Editor’s Introduction The Church: Why Bother? -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 07:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: Editor’s Introduction The Church: Why Bother?
Author: John H. Armstrong


Editor’s Introduction The Church: Why Bother?

John H. Armstrong

I remember a sign I saw during the turbulent 1960s which struck me as rather indicative of the times. It simply said: “Jesus Yes, the Church No!” That seemed to me, at least at the time, to sum up the feeling of many in my generation. We wanted reality, but we were quite sure the one place we did not find it was the church. During the same era, while still a college undergraduate, I began to experiment with different models of church life. Much of the mystique of this experimentation was the “newness” of each form. It all “felt” so different from church as I had known it. After all, my church seemed so boring, and these small groups seemed so exciting and biblical. This communion on the floor in our jeans with casual singing and open sharing seemed much more like what the early Christians knew after Pentecost.

In time I began to ask, What is the church? Does it even matter? And, in light of the continual divisions and strife that I had seen among believers, why even bother?

“I Believe In The Holy Catholic Church”

The church is the company of all the redeemed. Other images and expressions are used to describe this redeemed company; e.g., the family of God, the people of God, the elect, the bride of Christ, the communion of saints, the new Israel, etc. But strictly speaking the church is the congregation of all who are committed to the Lord Jesus Christ

on the basis of His promises in the gospel. When I confess my belief in the church universal I am not making the church an object of my faith, but rather the God who calls this church into existence through His Word and Spirit. My trust is in God, but if I confess confidence in God, by design I am confessing that God has called His people into a holy catholic church. Let me explain.

The etymological meaning of the word for church (ekklesia) is based upon the Greek word for assembly, or congregation. This compound word has two parts. The first refers to that which comes “out of” (ek) and the second to that which is called (kaleo). Thus the compound word refers to a people called out of the world by God with the purpose of gathering in His name and for His purpose.

Though the Old Testament people of God
are in continuity with the church there are
some important differences to be noted
.

The two most common Old Testament words for the covenant community are convocation (qahal) and assembly (‘edah). The Septuagint clearly uses ekklesia for these two Hebrew words. The point made by each of these words is this—the church...

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