VB062 Ekklesia

God never intended for the local church to be simply a quiet, hidden body of believers. Rather, He intended for a church to be His voice and ruling power in each community. …VB062

[Mt. 16:18; Acts 17:19,22]


Imagine what it must have been like to live in ancient times, where all the legal and political decisions were made on a hill in the middle of the city.

They may have had 30-40 meetings each year. A herald would go through the city announcing the meeting and invite the citizens to come to the hill near the agora, the city’s business district. There were no certain buildings to meet in, it was an outdoor event. Four or five thousand people would go up to a leveled place at the top of the hill to;

  • Create laws and statutes
  • Designate government officials
  • Argue and rule in judicial matters
  • Elect the chief magistrates to enforce the laws of the land
  • Decide who would become citizens, and who would be banished

Each gathering opened with a prayer and sacrifice to the gods. The body then would begin to deal with the matters of law and business. Eloquent speakers would teach law, or debate specific populace agendas. The meeting ended with a closing prayer and a final sacrifice to the gods.

It is noteworthy that political parties and factions were strictly forbidden in this respected assembly. It was a body of equal citizens with an equal voice who gathered to assist in the orderly process of society. This governing body would not tolerate disorderly conduct, strife, or bickering.

This is a picture of Athens, Greece – many years before Christ. The place in the center of the city was called Areopagus, a combination of the Greek words for “god of war” and “stone.” The equivalent to Ares in Roman mythology is Mars. By the time of Paul and Christianity, this location was under Roman control, so the spot was known as Mars Hill.

The older Greek term, Areopagus, was still used in Paul’s day and referred to the council that met there (Acts 17:19, 22). The place-name changed, but the meetings were the indisputable Ekklesia.

Many famous Greek orators and statesmen referred to the Ekklesia in their writings. Even Plato referred to these Athenian assemblies in his writings.

The ekklesia had various levels of leadership. The council operated when the ekklesia was not in session. The council would decide what would be on the agenda for the next ekklesia. In many ways the levels of leadership can be found in the New Testament local church.

The herald (kerux) made proclamations at the ekklesia. He was like a spokesman for a king. He would not alter the message no matter the crowd’s response. The herald was a man with a powerful voice who summoned the citizens for the assembly, opened and closed each session. He maintained order and oversight, and publicized the final decisions of the meetings. The herald also called soldiers to battle in times of war.

The Athenian ekklesia was a renowned institution throughout the entire Greek speaking world. This assembly was one of the key components of the development of democracy, which had an affect on the whole civilized world. The writers of the New Testament were very familiar to this term and it is clear they used it to describe God’s people. Jesus used this Greek word in Matthew 16:18 at the first mention of His Church, “…and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

The term that the Holy Spirit chose to describe the newly emerging Christian community was the Greek word ekklesia. This word is a compound of the Greek words ek and kaleo. The word ek conveys the idea of an exit or a separation, and the word kaleo means to beckon, to call, to invite, or to summon. When these two words are joined, they form the word ekklesia, which describes those who are called and separated to a prestigious assembly.1

Writers of the NT didn’t invent a bunch of new words, they used familiar terminology, oftentimes pagan, that the whole world would understand. It has taken many translations and traditions of man to mess some things up.

While Paul was waiting for Timothy and Silas in Athens he was “invited” to speak where Athens held the Ekklesia meetings on Mars Hill. The Athenians thought Paul was bringing information about two new gods, “Jesus” and “Resurrection.”2

Acts 17:19 “…took him and brought him to the Areopagus.” The term areopagus means the hill of Ares (the god of war). In the Roman pantheon (all gods), the war god was named Mars. In the golden days of Athens, it was the philosophical forum of this renowned intellectual city. This was not a judicial trial, but an open city forum in the presence of a group of magistrates elected by Athenian citizens in their ekklesia.

Athens had strict rules about “worship.” They didn’t allow personal or private gods unless they were also publicly allowed. The leadership of Athens wanted to know what Paul was promoting. This is when Paul used their “unknown god” to explain the gospel to them.3

This word ekklesia describes an entire assembly of individuals who are called out, called forth, and separated and who therefore hold a position of honor and privilege. The Greek word ekklesia has a rich and meaningful history that few people today understand. This word goes back to those huge political meetings in Athens and was still being used in Paul’s time.4

The reason the Holy Spirit chose the word ekklesia to describe God’s people becomes more and more evident as we study this subject. The New Testament meaning of ekklesia is clear: The local body of individuals who have been called out, called forth, and separated for the purposes of God. The church is God’s assembly in every town and city – composed of people who have been called out to make eternal decisions that will affect the very atmosphere of their local region.

God never intended for the local church to be simply a quiet, hidden body of believers. Rather, He intended for a church to be His voice and ruling power in each community – a special assembly comprised of people who have been called out to make decisions that will impact their local environment for God.

Therefore, when the New Testament used the word ekklesia to depict the local church, it is conveying an incredibly important message right from the start: God’s plan for each congregation was not that they shrink back in fear, but rather that they rise to a position of power and influence in the place where God had called them to fulfill their specific assignment for their region. The church was intended to be a brilliant beacon of light in the midst of dark and troubled towns, and regions.

The believers in the New Testament were suffering from persecution. Meetings had to be conducted in secret because swift retribution would be brought upon them if their actions were ever discovered. Jesus still acknowledged them for who they were – His ekklesia, called out from the world and separated to exercise spiritual power over their hopeless surroundings.

Each body of believers has its own specific assignment, and each believer is assigned to a specific ekklesia! All local bodies fit within a larger common purpose: that of furthering the Kingdom of God on this earth by equipping the saints and being an influence of God’s truth and righteousness to a lost world.

1Renner, Rick. Sparkling Gems From The Greek II. (Tulsa: Institute Books, 2016), 436-7.

2The Spirit-Filled Life Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 1660.

3Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary. (Colorado Springs: AWMI, 2014)

4Renner, Rick. A Light in Darkness, Volume One: Seven Messages to the Seven Churches. (Tulsa: Harrison House, 2010), 390-8.

God bless you my friend,