The English word church is derived from kuriakos, a Greek word meaning belonging to The Lord. Church is commonly used to translate another original New Testament Greek word, ekklesia, which meant an assembly of called out ones. It corresponds to the congregation of the Old Testament e.g. "This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers" (Acts 7:38 RSV).
The Congregation In The Wilderness
"Congregation," "meeting" or "assembly" are most often used to translate the original Hebrew words of the Old Testament, pronounced mo-aw-daw, ay-daw and kaw-hawl which were used primarily to describe the Israelites in a sense of a gathering of The Lord's holy people.
"They set out from Elim, and all the congregation [ay-daw] of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt." (Exodus 16:1 RSV) (see Wilderness Journey)
"The Lord called Moses, and spoke to him from the tent of meeting [mo-aw-daw, KJV tabernacle of the congregation], saying, "Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, When any man of you brings an offering to The Lord, you shall bring your offering of cattle from the herd or from the flock. "If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it at the door of the tent of meeting [mo-aw-daw, KJV tabernacle of the congregation], that he may be accepted before The Lord" (Leviticus 1:1-3 RSV) (see The Tabernacle In The Wilderness)
"But when the assembly [kaw-hawl] is to be gathered together, you shall blow, but you shall not sound an alarm. And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations." (Numbers 10:7-8 RSV)
The Rock Of All Ages
In the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament, ay-daw was translated as sunagoge (from which comes the English word synagogue), and kaw-hawl was translated as ekklesia. Earlier, synagogue was a term used collectively for the Israelite people, while ekklesia was used for the church, the "called out ones."
The Rock Of Ages provides a direct continuity between the Old Testament congregation, the "physical Israel" who were set free by the blood of a Passover lamb, and the New Testament church, the "spiritual Israel" who are set free by the blood of the Lamb of God.
"I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized [see Baptism] into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:1-4 RSV)
"on this Rock I will build My church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18 RSV)
"And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name, which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one. While I was with them, I kept them in Thy Name, which Thou hast given Me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Thy Word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the Truth; Thy Word is Truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." (John 17:11-18 RSV)
"So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit it was multiplied." (Acts 9:31 RSV)
"Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which He obtained with the blood of His own Son" (Acts 20:28 RSV)
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