SHOULD “CHURCH” BE CHANGED TO “CALLED-OUT ASSEMBLY” IN ACTS 7:38 IN THE KING JAMES BIBLE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Since people often have such an inadequate understanding of Scripture, they change the Bible text to make it fit what they believe to be the truth, what they assume it should teach or presume it to teach. Friends, this is backwards. The Bible should correct us—we should not be correcting it!! (That goes for any and all words!) One of the most misconstrued Bible words is “church.” As we will see in this study, it is important to approach the word dispensationally, just like we do the Bible as a whole. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
The Greek word “ekklesia” (also “ecclesia”) is derived from the root “kale” (“call”) thereby compounded with the prefix “ek”/“ec” (“out of”). This is translated “church”in our New Testament Scriptures. Our English term “church” finds its origin in the Greek “kuriakon (doma),” meaning “Lord’s (house);” “kurios” translates to “master, lord.” In other words, “church” means “belonging to the Lord.” No matter what the dispensation, regardless of where we are on the Bible timeline, God always has a people reserved for Himself. It could be a man, a family, a nation, a group of nations, et cetera. However, we have been misled to believe “church” always means us, the Church the Body of Christ.
If “church” is found in a context that does not fit the assumption that “church” is always the Body of Christ, the Bible verse is changed to make it support the conjecture. For example, Acts 7:38 is the favorite verse to disparage King James Scripture in this regard: “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:….”
Here the critic remarks, “Israel was certainly not the Body of Christ, so it is inappropriate to call it a ‘church.’ The word ‘church’ here is better translated as ‘called-out assembly.’” Such a commentator, who is one of many (although hopefully sincere!), has been trained to believe “Bible teaching” means critiquing the textbook and making himself the authority instead of expounding and elevating the Book he claims to “believe, love, and defend.” He only appeals to the Bible when it fits his preconceived ideas—and, when faced with the choice, he is more willing to change the verse than relinquish his perverted theology. It is sad, but it is true. That is the result of unbelievers dominating our seminaries and Bible colleges with their empty human viewpoint!
HOW THE WORD “CHURCH” IS USED IN THE KING JAMES BIBLE
As noted earlier, the Greek is “ekklesia” (“called-out assembly”). The idea here is God calling out a people for His name. That agrees nicely with the English term “church,” meaning “belonging to the Lord.” Israel is a “church” (English) in that they belong to JEHOVAH God. Moreover, they can be labeled an “ekklesia” (Greek) because He called them from out of Egyptian bondage. Hosea 11:1 is a classic verse to this point: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” The LORD God “called” Israel in that He sent Moses to lead them from that land of slavery into a new land—the Promised Land. We could thus call Israel here “the Mosaic Church.”
The Apostle Peter speaks of a second “church” in Scripture. First Peter chapter 2: “ But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;  Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” This is the “Messianic Church,” those in Israel who believed on Jesus as Messiah/Christ beginning with John the Baptist’s ministry onward until early Acts. Note Matthew chapter 16: “ And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
It was said of John the Baptist in Luke chapter 1: “ And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” From John’s ministry onward, through the preaching of “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 9:35), God called out a believing remnant from among Israel (the rest of the nation was apostate, in spiritual darkness and idolatry). So, with Moses, God called out a group, the nation Israel, from Egypt. Starting with John the Baptist, He called out a group from within Israel. That crowd of believers is “the Little Flock,” the heirs of God’s earthly kingdom (Luke 12:32). This “church” also appears in Hebrews 2:11-13, where these Messianic Jews are called Christ’s “brethren” and “the children which God hath given [Him].”
There is a third “church” in Scripture—the “Mystery Church,” a secret God kept to Himself until the appropriate time to manifest it. The risen, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed it directly to and through the Apostle Paul. Ephesians chapter 3: “ For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,  If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:  How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,  Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)  Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;  That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:….” This church, the Body of Christ, is called out from Jews and Gentiles without distinction, without Judaism, without prophecy involved at all. See also 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 2:11-22, Colossians 1:23-28, Colossians 3:11, for example.
In Acts 15:14, the Apostle James says, “Simeon [Simon Peter] hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” Through Paul’s testimony, and Peter’s experience in chapter 10 to validate it, the Lord Jesus is calling out a people for His name from among the Gentiles. This involves the preaching of Paul’s Gospel—“Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). As long as this Gospel of Grace is preached through Paul’s ministry (Acts 20:24), the Church the Body of Christ is forming and the Messianic Church is paused. The Messianic Church will resume after the Body of Christ has ended (see Romans 11:25-29).
“Church” is a generic word simply meaning, “belonging to the Lord.” “Ekklesia” is also general, and just equates to “called-out assembly.” These terms must be further defined according to a context. Who is the church? National Israel? The Little Flock? The Body of Christ? (All three are such.) Out of what are they called? Egypt? National Israel? The world of Jews and Gentiles? (Any of these three could be applicable.) See, there is no mistake and no confusion—provided we let the surrounding verses speak. We keep the general definitions in mind and modify them as the context demands. However, we do not modify the King James Bible text (otherwise we are the authority and we lose clarity that would have else came)!!
By the way, the Bible teacher would be most wise to teach the Bible and explainthe Bible rather than criticize the Bible and change the Bible. If a difficult word or concept is encountered, his job is to study, research, and explain it instead of taking the lazy route of explaining it away. Eliminating the word and/or ignoring the text will notchange what the Bible originally said! It takes work to study and elucidate, but it will prove useful in eternity—infinitesimally more beneficial than “wresting” or distorting God’s Word to make it fit our preconceived (misconceived) notions.
SUPPLEMENTAL: THE WORD “CHURCH” IN SCRIPTURE NEVER APPLIES TO A BUILDING!
It should also be noted that not only is “church” often assumed to always refer to the Body of Christ (wrong), “church” is often used to apply to a building (equally wrong). Christians are the church; they meet at the church building. Never once does the Bible refer to a structure of stone, wood, or metal as “the church.” This is nothing more than religious tradition. Be sure to keep that straight, dear friends, or you will never get the full impact of the word as it appears in Scripture!!
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