(Gr., ekklesi'a—"assembly," "congregation") An assembly of persons called out from this world to the service of Almighty God. The Christian congregation, the "holy nation", is comprised of Jesus Christ, the Head, and 144,000 members of His body. The term also applies collectively to all those of the anointed spiritual class on earth at any particular time, or to the local assembly in any place. (Ek-kle-si'a is often translated "church".)
Nation of Israel the First Congregation of God
Acts 7:38 "This is he that came to be among the congregation in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mount Sinai and with our forefathers, and he received living sacred pronouncements to give you."
Called Out from Egypt at Passover Time
Exodus 12:2, 5, 6, 41 "This month [Abib or Nisan] shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old: ye shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at even."
Exodus 12:7, 22-24 "And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel, upon the houses wherein they shall eat it. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side-posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For Jehovah will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, Jehovah will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to you and to your sons for ever."
Officially Organized at Mount Sinai, 1513 B.C.—Jewish "Systems of Things"
Exodus 19:1 "In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai."
Hebrews 9:18-20 "Consequently neither was the former covenant inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment according to the Law had been spoken by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of the young bulls and of the goats with water and scarlet wool and hyssop and sprinkled the book itself and all the people, saying: 'This is the blood of the covenant which God has laid as a charge upon you.' "
Glory of Its Law Covenant
Exodus 19:16 "And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled."
Hebrews 12:18-21 "For you have not approached that which can be felt and which has been set aflame with fire, and a dark cloud and thick darkness and a tempest, and the blare of a trumpet and the voice of words, on hearing which voice the people implored that no word should be added to them. For the command was not bearable to them: 'And if a beast touches the mountain, it must be stoned.' Also the display was so fearful that Moses said: 'I am terrified and trembling.' "
Jewish Congregation Pictured by Ishmael
Galatians 4:22-30 "For example, it is written that Abraham acquired two sons, one by the servant girl and one by the free woman; but the one by the servant girl was actually born in the manner of flesh, the other by the free woman through a promise. These things stand as a symbolic drama; for these women mean two covenants, the one from mount Sinai, which brings forth children for slavery, and which is Hagar. Now this Hagar means Sinai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children.... Nevertheless, what does the Scripture say? 'Cast out the servant girl and her son.' "
Organizational Structure of Jewish Congregation
Mediator and leader, Moses (Galatians 3:19); founded on twelve sons of Jacob; twelve tribes of Israel; law covenant; Levitical priesthood; animal sacrifices.
Covenant Did Not Accomplish Stated Purpose Because of Fleshly Imperfection and Sin
Romans 8:3 "For, there being an incapability on the part of the Law, while it was weak through the flesh, God, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh."
Romans 9:31, 32 "But Israel, although pursuing a law of righteousness, did not attain to the law. For what reason? Because he pursued it, not by faith, but as by works."
Hebrews 4:2 "For we have had the good news declared to us also, even as they also had; but the word which was heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who did hear."
Hebrews 10:3, 6 "To the contrary, by these sacrifices there is a reminding of sins from year to year.’ You did not approve of whole burnt-offerings and sin offering.' "
Covenant Did Serve Purpose of Leading Faithful Remnant to Christ
Galatians 3:24 "Consequently, the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith."
The Typical House Cast Off, A.D. 33; "Jewish Systems of Things" No Longer Valid
Matthew 23:38 "Look! your house is abandoned to you."
Daniel 9:27 "And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease."
Colossians 2:13, 14 "He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us, and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake."
The Christian Congregation —Some Scriptural Names Applied to It
Anointed ones (2 Corinthians 1:21); body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22, 23); congregation of God (Galatians 1:13); heirs (Romans 8:17); holy nation (1 Peter 2:9); holy ones (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1); holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5); Israel of God (Galatians 6:16); new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); royal palace of David (Acts 15:16); sons of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:38); spiritual Israel (Revelation 7:4; 21:12); temple (1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Peter 2:5).
