August 16, 2012

What does Church have to do with Kingdom?

I just started reading a little book called Church Membership: How the World Knows who Represents Jesus by Jonathan Leeman (Crossway 2012). The foreword by Michael Horton has a nice summary of how Christ's redemptive work relates to the visible church:
"Christ rules us in order to save us and saves us in order to rule us. Unlike the rulers of this age, Jesus doesn't ask us to shed our blood for his empire; he instead gave his own life for his realm. Then he was raised in glory as the beginning of the new creation, and now he is gathering coheirs into his kingdom who belong to each other because, together, they belong to him. The visible church is where you will find Christ's kingdom on earth, and to disregard the kingdom is to disregard the King" (15).
If the visible church is the place where the Kingdom of God becomes visible, then covenantal membership in a local church is instrumental for the visibility of the kingdom. A timely word in a day when church membership is often under-emphasized or left unmentioned altogether.
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1 comment:

ἐκκλησία said...

What does the Church have to do with the Kingdom? Excellent question!

It's either everything .. or nothing - depending on how understand biblical translation because translation reveals if it was God's intent to introduce theology of 'the Kingdom of God' as well as theology of 'Church' or ONLY to introduce theology of one body, but which (church or Kingdom).

If one argues both are the same, theologically one needs to explain why they appear to be treated differently. Again this is a function of the original language. Personally, I believe translators have imparted false meaning which has resulted in unintended doctrine.

The English word 'church' comes from the Greek word 'κυριακός kyriakos or kyriakon' (not 'ekklesia') meaning 'Belonging to the Lord', or 'the Lords'. (Kyriakos became 'Kirk' became 'Kirche' became 'church').

κυριακός (kyriakos G2960) is used in the bible, but NEVER translated 'church' though that is precisely where the English word arose from. A meaning existed in Greek, but not in English so English borrowed the Greek word with the meaning it needed to suit the same purpose.

However, in translation, the word that has has been imparted the meaning of κυριακός is ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia G1577) but ἐκκλησία had its own meaning. So the question is why translate ekklēsia as 'church' rather than kyriakos?

One way to check the intended meaning of ἐκκλησία is to find OT quotes in the NT and compare the underlying Hebrew word that is translated to ἐκκλησία from the Hebrew and compare how they translate from Hebrew into English, and from the Greek into English.

[Hebrews 2:12] is such a verse, and quotes [Psalms 22:22]. [Psalms 22:22] says 'I will tell of your name to my kindred; in the midst of the ASSEMBLY (or congregation) I will praise you'.

Yet [Hebrews 2:12] is translated differently: "Saying, I will declare your name unto my brethren, in the midst of the CHURCH will I sing praise unto you."

The King James translators (at least) have injected slightly different meaning. In the Psalms the assembly or congregation was ALWAYS those covered by the covenant in the kingdom of Israel, also known as the 'congregation of Israel' ([Exo 12:6][Num 8:9][Num 14:5] etc. -- NOTE that the assembly of Israel excluded those not exercising faith, and others excluded by God [Deut 23:1-3][Deut 23:7-8], so NOT all Israel).

Now clearly in an OT context, there is a relationship between the assembly and the Kingdom. Assembly is a better translation of the word than 'church'. With 'church' however there is not, especially with American thinking about the separate of 'church' and 'state'.

Clearly the NT use of ekklēsia as a Hebrew idiom, intended to draw a clear connection between assembly and the Kingdom of God, but this is not evident in English because the word has been translated in a manner inconsistent with the OT.

From this it would appear God intended people to focus on the Kingdom of God, seeing assemblies of the Kingdom as the Kingdom. If so, this idea of 'Church' really only competes with, and distracts out focus from the 'Kingdom of God'.

In that sense, the answer would be, the Church has little to do with the Kingdom of God, save perhaps for obscuring our view of it.