It is generally believed that the New Testament borrowed the term 'eclesia' (translated as church) from the Greek-Roman world to name the fellowship of Jesus Christ's disciples. However Jesus Christ and his apostles used the Old Testament term 'kahal' to name the church.
In the Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint) translated in the third century B. C. the Jewish translators used 'eclesia' for 'kahal' thus making a way for the expression 'eclesia' as an equivalent to 'kahal' to be used in the New Testament proclaimed and written in Greek. Those theologians are on the right track who seek the original semantic content of the word 'church' in the Old Testament and do not correlate it with the Greek-Roman political institute for public meetings or with any other state roles. The Old Testament defined Jesus Christ’s view of the world. He uses the expression 'eclesia' in the Gospels two times though he spoke and preached in Hebrew-Aramaic not in Greek. He claimed that he would build his 'kahal' on the rock and the gates of Hades would not overcome it nor would stop its increasing. In the track of the Septuagint the disciples who translated Jesus words to Greek used the term eclesia.
The clue to settle the debates over the use of the expressions 'petra' and 'petros' is also looking up the Hebrew words for them. 'Petros' (piece of stone, pebble) in Hebrew 'kefa' (piece of stone, rock) and 'petra' (rock, cliff) in Hebrew 'sela' (cliff, boulder or crag) make obvious what Jesus meant when He told Peter that he would build his eclesia on this rock. Jesus of Nazareth speaking in Hebrew-Aramaic definitely appointed 'sela' and not 'Kefa' (Peter) as a foundation for his eclesia.
'Kahal' (assembly, congregation) in the Jewish revelation names a public community called out by God's word or voice (chol). The expression 'chol' portrays God's calling and its consequences as well. In the times of the Old Testament times the Jewish congregation had a spiritual-moral and an ethnic nature at the same time. The spiritual identity was prior to the ethnic. Beside the natural multiplication of the Jews, the exodus and the receiving of the commandments on mount Sinai took the main part in the process of becoming a nation.
According to the books of Moses the Jewish people’s partaking of the nation ('am') depended on submission to the revelation. Detection from the words of the covenant entailed excommunication or excision and after the whole Israel had neglected the Torah they were counted as a nation no more ('loh ammi' = not my nation Hosea 1:9-10). Deprivation from the land, captivity in Babylon and the great scatter the Diaspora came as a consequence. Due to the spiritual restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah the Jews who returned to the Promised Land (eretz), to Jerusalem managed to renew their covenant with God and became a nation again.
The anti-Semites often stigmatise the Bible as a racist book. This is a baseless accusation for the Scriptures distinguished Israel not on racial-biological base but stated that Israel was exceptional and had a special, eschatological role because it stood on a spiritual-moral base. Israel in the Old Testament had to live its life, organise its community and build up the nation according to God’s revelation. The nation was considered to be real and true only when it showed the spiritual-moral values of the revelation. This idea of nation has and had nothing to do with neither racism nor nationalism. After having lost the spiritual values the destiny of the Jews was always worse and more tragic than any other nations’ moreover Israel had to live under the authority and subjection of other nations for long centuries. The expression ‘kahal’ even in the Old Testament times grasped not only the ethnic features of Israel but rather it had a spiritual semantic content. The plea of Martyr Steven in which he spoke about the Jews leaving Egypt as an eclesia (‘church’) confirms the above statement.
Every nation had a specific cult, had its own religion and gods, which mostly had a role of integration in their lives and history. These were neither the resource of their becoming a nation nor the basis of their existence. Therefore in the course of their history almost all nations could change their religion without any serious consequence and still survived as a nation. Accession, language, possessing a territory or natural vitality meant the base and foundation of the existence of these ethnic groups not their religion.
In the contrary as Israel had evolved from the Word of God they also counted as an eclesia (church). God himself had called out Abraham the patriarch from Mesopotamia to become the father of a new nation in the land of Canaan. The patriarchs Isaac and Jacob would never have been born without God' supernatural intervention. God and his revelation took the main role in the process of Israel becoming a nation- of the exodus, of getting the commandments on Mount Sinai, of conquest and of partitioning the land as well. 'Kahal' defines Israel as an ethnic group with mainly spiritual-moral values which were being carried out in its sacral content only when the sons of Israel had listened to God's word and had obeyed it.