Acts 15:14 "Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned His attention to the nations to take out of them a people for His Name."
1 Peter 2:9 "On the other hand, you are 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies' of the One that called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."
Called Out from This World (Egypt) Beginning A.D. 29
John 15:19; 17:6 "If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you." "I have made Your Name manifest to the men You gave Me out of the world."
Established on New Covenant
Jeremiah 31:31, 32 "Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah."
Hebrews 8:10-13 " ' "For this is the covenant which I shall covenant with the house of Israel after those days," says Jehovah: "I shall put My laws in their mind, and upon their hearts I shall write them, and I shall be a God to them and they will be a people to Me. And they will by no means teach every man his fellow citizen and every man his brother, saying: 'Know Jehovah,' because they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I shall be merciful to their unrighteous deeds and I will by no means call their sins to mind any more." ‘In His saying 'a new covenant' He has made the former one obsolete. Now that which is made obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away."
Hebrews 12:24 "Jesus the mediator of a new covenant."
Blood of Christ validated new covenant
1 Corinthians 5:7 "For, indeed, Christ our passover has been sacrificed."
Luke 22:20 "Also the cup in the same way after they had the evening meal, He saying: 'This cup means the new covenant by virtue of My blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.'"
1 Corinthians 11:25 "He did likewise respecting the cup also, after He had the evening meal, saying: 'This cup means the new covenant by virtue of My blood. Keep doing this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' "
Hebrews 9:13-17 (mar.) "For if the blood of goats and of bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have been polluted sanctifies to the extent of cleanness of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God? ... For where there is a covenant, the death of the human mediating sacrifice (or, victim) needs to be furnished. For a covenant is valid over dead victims, since it is not in force at any time while the human mediating sacrifice (or, victim) is living."
Covenant inaugurated at Pentecost, A.D. 33—"new systems of things"
Acts 2:1-4, 14-17, 38 "Now while the day of the feast of Pentecost was in progress they were all together at the same place, and suddenly there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And tongues as if of fire became visible and were distributed to them, and one sat upon each one of them, and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance. . , Peter . . . raised his voice ... 'These people are, in fact, not drunk, as you suppose, for it is the third hour of the day. On the contrary, this is what was said through the prophet Joel, " 'And in the last days,' God says, 'I shall pour some of My spirit out upon every kind of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.'” ‘ Peter said to them: 'Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.'"
Glory of the new covenant
2 Corinthians 3:7-11 "Moreover, if the code which administers death and which was engraved in letters in stones came about in a glory, so that the sons of Israel could not gaze intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, a glory which was to be done away with, why should not the administering of the spirit be much more with glory? For if the code administering condemnation was glorious, much more does the administering of righteousness abound with glory. In fact, even that which has once been made glorious has been stripped of glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels it. For if that which was to be done away with was brought in with glory, much more would that which remains be with glory."
Hebrews 12:22-26 "But you have approached a mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels, in general assembly, and the congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens, and God the Judge of all, and the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect, and Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling which speaks in a better way than Abel's blood. See that you do not refuse Him that speaks. For if they did not escape who implored Him not to give divine warning upon earth, much more shall we not if we turn away from Him who speaks from the heavens. At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, saying: 'Yet once more I will set not only the earth but also the heaven in commotion.' "
New covenant achieves success
Romans 8:3, 4 "For, there being an incapability on the part of the Law, while it was weak through the flesh, God, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not in accord with the flesh, but in accord with the spirit."
Romans 11:27 "And this is the covenant on My part with them, when I completely take their sins away."
Hebrews 10:16, 17 '""This is the covenant which I shall covenant toward them after those days," says Jehovah: "I shall put My laws upon their hearts, and upon their minds I shall write them,"' it says afterwards, 'And I will by no means call their sins and their lawless deeds to mind any more.' "
First benefits of covenant received by anointed
James 1:18 "Because He willed it, He brought us forth by the word of truth, for us to be a certain firstfruits of his creatures."
