God's Eonian Purpose
Church, Bride, and Body
I shall be building My ecclesia [church] (Matt.16:18).
He Who has the bride is the Bridegroom (John 3:29).
And He is the Head of the body (Col.1:18).
ONE of the greatest needs in Scripture study among the saints of God today is to distinguish the things that differ. And, in our study of the subject under consideration, we desire to go to the limits of fidelity to the Sacred Original, insisting on a "pattern of sound words," distinguishing the things that differ and "correctly partitioning" them. In no other way can we really hope to have the truth by which we may come to a correct understanding of the Mind of Inspiration.
Our subject calls attention to three scriptural terms, namely: "Church," "Bride," and "Body." We have chosen three phrases from the Word of truth in which the terms are used, not to consider the phrases themselves, but simply the words of our subject which they embody. Yet, I might point out in passing, that, to the majority of God's saints, these words are regarded as synonyms--meaning one and the same thing. But I insist that this is far from being the truth. This idea has led, and is leading, all who hold it into confusion and loss, and we desire, if possible, to clarify the matter by pointing out the true significance of each of the terms according to their usage by Inspiration. We shall consider them in the order named.
I shall be building My ecclesia." Be it remembered that we are not quoting these words of our Lord for the purpose of dealing with the significance of the statement itself. We have chosen the phrase because in it we have the first occurrence in the sacred Scriptures of the word "church," and it is almost universally regarded as the prophecy concerning the church, as if there was only one church spoken of in the Scriptures. And we might add further, that expositors, with this thought in mind, have turned the Scriptures into a "puzzle-picture." Regardless of what portion of the Scriptures we read, the one object seems to be: Find the church! As an example of this, I relate an incident that came under my observation some two years since. It was my privilege to attend a large camp meeting one Sunday afternoon. A noted preacher of the denomination was to give the sermon. The tabernacle was filled, with several hundred outside, sitting on the grass. I got up as close as possible, desiring to hear all he said. He came out and announced for his subject: "The March of the Church down the Centuries," quoting his text from Exodus 12:37, "And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth!" For something like an hour and a half he gave forth what he termed the history of the "church," past, present, and future, from the time that Israel began their exodus from Egypt until all the redeemed were in heaven, walking the golden streets of the New Jerusalem! As we left, on all sides were the elated comments: "He certainly is a wonderful preacher!" "Wasn't that a wonderful sermon?" "That is the best sermon I ever heard in my life." Apparently few, if any, realized that he began with an unscriptural premise, then twisted and rended the Scriptures throughout the sermon to make them fit his traditional ideas of the church and heaven! In other words, he propagated error, and it was received with much praise!
What is the cause for all this? I trust I will not be accused of passing harsh judgment, but my observation can be summed up in one word: selfishness. "We" belong to the church, therefore all we read in the Bible belongs to "us!" Such an attitude has degenerated into a state of pillaging--open robbery--of the "covenants," "legislation" and "promises" of others, with not the slightest compunction of conscience! The Scriptures no longer mean what the Holy Spirit intended, but the "Bible" has become a fiddle on which we can play any old tune we desire! The sons of Israel coming out of Egypt is the church! Israel in the land is the church! John the baptist preached to the church! The Lord Jesus preached to the church! The kingdom is the church! The little flock is the church! The three thousand on Pentecost is the church! The seven churches in the second and third chapters of Revelation is the church! John, in Revelation 4:1, represents the church! The living creatures, or cherubim, and the twenty-four elders before the throne is the church! The 144,000 is the church! The great multitude is the church! The sun-clothed woman, in Revelation 12, is the church! The bride is the church! The New Jerusalem is the church! Oh! the tragedy of such selfish handling of the Word of God! May He grant us the grace to turn from such carnality and seek our wisdom and knowledge in these matters at the fountain-head of information --the original Scriptures concordantly translated--giving conscientious care to what has been written.
In our study of the word "church," we find it is ekklesia in the Greek, a common noun, compounded from the elements ek, meaning "out," and klesia, meaning "called." When joined together we have the literal meaning in English of the Greek, namely: "out-called." The word occurs 115 times in the original. In our common, or King James version, as well as the American Standard version, it has been rendered 112 times by the English word "church" and 3 times by the word "assembly."
The word "church," during the centuries, has gathered about it much that is foreign to the original. In fact, the translators and theologians seem to have taken upon themselves the task of converting a common noun into a proper name, and, though they have done violence to God's holy Word, nevertheless, they have succeeded well in their undertaking. To the average reader, the term church carries the idea of the same thing all the time, regardless of the place he is reading and the context. He thinks of only one church.