Taking the veil away
The 'kahal' of the New Testament, that is the Church (eclesia), is based on the knowledge revealed by the Holy Spirit about Jesus Christ as the son of the living God. This revelation is given to those that have been called out ('cletos'). The rock (petra) is the knowledge of Christ revealed by the Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with the pagan 'gnosis'. The Holy Spirit gives knowledge about the object of the Christian faith and about the character of Jesus as Messiah. The believer responds to this by faith thus abandoning himself, the centre of his personality, his heart to the reality of Christ and grasps all divine goods in Him. The church of the New Testament has also evolved from the Word of God (Rhema) through preaching the Gospel. In the region of Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked his disciples:
Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15)
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (16:16)
Jesus praised Peter personally for his statement:
Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but my father in Heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (eclesia), and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven. (Matthew 16:17-19)
Apostle Peter’s statement was based on knowledge, but neither empirical nor rational knowledge. The true identity of Jesus of Nazareth was hidden from the disciples and all the Jewish people of that age. The whole Scripture introduces God as an invisible, transcendent individual who is above all empirical experience and who resides outside of the time and space dimension of the visible material world. God due to His mode of existence is incomprehensible for man. The fact that we are humans, our abilities, potential and our dependence on physical rules does not enable us to make God to be an object of our researches the way we would do with the material world. We cannot observe, study or even imagine Him. All thoughts springing from our human nature about God are false. All thoughts and ideas worked up by our own effort about the Creator and His exalted Son set the basis for idol-worship and makes man be opened to occult powers. The highest efficiency of the Greek culture and philosophy was to set up an altar in Athens labelled: "to the unknown God" (agnothos Theos). Outstanding Greek philosophers realised that there was a God who was a secret and incomprehensible by wisdom (sophia).
To the contrary the cornerstone of Jewish culture from the very beginning was the hiding of the unseen God, the one who covered and veiled himself after the world (‘olam’) had fallen into the power of sin and death. The Creator has been supporting the world after the Fall but has withdrawn his personal presence and glory from the visible world. After the Everlasting One’s withdrawal from the earth his creature, man can gain experience and knowledge about God only by revelation (‘apocalypses’). Revelation is an act of God based on His sovereign decision. It is a supernatural event through which the Lord discloses and represents Himself; He takes the veil away from the transcendent truths and facts, from His plans concerning to the redemption, and from His promises for an individual, a community or a nation chosen by Him. By revelation God steps out to some extent from behind the curtain and bends down to His chosen one, in order to make his existence and wills obvious to His creature(s) living in the restrictions of the visible world.
In all the periods in the history of salvation revelation has always been personal not general. God as an individual addresses particular human individuals. Revelation is the self-expression of God by which He calls people in a personal way into His presence in order to give a mission to the called ones (‘cletos’) so they may complete the task -that is preaching God’s revelations to other people- given by God (the caller) based upon their spiritual experiences and knowledge. Several forms of revelation are found in the Bible e.g. apparition, vision, rapture, proclamation, the gifts (charisma) of Holy Spirit in action etc.
The Bible contains God’s revelation. After the biblical times these are the benchmarks of every spiritual experiences and knowledge received about God. The Church is supposed to subordinate its teachings, spiritual experiences and revelations to the Word of God. The source of experiences, which are in contradiction with these revelations, is not from God. The genuineness of all charismatic experiences must be examined upon their fruits as well. The life, the way of thinking, the values and abilities, the field of activity of people shared in biblical revelations changed upon the truths and facts unveiled by God. The New Testament is the utmost revelation of God: Christ became man, flesh (‘sarx’). He reconciled the world with the Father by His atonement sacrifice and He redeemed it from the power of sin, death and Satan. Peter’s answer proved that he got to know about the incarnation of the Word (‘logos) by God’s revelation, though he had had empirical knowledge about Jesus of Nazareth before. The evangelical scene mentioned above is the model of personal revelation, of the way God gives spiritual knowledge about Jesus as Lord and about His work of redemption. The fact that most church-members have only psychical and intellectual knowledge about Jesus Christ causes several troubles. Such kind of religious knowledge cannot inspire personal communion with God based on faith though it is the precondition to be a member of the Church, it is the rock on which Jesus builds His eclesia. This spiritual knowledge cannot be gained; it is rather the gift of God given by the Holy Spirit to our spirit.
