Ekklesia: God's Appointed Stewards
by Dr. Patti Amsden
by Dr. Patti Amsden
The distinguishing feature that set Jesus’ called out people (ekklesia) apart from Moses’ called out people (ekklesia) was that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Moses’ called out – the Nation of Israel – served God as His appointed Kingdom representatives. They were responsible to steward His purposes for the earth and to advance His rule in the earth as His ambassadors. However, during that Old Covenant time, the reign of death introduced through Adam’s transgression was still in force over humanity. God’s covenant people looked forward by faith to the day when sin’s payment would be made by an acceptable atonement and sin’s penalty of death would be eradicated. Jesus announced to His followers that the long awaited day had arrived. Death would not prevail or stand strong against His ekklesia. Jesus would destroy death’s power and open the doors – those long closed gates – of death. Jesus’ called out people would be under the reign of life. They would be a resurrected company. Death would not prevail over Jesus’ covenant stewards.
The change from an ekklesia under death’s reign to an ekklesia free from death’s reign is the most important change of all the transformations that occurred from the Old Covenant order to the New. Because Jesus choose to make His profound proclamation of Matthew 16:18-19 to a people who had knowledge that the nation of Israel had been called out in Moses’ day and because Christ’s followers had first-hand experience of what it meant to be the stewards of God’s covenant, Jesus’ declaration should have been pregnant with meaning for those who heard His words. This new ekklesia would, in many ways, continue and advance the assignment given to the old ekklesia.
Moses’ called out people were predominantly, although not entirely, from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Natural born Israelites were the main ethnic group that made up God’s covenant stewards prior to Christ. However, just to have a natural lineage or blood line was insufficient to secure a place in the covenant family. God always required His people to be a people of faith. Old Testament history is replete with stories of unbelievers who had Hebrew blood in their veins. Men, whose natural organs bore the mark of circumcision, were called uncircumcised in their hearts by God and his prophets (Lev. 26:41; Jer. 9:26; Acts 7:51). Conversely, persons such as Rahab and Ruth, who were not natural born Israelites, became believers and were adopted into the covenant and highlighted for their contributions into the purposes of God (Josh. 2; 6; Heb. 11:31; Jas. 2:25; Ruth 1-4 ; Mt. 1:5).
Several New Testament passages shed light upon the fact that not all Israel was part of the covenant Israel. Romans 9:6-8 states: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Romans 2:2-29 says: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
The people, who were part of Moses’ ekklesia, were a people of faith whether they were born Hebrew or Gentile. That basic principle is the point of the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3 when Jesus questioned how Nicodemus could be a leader in Israel and not understand that natural genealogy only produces flesh but a work of the Spirit opens the pathway into the Kingdom (Jn. 3:1-10). The Old Covenant people of faith – albeit they were under a time frame when the death sentence had yet to be totally abolished – laid the foundation for Jesus’ people of faith. The new ekklesia would be an extension, a next generation, a further augmentation of Moses’ ekklesia. The Apostle Paul explained that believers, who were being converted from non-Hebrew bloodlines, were like branches from a wild olive tree that were being grafted into God’s olive tree, which was a metaphor for the true people of God’s Kingdom. He warned them that they were partaking of the root and fatness of that mother tree. In other words, New Testament ekklesia is grafted into the true Old Testament ekklesia. (Rom. 11:13-24)
Paul further explained to the believers in Ephesus how the covenant people after Jesus death, burial, and resurrection were connected to the former covenant people. Those who were formerly uncircumcised, meaning that they were not Hebrew, were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph.2:12). Yet, those who had believed, were included by the blood and their faith; and the new were made one and the same with the old. “For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition; . . .to make in himself of the two one new man . . .” (Eph. 2:14-18).
Jesus’ ekklesia would operate free from the overarching reign of death but His ekklesia would continue the work of the former ekklesia. Some things would definitely change. The Levites would be replaced by the priesthood of all believers after the order of Melchisedec. Sacrifices would cease. Many ordinances related to temple and to the allotments of land and inheritances of the tribes would not hold the same significance as the church spread throughout all the nations. Yet many of the statutes that instructed the old order in responsible stewardship of the earth and Kingdom advancement into all spheres of human endeavors would continue. The old would be reflected in the new and the new would transform the old.
Into the context of an old ekklesia and into the ears of men who understood stewardship of a covenant, Jesus identified and empowered the new ekklesia to take the keys of authority and accept the assignment to be Kingdom stewards. Further ramifications of that day of ordination will be examined in the next article.