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What is The Ecclesia?

Is It A Church? Is It A Cult? Is It Important?

Part One of Three
By Ben Williams

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you quickly: but in case I am delayed, you will know how you should conduct yourself in the house (domain) of God, which is the ecclesia of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:14-15)

The ecclesia of the living God IS the pillar and ground of the truth! That makes it pretty important. If we can define "ecclesia," we will have identified "the pillar and ground of the truth." Few endeavors are as important and rewarding as this.

But, defining words is the crucial factor that many people never consider. Some purposely ignore it. Because of this, millions of people have missed the true meaning of the "ecclesia." And, because they have missed this meaning, they now find themselves unwittingly in support of an institution the early Christians despised.


One of the things that I enjoy, as most of my readers can attest, is chasing down the true meaning of a word. Learning the origins and correct meanings of words provides answers for many things. A word study will sometimes force me to change my use of a word after discovering that I've been using it wrongly. Finding past errors, however, is nothing to be ashamed of -- unless we refuse to correct those errors. This quest, of course, never ends. There is more to learn than one lifetime allows. But, we can, and should, develop adequate vocabularies.

After studying a few words, we begin to realize that knowing the popular usage of a word may mean very little. Dictionaries often give the popular (common) usage of a word as its definition. They simply parrot the fads of the masses whose popular (common) vocabulary is an abomination. The masses misuse many of the words in their limited vocabulary ... and you, no doubt, are misusing some of these same words -- right along with the masses. To read and understand historical writings, like the Bible, you must know the original meaning of its words. This requires that you have an etymological dictionary at your disposal.

It can be embarrassing when you find you've been using a word wrongly. However, learning truth should be rewarding to everyone except the crude, the uncaring, or the insecure who cannot concede to having been wrong.

When I discover a word that I've been using wrongly, I always wonder how much I've contributed to today's confusion by my misuse of the language. There have been some vital words which I've misused in the past. And, I've found that a word can cause quite a change in my life. How we use words has a great effect on us.

Words allow us to communicate on a higher level of intelligence than the animals. Words are tools. However, for two people to share these tools, both people must have a common understanding of word meanings. Communication between intelligent beings requires a standard meaning of words. Otherwise, my words will mean something different to others than they do to me. For instance, "day" means a 24-hour period including one installment of daylight and one installment of darkness. However, in old Hebrew, and Greek, "day" meant ONLY the period of daylight.

Thus, words must be defined in order to understand the writers' intentions. Otherwise, when I say "freedom (a right)," you may think I mean "license (a privilege granted to do something that is otherwise unlawful)." When I say "government (i.e. self-disciplined)," you may think "Washington D.C. (central rulers)." When I say "ecclesia (Christian community)," you may think "church (i.e., a religious organization." If your definition of a word is different than mine, we probably will not communicate accurately. And, when a society uses words wrongly, it gets confused and debilitated. Progress stops.

So, the pursuit of correct word usage is a noble endeavor -- one which has a direct bearing on man's intelligence and progress. The typical American, today, suffers from mental disfunction -- partly due to his crippled vocabulary.

Intelligence and vocabulary go hand-in-hand. Not only does intelligence produce better vocabularies, but living in an environment where words are used properly actually facilitates the development of intelligence in people. By the same token, an environment where word meanings are twisted or neglected produces illiteracey -- the kind we see rampant in American schools today.

Nowadays, most conversations between young folks consists of little more than colloquialisms, idiomatic expressions and body language (facial expressions, hand waving, head bobbing, twitching, jivin', etc.). But, having a conversation of this sort does not constitute intelligent communication.

People have adapted by learning to read emotion, body language and vocal tone rather than depending upon word meanings. Words have become less important, and gut feelings have become the mode of communication. This, of course, makes learning beyond an elementary level quite impossible. Confusion and inability to communicate frustrates us and destroys initiative. A statement expressed the same way will mean one thing to one person, and something different to another person. This strange anomaly is a feature of American (mixed) culture. The meanings of the individual words become irrelevant to the intended message. Instead of using the rich resource of words available to them, people are reduced to faddish expressions and phrases. And, ..."like, if you can dig it" then, "like, everything's cool, dude"... if you know what I mean.

The typical American continues to verbally demean himself to the level of the illiterate native who grunts in different tones to convey a message. This is the result of public school, church, TV, low-class music, and lack of attention from parents. Thus, we have produced a generation with a withered vocabulary.

