The following is by a friend, Clark Wade. My comments at the end.
The word “church” is not in the original Greek and was maliciously added to obscure the original Greek word “ekklesia” by the King James’ translators. “Ekklesia ” was used among the Greeks as a body of the citizenry GATHERED to discuss the affairs of state. Old King James sought to keep the status quo in the understanding of “church” as a “building” where congregations would come to hear sermons from authorized clergy members, and where the congregants could also take part in “church” sacraments, such as the Lord’s Supper and baptism, also officiated over by officers of, you guessed it, “the church.” In the “church” there was also an “order of service” that was faithfully followed as well which consisted of announcements, opening prayer, singing, offering, congregational reading, sermon, and closing prayer. We haven’t changed that order in centuries. Of course, I don’t know if the King James’ congregations turned around and greeted one another so maybe we can take some credit for adding a notion of Christian fellowship to the order of service, be it ever so small.
But if we take out the word “church” and actually read how it was understood by the early writers of the NT, we can gain some real insight regarding God’s expressed will for His gatherings. We will find the mystery of meeting “in His name,” uncovered, unvarnished, unplugged! We find that in such a gathering there is freedom for the Spirit to use whom He wills ( I Cor. 12:7). “Where the Spirit of the Lord,” Paul wrote, ”there is freedom.” (2 Cor. 3:11). That “freedom” is a functioning priesthood of all God’s people. By the way, the word “people” in the Greek is “laity.” Do you recognize that word? Unlike the common understanding of the “laity” as the “listening class” or “spectator class” of Christians, we find something radically different in scripture. What we find is that all the people (the laity) are co-participants in these meetings.
I see much of the traditional church setting in the person of Lazarus. Our Lord spoke life into Lazarus’ dead body. Lazarus was told to come forth. But there were all of these stinking grave cloths covering him so that he couldn’t see nor move. These grave cloths are the traditions we have inherited from post-apostolic teaching, particularly about a single “Bishop” being set-over God’s people. In the same way that King James obscured the word “ekklesia” by his notion of “church,” the notion of a single bishop or pastor set-over God’s people also obscures the Headship of Jesus Christ from teaching and leading His own people. Of this system our Lord gave ample warning: “Call no man teacher, for you have only one Teacher and you are all brothers….Call no man “leader,” for you only have one Leader, the Christ.” Matthew 23:8-10
Can we hope to have such meetings again where Christ is recognized as the One actually leading and teaching His people through one another? I believe we can if we painfully divest ourselves of so many of our traditional concepts of what it is to meet in His name rather than in the name of the usual “order of service.” But we must re-thing the entire enterprise through the revelation of scripture.
“Now to Him Who by the consequence of the action of His power that is at work within us is able to carry out His purpose and superabundantly far above and over all that we dare ask or think—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams—to Him be glory in the gathered assembly and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Paul of Tarsus, Ephesians 3:20-21
“In Him, we were all made God’s heritage (heritage: from the Greek word “kleros” or “clergy”) and we obtained an inheritance as well. For we have all been foreORDAINED in accordance with His purpose, who works out everything in agreement with the counsel of His will.” Paul of Tarsus, Ephesians 1:11
Note: If you belong to Christ, you are His clergy. You are also forORDAINED by Him according to His purpose. You are “ordained” for a purpose, which Paul also lays out in saying that God’s people are to do the work of the ministry unto building up the body of Christ.”
God’s “mystery” for His gathered assembly is this: That through the gathered assembly the complicated, many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety and innumerable aspects might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, in accordance with the terms of the eternal (timeless) purpose which He realized and carried into effect in the person of Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul of Tarsus, Ephesians 3:9-11
“When HE ascended on high, He led captivity captive–He led a train of vanquished foes–and He bestowed gifts on the people (the laity). Paul of Tarsus, Ephesians 4:8
“And He gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds-teachers for the equipping of the saints, his consecrated people (the laity), so that they (the laity) should do the work of the ministry unto building up the body of Christ, the gathered assembly.” Paul of Tarsus, Ephesians 4:11
“For out of His living fullness have WE ALL received gifts after another and spiritual blessing and favor upon favor, and gift piled and heaped upon gift–gifts of grace beyond imagination.” John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, John 1:6
“EACH BELIEVER has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence. That gift is given for the good of the whole gathering…and in the gathering, the Spirit works all these things in each one individually as He sees fit.” Paul of Tarsus, I Cor. 12:7,11
“Do not forsake the assembly of yourselves together, as the manner of some, but encourage ONE ANOTHER.” Hebrews 10:25
“Allow the Word of Christ to dwell in each one of you richly as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.” Paul of Tarsus, Colossians 3:16
“Let’s say an outsider or unbeliever walks into your gathering and all are speaking for God with great power and insight…What then? Well, the outsider would come under the conviction of his sins and be called to accountability by all. The very secrets of his heart will be revealed by all, and right there–mystified, he would fall on his face in worship to God, proclaiming all the while that God most certainly dwells among you. So, what should you do brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one of you has a vital role because each has gifts. One person might have a song, another a lesson to teach, still another a revelation from God. One person might speak in an unknown language, another will offer the interpretation.” Paul of Tarsus, I Cor. 14:25-26
“There are many amazing working gifts in the gathering, but it is the same God who energizes them all in all.” Paul of Tarsus, I Cor. 12:6
“Jesus Christ is above all rule, authority, power and dominion, every name invoked, over every title bestowed in this age and the next. God has placed all things under His feet and anointed Him as Head over all things for His gathered assembly (A Headship that is exercised throughout His gathered assembly). This gathered assembly is His body, the fullness of Him who fills All in All.” Paul of Tarsus, Ephesians 1:22-23
I like the how Clark said he sees the traditional church setting in the person of Lazarus. He said, “Our Lord spoke life into Lazarus’ dead body. Lazarus was told to come forth. But there were all of these stinking grave cloths covering him so that he couldn’t see nor move.”
I can still remember the time when I started questioning why I go to church. I began to see things, and I know the Lord Jesus was talking to me. The Lord was speaking life into me when I was involved and sitting in a place that was only draining my spiritual life. The words, “Come out of her,” is all that was going through my mind and I didn’t know at the time what it referred to in the Scriptures. All I know is “Come out of her” was a message for me and to me that meant get out of that church. And I did. I have learned so much since then and my walk with Jesus is so much closer.
I am learning while in the wilderness. I have my ups and downs. There are so many “stinking grave clothes” (traditional teachings) I need to get rid of. Notice how the graves clothes restricted Lazarus from being totally free. But also note what Jesus said to those gathered, “Jesus said to THEM, Untie him and let him go!” For those coming out of Organized Religion, we need one another. We have to “untie” each other, so to speak. We need to build up and encourage one another in these times. I have not only learned so much as I listen to the voice of my Shepherd, but I am also learning from my brothers and sisters who also listen to the voice of our Teacher.