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EKKLESIA 05 - The Genesis of the Early Ekklesia

The fifth part of our Ekklesia series by Pastor Taunja Hoole

EKKLESIA 05 - The Genesis of Ekklesia

Matthew 16:13–19 (New King James Version)

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 


This story is the first time that Jesus ever introduced the word ""church"" to us, and the word He used gives us an incredibly vivid picture. We must look at the original definition Jesus gave the Church. Jesus started the Church, so He should be the only one to define us.


As a recap, it's essential to point out that Jesus talked about a King and a Kingdom (the Gospel of the Kingdom) for almost three years before the word "Church" was ever mentioned. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven more than anything else.

  • Jesus came to start a kingdom that would have no end.
  • Jesus wanted his followers to have a totally different mindset – a kingdom worldview.


Jesus taught…

  • Second-mile living
  • Forgiving 70x7
  • Seeking first God's kingdom and not worrying about all the things of this world
  • Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit
  • Praying different (with authority) – on earth as it is in heaven, kingdom come, will of God be done 
  • Making decrees/declarations
  • The Golden Rule – do unto others as you would like them to do to you
  • Walking on the narrow way and truly making Jesus LORD
  • Compassion for the sick and hurting
  • The Good Samaritan way of living
  • Leave the 99 and go after the 1
  • The Father welcomes the Prodigal son home


The kingdom of heaven looks different than the kingdom of this world. 


Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the tyrannical rule of the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his beloved Son.

 

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, His treasure – priests who are a kings, a spiritual “nation” set apart as God’s devoted ones. He called you out of darkness to experience his marvelous light, and now He claims you as his very own. He did this so that you would broadcast his glorious wonders throughout the world.  


We’re supposed to be representing a different kingdom worldview.

  • 4% of Americans have a Biblical worldview
  • 9% of Americans who claim to be born again have a Biblical worldview


There’s no wonder we aren’t making the impact or influencing culture as we could be. Jesus wants us to make a difference on this earth while we’re here. He came to start a spiritual kingdom that would visibly affect the entire natural world. Jesus didn’t begin a kingdom that would be dormant for 2,000 years or passive and docile against the kingdom of darkness. We are expected to rule and reign with Him in this life.

Romans 5:17 If one man’s sin brought a reign of death—that’s Adam’s legacy—how much more will those who receive grace in abundance and the free gift of redeeming justice reign in life by means of one other man—Jesus the Anointed.

KINGDOM DEFINED:


  • Kingdom comes from two words: King and Domain – A King's domain
  • Kingdom in Greek is basileia (NT: 923) (used more than 160 times in the NT)
  • Kingdom in Hebrew is mamlakah (OT: 4467)
  • Both words mean "Kingly rule, royal dominion, royal power, the realm of a King, a kingdom, a Kingdom's reign, sovereign authority or rule" 



  • Basic Kingdom definition: A government that rules a territory.
  • Where is the Kingdom of God? Wherever Jesus is King!
  • What is the Kingdom of God? It is the rule and reign of God.

Biblical Kingdom Theology: The Kingdom of God is now and not yet.

His rule is in heaven, but it’s also on earth. He even has authority over death, hell, and the grave – He has hell’s keys now. We can’t push His rule and reign solely into the future (dispensationalism). Yes, we will fully rule and reign with Him in the future, but that doesn’t mean we don’t reign or have authority in this life through Jesus. He gave us the Keys of the Kingdom. Keys represent authority.

Matthew 28:18 Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.


Ephesians 1:22–23 He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

 

Romans 8:17 Since we are his true children, we qualify to share all his treasures, for indeed, we are heirs of God himself. And since we are joined to Christ, we also inherit all that he is and all that he has…

As His heirs, he expects us to rule and reign with Him. Where? Wherever we are! Right here, right now on this earth. Jesus expects us to make a difference here and use whatever time He gives us to influence this world with the Kingdom. We are to bring heaven to earth!


He asks us to be like...

YEAST

Get into everything with his Kingdom, with the presence of heaven. Get into the whole lump and affect it all. Impact everywhere you go with the Kingdom ways, mindset, and attitude. Bring the atmosphere of heaven with you and get it into everything.

SALT

Flavor everything with the Kingdom. Preserve everything we can and season everything with Kingdom goodness and spices.

SEEDS

Plant seeds everywhere and produce a harvest.

LIGHT

Penetrate the darkness, bring light, and expose darkness and dark agendas.


None of those things are effective if contained or controlled.