During and after the long period of Christian materialism, formalism and secularism in the minds of church members from various denominations the differences between the knowledge aroused from one’s psyche and the revelation from the Holy Spirit grew dim. The Christian faith has become uncontrollable, misty and empty. Several people who are said to be Christians do not know why and what they believe in. Those who think they know more often rely on their denomination’s formal declaration of faith and dogmas to protect their religious traditions considered being Christian faith. The idea that with biblical times the time of revelation has expired is popular. God, so to say, no longer gives revelation about himself, there are no longer spiritual experiences and if there are any, they are not trustworthy but they are from the devil. Thus a lot of Christians has become tradition-minded relying on the teachings of various denominations and considering the revelation-based Christian identity to be heretic. It is not God who changed the supernatural events of Christianity, the essence of the Church; rather the various branches of mainstream Christian trends made up and practice different religious concepts. Peter first got a personal revelation about the identity of Jesus Christ then he declared that Jesus was the Christ. Only then Jesus called him blessed and taught him about the essence of his Church (eclesia). According to this story and the teachings of the apostles it is God who addresses and calls man to get to know his redemption in Jesus Christ, to accept it personally by faith and to become a member of the eclesia.
In the New Testament a general tool for getting revelation is preaching. According to Paul
…God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believed (1Chorinthians 1:21).
In the original Greek text you can read 'kerygma' (proclamation, reporting, declaring) for preaching an expression that is not completely equivalent of what is considered being the institution of preaching in the Christian world. Kerygma means not the preaching as a part of the service itself, rather it names the content of the preaching, the message or knowledge the preacher received from God by revelation. That message he proclaims in the Church.
In the epistle to the Romans Paul names the proclamation ('kerysso') as the precondition of the birth of faith. The message had to be publicly proclaimed with spiritual power. The one who proclaims (preacher) according to the Hungarian Karoli Bible preaches or makes God's Word known. The Greek version is much more exact. It says rhema Christu, the revelation of Christ. It is not preaching Christ (the logos), but preaching the rhema of the logos, the revelation that has been revealed and animated by the Holy Spirit. This revelation is then proclaimed with the power of the Holy Spirit by the preacher to the people in the Church.
Listening to the information itself does not create faith in the listener. The very reason of biblical faith is hearing:
…faith comes from hearing (‘ex achoes') (Romans 10:17).
Hearing is a spiritual event, an act in the spirit of the listener caused by the Holy Spirit and the revelation (rhema) often during the preaching. In hearing the spiritual grasp of man revives and becomes able to accept, comprehend and identify himself with the truth of God. Spiritual "hearing" is also a charismatic experience, which is created mostly by the personal revelation in the heart by which the listener receives revelation-based knowledge about God and His things. However there are personal preconditions of getting knowledge out of revelation: being free from preconceptions, openness to persuasion, attention and intention to make positive decisions. The New Testament calls those who are not sure about the truthfulness of their empirical and religious knowledge noble-minded; those that are open to be persuaded and to change their comprehension and their way of thinking by revelation, and related facts and arguments. Revelation about the Lord is the prerequisite and the cause of faith and being born again. Confessing what you believe with your mouth proves the existence of faith in the heart.
That if you confess with your mouth "Jesus is lord" and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with you mouth you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
This is what Peter did when he confessed his faith in Jesus near to Cesarea Philippi. In return Jesus considered him being blessed because by confession he had accepted his salvation as well.