Revelation 14:4 "These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where He goes. These were purchased from among mankind as a firstfruits to God and to the Lamb."
Luke 12:32 "Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom."
Secondary benefits of covenant for other sheep
Isaiah 56:4, 5 "For thus saith Jehovah of the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and hold fast My covenant: Unto them will I give in My house and within My walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off."
Isaiah 56:6-8 "Also the foreigners that join themselves to Jehovah, to minister unto Him, and to love the name of Jehovah, to be His servants, every one that keeps the sabbath from profaning it, and holds fast My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. The Lord Jehovah, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, saith, Yet will I gather others to him, besides his own that are gathered."
John 10:16 'And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to My voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd."
Christian Congregation Pictured by Isaac (the Seed) and Rebekah (the "Bride", the Adopted Seed)
Genesis 24:67 "And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death."
Galatians 4:26-28, 31 "But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written: 'Be glad, you barren woman who does not bear children; break out and cry aloud, you woman who does not have childbirth pains; because the children of the desolate woman number more than those of her who has the husband.' Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was. Wherefore, brothers, we are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman."
Galatians 3:16, 29; 4:4-7 "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not, 'And to seeds,' as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one, 'And to your seed,' who is Christ. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham's seed, heirs with reference to a promise." "But when the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth His Son, who was produced out of a woman and who came to be under law, that He might release by purchase those under law, that we in turn might receive the adoption as sons. Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of His Son into our hearts and it cries out, 'Abba, Father!' So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God."
God's Heavenly Organization, Not the Church, Produces the Kingdom Head and Other Members
Revelation 12:5 "And she gave birth to a son, a male, who is destined to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod."—See also verse 17.
Organizational Structure of Christian Congregation
Mediator and Leader, Christ (Hebrews 9:15; 12:24; 1 Tim. 2:5); 12 apostolic foundations (Ephesians 2:20) ; twelve spiritual tribes (Revelation 7:4-8); new covenant; priesthood after likeness of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:17); perfect human sacrifice of Christ.
Accomplishes Stated Purpose Through God's Spirit
2 Corinthians 3:5, 6 "Not that we of ourselves are adequately qualified to reckon anything as issuing from ourselves, but our being adequately qualified issues from God, who has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of a written code, but of spirit; for the written code condemns to death, but the spirit makes alive."
Hebrews 7:18, 19 "Certainly, then, there occurs a setting aside of the preceding commandment on account of its weakness and ineffectiveness. For the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in besides of a better hope did, through which we are drawing near to God."
"Princes"—Those in Responsible Positions in Organization (Heb., sa-rim'—"captains," "stewards," "rulers")
Isaiah 32:1-4 "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice. And a man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as streams of water in a dry place, as the shade of a great rock in a weary land. And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. And the heart of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly."
Exodus 18:21 "Moreover you shall provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens."
Numbers 31:14, 48, 52, 54 "And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who came from the service of the war. And the officers that were over the thousands of the host,... the captains of hundreds, came near unto Moses; .. . And all the gold of the heave- offering that they offered up to Jehovah, of the captains of thousands, and of the captains of hundreds,... And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tent of meeting, for a memorial for the children of Israel before Jehovah."
Principle of Community Responsibility—Whole Congregation Responsible, Suffers for Wrongdoing Within Its Ranks
Joshua 7:1-26 "But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the devoted thing; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the devoted thing: and the anger of Jehovah was kindled against the children of Israel. ... And the men of Ai... chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them at the descent: and the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.... And Jehovah said ... Israel hath sinned; yea, they have even transgressed My covenant which I commanded them: yea, they have even taken of the devoted thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also; and they have even put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, because they are become accursed: I will not be with you any more, except ye destroy the devoted thing from among you.... And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Of a truth I have sinned against Jehovah, the God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: when I saw among the spoil a goodly Babylonish mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. . . . And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? Jehovah shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones and they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones."
