ONE of the greatest needs in Scripture study among the saints of God
today is to distinguish the things that differ. And, in our study of the subject under
consideration, we desire to go to the limits of fidelity to the Sacred Original, insisting
on a "pattern of sound words," distinguishing the things that differ and
"correctly partitioning" them. In no other way can we really hope to have the
truth by which we may come to a correct understanding of the Mind of Inspiration.
Our subject calls attention to three scriptural terms, namely: "Church,"
"Bride," and "Body." We have chosen three phrases from the Word of
truth in which the terms are used, not to consider the phrases themselves, but
simply the words of our subject which they embody. Yet, I might point out in passing,
that, to the majority of God's saints, these words are regarded as synonyms--meaning one
and the same thing. But I insist that this is far from being the truth. This idea has led,
and is leading, all who hold it into confusion and loss, and we desire, if possible, to
clarify the matter by pointing out the true significance of each of the terms according to
their usage by Inspiration. We shall consider them in the order named.
I shall be building My ecclesia." Be it remembered that we are not quoting these
words of our Lord for the purpose of dealing with the significance of the statement
itself. We have chosen the phrase because in it we have the first occurrence in the sacred
Scriptures of the word "church," and it is almost universally regarded as the
prophecy concerning the church, as if there was only one church spoken of in
the Scriptures. And we might add further, that expositors, with this thought in mind, have
turned the Scriptures into a "puzzle-picture." Regardless of what portion of the
Scriptures we read, the one object seems to be: Find the church! As an example of this, I
relate an incident that came under my observation some two years since. It was my
privilege to attend a large camp meeting one Sunday afternoon. A noted preacher of the
denomination was to give the sermon. The tabernacle was filled, with several hundred
outside, sitting on the grass. I got up as close as possible, desiring to hear all he
said. He came out and announced for his subject: "The March of the Church down the
Centuries," quoting his text from Exodus 12:37, "And the children of Israel
journeyed from Rameses to Succoth!" For something like an hour and a half he gave
forth what he termed the history of the "church," past, present, and future,
from the time that Israel began their exodus from Egypt until all the redeemed were in
heaven, walking the golden streets of the New Jerusalem! As we left, on all sides were the
elated comments: "He certainly is a wonderful preacher!" "Wasn't that a
wonderful sermon?" "That is the best sermon I ever heard in my life."
Apparently few, if any, realized that he began with an unscriptural premise, then twisted
and rended the Scriptures throughout the sermon to make them fit his traditional ideas of
the church and heaven! In other words, he propagated error, and it was received with much
What is the cause for all this? I trust I will not be accused of passing harsh
judgment, but my observation can be summed up in one word: selfishness.
"We" belong to the church, therefore all we read in the Bible belongs to
"us!" Such an attitude has degenerated into a state of pillaging--open
robbery--of the "covenants," "legislation" and "promises" of
others, with not the slightest compunction of conscience! The Scriptures no longer mean
what the Holy Spirit intended, but the "Bible" has become a fiddle on which we
can play any old tune we desire! The sons of Israel coming out of Egypt is the
church! Israel in the land is the church! John the baptist preached to the
church! The Lord Jesus preached to the church! The kingdom is the church!
The little flock is the church! The three thousand on Pentecost is the
church! The seven churches in the second and third chapters of Revelation is the
church! John, in Revelation 4:1, represents the church! The living creatures, or
cherubim, and the twenty-four elders before the throne is the church! The 144,000
is the church! The great multitude is the church! The sun-clothed woman, in
Revelation 12, is the church! The bride is the church! The New Jerusalem is the
church! Oh! the tragedy of such selfish handling of the Word of God! May He grant us the
grace to turn from such carnality and seek our wisdom and knowledge in these matters at
the fountain-head of information --the original Scriptures concordantly translated--giving
conscientious care to what has been written.
In our study of the word "church," we find it is ekklesia in the
Greek, a common noun, compounded from the elements ek, meaning "out," and
klesia, meaning "called." When joined together we have the literal
meaning in English of the Greek, namely: "out-called." The word occurs 115 times
in the original. In our common, or King James version, as well as the American Standard
version, it has been rendered 112 times by the English word "church" and 3 times
by the word "assembly."
The word "church," during the centuries, has gathered about it much that is
foreign to the original. In fact, the translators and theologians seem to have taken upon
themselves the task of converting a common noun into a proper name, and,
though they have done violence to God's holy Word, nevertheless, they have succeeded well
in their undertaking. To the average reader, the term church carries the idea of the same
thing all the time, regardless of the place he is reading and the context. He thinks of
only one church.