Egress to freedom
The Hungarian word for 'church' (egyház - 'one house') does not equal with the semantic content of kahal and the Greek eclesia. Ethimologists trace the origin of the Hungarian word for 'church' back to the 11th century when every village had only one building made of stone (one house) for church services whilst all the other houses were made of wood and of other materials. The old word for 'one' in Hungarian is similar to the word for salvation thus making the semantic content more differing from that of eclesia. So this is an expression filled with peculiar religious content and is foreign to the biblical content of eclesia, the community of called out persons who gather in more than one place in a village or town, and can have more than one building to assemble. The Greek eclesia consists of two words: 'ek' means out of something; 'kaleo' means to call. Eclesia stands for 'people that are called out'. The original Greek expression carries excluding meaning as well. >From this aspect it means to be called out from the reign of Satan, from the captivity of sin and death, and from the way of condemnation. The ecclesia is a group of people called out by God who has responded positively to the gospel, and who has separated themselves from the control of Satan and from all activity considered to be sin by the Word of God.
Calling out has purposes and aims. The very aim of the church is the fellowship and union with Jesus Christ. As a consequence the congregation of called out persons becomes Christ centred so as to let Paul's statement become true both in the life of the individuals and the congregation.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called he also justified; those he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29,30)
Beside the above mentioned verse several bible verses state that God before having been created anything he had planned his work of creation and salvation. He has always acted according to the programs and aims determined by himself. He set the way of salvation, and determined the aims and tasks of the nations, Israel and the Church according to his eternal plan. Though Satan as the god of this world-beside the effects of the human effort, intentions and other factors-exercised a great influence on history, God, the Lord of history gave a limited space, time and life-span to all events and directions. Events, historical factors, and participants could go on their own way and by their own logic until they opposed to God's program. Supernatural intervenes and judgements showed the conflict between God and history. The continuity of history has been regularly broken by such crisis that forced man to arrange his life in a new way on Earth. The Creator is completely sure of the success of his plans for the nations, Israel and the Church. The revelation especially gives a spectacular picture of the victory of the Church over the powers of the evil due at the end of the history.
Predestination and calling according to the eternal plan are seemingly hard to be brought in harmony with the concept of freedom, or at least with the idea of the present age about freedom. The Bible and the present age represent contradictory views of freedom. According to the revelation freedom fancied by this age is a lost and non-existing state. Especially in the most important field of life, on spiritual-moral level it is shown that the Adamic genus has lost its freedom and got into the power of such destructive forces, which they cannot fight against without God’s help.
The basic element of freedom is freedom from the enemy. Man – as it is proved by the everyday life-has lot of enemies such as sin, sickness, poverty, death etc.; moreover he has invisible enemies such as demons, hell, and Satan. Throughout history only one person managed to gain victory and freedom over these powers, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The lack of freedom is proved by the facts that man cannot see his real situation and state clearly, does not have the whole range of natural and supernatural information by which he could determine the point and purpose of his life. His dependence upon the evil is up to a degree where - only by his own natural life experiences and knowledge - he is not able to recognise and oppose his real enemy, the devil. What’s more, he thinks of his most merciless and brutal enemy that he does not exist or he is just a primitive religious concept. To the teaching of the full Scripture after committing the primal sin man lost his freedom and became the slave of sin and death. Man cannot gain back his freedom by his own power, potency, and acts. There are different dimensions of freedom, such as spiritual, moral, social, political or economical etc., in which the level of the lack of freedom is also different. Different spheres of freedom sometimes are used against each other.
In God’s plan regaining victory is an important aim for man. The Scripture is full of stories about deliverance (Exodus from Egypt, fights for freedom led by the judges and kings, release from the captivity in Babylon, forgiveness of sins, healing, demon-casting etc.). One of the great lessons of the Old Testament is that only the supernatural help of God and submission to God’s word can help regaining freedom. Freedom is the gift and presence of God and can be kept only by submission to the words of the covenant. According to the New Testament God’s touch and the work of the Holy Spirit restore man’s ability to the freedom of choice (“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 1Chorintians 3:17). By this restoration man becomes able to realise his dependence on and defencelessness from the evil; he becomes able to make a good decision in order to liquidate the power of the evil; he becomes able to accept his freedom and salvation in Jesus Christ.