  • Salt left in a shaker is useless
  • Stale water turns putrid
  • A light that’s blocked results in darkness
  • Yeast in a package or container remains powerless and inactive


Jesus doesn’t want his Kingdom contained.


Jesus says to us, “Penetrate every sphere of culture and impact everything on this earth. Don’t let the Kingdom of darkness get in there and control those spheres, bringing its dark influence on this world…You get in there like yeast, salt, seeds, light! You take the Kingdom of heaven with you everywhere you go! You represent me! You rule things in the spirit through prayer, decrees, and faith. You declare my ways and my kingdom mindset. You stand up for MY truths and don’t be intimidated by the enemy. You are Kings and Priests in My Kingdom – joint-heirs with Me, with all My authority to represent Me on this earth.


This is the context in which Jesus introduced that He was building a Church.


Questions I Ask

  • How was the NT church not just able to survive, but also radically transform the hostile social and political environment it was born into?


  • Why, in comparison, does it appear that the church’s influence today is quite a bit less than in the NT?

John 12:32 “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 

 

John 14:12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” 

 

Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs will follow all who believe and they will be able to do these things as proof: They will use my name to force demons out of people. They will speak in languages they never learned.  They will pick up snakes without being hurt. And they will drink poison without being hurt. They will touch the sick, and the sick will be healed.”


  • If Jesus said we would be doing all these things, and these signs would follow all who believe, what’s going on?


  • Could the fullness of who Jesus is still need to be fully discovered in our generation?


  • Maybe we need to discover the true depth of who we are in Christ and what we’re really called to do as a church?

 

Luke 16:16 Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in. 

 

-NKJV - and everyone is pressing into it.

-AMP - everyone tries forcefully to go into it.

-GW – everyone is trying to force their way into it

 

  • Why are we not experiencing this right now?


  • Could we have confined to four walls once a week what is designed to be a 24/7 people movement that transforms cities and nations out in the marketplace and everyday areas?

The Ekklesia was never meant to resemble a prisoner-of-war camp waiting to be liberated. (Ed Silvoso)

So, why does it look like we're not always winning!?


The issue isn't so much what we are doing is wrong. But instead, what is missing? What's keeping Jesus' stated objectives from materializing? The enemy of the best is not so much the worst because that would usually be pretty obvious to us. Instead, the enemy is the "good." The good can be so satisfying; it deprives us of hunger for the "much more" God has in store.


Before I go on, let me just say one thing. Jesus is still building His church.


Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 


My questions are not to discourage us in any way. I'm excited about what Jesus is doing in His church right now. That's also not to say it's not painful or messy right now.


  • It feels rude when God starts waking us up out of deep sleep.
  • It is painful when God starts cleaning up His church first before He cleans things up in this world.
  • It's hard to realize how far from the original intent we have wandered.
  • It's messy trying to change from one wineskin to another totally new one.


Holy Spirit vision: This week, Holy Spirit showed me a picture while I was talking to a friend. Suddenly, I saw myself driving a van full of people. We were going along, music bumping and talking. We started going into an area I'd never been in before. Instantly, I reached forward and dialed down the music, and kindly asked people to be quiet for a minute while I drove into this new area. I needed to concentrate. I guess it's a sure sign I'm getting old when I have to turn the music down. I heard Holy Spirit give me the reason why I saw this picture. He said, "It's a season to dial down any noise or distractions and focus on what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church because you've never been here before."


We've never been here before.

Snapshot of the Jesus' First Century Ekklesia

The New Testament examples of the Church are vastly different from the contemporary idea that “church is a place where church people go, usually once-a-week.”


Acts 2:41–47 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the Church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. 


Acts 5:12 Through the work of the apostles, many miraculous God-signs were set up among the people, many wonderful things done. They all met regularly and in remarkable harmony on the Temple porch named after Solomon. 

In the beginning, Church always referred to people, never buildings.

Acts 5:27-28 Bringing them back, they stood them before the High Council. The Chief Priest said, "Didn't we give you strict orders not to teach in Jesus' name? And here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching…" 


This was weeks after Pentecost, and they had already filled Jerusalem with their teaching. Think about it: Just a couple months beforehand, this city had crucified Jesus. Weeks later, thousands joined their ranks, publicly confessing Jesus as the Son of God and their Lord, and the whole city was impacted!


Later, Paul planted an Ekklesia in Ephesus…

Acts 19:10 Every day for over two years, he taught them in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, which resulted in everyone living in the province of Asia, Jews and non-Jews, hearing the prophetic word of the Lord. 


