Bible Study Opportunities
The Called Out
By Jon W. Quinn
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9).
The Lord spoke to His people through the apostle Peter and used several terms in order to help them appreciate their spiritual position in Christ. He referred to them as a “chosen” or elect” race, as a “holy nation” and as a “people for God's own possession.” By God's grace we occupy a very favored position in His universe.
Peter continues by saying, “for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10). Christians are referred to as “the people of God” and as having received God's “mercy.” This is the result of God's grace and love, not according to our own merit.
But notice something about “the people of God.” A very great deal could be said about each of these designations, but I wish to note the phrase in verse 9: “...Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
First, a brief grammar lesson in Greek. The word translated “out” is “ek” and the word translated “called” is the word “kalesantos.” The Greeks would put them together to form another word, “ekklesia” which means “called out” and refer to an assembly or gathering of people that has been called together. More on that in a moment.
First, it ought to be obvious that it is a very, very important matter to be a part of this “holy nation” of “people for God's own possession” who are “the people of God” and have now “received mercy” when once we were “without mercy.” There ought to be no argument there by any believer in God. God has issued the call. Have you answered to become one of those “called out?”
A Misunderstood English Word
Before we continue, having seen the necessity of being a part of the “called out” people of God, we need to examine more closely an English word that is so often misunderstood today. We saw how the Greek words for “called out” are combined to form the word “ekklesia” which refers to an assembly or gathering. When this word is translated into English, instead of translating it “assembly” another English word is usually used. Instead of “assembly” the word most often used is “church.”
See the ramification of this? If more people knew what the word “church” referred to, there would be much less talk being pleasing and acceptable to God apart from being a member of the church. It cannot be done, because the word “church” refers to “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
The only way to be saved apart from being a part of the church is to be saved without being God's people and without God's mercy. That cannot be done!
Once we get beyond thinking of the church in human terms, such as it being a building or a denomination, then we come closer to understanding its import.
“Church” In The Old Testament
When the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures were translated into Greek about 250 B.C. the Greek word “ekklesia” was used 40 or 50 times. It, again, means “assembly” and can be used for either a religious assembly or an assembly called for another purpose. It is used, for examples, in Deuteronomy 4:10 (verb) and in 9:10 (noun). It refers to the people of Israel.
“Church” In The New Testament
Again, sometimes “ekklesia” is used in a purely secular sense. A man named Demetrius called an “assembly” for purposes of inciting people into persecuting Paul (Acts 19:29,32). Also, later the word is used to refer to an assembly for a legal proceeding (Acts 19:38-39). But even in these secular uses, the word always refers to people. This assembly, or “church” is a gathering of people, not a building.
In the vast majority of its New Testament occurrences, the word “ekklesia” is translated “church” and does refer to a religious gathering. The “church of Christ” refers to an assembly of people gathered out of darkness into the light of Jesus Christ.
The word “church” is what we call a collective noun. This means it is a collection of smaller units. Other examples of collective nouns would be “herd” (gathering of certain cattle) or “flock” (gathering of certain birds). The “church” is a gathering of certain people, namely, those that fit the description of our text (1 Peter 2:9,10). One disciple is not the church any more than one cow is a herd.
The Lord's Church
By now, hopefully it is understood that the Lord's church is made up of those saved by the mercy of God. There are other terms used to describe the church in the New Testament. These also help clarify what exactly the church is and how necessary it is to be a member of it.
The church is the body of Christ, and He is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:21-23). Christ is the head of those who are in His body, or church (see also 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; 26-27).
The church is the temple of God, meaning that God dwells in His people. We are warned not to destroy the temple by harming or discouraging its people (1 Corinthians 3:16,17).
The church is the kingdom of Christ, meaning that Christ rules over His people as their spiritual king ((John 19:36; Matthew 16:16-18; Colossians 1:13)
One final point: Jesus is the savior of the church (Ephesians 5:23-27). If that does not drive the message home, then nothing will. Are you a part of God's “ekklesia” or “called out assembly”?
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois January 30,2000