What It Is and What It Isn't.
by John T. Webb
Before we get started, see what TOLSTOY said
about what YOU believe!
For scripture references, see the Blue Letter Bible (KJV)
or the Hebrew Names Version of the World Messianic Bible (Modern update of ASV of 1901)
Contrary to popular belief, the church is not a "place" for a sinner to go to "get saved." Jesus' Great Commission to His disciples was not to "save the world." He commanded them (and us) to:
(1) "disciple" (Gr.: matheteusate -- make disciples, learn), not to "save" (Gr.: sozo -- save, make well), because only He and the Father (Joel 2:32) can do that, and to
(2) baptize and to
(3) teach -- in that order.
Furthermore, the word "church" is not synonymous with a group of people (see "The 'Church'"), and the people will hereinafter be referred to as the congregation.
The Hebrew word "qahal" (Strong's 6951) means "assembly" or "congregation." The Hebrew word "edah" (5712) is also translated as "assembly" or "congregation." "Edah," however, also means "witness" or "testimony." From this, we can assume that the congregation (edah) is to be the "witnessing body" for the Messiah. Qahal is often translated as "synagogue," so the qahal would be the meeting place for the edah.
The congregation is not a club for saints, but neither is it a hospital for sinners. It is more properly a school for kings and priests. "If we endure, we shall also reign with Him." (2 Tim. 2:12). "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." (Rev. 5:10) "And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father." (Rev. 1:6)
The congregation is composed of those called and chosen by God. Paul said that he was "called" (Gr.: kletos, from kaleo -- invited) to be an apostle (Gr.: apostolos -- a messenger, one sent on a mission) of Jesus Christ, and wrote to the Romans that "you also are the called of Jesus Christ." He addressed the Corinthians as "saints by calling" (1 Cor. 1:2). The Galatians were "quickly deserting Him who called (them) by the grace of Christ." The Ephesians were entreated to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (4:1). The Colossians were "called in one body" (3:15). And to the Thessalonians, "He called you through our gospel." (1 Thes.2:14).
While we are to be "witnesses (for Messiah) … to the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1:8), the epistles of Paul and Peter are primarily instruction in Christian living, not instruction in "soul-winning," or "witnessing." (The words "witness," "witnessed," and "witnesses" appear only eighteen times in the epistles of Paul, Romans through 2 Tim. [NASB]) "Soul-winning" is not a biblical concept. The believer is, rather, to "teach all nations" (plant) and "baptize" (water - no pun intended), but God through the Holy Spirit will "call" (give the increase). (See Matt. 28:19 and 1 Cor. 3:6.)
Proverbs 11:30 in the KJV is well known. "He that winneth souls is wise." But this is not necessarily the best translation. "The Hebrew text as it stands reads, 'wise man takes (away?) lives,' which may mean that by his example he gains the lives of other men, so that his righteousness is a tree of life to others as well as himself." (The New Bible Commentary: Revised, 1984)
The congregation is not composed of the lost (perishing) but of those who are (being) saved (1 Cor. 1:18) -- not for everyone, but for the called-out ones, both Jews and gentiles (1 Cor. 1:24) -- for the ones to whom God has revealed Himself through His Spirit (1 Cor 2:11-16) -- for those who will one day rule the world with Messiah.
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