The Ekklesia's capacity for growth was so dynamic that two years after Paul planted the Church, every person (Jew and Greek) had an opportunity to hear the Word of the Lord. This was no small accomplishment.

  • The population at that time exceeded a million people.


Romans 15:19 ... I preached the Good News from Jerusalem all the way into Northwestern Greece, and so I have finished that part of my work. 

  • The surface area of 300,000 square miles!


Romans 15:20–24 Now I have finished my work here. Since for many years I have wanted to come to you, I hope to visit you on my way to Spain. After I enjoy being with you for a while, I hope you can help me on my trip. 

  • Spain was about 3,600 miles by land from Jerusalem.


This is even more remarkable because Jesus' Ekklesia accomplished everything without military or government support. It was a massive people movement that swept region after region victoriously. It was the counterculture to the existing status quo. The magnitude of the Church's expansion in such a relatively short time is hard to imagine, much less conceive as the norm in our current environments. This was accomplished without Bible colleges, seminaries, church campuses, full-time staff, or professional ministers. They didn't have computers, cell phones, the internet, social media, TV, Zoom, or texting. 


They also didn't even have much of the Bible! Some of Paul's epistles were widely circulated, but not all. They might have only had occasional access to Old Testament writings in some places. Yet the Ekklesia was healthy and robust. It wasn't an item on a to-do list or something on someone's schedule for the weekend. The Ekklesia was the agenda setter in those cultures.


  • What about all the discrepancies between the Early Church and today's Church?


  • Where is the influence of the Church today during the social, economic, political, and moral upheaval that's wreaking havoc in the world?

I read scriptures like Revelation 21:24, which says, "And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it." Christ's end-time Church is going to be discipling entire nations…not just people.


We've taken a quick snapshot of the Early Church, and I think if we're being honest, it's fair and necessary to ask, "Okay, what are we missing? Is there anything we need to tap back into?" I ask that with great respect for the Church. I love the Church with all my heart, I've literally served my whole life in the House, and I believe in the Church. So, I'm not putting us down. I get that we aren't perfect, and we're a work in process. I also know, we're going to get this! Jesus is coming back for a glorious Church. 


None of us want to play Church. We're not just punching our spiritual timeclocks, and we actually want to be on the mission Christ put us here for. Therefore, we have to ask some honest questions. Something was seriously working in the Early Church. The culture was more hostile to Christianity than ours, and they didn't have modern advantages. Still, it didn't matter because they were getting the job done in entire regions. Maybe it's time to discover and reinject what's missing into our mainstream.


Now, you might assume that during His public ministry on earth, Jesus would've spent a lot of time talking about the Church. I mean, we are carrying on His business here on earth. You would think He would've spent time transitioning the apostles and teaching them how to plant and grow a church.

Jesus used the word translated “church” in our Bibles only three times.

Just because Jesus only talked about "church" three times doesn't mean it's not essential. It is!


1 Timothy 3:15 …the household of God. This is the Church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. 


MY TWO BIGGEST QUESTIONS:


  1. Why did Jesus not say very much about the Church?
  2. Why didn't He or His apostles give specific instructions on starting one?


When you start looking at how elders were chosen and appointed in Early Church days, there are more challenging questions. Today, we use books like Philippians, Thessalonians, and other letters Paul wrote as our textbooks on church life and ministry. But Paul, who started those churches, spent less than a week in Philippi and not quite three weeks in Thessalonica. Yet by the time he left town, he had established dynamic churches in both cities with capable local leadership in place. We would never do this today! We can take at least a year before we even launch a new church. It can take time to raise up leaders, elders, and deacons. I'm not saying that's wrong or that I object to being careful about the leaders you put in place to deal with the government or leadership of a local church. Paul even instructed us to be very careful.


1 Timothy 5:22 Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader. Don't be hasty to ordain them with the laying on of hands, or you may end up sharing in their guilt should they fall. Keep yourself pure and holy with your standards high. 


  • The reality is that Paul and other apostles were able to start churches quickly and raise up capable leadership. 


  • The fact also remains that those churches quickly grew strong and healthy, and we learn from them today!


What kind of churches did Paul and the others plant all over? Again, you have to go back to this word Ekklesia. Jesus said, "I'm going to build My Ekklesia." This was an institution they all knew very well, and they completely understood what Jesus was implying. He didn't teach on it much because they had a visual aid in front of them their whole lives. The Ekklesia of their day impacted and influenced every aspect of their lives and culture. 


Next time, we'll discuss who the Ekklesia was and what they did. We'll also look at how we got the word "church" instead of Jesus' original intent of Ekklesia. Is there actually a difference?