Now let us remember that the original word ekklesia means simply and only
"out-called" in English. Any other idea or significance than this has to be
added by man. Only by the context are we enabled to discern the kind or character of the ekklesia,
or "out-called" people under consideration. We will now call attention to five
distinct ecclesias--"out-called" peoples--in the Scriptures.
ISRAELITISH COUNCIL IN THE WILDERNESS
This is he who came to be in the ecclesia in the wilderness with the messenger who
speaks to him in Mount Sinai (Acts 7:38).
Here we see how the Israelitish council in the wilderness presents a "church"
in the true sense of the term, that is, an "out-called" company from the nation
of Israel, separated unto themselves for a special service unto Jehovah.
MOB OF SILVERSMITHS IN EPHESUS
Others, indeed, then, cried some other thing, for the ecclesia was confused, and
the majority were not aware on what account they had come together (Acts 19:32).
For we are also in danger of being indicted of commotion concerning this day, there
existing not a single cause concerning which we shall be able to render an account of
this riot. And saying this, he dismisses the ecclesia (Acts 19:40,41).
Here again, we have the true idea of the meaning of ekklesia in ordinary Greek.
The "riotous mob of silversmiths" here in Ephesus who rose up against Paul and
his fellow travelers, crying out against them and their teachings, was a
"church," an "out-called" group of people, by profession and
intention, distinctly separated from the others of the city populace.
CITY COUNCIL OF EPHESUS
Now if you are seeking anything about other things, it will be explained in a legal
ecclesia (Acts 19:39).
Here we have another ekklesia, or "church," which, when mentioned,
brought pressure to bear on the ekklesia, or "church," of silversmiths
and squelched their riotous commotion. It was the city council of Ephesus, before which
any matter such as this disturbance might be brought for settlement. In this we can see
that a select, or "out-called," company from the Ephesian population, empowered
to transact the legal affairs of the city, was a "church!" But in our common, or
King James, Bible the ekklesia of silversmiths and the city council of Ephesus have
been translated by the word "assembly," giving the impression to the English
reader that we have a different word in the original. Such inconsistent renderings as
this, has led to confusion and loss as to the truth God has really revealed on many, many
things throughout the Scriptures.
USED OF THE BRIDE OF THE LAMBKIN
And great fear came on the whole ecclesia (Acts 5:11).
By a careful consideration of what has gone before in the accounts of Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John, this ekklesia, spoken of here as the "whole church," will
be found to include all the "out-called" from the nation of Israel by John the
baptist, the Lord Jesus and His disciples during His earthly ministry, Peter and the
eleven, from Pentecost on down to this event. It includes the "above five hundred
brethren" (1 Cor.15:6), the "one hundred and twenty" (Acts 1:15), the
"about three thousand souls" of Pentecost (Acts 2:42), and the "many who
believe" some days later, bringing the number up to about five thousand (Acts 4:4),
making a total of probably more than five thousand and five hundred of the sons of Israel,
designated here as the "whole ecclesia." But it must be remembered that this
"church" includes only the sons of Israel with probably a few proselytes. This
will be made clear as we progress in our study.
FIVE DISTINCT USES OF THE TERM
We have submitted five distinct scriptural uses of the term ekklesia, which has
been translated "church" and "assembly" in our common version, and, as
may be clearly observed, each usage refers to a different "church," or
"out-called" people. Those willing to be guided by the internal evidence of the
original Scriptures can see the ekklesia means in literal English, an
"out-called" people, and only by the context are we able to know the kind
or character of the "out-called" people that is in view. With this much of our
way clear, we are in position to consider the other terms of our subject profitably.
BRIDE AND BODY
This part of our subject contains two terms--"bride" and
"body"--which are almost universally regarded as synonyms. So, in the first
place, we think it would be wise and profitable to call attention to facts which show
clearly and conclusively that the Scriptures do not use the terms in a synonymous sense.
The first argument we point out to show that "bride" and "body" are
not used as synonymous terms in the Scriptures, is the fact that the "bride" is
nowhere promised an allotment or destiny in heaven. The "body" is finally
promised a heavenly destiny, being "blessed with every spiritual blessing among the
celestials," in contrast with the terrestrial blessings and glory of the
"bride." A careful investigation of this truth will reveal the marvelous wisdom
of God in His councils for the heavens and the earth.
The second argument offered to show that they are not synonymous terms is the fact that
the "Circumcision writings" abound with types and anti-types, symbols and
allusions to the "bride," while Paul does not even so much as hint of such in
The third argument offered to show that they are not synonymous terms, is the fact that
the "Circumcision writings," especially John, continually speak of the
"bride" but never mention the "body," while, on the other hand, Paul
is continually speaking of the "body" but never one time mentions the
"bride." This discriminating usage of the terms by Inspiration should arrest the
attention of all truth-lovers.
