Saturday, 19 February 2022
So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. Acts 5:11
The previous verse found Sapphira keeling over and breathing her last, right at the feet of Peter. With her sudden demise, the young men who had carried out Ananias arrived and carried her out for burial by him. With that recorded, Luke next writes, “So great fear came upon all the church.”
Here, the word ekklésia is used and translated as “church.” It was used by Jesus in Matthew 16:18 and again twice in Matthew 18:17. It signifies a called-out assembly. It will be used many times as Acts continues, and it will then fill Paul’s epistles. It will also be used in Hebrews, James, 3 John, and Revelation.
The word refers to the people who comprise the faith, meaning the faith that leads to an individual’s inclusion in the body of Christ. Faith in what Jesus has accomplished is the key to inclusion. When faith is demonstrated before God, that person is sealed with the Holy Spirit and becomes a member of the ekklésia, or “called out assembly.”
HELPS Word Studies provides a more important meaning for the student of Scripture to remember, saying, “The English word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word kyriakos, ‘belonging to the Lord’ (kyrios). 1577 /ekklēsía (‘church’) is the root of the terms ‘ecclesiology’ and ‘ecclesiastical.’”
This called-out body is who Luke is referring to now. They, meaning all of the believers in Christ, are the church, and it is said that great fear came upon them because of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. They have now come to understand one of the traits of the Lord. He is not just merciful and forgiving, but He is also holy. He is to be treated as such. It is reminiscent of what was said in 1 Samuel 6 when the people realized the sternness of the Lord in judgment –
“And the men of Beth Shemesh said, ‘Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? And to whom shall it go up from us?’” 1 Samuel 6:20
The church has been given a stern example of what it means to treat the Lord as holy. This doesn’t mean that this is what will happen at all times, but it is what is deserved at all times. As every infraction will be judged, all believers can expect their times of treating the Lord in a less than holy manner will be presented to them when they stand before Him at the bema seat judgment that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 3 and 2 Corinthians 5.
Along with the church, Luke also notes, “and upon all who heard these things.” Not only did those within the church hear of the matter, but non-believers did as well. This was probably a convincing proof to many that the Lord was, in fact, among the church. As such, the act may have led to more conversions to the faith. Verse 5:14 refers to the expansion of the church, and this demonstration of the Lord’s power and holiness, through His apostle, may have been one of the reasons for this.
Life application: A study of the use of the word ekklésia in Acts clearly shows that it refers to one united body of Jew and Gentile, not two separate bodies based on two separate gospels. Further, the use of it shows that the church is not an organization based on a centralized building or location, such as one might think while considering Roman Catholicism.
The church is shown to be the people who are saved believers in Jesus Christ. Too often, the word “church” is used when referring to a building. Even abandoned buildings are often referred to in this way, such as, “That is an old church.” What would be more appropriate would be to say, “That is an old building where the church used to meet.”
This would then help both believers and non-believers to understand that the church is comprised of those people who are followers of Jesus. Further, those who are true followers of Jesus are also known as “saints.” That is clearly seen in Paul’s letters, such as in his first letter to the Corinthians –
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2
Remember these things and, to the extent possible, try to be precise concerning them. In this, those who misunderstand the terminology can be corrected. The church (the called-out assembly) refers to believers in Jesus Christ, and those believers are all saints.
Thank You, Lord God, for allowing us to be members of Your called-out assembly when we have faith in the gospel concerning what Jesus Christ has done. As Your saints, help us to be responsible and remember to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of this high calling. May our lives be lived to Your glory. Amen.