The Church is made up of free citizens, who have freedom to resolve his life to God's plan, to the "Big Public Affair". Jesus' true ecclesia represents the spiritual-moral freedom in the society, even if the media presents the believers' commitment in such a way, as if it were abnormal dependence. In this world’s idea about freedom acts qualified as sins based on the Bible, for example: sex before marriage, adultery, right of abortion, right of homosexuals, play a central role. However based on the biblical view of life these prove the lack of freedom and that people are oppressed by the sin and death. The human right of the society for committing sins (which are not penalized by criminal law, but according to the Bible they are sins), the Church acknowledges, but cannot support, because in that case it would be capitulation in front of the ancient enemy of humanity and the Church would give up its essence, and its mission.
The political, social, economical freedom should be prevented and guarded by the state and its political institutions. Those, who work on these areas of freedom, do a useful -and from political-worldly considerations- precious work, even if the dependence and consequences of sin are obvious in their spiritual-moral lives.
The balance between the spiritual and the social freedom is generally disrupted, and a conflict arises, when one of them breaks into the other's sovereign territory to force its own freedom-conception to the other. Violent secularisation and violent conversion cause the same. It is impossible of course to set up a rigid wall between the two spheres, but one can keep a flexible balance, find the golden mean, which guarantees both the freedom of conscience and the peace of the society and of the Church. The Church knows, that the original sin is present in the society, in the state organisations, in the different branches of power.
This fact does not make the state-political-institutional organisations illegitimate, because the realisation and extension of sin was earlier, than the development of the different state organisations and political systems; so sin exists not because of the earthly-authority, but inversely; because of the universal presence of sin the state organisations, which are naturally not free from sin had to be established. Of course, if the earthly state-powers and their institutions - instead of chasing sin - force people to commit sin as freedom (like fascism or Stalinism), from the aspect of the revelation they become illegal.
The Church is waiting for -beyond the resurrection- the redemption of the state and authority as well. According to the Church's hope, Jesus’ return will set the world free and the nations from the oppression of the evil, freedom will be one and undivided; it will extend over the whole world. The person's and the nations' menace from the enemy will come to an end on every level; in the state of the happy and complete life, everybody's spiritual, mental and physical needs will be completely filled in. This is the state of the final salvation, towards which the Church marches and which the Church is called for working on.
The ones who have entered life
Some denominations divided salvation from Jesus Christ, and the church itself sets up as Saviour in the eyes of its members and the society. These denominations claim, that they are able to repeat Jesus' sacrifice, to show and pass God's goods to the believers. However salvation is the result of Redemption, which is in the Saviour, for everyone. You can become the member of the church; if as a consequence of rebirth and repentance your life gets into Jesus Christ's presence. The New Testament calls Jesus Saviour (soter in old Greek). The Old Testament uses this name exclusively in connection with God. The Greek expressions obviously show the inseparableness of soter (saviour) and soteria (salvation, redemption). Redemption (salvation) is only there, where the Saviour is present. This statement can be read in an other way too: the only way to get personal salvation is the direct, personal contact with God.
The Church cannot give salvation. The Church can not stand between God and man; if it does so, it results in complete failure; if it insists its saviour-role, it stops its members to get salvation, even, it makes believers suffer eternal condemnation. The true ecclesia is made up of that kind of believers, who personally recognised and accepted their salvation in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. In the heart of reborn believers lives Christ's Ghost, and because of this fact, they are the members of the one and universal church. The most important task of the church is to build and to guard the believers' communion with the Father. This communion must be established in spirit and in reality. The church's essence is the praise of God's glory; it cannot make the members worship the church itself.
The Hungarian expression for salvation became a superficial, religious notion. To understand its meaning is much more difficult, than it was in the first century after the birth of Christ, when the original expression (soteria) was used quite widely in the world, for example: for setting free from slavery, for triumph and welfare, for rescue from evil, from illness, sin, misfortune and death, etc. The essence of Salvation (soteria) -in existentional and transcendent sense as well - is life. In its centre stands that imperishable, immortal Life, which became flesh and blood on earth, in Jesus Christ. This life is superior to the life of Adam, and according to the revelation, natural human life is death in comparison with Christ's Life, because it is short, it is submitted to growing old, illness, suffering, poverty, etc., and finally the biggest tragedy of the human life is the dissolving of the body and the condemnation of the spirit.
