Text of Scripture?
1D. “Beginning” with Experience
2D. “Beginning” with Scripture
3D. The Issue Is not Where “To Begin,” But What Is The Final Authority?
4D. Christian Maturity and Listening Well to Detractors
4C. The Gift of Tongues
1D. The Issue in 1 Corinthians 12-1437
2D. Their Purpose in Acts (2, 8?, 10, 19)

28 There is another term in the Hebrew OT, namely, hd*u@, and it often refers to Israel as a “ceremonial community” centered in the cult or the Law. It is, however, never translated with ekkle?sia. See Jack P. Lewis, “qahal,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1980), 789-90; Lothar Coenen, “Church,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 1:291-95.

29 Cf. BAGD, 240-41.

30 For his defense of these points see, George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, rev. ed., ed. Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 109-117.

31 For further discussion of these three representative forms of church government, see Erickson, Christian Theology, 1069-83; Leon Morris, “Church Government,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 238-41; D. MacLeod, “Church Government,” in New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright, and J. I. Packer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988), 143-46.

32 “Elders” are also known as “pastors,” “overseers,” and “bishops” in the NT. See Grudem, Systematic Theology, 913-14. Though this position is by no means certain, it does seem quite tenable.

33 These are sometimes referred to as “sacraments.” To some, the term “sacrament” suggests the idea that either participation in these rites is necessary for salvation or that they actually work in and of themselves, apart from the faith of the participant. Indeed, this is often how they are conceived in the Catholic church.

34 Matthew uses the expression anebe? apo tou hudatos (Matt 3:16) and Mark says anabaino?n ek tou hudatos (Mark 1:10). Both indicate that Jesus and John were in the water, not just beside it.

35 The same language that’s used of Jesus coming out of the water is used of the Eunuch as well (i.e., (avebe?san ek tou hudatos).

36 See Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 369-71.

37 While Paul claims to speak in tongues more than all the Corinthians (1 Cor 14:18), it is interesting, in light of certain contemporary claims, to note that tongues is not mentioned by Luke in connection with the apostle’s conversion (Acts 9). Further, while tongues is mentioned in connection with Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), the conversion of Cornelius and Gentile believers (Acts 10:46), and disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7), the same cannot be said for Lydia (Acts 16:11-15) and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:31-34). The latter two, however, are explicitly regarded by the narrator, Luke, to participate fully in Christ’s salvation.

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church), Teaching the Bible