Faddish expressions, like the ones above, are the norm. Only a few "insiders" (those who have adapted to grunt-talk) can make sense of it. You can witness it in any public school or shopping mall. There, you'll hear phrases that have no definitive meaning. And it doesn't even sound like a foreign language. It's English, and yet it doesn't work for most people. It's a poor form of communication -- a primitive form.


In a free and progressive society, words must be standardized. Standard definitions make it possible to use words effeciently. Just as gold and silver must be standardized to trade accurately, all things used in common need a standard description. There must be a common measure set upon things we use: by weight, by volume, by length, etc. This is especially true of words. They must be standard in their meanings. Otherwise, they don't work. The dollar, for instance, should be the same today as it was 200 years ago. However, that has not been the case here in America. If it were, things would be much better for us. Unfortunately, we've lost our standard measurements for most of the important things in our lives today -- including money.

Words are building blocks for Intelligent thought. Even our inner thoughts are formed around words. They find expression in our brains by the use of words. Without words, we would have a completely different thought process -- possibly like an animal, or an infant who knows no words.

We think words. We speak words. Since words form thought and facillitate communication, our words should have standard meanings. Words should mean the same thing a month from today, and hopefully a hundred years from today, as they mean today. Historians recognize this. To understand a history record, one must define the words in that record the same as the writer did hundreds of years earlier. This can be quite a challenge.

A society with fluctuating word meanings is unstable, just as one with a fluctuating dollar. This is especially important when considering the Bible since it is a very old historical document. Its words have been subjected to all kinds of changes and evolution over the centuries. There have been mistranslations, re-interpretations, and changes of popular definitions. Thus, Bible words must be examined carefully. A Bible word may have meant something altogether different at the time it was written compared to what it means today. Therefore, to get the originally intended message from our Bibles, we must know what the words meant to the writers.

This brings us to the word "ecclesia" [ek-le-see-a] -- one of the tragic victims of modern-day language confusion. This word is misused and mistranslated in nearly every English Bible version since the King James Version was produced in 1611. This Greek word was carried over into Latin, and then English. But, during the last 500 years, in English-speaking societies, it has been popularly replaced with the English word "church."

The word is, correctly, "ecclesia." It should not have been replaced or changed. And, although it is hard to break old habits we should stop using the wrong word. The term "church" does not appear in the text of the New Testament. Not even once!

When people use this term, it is almost always in error. But, when we attempt to correct the problem we find that we are hampered by the popular Bible versions which consistently use "church" -- the wrong word. That tends to set the error in concrete and stifle our efforts.

One option is to do what I've resorted to doing with my Bible. Everywhere the word "church" appears, I take my pencil and draw a line through it, then I write in the word "ecclesia." That's the best I can do in lieu of an accurate Bible. And, until a correctly translated Bible is found, we may have to do that. Of course, this could be corrected by teaching people to read the Scriptures in their original languages. Realistically, however, this is not a solution that can be hoped for in the near future. This generation can hardly read English -- much less Greek and Hebrew.

The word "church" was an extremely bad choice for rendering "ecclesia." And, although English Bibles uniformly use "church," it is wrong in every instance.


Let's start by defining the word. "Church" comes from the Old English and German word pronounced "kirché." In Scotland, it was "kirk."

The following entries are from the Oxford Universal English Dictionary:

Church [Old English cirice, circe; Middle English chereche, chiriche, chirche; whence churche, cherche, etc.: --Greek kuriakón...]
Kirk The Northern English and Scottish form of CHURCH, in all its senses.

In the earlier Greek it was pronounced "ku-ri-á-kos" or "ku-ri-á-kon." As you can see, this word doesn't even resemble the Greek word "ecclesia" whose place it has usurped.

The meaning of "ku-ri-á-kos" is understood by its root: "kú-ri-os," which means "lord." Thus, "kuriakos" (i.e., "church") means "pertaining to the lord." It refers to something that pertains to, or belongs to, a lord.

The Greek "kuriakos" eventually came to be used in Old English form as "cirice" (kee-ree-ké), then "churche" (kerké), and eventually "church" in its traditional pronunciation. A church, then, is correctly something that "pertains to, or belongs to, a lord."