King Solomon recognized man's global failure, his hopeless defeat from the enemy, which extends over his whole life. The king summarized this so:
Meaningless! Meaningless! says the Teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless! (Ecclesiastes 1,2).
In this hopeless situation Christ's resurrection brought the radical positive turning. Man can defeat this hopeless Adam-life and fate! The new alternative is the everlasting life! In this new life is not evil, death cannot hide in it, it is not temporary and ill, but perfect, complete and lasts forever. The eternal sensation of the gospel is that the Father has sent the eternal life in Jesus Christ to the humankind, who desperately fights for life and struggles in the captivity of the Satan. John, the Apostle calls Jesus the bred of Life. The gospel informs you not only about the appearance of the heavenly Life but it also tells you how you can enter the eternal Life of Christ by his atonement.
The basis of concluding the New Testament, Jesus’ blood means both the end of the defeated Adam-life (forgiveness) and the participation from the eternal Life, which appeared in Chris. From the view of soterologie, the church is made up of the people, who crossed over from death to a superior Life through their faith in Jesus.
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him, who sent me, has eternal life and will not be condemned, he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5,24)
We must make a difference between the present salvation of the true church and its members from the complete, (final) salvation. In the church, which consists of reborn people, salvation is realized on a spiritual level; on the mental level the believers can realize their salvation themselves by sanctification, and this process has a healing, liberating effect on the physical existence of the believer. The more powerful and obvious Jesus’ presence in the believers and in the Church is, in the higher degree will the believers be filled with eternal and immortal Life, and God's glory and their rescue from the evil will be visible among them.
Preparation and waiting for the final salvation form the church eschatological character. In the complete salvation the believers' physical body gets an imperishable, immortal Life, and those, who are called out, the members of the church will be similar to their Saviour in every respect, and they will live with the Lord in a so called glorified body forever.
The Christ-centred Church, is made up of salvation-oriented believers, who are linked together in brotherly communities by the rebirth from God; by working on their salvation and by making the outsiders know God's mercy having been appeared in Jesus Christ for everybody by setting an example and by preaching (kerugma in Greek).
The Spirit, Who Acts
The early Christianity, the prototype and the pattern for all times of Christ's church was Holy Spirit-centric. This pneumatic character was obvious not only by the colourful activity of the Holy Spirit's charismas; the believers ensured a central role to His personality in each area of their Christian life. They exactly knew, that the blessings of Christ's salvation, their metamorphosis - for example the forgiveness of sins, healing, and deliverance - can be realized only by the Holy Spirit. Peter the Apostle, in his Pentecostal speech defined the baptism in the Holy Spirit -who has own personality, and who was poured out by the Father- an important supernatural event of becoming a Christian.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the most important task of Jesus’ pontifical service. Each member of the Church was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the signs and consequences of this fact determined the life and service of the early church. They recognised Christ in Jesus by the Holy Spirit, and in the believers' relationship with the Saviour He was the leader, and not the mass, which was established far later in the Christian world. The Holy Spirit directly led the Church, and the Church had no so called teaching-offices, because
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as the anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1John 2,27)
This revelation proves, that the apostles, instead of acquiring mental-intellectual religious knowledge, encouraged the believers to stand on the Holy Spirit's revelations, which gave life and power to them. Paul the Apostle defines the church as a community standing in the service of the Holy Spirit; He enables this community to serve the New Testament, He reveals and distributes God's hidden presents, which are beyond the human empirical experience; and He leads the believers from grace to grace and changes them (metamorphosis) to Christ’s likeness. The true church is first of all, Holy Spirit-carrier (pneumatophoros) and only by this can it be Christ-carrier (christophoros). That means, that the Holy Spirit changes and sanctifies the believers and as a consequence of that, they become similar to Christ (christianos). In the life of the early church the Holy Spirit's freedom and sovereignty prevailed; the third heavenly person was not in the captivity of ecclesia, but the believers were standing in His service.
