By STUART ALLEN
We offer no apology for making the word `church' a subject for study. Our experience has proved that
it is a partial understanding, or a wrong usage, of this word that is keeping many believers back from
grasping what is the great secret of Ephesians 3.
The phrase, `the one church' is often on the lips of Christians, but it is never found in the Word of
God: `one body' is used, but this is not the same thing. The word `church' means `assembly', or a
gathering of `called-out ones' (Gr. ekklesia).
Owing to our small space let us tabulate the various ways in which this word ekklesia is used by the
(1) It is used of Israel as a nation, called out and separated from all other nations - `The church in the
wilderness' (Acts 7:38).
(2) The Jewish synagogue: `And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church ...' (Matt. 18:17).
(Note the word `assembly' in James 2:2 is not ekklesia, but sunagoge, and the phrase should be translated,
`If there come into your synagogue').
(3) The guild of Ephesian craftsmen in Acts 19:32,39,41 (`The lawful assembly').
(4) Separate assemblies in different localities:
`The church of God which is at Corinth' (1 Cor. 1:2).
`The churches of Christ' (Rom. 16:16).
`The churches of God' (1 Cor. 11:16; 1 Thess. 2:14).
(5) The church of the firstborn (Heb. 12:23). This assembly is connected with the New Jerusalem (verse
22), and the New Jerusalem with the Bride (Rev. 21:9,10). Paul wished to present believers at Corinth - a
chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2), and likened the Lord to a `husband'.
(6) The church which is His Body (Eph. 1:22,23). This church is connected with a great secret hid from
all past generations (Eph. 3:9; 5:32; Col. 1:26). It is called a `new man' (Eph. 2:15), and its goal is a
perfect man, or full grown male (Eph. 4:13, the same word as is translated `husband' in Eph. 5:25). This
church is part of the Husband - Christ - and cannot be the Bride at the same time, and when it can be
proved that there is no difference between a man and a woman, then it will be time to state that the church
of which Christ is the Head and the church which is the Bride are identical - but not until then! Let us
give the Holy Spirit credit for using figures of speech in a sensible way.
The sphere of blessing connected with this church is at the right hand of God, to where the Lord Jesus
ascended. Now we are never told in the Scriptures that the right hand of God is in the New Jerusalem, or
that the Lord Jesus ascended to the New Jerusalem, and we have no Scriptural reason to treat these two
spheres as though they are identical: rather are we given to understand that the right hand of God is the
highest place that can be conceived - `far above all heavens' (Eph. 1:20,21; 4:10), whereas the New
Jerusalem is in heaven, and eventually comes down out of heaven (Rev. 21:2,10).
We table hereunder some of the differences between the church formed during the period covered by
the Acts of the Apostles and after:
AFTER ACTS 28