Now, as you can see, there is a major problem here. The translators broke the rules in a big way. When they inserted the word "church" in the English versions, they were not translating the Greek word "kuriakos," as one might expect. Rather, they were substituting an entirely different Greek word. This was not honest!

The word "church" would have been an acceptable translation for the Greek word "kuriakos." However, not by the wildest imagination of the most liberal translator can it ever be an acceptable translation for the Greek word "ecclesia."

Are you following this? Consider it carefully. This truth will answer many questions you've had about "churches," "the kingdom," and government.

"Ecclesia" is an entirely different word with an entirely different meaning than "kuriakos." In fact, the Greek word "kuriakos" appears in the New Testament only twice. It is found once in I Corinthians 11:20 where it refers to "the Lord's supper," and once again in Revelation 1:10 where it refers to "the Lord's day." In both of those cases, it is translated "the Lord's" -- not "church." This word does not appear again in the New Testament. Nonetheless, this is the unlikely and strange history of the word "church" as it came to the English language. Eventually, through the manipulation of organized religion, "church" came to replace "ecclesia" by popular acceptance. Again, I must emphasize the importance of knowing word meanings in order to know the intent of those who wrote the Scriptures.


Now, let's look at the word, "ecclesia." This Greek word appears in the New Testament approximately 115 times. That's just in this one grammatical form. It appears also in other forms. And in every instance, except three, it is wrongly translated "church" in the King James Version. Those three exceptions are found in Acts 19:32, 39, 41. Here, the translators rendered it "assembly" instead of "church." But, the Greek word is exactly the same as the other 112 entries where it was changed to "church" -- wrongly.

In Acts 19, "ecclesia" is a town council: a civil body in Ephesus. Thus, the translators were forced to abandon their false translation in these three instances. Nonetheless, 112 times they changed it to "church." This fact has been covered-up under centuries of misuse and ignorance.

The Greek word "ecclesia" is correctly defined: "the called-out (ones)" [ECC = out; KALEO = call]. Thus, you can see how this word was used to indicate a civil body of select (called, elected) people.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

In the New Testament, "ecclesia" (signifying convocation) is the only single word used for church. It (ecclesia) was the name given to the governmental assembly of the city of Athens, duly convoked (called out) by proper officers and possessing all political power including even juridical functions.

Obviously, in Greece this had no resemblance to a church. An "ecclesia" was a civil assembly in Athens even before the writing of the New Testament.

In the Oxford Universal English Dictionary (considered the standard for the English language) the word "ecclesia" is listed in its English form as used by our English forefathers. (Nowadays, only forms of the word appear -- like, "ecclesiastical").

Quoting from the Oxford Universal English Dictionary on the word "ecclesia":

Ecclesia [medæval Latin, and Greek EKKÀNØA* from EKKÀNTOÇ*: SUMMONED] -- A regularly convoked assembly, especially the general assembly of Athenians. Later, the regular word for church. (*Editor's note: This was as close as I could come to approximating the correct characters in HTML)

Thus, two of the most prestigious word resources in the English language confirm the fact that an "ecclesia" was originally a select civil body.

What, then, did the writers of the New Testament mean when they used the word "ecclesia" to describe a Christian body of people? Obviously, they meant the same thing: a body of Christians called out of the Roman and Judean system to come together into a separate civil community. It meant a politically autonomous body of Christians under no king but Jesus. No man ruled them! Only Christ. And, that was the reason these same Christians ran into trouble with kings and rulers; got in trouble with Caesar; were arrested, crucified and martyred. They dropped Caesar and took up Christ.

The ecclesias were diametrically opposed to the Caesars of the world. This is the well-hidden secret about the ecclesia! And, this is why we read in Acts 17, starting in verse one:

  1. Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Appolonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Judeans:
  2. And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
  3. Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
  4. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
  5. But the Jews (or the Judeans) which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.

Paul and Silas were spreading the gospel of the kingdom. What effect did it have? It caused an immediate, violent reaction from the synagogues (i.e., the churches). They set a riot afoot and sought to arrest Paul and Silas and take them out into the street.

Verse 6:

  1. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city crying, These that have turned the world (system) upside down are come hither also;

Paul and Silas had a reputation that preceded them. They were "turning the world (system) upside down."

What was their inflaming message? Were they telling the people to find a minister and support him; go to church every weekend; be nice to their neighbors? Could this have been the message that set the city fathers against them? Or maybe they were asking people to send their tithes to them so they could build a nice church building and develop a "united missions board" so they could save souls all over in Africa.