Now let us remember that the original word ekklesia means simply and only "out-called" in English. Any other idea or significance than this has to be added by man. Only by the context are we enabled to discern the kind or character of the ekklesia, or "out-called" people under consideration. We will now call attention to five distinct ecclesias--"out-called" peoples--in the Scriptures.
ISRAELITISH COUNCIL IN THE WILDERNESS
This is he who came to be in the ecclesia in the wilderness with the messenger who speaks to him in Mount Sinai (Acts 7:38).
Here we see how the Israelitish council in the wilderness presents a "church" in the true sense of the term, that is, an "out-called" company from the nation of Israel, separated unto themselves for a special service unto Jehovah.
MOB OF SILVERSMITHS IN EPHESUS
Others, indeed, then, cried some other thing, for the ecclesia was confused, and the majority were not aware on what account they had come together (Acts 19:32).
For we are also in danger of being indicted of commotion concerning this day, there
existing not a single cause concerning which we shall be able to render an account of
this riot. And saying this, he dismisses the ecclesia (Acts 19:40,41).
Here again, we have the true idea of the meaning of ekklesia in ordinary Greek. The "riotous mob of silversmiths" here in Ephesus who rose up against Paul and his fellow travelers, crying out against them and their teachings, was a "church," an "out-called" group of people, by profession and intention, distinctly separated from the others of the city populace.
CITY COUNCIL OF EPHESUS
Now if you are seeking anything about other things, it will be explained in a legal ecclesia (Acts 19:39).
Here we have another ekklesia, or "church," which, when mentioned, brought pressure to bear on the ekklesia, or "church," of silversmiths and squelched their riotous commotion. It was the city council of Ephesus, before which any matter such as this disturbance might be brought for settlement. In this we can see that a select, or "out-called," company from the Ephesian population, empowered to transact the legal affairs of the city, was a "church!" But in our common, or King James, Bible the ekklesia of silversmiths and the city council of Ephesus have been translated by the word "assembly," giving the impression to the English reader that we have a different word in the original. Such inconsistent renderings as this, has led to confusion and loss as to the truth God has really revealed on many, many things throughout the Scriptures.
USED OF THE BRIDE OF THE LAMBKIN
And great fear came on the whole ecclesia (Acts 5:11).
By a careful consideration of what has gone before in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, this ekklesia, spoken of here as the "whole church," will be found to include all the "out-called" from the nation of Israel by John the baptist, the Lord Jesus and His disciples during His earthly ministry, Peter and the eleven, from Pentecost on down to this event. It includes the "above five hundred brethren" (1 Cor.15:6), the "one hundred and twenty" (Acts 1:15), the "about three thousand souls" of Pentecost (Acts 2:42), and the "many who believe" some days later, bringing the number up to about five thousand (Acts 4:4), making a total of probably more than five thousand and five hundred of the sons of Israel, designated here as the "whole ecclesia." But it must be remembered that this "church" includes only the sons of Israel with probably a few proselytes. This will be made clear as we progress in our study.
FIVE DISTINCT USES OF THE TERM
We have submitted five distinct scriptural uses of the term ekklesia, which has been translated "church" and "assembly" in our common version, and, as may be clearly observed, each usage refers to a different "church," or "out-called" people. Those willing to be guided by the internal evidence of the original Scriptures can see the ekklesia means in literal English, an "out-called" people, and only by the context are we able to know the kind or character of the "out-called" people that is in view. With this much of our way clear, we are in position to consider the other terms of our subject profitably.
BRIDE AND BODY
This part of our subject contains two terms--"bride" and "body"--which are almost universally regarded as synonyms. So, in the first place, we think it would be wise and profitable to call attention to facts which show clearly and conclusively that the Scriptures do not use the terms in a synonymous sense.
The first argument we point out to show that "bride" and "body" are not used as synonymous terms in the Scriptures, is the fact that the "bride" is nowhere promised an allotment or destiny in heaven. The "body" is finally promised a heavenly destiny, being "blessed with every spiritual blessing among the celestials," in contrast with the terrestrial blessings and glory of the "bride." A careful investigation of this truth will reveal the marvelous wisdom of God in His councils for the heavens and the earth.
The second argument offered to show that they are not synonymous terms is the fact that the "Circumcision writings" abound with types and anti-types, symbols and allusions to the "bride," while Paul does not even so much as hint of such in his writings.
