Ecclesiology is the study of or a discourse regarding [logy = logos] the church [ecclesia]. In my book The King and His Kingdom I present Ecclesiology along with each of the other 10 categories of systematic theology through an eschatological-Christocentric lens. Christ is at the center of God’s purpose that is unveiled at the end of the ages. As such, the church, in union with Christ, is the His special end-time bride, body, people, sheep, and temple who awaits His second/final coming. So, the church, because she is in union with Christ, is central to God’s purposes in history. She is not second best, plan B, or anything of the sort. The church is God’s plan in Christ for the end of the ages as a climactic gallery of His wisdom (Eph 3:8-11).
How is God using the church to manifest His wisdom to human and angelic authorities these days? One of the burdens of systematic theology is to answer current issues in theology, philosophy, and politics in order to challenge believers to practically obey Christ. If Christ is the Head of every department, if He is Lord and all our thinking needs to be subjected to His Lordship (2 Cor 10:3-6), then in what ways do we need to bow down? Hence, this excerpt:
Regarding Gathering as a Church
Governments in our day have limited the number of attendees or discouraged (made illegal) church and social gatherings. Due to the COVID “pandemic” they have used their God-given authority to try to curb the spread of this influenza. What they did wrong is mess with the worship of the church. They say, “don’t gather, and if you do make sure there is considerably less of you.” God says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25).
The sin in this text, understood in its historical setting, could be a settled practice of not gathering out of fear of persecution which results in apostasy. At times the sin in this text has been understood to be apostasy itself. The bane then is not a habit of missing gatherings, but as the KJV decidedly put it, “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” However, I believe that the problem stated is not apostasy itself…but what could definitely lead to it! Though Ellingworth says, “the author does not claim a direct causal link between the two [not meeting and apostasy]” yet he still sees how failure to meet “is associated with apostasy (vv. 26–28), though.”354 Even though Barnes regards “the Day drawing near” as the destruction of Jerusalem and the threat being apostasy to Judaism only, he does not equate
neglecting to meet with apostasy. He says,
“It might be expected to be a time when many would be
tempted to apostatize, and it was proper, therefore, to exhort them to meet together…The danger which the apostle desired to guard those to whom he was writing was, that of apostasy from Christianity to Judaism.”355
Even if Barnes’ interpretation is right, it still has application for us, since he goes on to say,
“At the same time, it is not improper to use this passage as an exhortation to Christians to fidelity when they shall see that the end of the world draws nigh, and when they shall perceive indications that the Lord Jesus is about to come. And so of death.”
Yes, of death also, We should meet because we’re all dying, no generation is excluded. The act of “neglecting to meet together” is not itself apostasy, as if it had said, ‘not apostatizing…but encouraging one another…’, because then why would it call it a habit?
“Lünemann aptly says that the idea of apostasy which would be conveyed by the rendering assembly or congregation is excluded by ἔθος habit or custom, which implies an often
recurring act on the part of the same persons.”356
Apostasy is once-for-all, a bad habit is recurring. Regular, consistent fellowship as the assembly is a divinely appointed preventative to apostasy. Not only are other causes of death more prevalent and worse than COVID, but isn’t apostasy worse than all of them? The danger we face when not
gathering or limiting our gatherings is only more grim when we realize the eschatological nature of it all,
“The Greek, “episunagoge,” [in Heb 10:25] is only found here and 2 Th 2:1 (the gathering together of the elect to Christ at His coming, Mt 24:31). The assembling or gathering of ourselves for Christian communion in private and public, is an earnest of our being gathered together to Him at His appearing…To neglect such assemblings together might end in apostasy at last.”357
In the Hebrews text, not gathering precedes apostasy, in 2 Thessalonians the great apostasy precedes the great gathering. If you will be a part of the final gathering of believers, it is foreshadowed by your
continued gathering, but your habit of neglecting to gather may foreshadow the final apostasy. So, if government says, “don’t gather”, we gather. If government says, “limit your attendees”, we say, “No, because we don’t want them to be tempted to apostatize.”
But, not only did government overstep their boundary of authority in the when and who of worship, but the how (which touches on the why). They say, “cover your face; keep distance; don’t share food- and if you do communion then the wafer has be dropped in your hand from someone wearing gloves; don’t sing; don’t visit- just leave after the preaching; don’t invite one another over; don’t visit the sick.” God says,
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
“…love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”
1 Peter 1:22
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
1 Peter 4:8-9
“…through love serve one another.”
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one
who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one other and pray for one another, that you may be healed…”
“…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”
“…when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”
1 Corinthians 11:33
“Therefore, welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you,
for the glory of God.”
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
1 Corinthians 16:20
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
2 Corinthians 13:12
“Greet one another with the kiss of love.”
1 Peter 5:14
Now, someone will reply, “We are loving one another by staying away from one another to prevent them from getting sick.” Not only is it a 99% chance you’ll survive if you get it, there is a greater disease to fear by not “one-anothering.” Like the case of not gathering in Hebrews 10:25, “one-anothering” is a divinely appointed preventative to apostasy. The last days are full of many “fall[ing] away and betray[ing] one
another and hat[ing] one another…And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:10, 12). Those in the last days are characterized as “heartless”, or “without natural affection” (2 Tim 3:3 KJV). It is natural to go see your dying father or mother…but it is illegal.
It is the natural bent of fallen man to decline morally and spiral into degrading manifestations of depravity, then lawlessness rises and love is snuffed out. When you treat people like a germ you do no better than porn as it objectifies women. We are made in the image of God! We are made to socialize, communicate verbally and non-verbally with our face (our wholes face!). When Darlene Deibler-Rose saw someone smile at her after months of nothing but harsh faces, she jumped up and down clapping! Virtual communication does not bridge the gap of needed communion and closeness (ask any missionary).
It is virtually impossible to keep all the restrictions they keep coming out with in any situation. It is impossible because of the way God made us as social creatures. The restrictions are designed to grade down the soul so that there is less and less humanity. Again, the eschatological application here should shock us,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you are
blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you
gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a
stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed
me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you
came to me.’…And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to
you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you
did it to me.’”
Matthew 25:34-36, 40
352 Forrest McPhail, Pioneer Missions, pg 90.
353 Ibid. pg 84 – my favorite quote and heart’s goal!
354 Ellingworth, P. (1993). The Epistle to the Hebrews: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 527–528).
Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press. Emphasis mine.
355 Albert Barnes, Barnes Notes, Vol. 13, pg 236 for similar connections.
356 Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 4, p. 502). New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons. Emphasis original.
357 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the
Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 468). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. Emphasis mine.