The Holy Spirit is more, than a tool for staying in communion with the Father and the Son. More, than a spiritual dimension of Christ's work; He is a person and has a rich personality. As the believers are getting filled with Him, He himself builds His character in the believers and in the church, in order to glorify Christ in the atmosphere of holiness, to present Jesus’ life for the church. Jesus Christ baptises you in the Holy Spirit, but the Scripture also speaks about the communion (coinonia) with the Holy Spirit. The essence of this communion is that He overflows onto the believers and onto the church, but not only as a consequence of the cooperation of the Father and the Son, but because the Counsellor (prara-kletos, called beside), as a person, gives himself, represents himself and manifests himself. This is the basis of the possibility to call Him directly, and He acts.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12,11)
From a theological aspect the Church means God's people (laos). God calls and called them out of different ethnic groups, national and cultural backgrounds to rule over them and to make them his people by His Word and His Spirit. Among the different Christian trends there were lots of heated arguments and battles in the history in order to possess the name church. Those denominations, which managed to have them accepted as church by the unbelievers, could also have themselves acknowledged as representatives of true Christianity by the outsiders. Therefore the official rank of the church became the synonym of true Christianity. But historical facts show, that those denominations could get "the church name", which formed an alliance with the worldly authority (roman Catholicism, pravoslav churches, etc.). With the help of the worldly power, they deprived the free, independent communities of using the name church.
This has influenced the public thinking up to now. The society, and the public thinking very often present those communities, which have biblical features or set such targets, as sects, but the huge religious communities, whose confession does not include even the biblical events of becoming a Christian, and which gave up the realization of the original spiritual-moral essence of the church, are accepted and appreciated as the Church and as the authentic representatives of Christianity. The above-mentioned circumstance plays an important role in the disputes over the church contra sect, after the change of the regime in Hungary. If it is possible to legally deprive evangelical-pentecostal communities of the ecclesia status, it will also have theological consequences. For example these groups can be presented to the society in such a way, as they were unpredictable, dangerous to the nation, their teachings were foreign to the Christian revelation; as they represented; new religious cults; and they deserve negative discrimination and exclusion because they divide families, destroy "Christian values", attack and "chase" the historical churches. The story of changing the roles -when the pursued is qualified as "pursuer" and the effective pursuer is in need of protection and support of the state and of solidarity of the society-, has not begun now but has a scandalous 1500 years history in Europe.
The fact, that the dominant factor of the European thinking is secularisation, makes the life of those communities, whose target is the realization of the true church, more difficult. This way of thinking is framed by the limits of the earthly life, therefore it evaluates the human decisions with earthly measure, the invisible world does not exist for it, it denies the spiritual experiences and the personal revelations or considers them being the products of a sectarian, deformed consciousness. The most important values of human life are of material and social, therefore the biblical view of life and its standards are categorically expelled from the public life, as if they would oppose to the healthy, modern and rational thinking. Beside the maintenance of showing freedom, the biblical view of life is separated and locked, and it is not considered being a partner of the earthly ideas and thoughts in disputes. (That is why the themes that are in close connection with the biblical view of life – e.g.: the existence of Satan, exorcism, charismatic manifestations are targets of ridicule and disparagement.) The biblical view of life is under double oppression: both the society and the secularised church deprive it from having equal chance with other convictions in the battle for people’s souls and mind.
The violent secularisation and the nominal, political, cultural Christianity play a huge role in that most of the people (even Church members) neglect the disciplines of the Bible in forming their life style and values. The society that is living in the straitjacket of secularisation expects the churches to take over social tasks from the state (e.g.: teaching, marrying, operation of hospitals, funeral, charity activities, instead of assisting people in contacting God and in searching for salvation. The secularised and materialistic society claims social and materialistic values from the churches. They prefer the façade connected to national traditions and its cultural and ritual aspects. The Christian democratic parties also put the clergy representing such values to the front. They are continuously demolishing, often with the help of state authorities the reputation and prestige of the biblical faith and of the churches, representing it.
For whom is this good?