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 "For the body, indeed, is not one member, but is many. ... God compounded the body, giving honor more abundant to the part which had a lack, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the other members suffer with it; or if a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and members individually.'
Galatians 5:9 "A little yeast ferments the whole lump."
Hebrews 12:15 "Carefully watching that no one may be deprived of the undeserved kindness of God; that no poisonous root may spring up and cause trouble and many be defiled by it."
1 Corinthians 3:16, 17 "Do you not know that you people are God's temple and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are."
1 Corinthians 5:6-8 "Your cause for boasting is not right. Do you not know that a little yeast ferments the whole lump? Clear away the old yeast, that you may be a new lump, according as you are free from ferment. For, indeed, Christ our passover has been sacrificed. Consequently, let us keep the feast, not with old yeast, neither with yeast of injuriousness and wickedness, but with unfermented cakes of purity and truth."
Keeping the Organization Clean, Upright and at Unity
Jude 3, 4 "I found it necessary to write you to exhort you to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones. My reason is that certain men have slipped in who have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to the judgment described below, ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ."
Titus 2:6-8 "Likewise keep on exhorting the younger men to be sound in mind, in all things showing yourself an example of right works, showing uncorruptness in your teaching, seriousness, wholesome speech which cannot be condemned, so that the man on the opposing side may get ashamed, having nothing vile to say about us."
Difficulties Between Individuals
Matthew 18:15-17 "Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector."
Wrongdoing Affecting the Congregation and Its Service
1 Timothy 4:1 "However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons."
Galatians 5:12 "I wish the men who are trying to overturn you would even get themselves emasculated."
Jude 19 "These are the ones that make separations, animalistic men, not having spirituality."
See also: 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.
Reproof Issued by Those in Responsible Positions Private
1 Timothy 5:1, 2 "Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness."
1 Timothy 5:20 "Reprove before all onlookers persons who practice sin, that the rest also may have fear."
Titus 1:10-13 "For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain. A certain one of them, their own prophet, said: 'Cretans are always liars, injurious wild-beasts, unemployed gluttons.' The witness here given is true. For this very cause keep on reproving them with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith."
Disfellowshiping—for Doctrinal or Moral Uncleanness, or Troublemaking
Romans 16:17 "Now I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who create divisions and causes for stumbling contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and avoid them."
3 John 9-11 "I wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words. Also, not being content with these things, neither does he himself receive the brothers with respect, and those who are wanting to receive them he tries to hinder and to throw out of the congregation."
1 Corinthians 5:12, 13 "Do you not judge those inside, while God judges those outside? 'Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.' "
Leviticus 23:28, 29 "And ye shall do no manner of work in that same day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement for you before Jehovah your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day; he shall be cut off from his people."
Numbers 9:13 "But the man that is clean, and is not on a journey, and forbears to keep the passover, that soul shall be cut off from his people; because he offered not the oblation of Jehovah in its appointed season, that man shall bear his sin."
1 Timothy 1:20 "Hymenaeus and Alexander belong to these, and I have handed them over to Satan that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme."
Restrictions on Disfellowshiped Persons
2 John 10, 11 "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say farewell to him. For he that says farewell to him is a sharer in his wicked works.''
1 Corinthians 5:11 "But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man."
2 Thessalonians 3:6-14 "Now we are giving you orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition you received from us.... In fact, also, when we were with you, we used to give you this order: 'If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.' For we hear certain ones are walking disorderly among you, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them. To such persons we give the order and exhortation in the Lord Jesus Christ that by working with quietness they should eat food they themselves earn."
Receiving Back Repentant Ones
2 Corinthians 2:5-11 "Now if anyone has caused sadness, he has saddened, not me, but all of you to an extent—not to be too harsh in what I say. This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary now, you should kindly forgive and comfort him, that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort you to confirm your love for him.... Anything you kindly forgive anyone, I do too. In fact, as for me, whatever I have kindly forgiven, if I have kindly forgiven anything, it has been for your sakes in Christ's sight, that we may not be overreached by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs."
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