Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 1, 1964
NUMBER 21, PAGE 1,10-11

"Church" Responsibility Vs. Individual Responsibility

J. D. Hall, Jr.

Christianity began in the first century in an absolutely pure state. People heard the Word, were convinced that Christ was the Son of God, and were obedient to the teachings of the Holy Spirit as given through the Apostles and others upon whom the Spirit had descended. Subsequently they began to follow the Apostles and were taught how they must conduct themselves in this world in order to be pleasing to God and to inherit eternal life. Paul wrote later in 1 Cor. 11:1 saying, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."

But even before the death of the Apostles, Satan moved in and began his work of deceiving people just as he had done with Eve in the Garden of Eden. His greatest weapon of deceit it seems is confusing spiritual things with material things. God had said to Eve "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Satan said, "Thou shalt NOT surely die." God was correct because He was speaking of spiritual separation of man from Himself. Satan was right too in a sense, because he was speaking of physical death which was the only kind of separation Eve understood. Satan, of course, knew the difference, therefore he deliberately deceived her.

So it was in the days of the Apostles. Through false teachers who were completely blind to spiritual things, Satan sowed his seeds of materialism which in three centuries all but destroyed the greatest — and simplest — form of government that has ever been known to man. This was a spiritual brotherhood or kingdom. The Lord described it thusly, "The Kingdom cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here! or Lo there! For behold the Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:24). He was very careful to explain that His Kingdom would be radically different from all materialistic Kingdoms known to man. It was to be a spiritual Kingdom ruled by Christ through the hearts and affections of man, and not a material Kingdom which could be pointed to, saying, "Here it is!" or "There it is!" It was a fraternity, a brotherhood of Christian people whose only purpose was to serve Christ by keeping themselves unspotted from the world and "doing good unto all men." It had no form of hierarchical government and those who were worthy of the greatest honor were those who performed the greatest service to others, — especially the younger Christians, by teaching and caring for them as much as an older child cares for the younger. (Matt. 20:2528). It was a Kingdom of Love.

But Satan's deceit was effective. His false teachers arose teaching and deceiving many, just as Eve was deceived, which caused Paul to say, This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me." This was the beginning of apostasy which was finally to bring to an end the first harvest of souls as described in Rev. 7:4-9. Upon the death of those through whom the Holy Spirit had spoken words of inspiration nothing was left to guide the few faithful in spiritual paths of righteousness. It is true that the "seed" was planted which was the Written Word, but a period of more than twelve hundred years was to pass before it was to be compiled, printed, and placed in the hands of men. Satan, however, was not through with his work. God did not allow the Greek text to be tampered with or destroyed, but by this time Christianity had become so diluted with materialism that even the most competent Greek scholars were carried away with it, causing them to make many errors in their translations of the Inspired Word.

Robert Young of Young's Analytical Concordance fame, declares in the foreword of this "Literal Translation of the Holy Bible" that "Tens of Thousands," of variations from the sense of the original Greek text are found in our King James version. And he failed to see "How verbal inspiration can be of the least practical use to those who depend on that version alone." In the foreword of the New Testament Octapla by Luther A. Weigle he says, "In all, the Committee (1870 Revision Committee) found that the Greek text underlying the King James version of the New Testament was erroneous in more than five thousand readings, counting each rejected reading as one, whether it contained one word or several."

It is a moot question as to the consequences of all the variations uncovered by these writers. Most of them may have been made intentionally by the scholars in their efforts to make the writings of inspiration more understandable to the materialistic-minded theologians of the times. But, be that as it may, in this writing we shall concern ourselves with two major errors of translation which, in our opinion, are having a most devastating effect in our generation on True Christianity as it strives again to come forth into the sunlight of truth.

One of these is a word about which we have been fighting our modern dictionary since the time of the printing press, and all to no avail it seems. The word is "baptize?' All Greek scholars will readily admit that the original Greek word which was "transliterated" into English, was a common, everyday, non-religious words meaning "immerse." "Then why," you will say, "was it not translated 'immerse'?" The answer is simple. The word had come to mean something more than "immerse" during the fifteen hundred year period before the first English translation was made, thanks to apostate christianity. But the bad thing is we have been so naive that we have continued to use the word "baptize" over the centuries knowing perfectly well that it has a ritualistic meaning which was not found in the original Greek.

The second and most devastating word which we have swallowed without batting an eye is the word "church." This word is of Catholic origin having been used to describe the Catholic communities set up among English speaking people several hundred years before the first translation into English was ever made. It was only about 400 years ago that it was first used in a recognized English translation, the Geneva Bible. Here again a word was used which was admittedly not a true translation, but because of a common usage by false Christianity over a period of several hundred years it had taken on an ecclesiastical meaning which was considered sacred in the minds of sectarian scholars, and who it seems never thought to question the materialistic institutions which they were espousing.

When the translators of the King James Version came together to discuss "Rules to be observed in the translation of the Bible," we are told that one rule was this: "The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, vis. The word 'church' not to be translated 'congregation', " Accuracy, of course, would have demanded that the word "congregation" or one of its synonyms be used, and they knew it. Otherwise there would have been no need for the rule.

Many of our preachers today still define the word "ekklesia" according to its etymology which is "called out." However, we are happy to say that many have come to realize and to accept the truth about this word. It is true that the word is made up of two Greek words meaning "out" and "called," but it is also true that the word "ekklesia" is not two words, but one, and was used by the Greeks in the first century to describe only a gathering, group, or assembly of people. a had no religious connotation whatever. Anyone can prove this to his own satisfaction by substituting these words for the word "church" when reading the translations. For those who care to check with the scholars you will find absolutely no disagreement among them once you have waded through their theology.