What then? What were these guys doing that was "turning the world system upside down?"

Verse seven:

  1. Whom Jason hath received (into his house): and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that this is another king, one Jesus.

Now is that clear? Do you see what they were doing? They were announcing ANOTHER KING! Not Caesar! This was a king who was bigger than Caesar. They were forming civil bodies that no longer looked to Caesar as their king. They were forming civil outposts for Christ's conquering army! They were at war!

  1. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
  2. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
  3. Casting down concepts, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
  4. And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, then your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)

  5. For we fight, not against flesh and blood, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high (offices). (Ephesians 6:12)

Paul and Silas weren't "church builders" and "soul winners" like preachers today claim. They weren't proselytizing people from one church or synagogue to another. They were kingdom builders! They were dethroning rulers in the minds of the people and alienating them from the mental hold Caesar had upon them through heathenistic (central) government. They were teaching the principles of Christian government.

The Oxford Universal Dictionary also defines the word "church." The first entry gives the common definition:

A building for Christian worship.

But then it continues:

As used as a translation of the Latin and Greek 'ecclesia,' in its pre-Christian sense, it means congregations and, later, of retrospective application of the Christian sense, to the Israelites and the Old Testament saints.

In other words, the word "church" had to be perceived from a different angle in order to become a replacement, and cover-up. Now, that's interesting. What were they pulling on us by replacing the original word? When referring to the Old Testament saints, they began using "church." But why didn't they use the right word? What was it about "ecclesia" they didn't like?


The Oxford Dictionary also has an interesting entry under "congregation":

...used by Tyndale* as a translation of "ecclesia" in the New Testament, and by the sixteenth century reformers instead of "church." (*William Tyndale was the fifteenth century reformer and translator -- murdered by the church)

Tyndale was willing to die for God's word and truth. He didn't like the word "church." Instead, he used "congregation." Now, that tells us something!

I have a Geneva Bible (Calvin's Bible) in my office. It, too, comes from the sixteenth century. But, unfortunately, Calvin wanted the word "church" in his Geneva version. Nonetheless, godly Tyndale, and other sixteenth-century reformers who were more reputable than Calvin, did not like the word "church." They used other words like "congregation," "governmental assembly," etc.

Following that thought, we remember that in early America, the so-called "churches" were divided, politically, into two types. There was the central hierarchy type (like the Presbyterians & Episcopalians), and the independent autonomous type (like the Congregationalists). One was corporate in form with branches united under one governing body. The other was independent with each unit having its own independent governing body in each location.


changed to ENGLISH

By name, the independent Congregationalist type brings us back again to an obvious tie-in to the word "congregation" -- the same word Tyndale chose to translate "ecclesia": an autonomous community of Christians.

It is interesting how the word "congregation" ties back in. Again, it gets us back to a concept that is so important to American history. That concept is "independence."

When you consider the fact that "ecclesia" was "a civil body politic," this is strong proof that the Christian ecclesia we read about in the New Testament was an independent civil body of Christians -- independent from human kings and governors. They wanted freedom to serve King Jesus. They weren't building and attending churches! Please understand. These weren't churches -- these were ecclesias!

It's important that you stop using the wrong word -- and the wrong meaning. Quit saying "church" when you mean "ecclesia"! It's an important step in retrieving your brain from the trap of religious confusion. This is your mind: egg; This is a church: skillet; This is what churches do to your mind: scrambled eggs.


Synagogue is a word which appears often in the Greek New Testament. It is not a Hebrew word, a Yiddish word, nor a Jewish word. It is a Greek word. It is #4864 in Strong's Greek Concordance -- pronounced syn-a-go-gay. It simply means "an assembly" or "a place of assembly."

Now, please notice that the modern use of this word has evolved into a Jewish religious term. It has become a Jewish assembly -- exclusively. However, during the writing of the Greek New Testament, it was just an assembly -- any assembly. At that time, "synagogue" could have referred to a Jewish assembly, or any other kind of assembly -- religious or otherwise.

Synagogues, today, have turned religious. They are the Jewish prototypes of the churches. The modern churches are spin-offs of the Jewish synagogues.

The point is this: the first-century "kuriakos" organizations were called "synagogues." The disciples of Christ abandoned the synagogues (i.e., the Jewish churches) ... leaving them to the Jews.

