What is the relationship between the concept of CHURCH to the path or way, sect and religion? Are these defined and explained in the Bible? The most common mistake people made about the word church is that they define it as an edifice or building. When you ask them, they don’t know the difference between a chapel and the church. We learned from the topic What is church?, that it is an assembly of people or shall we say faithful and not a building. The chapel is the building and not the church. This time, we discuss the relationship between the church, the way, the sect and the religion.
First, if we take the etymology of the word “CHURCH,” we find the word (ἐκκλησία) or “ekklēsia,” which means “a calling out,” that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): – assembly, church. So, “Ekklesia” means assembly, a called out assembly, an assembly called out for a specific purpose.
The word SECT comes from the Middle English secte, from Old French, from Latin secta, course, school of thought, from feminine past participle of sequ, to follow; see sekw-1 in Indo-European roots. Sect is a group of people forming a distinct unit within a larger group by virtue of certain refinements or distinctions of belief or practice. Sect is also a religious body, especially one that has separated from a larger denomination. It is a faction united by common interests or beliefs.
The word RELIGION comes from the Middle English religioun, from Old French religion, from Latin religi, religin-, perhaps from religre, to tie fast. It is defined as the belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe; A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship; The life or condition of a person in a religious order; A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader; A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
For some people and religious denominations or shall we say non-sectarian groups, they believe that religion is not important. For them, what matters most to God is their personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their savior. As defined above, the word religion means to tie fast. It is an act of binding between God and His created beings – human beings. When man fall from the lies and deceit of the devil, sin entered, so does death. (GNB) Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned. (Romans 5:12) Based on that condition, we all need to be made alive again trough Jesus Christ – (GW) We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness that saved you.) (Ephesians 2:5) We need to be tied back again to God because our sins made us separate from Him.
This is what the word religion means. It gives us a chance to have a relationship to get back to God. In the Bible, James speaks about a true religion – James 1: 27 – (ISV) A religion that is pure and stainless in the sight of God the Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
During the time of the Apostles, they were exposed with the different sects, defined as a faction of a religion. The Jewish religion is divided into sections such as the Sadducee sect and the Pharisee sect. Apostle Paul confesses that he was a member of a very strict sect – Pharisee. (Acts 26:5) - (ISV) They have known for a long time, if they would but testify to it, that I lived as a Pharisee by the standard of the strictest sect of our religion.
Meanwhile, the PATH, is a way of life and literally described as the same as sect. This was discussed by Paul when he talked about what others think of the WAY or the sect. Act 24:14(GNB) I do admit this to you: I worship the God of our ancestors by following that Way which they say is false. But I also believe in everything written in the Law of Moses and the books of the prophets. Paul, when he was still a member of the Pharisee sect believed that they have also hoped for the promise of God. Act 26:5(MKJV) who knew me from the first, if they would testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. Act 26:6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made to our fathers by God.
What is the relationship of these entities with the church of God or the ekklesia?
The church of God, as mentioned by Apostle Paul is the sect that he used to prosecute when he was still a member of the sect of the Pharisee. He even put some of the members of this sect to death and some in prisons. Acts 22: 4 – LITV – I persecuted this Way as far as death, binding and delivering up both men and women to prisons. He confessed about being too harsh and did great damage to the members of the church. Galatians 1: 13 (BBE) For news has come to you of my way of life in the past in the Jews’ religion, how I was cruel without measure to the church of God, and did great damage to it:
This so called way or path is the church of God, and the church of God represents the spiritual body of Christ, which comprises the members called upon to embrace the words of God and the faith from Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:24 -(GW) I am happy to suffer for you now. In my body I am completing whatever remains of Christ’s sufferings. I am doing this on behalf of his body, the church.This was explained further by Apostle Paul; he said that the church was made up of faithfuls called through the will of God to be saints and to be in union with Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1: 1 -2; 12:27-28) (Revised Version – 1Co 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof. 1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues.)
When Paul was called to be an Apostle of the church of God (1 Cor. 1: 1-2), he relates the story of his calling in the book of the Acts of the Apostle. He remembered a voice talking to him and asking him why was he attacking him(referring to the owner of the voice). Then Paul asked who is he, and the voice said “I am Jesus, whom you are attacking.” (Acts 9: 1-5 – BBE) Come to think of it, He admitted that he prosecuted the members of the church of God (Galatians 1:13), but Jesus Christ said, it was Him whom Paul was prosecuting. This is because the church is the body of Christ. Any members of the church becomes a part of His spiritual body and subject for His never ending love, care and affection.
Why does Jesus Christ love the church so much? The answer is because the church is not only His spiritual body, but it is also His bride. Eph 5:23(BBE) For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. Eph 5:24 And as the church is under Christ’s authority, so let wives be under the rule of their husbands in all things. Eph 5:25 Husbands, have love for your wives, even as Christ had love for the church, and gave himself for it; Eph 5:26 So that he might make it holy, having made it clean with the washing of water by the word.
He purchased the church of God with His own blood. This is to show how much love He spent for His church. Act 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. It is very illogical to say that the church of God is not important. If the blood of Christ was shed because of the church, then how can others say that it is not important? They just don’t like the idea of being a member of the church. But Paul, an Apostle of the church of God explains that if we will be a member of the church, we can now have peace with God in one body (church) because the wall that separate us has been broken down through the shedding of His own blood.
Eph 2:14 For He is our peace, He making us both one, and He has broken down the middle wall of partition between us,
Eph 2:15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity (the Law of commandments contained in ordinances) so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, making peace between them;
Eph 2:16 and so that He might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity in Himself. (Modern King James Version)
How important that we become a part of this church of God? We believe and we always say that we are not building another church, for we become imitators of the church of God, which was built in Judea. 1 Th. 2: 14 -(ASV) For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus: for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews;
We also believe that this is the way, a new living way that God had prepared for everyone of us who will embrace this belief. Heb 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
Heb 10:20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
And we also believe that this is God’s grace to us so that we can be fruitful in our lives as Christians. 1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and am not sufficient to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace which was toward me has not been without fruit, but I labored more abundantly than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God with me