Video Transcript: Unit 1 Lecture 1

Hi, My name is Bob Zomermaand. I’m an ordained pastor in the Christian Reformed Church of North America. I have an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from a college in Iowa. I have a master’s degree from Calvin seminary in Grand Rapids MI and I have a Master of Theology degree from Princeton seminary in Princeton NJ. I've been a pastor since 1978. In that time, I've passed it several churches and different places here in North America, I was also a church planter for church in Indiana. I've been married to my wife for over 40 years now we have four daughters who are married and living in various parts of the United States. We also have several grandchildren who light up our lives whenever we see them. I've been a student of history ever since college days. I'm looking forward to our time together here at CLI as we delve into the ancient history of the church Jesus called it to be. Over the centuries there have been many, many different influences, and pressures on the church as well as the power of God spirit bringing revival in the world by means of the church proclaiming the good news of Jesus. 

So let's get started on this wonderful journey back in time. Ecclesia is a Greek work which has formed the basis for our modern English word church. In ancient Greece the term ecclesia was used to describe the people who formed the group who were called out. With Eck being the word for out and Lesia being the word for calling. So, the called out ones formed a group known in ancient Greece as the ecclesia. They were the people who were called upon whenever the city needed something decided on behalf of all the citizens. It was a gathering of people called out from among those among whom they lived. early on the Christians as they gathered in their congregations used the word ecclesia to denote who they were. they were the ones who God had called out of the world how their sinful past, out of darkness into his marvelous light. 

We cannot understand ourselves today without knowing that from the first Jesus said to Peter I say to you that you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my ecclesia. Jesus came to the world to call out his own from among the whole population of the earth. they we are the ecclesia. from this we can get our first glimpse into how God had prepared the world for the birth of the church. God had been at work for centuries getting the world ready so that in the fullness of time Jesus was born to Mary. He lived, he suffered, he died, and he rose again for us, and it was at just the right time. it is preparatory work what God had done was pretty amazing. 

One of the most distressing events in the history of God's people in the Old Testament times was the exile from their home in the promised land. God's people then as now could be strong willed and refused to follow God's way of living. They wanted to do their own thing, live their own way. Finally, God raised up foreign rulers who took his people out of the promised land away from Jerusalem and the sacred place they called Zion the city of God. while in exile however some interesting developments were going on. Now that the people of God we're no longer living in the promised land where they had access to the temple and its sacrificial system, they now developed a local place of worship where the congregation or the ecclesia was found. It was called the synagogue. In the synagogue God’s people would gather on the Sabbath day and call on God's name. Over the centuries away of worship developed in which the people would gather, a spiritual leader would say prayers for the people. The scriptures we know as the Old Testament would be read, the reading would be explained by a member of the congregation, the songs were sung, and an offering would be given. 

This was very different from what had gone on in the temple in Jerusalem, but it became the model for the way the early church would worship. Another aspect of life in exile was a necessity of learning a language other than Hebrew to be able to live among the many places God's people found themselves and then lead us to another wonderful thing God had done. The language of the marketplace all over the Roman Empire in Jesus day was Greek. No matter what city one went to when going to the marketplace one could speak with anyone there in the language of ancient Greece. Four centuries before Jesus was born the nation of Greece had become a major player in world politics. They governed a great empire and spread their language and customs throughout the empire. They were very eager to establish colonies of their land all along the seacoast of the Mediterranean Sea. They invited all comers to immigrate to the cities that they were establishing with the intent to have a cosmopolitan Greek city and every major area of the of the Mediterranean Sea. There were Jews who migrated from Palestine to many of these cities. At the time of Jesus Jewish folks were found in every significant city in the Roman Empire. 

Following the weakening and falling of the Greek power Rome was being readied by God to take the lead in establishing an empire that would span a very large area of the then known world. They put in place Roman style government Roman legions to control the population and Roman deities for all the nations to worship. Often these were just latinized names and legends of deities that shared many of the same characteristics with the local gods. But the Romans left in place and even extended the influence of Greek thinking and Greek culture and the Greek language. In the Greek philosophy of that era there was a growing sense of alienation from the old gods that had been the mainstays of Greek religious life and just seeing that humanity was growing tired of the ways the gods were being presented to the populace. 

And to this cultural situation God sent his son born of a woman, born under law, in the fullness of time. but what was going on within the realm of faith at this time what sort of spirit of the age can we discern when we look at the time of Jesus in the beginnings of his church his ecclesia. 

What winds were blowing through the hearts of people of this age. Well one of the many winds blowing was out of what are called mystery religions. Just as it is today when we look around the world, we can see many different faiths proclaiming the virtues of their way of life in the time of the early church there were also many different religions, but they shared some common elements. These mystery faiths had what their name implies. A mystery that is hidden from the everyday person. No man on the street would be able to know what the secret of life was unless he would join one of these groups. There he would learn the mystery of how the universe came to be the mystery of why he was alive. The mystery of what the deity served by that cult wanted him to know and they would learn the mystery of the God himself. Further these mystery religions were all based on the cycle one finds in the nature of planting time, cultivating time, harvesting time. They made a great deal about the dying and coming to life in the vegetative world, and they said this mimicked to the life death and return to life of the deity they served. 

The mystery religions would insist on a very secret private initiation into the faith. One had to promise never to divulge the secrets except to a new initiative. Those who were already involved would walk the new person through an elaborate ceremony which encourages the person to experience the deity in ecstasy. Once united with your God in that way you are now a new follower of the lifestyle of the group. It's to this world that God sent his son in the fullness of time. To people who wanted to know the mystery of life God revealed himself in his son. To the ones who wanted a meaning for their lives God called into his ecclesia, a wonderful open group who welcomed the stranger openly taught the truth and held it the greatest joy that could ever be had was to know the secret of the mystery that has been revealed that is Christ in you. 

Just listen to the apostle Paul in the letter to the Colossians. now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh, I'm filling up with his lacking in Christ afflictions for the sake of his body that is the Church of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you to make the word of God fully known the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to the Saints. to them God chose to make known how great among the gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery which is Christ in you the hope of glory. Him we proclaim warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. God in his new ecclesia was going to turn the world on its head. You'll see more of that next time.

Last modified: Monday, March 13, 2023, 11:51 AM