The ecclesia Is God's idea
The ecclesial community is not man's idea; it is not a
Christadelphian idea; it is God's idea.
Baptism is more than the individual being baptized into
fellowship with the Father and the Son; it is inclusion into a community of
believers established by God; we are all baptized into one body.
God's deliberate choice
God's design is a deliberate choice on His part. There are
many alternatives to the concept of one community of believers.
The individual believer could continue in his former
He would not come to meeting but would spend his time with
family, neighbors and the religious group to which he originally belonged. Even
today, some think this would be a more effective way of spreading the
But this is not God's design.
Believers could be divided into different groups following
their favorite teachers.
The ecclesia in Corinth was in danger of being rent apart on
just such a basis (1 Cor. 1: 12-13). The Jews were used to such a system in
their loyalty to various rabbis.
Within Christadelphia, some would prefer to have ecclesias
separated along lines of expositional emphasis: all favoring pioneer writings in
one meeting, all leaning to a young earth view in another, etc.
But the followers of Christ are not to organize themselves in
such a way.
Disciples of Christ could be divided into groups along
ethnic, social and economic lines.
In New Testament times, this would have meant separate
ecclesias for Jews, Gentiles, slaves and slave-owners. Such a structure would
have made life much easier for most brethren and sisters. Jewish and Gentile
believers frequently irritated one another because of their different dietary
practices and attitudes to Jewish holidays. Left to themselves, they would, no
doubt, have preferred to maintain one ecclesia for Jews and another for
Gentiles, but this was not God's design. Slaves and slave-owners moved in wholly
different circles in daily life. Why put them together in ecclesias where all
are equal? In our own day, it is inevitable that in the ecclesia we have to get
along with some people we find difficult. We have no choice as to whom is
baptized. If a person believes the Truth and commits himself to living it, we
can not refuse him. He may come from a background or socio-economic level that
is radically different from our own. We may find dealing with him uncomfortable
and would prefer that ecclesias were divided along lines of people with similar
heritage and occupation. But that is not God's way.
We may find that some people have traits which irritate
We would, no doubt, prefer to organize an ecclesia where
everybody in it had a personality we found agreeable to ourselves. Ecclesial
life would be much easier if God's design were different. But it is
Believers are to put aside worldly differences and are to be
bound into one fellowship by their baptism into the one body. From a human point
of view, this will cause problems. But it is God's design.
One ecclesial body of all true believers
God set Christ "at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every
name that is named ... and gave him to be the head over all things to the
church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all ...
there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your
calling ... we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Eph.
1:20-23; 4:4; 5:30).
All true believers of all ages are united in the one ecclesia
in Christ. Only in the kingdom will the reality of this association be fully
manifested. In any one generation, distance dampens the relationship between
members of the body in different geographic areas. As much as possible, however,
the Apostle sought to make the concept of the one body a reality by
inter-ecclesial introductions, associations and welfare projects. The
technological advances of our own day have many negative aspects but one great
positive effect is to facilitate drawing the worldwide body of Christ closer
together. Our opportunity to benefit from and to minister to other members of
the body is thus enhanced.
Local ecclesias by geographic area
"And at that time there was a great persecution against the
church which was at Jerusalem." "They returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium,
and Antioch ... and when they had ordained them elders in every church..."
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus ... unto whom not only I
give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the
church that is in their house" (Act. 8:1; 14:23; Rom. 16:3-5).
The word "church" (ecclesia) is clearly used in two ways: one
referring to the total body of believers spanning all places and all
generations, the other alluding to a specific group of believers who came
together in one meeting place. The size of the local community was evidently
determined by geographic distance and available facilities.