In Hungary after the change of regime newer and newer social prejudice were formulated against reborn evangelical Christians, not only by the representatives of the state authorities and of the historical churches, but by some sociologists as well, who appear with academic prestige. Rudolf Andorka’s textbook for universities, "Introduction to Sociology" is a good example. In this book the author categorises the religious communities on the basis of religious ideologies and not on the basis of academic, exact concepts. For example, he identifies the church as a of social organisation made up of a number of people, in which the members are mostly “born in”, which is separated, which has qualified priests, and emphasizes the teaching, and the intellectual elements in its religious practice. The author points out, that the society is partly or completely belongs to the church, which is closely linked with the state.
This definition is in every essential point in contradiction to the view of the Bible, which says, that the church first of all is not a social organisation, but a supernatural, and a spiritual community, which was established by God (at least according to the faith of believers). The number of members is minimum 2-3 person,
for where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18,20).
Clericalism is foreign to it; charismatic persons carry out the ministries, spiritual elements are dominant in its message, and besides the preaching, the worship of God and the charismatic experiences stand in the centre of the life of the community. From a theological aspect this community is church, even if it is minority in the society. In its connection with the state the separation is dominant and not the fusion.
In this book the definition of a sect can also be found. According to the author the sect has only few members, adults can join community by repentance, it has no specialised priests, it emphasizes emotional elements, religious experiments. The sect does not regard the members of the historical churches believers, it wants to convert them. According to the author the sects will either disappear or become a denomination. The above-mentioned excluding definition of a sect does not consider the features of the biblical church positive.
Andorka's sociology and the biblical view of the church are in antagonistic contradiction with each other, because according to the central teaching of the gospel everybody must be reborn by water and by the Holy Spirit; because otherwise they can not enter God’s kingdom. Jesus also made it clear to Nikodemus, that he did not mean a born. (John 3) The true Christianity has never had specialized priests - at least in that sense, as the above-mentioned book supposes. Jesus and the apostles did not wear that kind of clothes, with which the "specialized priests" make themselves different from other people nowadays. This thing was particular to the Sadducees and Pharisees in the age of Jesus. Christian life was accompanied by emotional, spiritual experiments; for example when the disciples met the resurrected Jesus, when they became filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, when Saul met the Lord in front of Damascus, or the repentance of the Samarians, etc. One could make a long list of the examples. On the basis of the New Testament most of the members of the historical churches cannot be considered believers. This is a fact. In connection with the disappearance of the biblical church, you had better accept Jesus’ prognosis, which says: "the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
The main problem with this book is not the ignorance of theological marks, when Rudolf Andorka defines the church and the sect, but the fact, that he teaches such arbitrary concepts to the students, which offend the conviction of evangelical Christians. This is not academic, because the development of sociology has not yet reached that level when it can form an opinion about the different denominations, and religious trends based on academic measures. Opposed to an academic analysis the author expresses an offending prejudice, and he misleads the Hungarian students in the area of religion.
His categories, qualifying the religious communities, are not right even from a legal aspect, because according to the current laws every registered religious denomination is church. During the previous regime the differences among the religious denominations were made from a legal aspect, the communities, which operated illegally were called sect. The book of Rudolf Andorka asserts an even more antidemocratic division, than it was in the communist era.
The expression sect was positively used in the age of Jesus and the old-Christians, but later the church used it for fallen Christians who left the church on the basis of Galatians 5,20. Hairesis (sect) means "followed trend", along which someone travels, so it means religious ambitions, a system of arguments, opinions, behaviour, which broke away from the church, from the Word of God. Originally they used it for people who stopped being members of the church, ecclesia, and as a consequence, they even lost their right to call themselves Christians (christianos). For more than 1500 years sect expresses expulsion; it means that kind of group, which deserves the detestation and hate of the bulk of people. Those, who use this word, are aware of this, although they claim, that they use it as a neutral concept. Despite the fact, this word carries the message of expulsion in the Hungarian society.
Due to the evangelical revivals, the number of reborn Christians and their communities are growing, and their members insist on the right to call their communities churches, based on the Bible. By the restriction of the legal category of the church, the authority would not only legalize the discrimination of religious people but in connection with this; it would awaken well-known historical tenses, and hostilities. For whom is it good? One thing is sure: those, who really believe, are convinced that they are the members of that Church, which even the gates of Hades will not overcome. The true church will win this battle too.
Source: New Exodus