But, by the 4th century, apostate religionists were starting to form a new organization patterned after the old synagogue. However, they could not call it "synagogue" because that name had been retained by the Jewish religious establishments. And the word "ecclesia" wouldn't work for them because that referred to Christ's kingdom and had nothing to do with religious houses and organizations. So, instead, they called them "kuriakos" (churches). These were designed to usurp the place of the ecclesias (Christian civil bodies) which had been growing since Christ's ascension to the throne.

With the help of the synagogues and the churches (sister organizations), the state (i.e., the beast) began waging battle against the ecclesias (outposts of Christ's kingdom on earth).

  1. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman (New Jerusalem) which brought forth the man child (ecclesia).
  2. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12: 13 & 17)

Now, you understand, the tie-in between the "synagogue" and the "church." Organizationally, they are based on the same serpent principles of ignorance, superstition and slavery.

Christians left the synagogues (later also called churches). The disciples of Christ found that the synagogues/churches were not Christian in nature. It was not their mission to build churches and synagogues. The New Testament Christians escaped from the heathen religion concept of church organization. They went out into the world and they established "ecclesias" (Christian communities of Christ's reign).

The churches (synagogues) never were on the right track. They still aren't today. They have the same bureaucratic structure as central government. Central government structure promotes conformity and blind obedience to the rulers, whether they be priests or bureaucrats. For this reason, the first-century Christians left the synagogues/churches.


Independent self-government under Christ! That is what the ecclesia represents -- not a religious organization for meeting on weekends. The Bible does not indicate that churches would eventually take the place of ecclesias. The change of words was not sanctioned by the Scripture. There is NO Scriptural authority for Christians to build churches, attend churches, or support churches! Churches are ungodly organizations designed for and by the heathen.

We should be forming and defending ecclesias instead of the disgusting churches with their con games, entertainment, cultic mystery, childishness, and heathenistic nonsense. They are as Jewish as the synagogues!

We (ACM) once used the word "church" in our title, but no more -- thank God. We're doing our best to break that image. It's a slow process, and old habits die slowly, but we're putting the old church ways behind us.

So, we must do the same thing the apostles did. We must form self-governing, independent, family-oriented, patriarchal-type communities. In other words, ecclesias.


Those who give only a cursory glance at this study of "the ecclesia" might wrongly conclude that I am advocating that people live in communes -- like the hippies back in the sixties. But, Christian ecclesias are NOT communes!

Inhabitants of communes usually follow thier own lusts rather than Bible law. They also usually develop the old familiar central government structure when they come under the control of a chrismatic leader -- thus, becoming a cult. But, that is not the way of the Christian ecclesia!

An ecclesia, constructed on Christian principles, would be based upon the principle of independence through law (God's law). It would preclude central government or monopolies by any entity. It would insist upon free trade, private ownership, and the common law. It would use God's law as its constitution, and abstain from creating any more laws. Man would not rule man, but every man would be responsible for any crimes he might commit -- and answerable to his victim(s) according to God's law. The law would be enforced by every free male that is of age.

Concerning each man's part in the community, Peter wrote:

  1. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
  3. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
  4. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the eonian kingdom (the reign) of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. --II Peter 1:8-11
Shallow ideas can be assimilated. Ideas that require people to reorganize their picture of the world provoke hostility. "I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of thier lives." --Tolstoy

Remember, "ecclesia" means "the called out (elected ones)," meaning those who are called out from the Babylonian religious/political system. The word "election" has the same root as the word "ecclesia." "The election," "the ecclesia," "the called-out ones" -- all come from the same root. The Bible says that we, as members of our ecclesia communities, are to make our "calling" and our "election" sure.

But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have more to share with you on this subject. The scriptures are clear on this subject. It is the key that opens up the New Testament.

It is time that we begin to live as ecclesians and rise above our past entanglements with churches and their Jewish doctrines and polity. Christianity is designed to be a way of life -- not a religious ritual. Christ's Body is manifest in the community with all its civil members -- NOT a church organization! We need open light and liberty -- not hierarchical mystery and darkness!

<-- Cover Page     |     Part Two: Is it a Church? Is it a Cult? Is it Important? -->

Reprinted from The American Christian
published by American Christian Ministries
P.O. Box 740, Grangeville, Idaho 83530

(Isaiah 33:22) For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.

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