In my previous post I referenced the idea of the church (ekklesia) being called to demonstrate the kingdom. To further clarify the distinction between the church and the kingdom here is what George Eldon Ladd wrote some decades ago.
The Kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign or kingly rule of God, and derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In biblical idiom, the Kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God’s rule who enter it, live under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the Kingdom but never the Kingdom itself. Jesus’ disciples belong to the Kingdom as the Kingdom belongs to them; but they are not the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society of women and men. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1974, 2000), 109.
Again, we as the ekklesia are not the kingdom, we are to demonstrate the kingdom and to come under the authority of the kingdom. Following on that, a better understanding of the meaning of ekklesia leads to being better equipped to demonstrate the kingdom. I previously referenced that ekklesia means the ‘called out ones.’ Inherent in the idea of this calling is that we are both called out from something and to something. We better understand this by hearing from Paul.
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God Romans 1:1 (NKJV)
Here I believe Paul is contrasting his calling into the ekklesia with his calling as a Pharisee. The distinction is between Paul’s calling ‘to’ versus a calling ‘from.’ Pharisee literally means a ‘separated one.’ The Pharisees identified themselves by what they were separated from. When Jesus called Paul, he no longer identified himself by what he was separated from but by the One he was separated to – Jesus! In the same manner, at our conversion we were called to be part of the ekklesia, called out and separated not from something but to someone, Jesus, for His purpose. When we see that we can then consider what our focus should be. We have the overview in Matthew.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)
Jesus called us as the ekklesia to demonstrate His kingdom and disciple and teach nations, which in the context of Matthew is people groups, ethnicities. We have the same message in Matthew 24:14.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 (NKJV)
Some have taken the Great Commission in Matthew (with variations in Mark 16:15-16 and Acts 1:8) to mean that as the ekklesia we are to disciple nations as in nation states. Yet that is not Jesus’ focus in Mark and Acts. Jesus directed us to make disciples of all ethnicities in the earth within the context of nation states. In this age the goal is not Christian nations but an effective ekklesia, Christians engaged in their calling, within nations. In my next post I will look at examples from the New Testament around the ‘how’ and let that lead further into church history. Hint, showing up on Sunday, sitting and standing on cue and then departing won’t accomplish the task and is not what happened in church history. What did happen is changed lives, communities and social structures.
More to come.