The third argument offered to show that they are not synonymous terms, is the fact that the "Circumcision writings," especially John, continually speak of the "bride" but never mention the "body," while, on the other hand, Paul is continually speaking of the "body" but never one time mentions the "bride." This discriminating usage of the terms by Inspiration should arrest the attention of all truth-lovers.
The fourth argument offered from the Scriptures to show that the terms "bride" and "body" are not identical, is the fact that the "bride" was present in the days of John the baptist (John 3: 29), while the "body" of which Christ is the Head, was not revealed until after Paul was called, and sent to the nations.
The fifth argument is the fact that the Scriptures differentiate the terms by declaring that Christ makes the church, which is His body, ready, presenting it to Himself, not having spot or wrinkle or any things, but that it should be holy and flawless (Eph.5:25-30), while the "bride makes herself ready" (Rev.19:7). The uniting of the two in one produces a contradiction.
This surely is evidence enough to establish the fact that the Scriptures differentiate between the two terms "bride" and "body." This prepares the way for pointing out the significance of each term by its usage in the Scriptures.
WHAT IS THE BRIDE?
John the baptist, a friend of the Bridegroom, will help us answer this question. He introduced his own disciples to the Bridegroom, when he said to them:
Lo! the Lamb of God which is taking away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).
On the morrow John again stood and two of his disciples. And, looking at Jesus walking, he is saying, "Lo! the Lamb of God!" And the two disciples hear him speaking and they follow Jesus (John 1:35-37).
At a later date, when the Baptist is told of the effect of the Lord's ministry, he reminded them:
You yourselves are witnessing to me that I said, "I am not the Christ," but that "I am dispatched in front of that One." He Who has the bride is the Bridegroom. Yet the friend of the Bridegroom, who has stood and is hearing Him, is rejoicing with joy because of the Bridegroom's voice. This, my joy, then, is fulfilled. He must be growing, yet I am to be inferior (John 3:28-30).
"He Who has the bride" makes it clear that the "bride" was in view at the very beginning of our Lord's ministry. So we are certain of two things, first, that the Lord Jesus, Himself, is the Bridegroom; and second, the faithful little band of baptized Israelites gathered about Him was the beginning and representative of the ekklesia, or "out-called" Israelites, "in whom there was no guile," the "bride of the Lambkin."
We know that Israel is often presented in the Hebrew Scriptures under the figure of the "wife" of Jehovah. At Sinai He became her husband (Jer.31:32). But she forsook Him to go after other lovers (Hosea 2:6-13), and He gave her a bill of divorce (Deut.24:1-4). According to the law, they can never be His again, nevertheless, He invites her to return (Jer.3:1). He promises to wait for her and to keep her for Himself until the latter days, saying, "Thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for thee" (Hosea 3).
When the Lord came and walked among them, He called them an adulterous generation, for they had forsaken Jehovah. The "wife" of Jehovah included the whole nation, but the "bride" is more exclusive. Only those in Israel who acknowledge Him to be Jehovah's Lamb for their sins, united to Him in the affectionate ties of salvation, could claim part in this happy class. Not the "wife" of Jehovah or the Lamb, but the "bride" of the Lambkin. Not a sad reunion in old age, but with youth renewed!
In concluding this part of the subject, we might say, that in the whole description of the "bride-ecclesia," there is not a single suggestion which gives the nations a place. Take for example, the future home of the "bride," the holy city, new Jerusalem, with its twelve foundations and twelve portals of pearl. The entire description has exclusive reference to the sons of Israel, the "bride of the Lambkin." When the nations are spoken of, they are always outside. They walk by means of its light and bring their honor and glory into the city. Furthermore, the twelve foundations are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lambkin. How shall we account for the omission of the other apostles from this honor if the gentiles have part in the Holy City? Paul, Timothy, Silas, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Tychicus, Trophimus, Epaphroditus are all recognized as apostles in the Scriptures. Why are they ignored here? And above all, any foundation which is supposed to support the "church" must include the apostle Paul, through whom all the truth for this "secret administration" was made known. And, since he is absent, it is proof positive that, whoever the city may contain, it has no place for those to whom Paul ministered. Therefore, the holy city, new Jerusalem, will contain the ekklesia of Israel, the "bride of the Lambkin" and not the ekklesia which is the "body of Christ." Remember that the phrase "bride of Christ" is a misnomer of human invention and is found nowhere in the Scriptures. Those who desire to follow a "pattern of sound words" as God has been pleased to speak through the Holy Spirit will discard it.