The fourth argument offered from the Scriptures to show that the terms
"bride" and "body" are not identical, is the fact that the
"bride" was present in the days of John the baptist (John 3: 29), while the
"body" of which Christ is the Head, was not revealed until after Paul was
called, and sent to the nations.
The fifth argument is the fact that the Scriptures differentiate the terms by declaring
that Christ makes the church, which is His body, ready, presenting it to Himself,
not having spot or wrinkle or any things, but that it should be holy and flawless
(Eph.5:25-30), while the "bride makes herself ready" (Rev.19:7). The
uniting of the two in one produces a contradiction.
This surely is evidence enough to establish the fact that the Scriptures differentiate
between the two terms "bride" and "body." This prepares the way for
pointing out the significance of each term by its usage in the Scriptures.
WHAT IS THE BRIDE?
John the baptist, a friend of the Bridegroom, will help us answer this question. He
introduced his own disciples to the Bridegroom, when he said to them:
Lo! the Lamb of God which is taking away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).
On the morrow John again stood and two of his disciples. And, looking at Jesus walking, he
is saying, "Lo! the Lamb of God!" And the two disciples hear him speaking and
they follow Jesus (John 1:35-37).
At a later date, when the Baptist is told of the effect of the Lord's ministry, he
You yourselves are witnessing to me that I said, "I am not the
Christ," but that "I am dispatched in front of that One." He Who has the
bride is the Bridegroom. Yet the friend of the Bridegroom, who has stood and is
hearing Him, is rejoicing with joy because of the Bridegroom's voice. This, my joy, then,
is fulfilled. He must be growing, yet I am to be inferior (John 3:28-30).
"He Who has the bride" makes it clear that the "bride" was in view
at the very beginning of our Lord's ministry. So we are certain of two things, first, that
the Lord Jesus, Himself, is the Bridegroom; and second, the faithful little band of
baptized Israelites gathered about Him was the beginning and representative of the ekklesia,
or "out-called" Israelites, "in whom there was no guile," the "bride
of the Lambkin."
We know that Israel is often presented in the Hebrew Scriptures under the figure of the
"wife" of Jehovah. At Sinai He became her husband (Jer.31:32). But she forsook
Him to go after other lovers (Hosea 2:6-13), and He gave her a bill of divorce
(Deut.24:1-4). According to the law, they can never be His again, nevertheless, He invites
her to return (Jer.3:1). He promises to wait for her and to keep her for Himself until the
latter days, saying, "Thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for
thee" (Hosea 3).
When the Lord came and walked among them, He called them an adulterous
generation, for they had forsaken Jehovah. The "wife" of Jehovah included the
whole nation, but the "bride" is more exclusive. Only those in Israel who
acknowledge Him to be Jehovah's Lamb for their sins, united to Him in the affectionate
ties of salvation, could claim part in this happy class. Not the "wife" of
Jehovah or the Lamb, but the "bride" of the Lambkin. Not a sad reunion in
old age, but with youth renewed!
In concluding this part of the subject, we might say, that in the whole description of
the "bride-ecclesia," there is not a single suggestion which gives the
nations a place. Take for example, the future home of the "bride," the holy
city, new Jerusalem, with its twelve foundations and twelve portals of pearl. The entire
description has exclusive reference to the sons of Israel, the "bride of the
Lambkin." When the nations are spoken of, they are always outside. They walk
by means of its light and bring their honor and glory into the city. Furthermore, the
twelve foundations are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lambkin. How
shall we account for the omission of the other apostles from this honor if the gentiles
have part in the Holy City? Paul, Timothy, Silas, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus,
Tychicus, Trophimus, Epaphroditus are all recognized as apostles in the Scriptures. Why
are they ignored here? And above all, any foundation which is supposed to support
the "church" must include the apostle Paul, through whom all the truth for
this "secret administration" was made known. And, since he is absent, it is
proof positive that, whoever the city may contain, it has no place for those to whom Paul
ministered. Therefore, the holy city, new Jerusalem, will contain the ekklesia of
Israel, the "bride of the Lambkin" and not the ekklesia
which is the "body of Christ." Remember that the phrase "bride of
Christ" is a misnomer of human invention and is found nowhere in the Scriptures.
Those who desire to follow a "pattern of sound words" as God has been pleased to
speak through the Holy Spirit will discard it.
