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The Church of Matt. 16:
Does the singular "church" of Matt. 16: 18
rule out the idea of distinct churches?
pp. 199, 200
We have taught, and we believe it to be true, that the church of the epistle to the
Ephesians belongs to a completely different calling and dispensation from the church of
the early Acts period. However, although both rest on the all-sufficiency of the one
Offering of Christ on the cross, there are some readers who feel that if this be so, then
we should expect the Saviour to have said in Matt. 16: 18 "My churches" rather than
The word church, as we know, is the Anglicized form of kuriakon "belonging to the
Lord", which also gives the northern "Kirk". The Greek word translated "church" in the
N.T. is ekklesia, a word made up of ek "out" and kaleo "to call". In secular usage it
referred to an assembly of the people called out by a civil magistrate (Acts 19: 39), or
even an assembly of people not lawfully called out (Acts 19: 32, 40).
The assembly of the redeemed in any particular place is called "The Church at
Jerusalem" (Acts 8: 1), and in this local sense it is used in the plural:
"Then had the churches rest" (Acts 9: 31).
"The churches of Galatia, of Asia, of Macedonia" (I Cor. 16: 1, 19; II Cor. 8: 1).
In the LXX the word ekklesia is almost constantly employed to translate the Hebrew
qahal, which is rendered in the O.T. "assembly" and "congregation". Now qahal occurs
in the Hebrew O.T. as a noun 123 times, and of this number 69 are translated ekklesia by
It is abundantly clear therefore that the word ekklesia, was of frequent use among the
Jews long before Christ and would have a very definite meaning when used by them or
used in speech to them. In like manner, Stephen called the assembled and redeemed
nation of Israel "The church in the wilderness" (Acts 7: 38).
"This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him
in Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us."
The reference is to the man Moses, and the place Sinai and the giving of the law.
"Moses truly said unto the fathers. A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto
you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He shall
say unto you" (Acts 3: 22).