The word "ekklesia" appears in the Greek text many times where it is translated "church" in the common versions, but it is also found in the Greek text a number of additional places where it has been translated "assembly." The most interesting of these is found in Acts 19:32, 41 where a riotous mob is called an "ekklesia" by the Holy Spirit who guided the hand of Luke. Here the translators were forced to render the word "assembly" because the word "church" had a religious connotation which made it impossible to use it in describing a riotous mob. .

In dozens of passages the Holy Spirit used the word "ekklesia" to describe a group of Christians assembled for worship. He used the same word to describe a group gathered as a court of law in Acts 19:39; and, he used it to describe the riotous mob mentioned above. Also, he used it in reference to the body of Christ, the spiritual gathering which includes all Christens everywhere, both in heaven and on earth, whether in the flesh or in the spirit, and whether gathered together physically or not. (Eph 1:22).

In the first three instances we see that the common denominator is a group of people gathered together physically, regardless of how or why they came together. In the latter instance it is clear that the Holy Spirit Is referring to the spiritual gathering of souls who were added by the Lord as they were being saved. (Acts 2:47). In view of these things we are left with but one conclusion: The word "ekklesia" in the first century meant "gathering," "group," "assembly," or "congregation," all used in a non-religious sense.

Another thing interesting to note in connection with this subject is that the word "synagogue" in the first century had almost exactly the same meaning as our English word "church" today. The following is a quotation from Cruden's Concordance:

"The word (synagogue) is used in the New Testament (1) for the building, Luke 7:5. (2) For the organization which worshipped there, Acts 8:9. The ruler of the synagogue was the one who had the responsibility of maintaining order, deciding on the order of public worship, etc. Luke 8:41; Acts 18:8. The minister had duties of a lower kind, more like those of a modern deacon, or a sacristan.

"Worship was held in the synagogue every Sabbath and every feast day, the main part of the service being the reading of the law, with an exposition of what was read, Acts 15:21; 13:15.

"The organization of the synagogue, where possible, included a council of elders; and in these cases they had a certain amount of judicial power, Matt. 10:17."

The fact that the Holy Spirit chose the non-religious word "eklessia" in describing his group instead of the word "synagogue" is further proof that our present day "church" is rejected in favor of a simple gathering or group of Christians. Dare we go beyond this?

But, as one preacher expressed it when confronted with the truth about this word: "So what! So, it means assembly! What difference does it make?" The difference it makes in the meaning of the various passages is amazing. For instance the King James Version quotes Jesus as saying ". . . upon this rock I will build my church." But what the Lord really said was ". . . on this rock I will build my group," with the emphasis on "my." as distinguished from other groups such as Satan's or as the Jewish synagogue.

It would be impractical for us to quote every passage where the present translations use the word "church" to show the difference a correct translation would make, but we would like to quote a few in I Corinthians 14: as examples.

4. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the group.

5. — For greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues except he interpret, that the group may receive edifying.

12. — seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the assembly.

19. Yet in the congregation I had rather speak five words with my understanding,...

23. If therefore the whole group be come together into one place, 28. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the assembly; . .

33. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all gatherings of the saints.

34. Let your women keep silence in the assemblies;

35. ... For it is a shame for women to speak in the congregation.

Words in any language are vehicles used by men to transfer pictures from one mind to another. A picture is formed in the mind of one man, but in order to transfer this picture to another each must have an accurate knowledge of the words used to describe it. If they do not, the picture is distorted and misunderstandings arise. This is always true. The seriousness of the misunderstanding of course depends upon the importance of the matter under discussion. What can be more important than that we accurately understand God's Word?

For instance the Holy Spirit used the word "assembly" to describe a group of Christians gathered for worship. Through the influence of Satan's materialistic so-called "Christianity," man has changed the picture by using the word "church" which means in present day English a religious organization, whether assembled or not, and also the building in which this organization regularly meets. What was originally intended as a simple gathering of Christian people for the purposes outlined in the Scriptures then has now turned into a materialistic organization which can he pointed to and said of "Here it is!" or "There it is!" The Elders and the Deacons of this local religious organization have, perhaps humbly but nevertheless unscripturally accepted positions of authority; and, perhaps humbly but unscripturally, they have assumed positions as lords over God's heritage.

This unscriptural organization has assumed complete authority over the so-called "work of the church" which may accurately be described as anything that has to do with the collection and spending of money. Thus every Christian is relegated to a position of making money in order that this unscriptural machine may have the wherewith to hire other organizations to hire other people, whether Christians or not, to do things the Lord has commanded Christians to do personally.

No, brethren. There is no such thing in True Christianity as "church responsibility" because there is no such thing as a "church." There is also no such thing as "group responsibility." A True Christian assembly is nothing more than a mere gathering of christians. It is not a "Corporate entity." It is not a "functional organization." It is not an institution. In fact it is not any kind of an organization or entity. It does not labor under commands of the Lord as a collectivity. All instructions from the Lord are directed to individuals who must carry them out as individuals whether they do so singly or in conjunction with other individual Christians.

One of the most basic of truths in law is that "Where there is no penalty there can be no law." God judges groups only by judging the individuals in the group, therefore ALL His instructions are directed to the individual and NONE to the group.

— Jasper, Texas