WHAT IS THE BODY OF CHRIST
Having ascertained from the Scriptures that the term "church" is ekklesia
in the Greek, a common noun and means an "out- called" people, that the
"bride of the Lambkin" is the "out- called" Israelites who inherit the
kingdom with all its terrestrial glory, and whose eonian home is the holy city, the new
Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven from God and takes its place in the new earth in
the last eon, we now turn our attention to the last term of our subject, which should
interest and grip our hearts as no other subject in the sacred Scriptures, because it
concerns us, the nations, the objects of His transcendent grace. And, as we must go to the
Circumcision writings to find the truth concerning the "Bride-ecclesia,"
we must also go to Paul's writings for the truth concerning the "Body-ecclesia."
Paul, alone of all the writers of the Greek Scriptures, speaks of the body.
And, it might be well, right here, to point out that Jesus Christ, in His earthly
ministry did not preach about the body. He says in His own words: "I am not sent but
only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt.15:24).
And Paul verifies this by saying that "Christ has becomes the Servant of the
Circumcision, for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the patriarchal promises"
Now the "patriarchal promises" did not concern the body, for that was not
revealed until many years subsequent to our Lord's earthly ministry. It is written, that
"He [Jesus] went everywhere preaching the evangel of the kingdom" (Matt.4:23).
He mentioned the word "church" only thrice (Matt.16:18; 18:17,17), none of
which make any reference whatever to the body, revealed in later years, through the
apostle Paul, but concerned the "bride-church," as we have pointed out
before. But in the writings of Paul, everything pertains to the "church" which
is the body of Christ.
"And He is the Head of the body" (Col.1:18)
...and gives Him the headship over all to the ecclesia which is His body"
These Scriptures point out a "body-church," peculiar to the writings
of the apostle Paul. May we give consideration to a further description of it:
On this behalf, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you the nations--since you
surely hear of the stewardship of God's grace which is given to me for you: seeing that
the secret was made known to me by revelation (even as I write before, in brief, to enable
those who are reading to apprehend my understanding in the secret of Christ, which is not
made known to other generations of the sons of humanity as it was now revealed to His holy
apostles and prophets): in spirit the nations are to be joint enjoyers of an
allotment, and a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ
Jesus, through the evangel of which I became the dispenser (Eph.3:1-7).
Here we learn of an ekklesia, an "out-called" people from the nations
and Israel through "the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser," who,
"in spirit" become joint allottees, a joint body, and joint
partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
This is the ekklesia God has "blessed with every spiritual blessing among
the celestials, in Christ" (Eph.1:3).
This is the ekklesia God "rouses together and seats together among the
celestials in Christ Jesus, in order that in the oncoming eons, He may display the
transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Eph.2:6,7).
This is the ekklesia "saved through faith for grace, and this is naught of
yours: it is God's oblation, not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8,9).
This is the ekklesia of gentiles and Israelites, who, "in spirit,
are joint enjoyers of an allotment, and a joint body, and joint
partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, through the evangel of which Paul became the
This is the ekklesia who "wrestle not with blood and flesh, but with the
sovereignties, with the authorities, with the world mights of this darkness, with the
spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials" (Eph.6:12).
This is the ekklesia whose "citizenship belongs to the heavens, out of
which we are awaiting a Saviour, also, the Lord, Jesus Christ, Who will transfigure the
body of our humiliation, to conform it to His body glorious, in accord with the operation
which enables Him to subject the universe to Himself" (Phil.3:20, 21).
This is the ekklesia through which God proposes to "make known to the
sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, the multifarious wisdom of God, in
accord with the purpose of the eons which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord"
This is the ekklesia "which is His [Christ's] body, the complement which is
completing the entire universe" (Eph.1:23).
The evidence gained from this brief study of the Scriptures concerning our subject, the
"Church," "Bride," and "Body," may be summed up as follows:
The term "church" is the translation of the original Greek word, ekklesia,
a common noun, and means in literal English, an "out-called" people, with no
particular reference to whom the people may be, in so far as the word itself is concerned.
The "Bride of the Lambkin" is an ekklesia, an "out-
called" people of the nation of Israel who inherit the kingdom with all its promises
and glory right here on this earth, and whose eonian home will be a holy city, the new
Jerusalem, when it descends out of heaven from God and takes its place on the new earth in
the last eon.
The "Body of Christ" is an ekklesia, an "out-called"
people from the gentiles and the nation of Israel, "through the evangel of which Paul
became the dispenser," who, "in spirit, become joint
allottees, and a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in
Christ Jesus," with a heavenly destiny, blessed with every spiritual blessing among
the celestials of the great empyrean of God.
Our heart's desire and prayer is that of the apostle Paul, that the God of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Father glorious, may be giving to all who read this, a spirit of wisdom
and revelation in its realization.