WHAT IS THE BODY OF CHRIST
Having ascertained from the Scriptures that the term "church" is ekklesia in the Greek, a common noun and means an "out- called" people, that the "bride of the Lambkin" is the "out- called" Israelites who inherit the kingdom with all its terrestrial glory, and whose eonian home is the holy city, the new Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven from God and takes its place in the new earth in the last eon, we now turn our attention to the last term of our subject, which should interest and grip our hearts as no other subject in the sacred Scriptures, because it concerns us, the nations, the objects of His transcendent grace. And, as we must go to the Circumcision writings to find the truth concerning the "Bride-ecclesia," we must also go to Paul's writings for the truth concerning the "Body-ecclesia." Paul, alone of all the writers of the Greek Scriptures, speaks of the body.
And, it might be well, right here, to point out that Jesus Christ, in His earthly ministry did not preach about the body. He says in His own words: "I am not sent but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt.15:24).
And Paul verifies this by saying that "Christ has becomes the Servant of the Circumcision, for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the patriarchal promises" (Rom.15:8).
Now the "patriarchal promises" did not concern the body, for that was not revealed until many years subsequent to our Lord's earthly ministry. It is written, that "He [Jesus] went everywhere preaching the evangel of the kingdom" (Matt.4:23).
He mentioned the word "church" only thrice (Matt.16:18; 18:17,17), none of which make any reference whatever to the body, revealed in later years, through the apostle Paul, but concerned the "bride-church," as we have pointed out before. But in the writings of Paul, everything pertains to the "church" which is the body of Christ.
"And He is the Head of the body" (Col.1:18)
...and gives Him the headship over all to the ecclesia which is His body" (Eph.1:22).
These Scriptures point out a "body-church," peculiar to the writings of the apostle Paul. May we give consideration to a further description of it:
On this behalf, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you the nations--since you surely hear of the stewardship of God's grace which is given to me for you: seeing that the secret was made known to me by revelation (even as I write before, in brief, to enable those who are reading to apprehend my understanding in the secret of Christ, which is not made known to other generations of the sons of humanity as it was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets): in spirit the nations are to be joint enjoyers of an allotment, and a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the evangel of which I became the dispenser (Eph.3:1-7).
Here we learn of an ekklesia, an "out-called" people from the nations and Israel through "the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser," who, "in spirit" become joint allottees, a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
This is the ekklesia God has "blessed with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ" (Eph.1:3).
This is the ekklesia God "rouses together and seats together among the celestials in Christ Jesus, in order that in the oncoming eons, He may display the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Eph.2:6,7).
This is the ekklesia "saved through faith for grace, and this is naught of yours: it is God's oblation, not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8,9).
This is the ekklesia of gentiles and Israelites, who, "in spirit, are joint enjoyers of an allotment, and a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser" (Eph.3:6,7).
This is the ekklesia who "wrestle not with blood and flesh, but with the sovereignties, with the authorities, with the world mights of this darkness, with the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials" (Eph.6:12).
This is the ekklesia whose "citizenship belongs to the heavens, out of which we are awaiting a Saviour, also, the Lord, Jesus Christ, Who will transfigure the body of our humiliation, to conform it to His body glorious, in accord with the operation which enables Him to subject the universe to Himself" (Phil.3:20, 21).
This is the ekklesia through which God proposes to "make known to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, the multifarious wisdom of God, in accord with the purpose of the eons which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Eph.3:10,11).
This is the ekklesia "which is His [Christ's] body, the complement which is completing the entire universe" (Eph.1:23).
The evidence gained from this brief study of the Scriptures concerning our subject, the "Church," "Bride," and "Body," may be summed up as follows:
The term "church" is the translation of the original Greek word, ekklesia, a common noun, and means in literal English, an "out-called" people, with no particular reference to whom the people may be, in so far as the word itself is concerned.
The "Bride of the Lambkin" is an ekklesia, an "out- called" people of the nation of Israel who inherit the kingdom with all its promises and glory right here on this earth, and whose eonian home will be a holy city, the new Jerusalem, when it descends out of heaven from God and takes its place on the new earth in the last eon.
The "Body of Christ" is an ekklesia, an "out-called" people from the gentiles and the nation of Israel, "through the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser," who, "in spirit, become joint allottees, and a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus," with a heavenly destiny, blessed with every spiritual blessing among the celestials of the great empyrean of God.
Our heart's desire and prayer is that of the apostle Paul, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father glorious, may be giving to all who read this, a spirit of wisdom and revelation in its realization.
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