Category Archives: Ekklēsia or Assembly (“Church”)

Fifty-one Theses for the Twenty-first Century Ekklēsia

by Peter Ditzel

Painting of Luther nailing the 95 theses, by Julius Hübner, 1878.
This 1878 painting by Julius Hübner of Luther nailing the 95 theses is narrative art. It depicts the story, showing Tetzel in the lower left receiving adoration and money from those who have purchased indulgences by enriching the pope. This is contrasted with starving people who could better use the money begging on the church steps. Luther’s disciples are on the left teaching the people and followers on the right receive his message with enthusiasm. Luther’s enemies are seen in the lower right running off to inform the pope. Of course, this is all fanciful. Luther probably hung the theses as a matter of routine to inform other scholars that he would like to discuss these points. It wasn’t until scholars realized that the theses implied a challenge to the authority of the pope that the document caused a stir.

October 31, 2017: Today marks the five-hundredth anniversary of what has come to be considered the formal beginning of the Protestant Reformation. That’s because, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (1483–1546), then a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest, nailed a notice on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He titled the notice, “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” but it became known as Luther’s 95 Theses.

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The Worship Service and the New Testament Assembly

by Peter Ditzel

A contemporary worship service with green stage lighting, music performers on stage, and people raising their hands.
Is this what meetings of the New Testament assembly are supposed to look like?

Ten to fifteen years ago, I exchanged a couple of letters with one of the elders of a small Baptist congregation in rural America. In one letter to him, I asked him some questions about a matter of their worship service. In his answer, he politely answered my question, but he prefaced his answer by saying, “In what you call a worship service….” He never explained it further, but his saying that was like a small poke that awoke something in me. I already had a question in the back of my mind about what I felt was the common overuse and abuse of the term “praise and worship service” to refer to the lengthy, contemporary Christian, music performances that were beginning to dominate so many churches. Now, I was stimulated to look into the worship service itself. How should it be conducted? What was its goal? What were its biblical origins? What I found startled me.

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Are there accountability partners in the Bible? Do pastors rule?–Authority and Accountability in the Bible

by Peter Ditzel

I used to do some freelance editing for a man who ran a Christian publishing, Internet, and speaking ministry. A few years before his death, he found that he was unable to, in good conscience, continue his membership in the church of which he had been a member and elder. Soon afterward, “Christian” forums had threads about him that went something like this: “Did you hear that so-and-so is no longer under the accountability of a church?” “What? Do you mean that he’s not under a church covering?” “This is outrageous! How can he continue his ministry while being unfaithful?” “Well, all I know is that as long as he’s not under the authority of a church, I’m not listening to him any more.”

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Q. Why did Pilate find nothing with which to charge Jesus?

A. The answer to this question is more important than we might at first think. Since at least the time of the Edict of Thessalonica in AD 380, Christendom has ignored with grave consequences Pilate’s inability to charge Jesus with a crime. Today, millions of American Christians also ignore this matter. So, what is the answer to the question, and why is it so vital?

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Q. What is the relationship between the Old Covenant assembly of Israel and the New Covenant assembly of believers?

A. To the uninitiated, this might seem like an obscure, academic question. It is, in fact, a highly contentious issue, with each system of theology answering it differently. And the answer one settles on will shape one’s theology.

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Twin Dangers—Seeker Sensitivity and Legalism

If you and I were hiking along a mountain trail and you were in front of me, and I suddenly yelled out, “Look out!” what would you do? I think you would likely stop dead in your tracks and look around. Then you might see that you were on the edge of a precipice, and that with one more step in the direction you were going, you would have fallen over the cliff to your destruction. So you would probably back away, look around, study the terrain, maybe look at a topographical map, and find a safe path and take that.

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Q. Why is the church fragmented into so many denominations?

A. It is estimated that there are over 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide and that by 2025 that will be 55,000. In other words, Christianity is fragmenting more all of the time. Yet Jesus prayed for the unity of His people. Has Jesus failed? Did the Father not grant His prayer? Or are we misunderstanding something about the denominations?

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Q. When are women supposed to be silent in church? Does the command for a woman to be silent in church apply from the moment she walks into the building or only during meetings, prayer times, and classes?

A. Thank you for your question concerning when women are to be silent. This question was written in response to the article, “The Role of Women in the Church.”

A literal translation of the first part of 1 Corinthians 14:34 is, “Let your women be silent in the assemblies.” “Assemblies” is a plural noun translated from ekklēsiais. In the singular, ekklēsia often refers to the saints who are called out of the world and gathered to a spiritual assembly before God. In that sense, the ekklēsia refers to God’s people, not to a building or even to an assembly in that building, but to the people. However, in the plural, as it is in 1 Corinthians 14:34, ekklēsiais is referring to the local assemblies. Never does ekklēsia refer to a building.

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