While the Ecclesia of God is a community of people called out of the world by the glory of the Father, it is not just another organization of a common sort among men. Brother Thomas described it as “a company of believers organized for the worship of God, the support of the Truth and their mutual benefit. It is not good for Christians to be alone; therefore it is a privilege and a blessing for those who are partakers of the divine nature to be together in society. They afford the Truth a local standing; they give it utterance, minister to its necessities, encourage one another, and assist the poor. Baptism organises believers of the gospel of the kingdom into the one body of the Lord”.

The Apostle Paul, when writing to the young man Timothy, described the ecclesia as “the pillar and ground of the truth”. Such a metaphor is not only scripturally based, but gives emphasis to the origin, nature and function of a living body of people, who are far more than mere citizens of this world, occupied with some religious fervour.

The Pillar and Ground of the Truth

 When Jacob came to Luz as he was journeying to Haran he prepared a stone for a pillow, intending to sleep. Little did he realise that he was about to be awakened to the reality and purpose of Yahweh Elohim, the God of his fathers. Jacob in a dream saw angels ascending and descending upon a ladder or stairway, that reached from the earth into the heavens, and to the presence of Yahweh. Having received from Yahweh the same promise previously given to Abraham and to Isaac, Jacob witnessed the ceaseless activity of the angels as divine messengers, administering the will of Yahweh for the welfare of those comprehended in the great and precious promises.

Upon awaking out of his sleep Jacob, moved by the awe of this theophany, converted his stony pillow into a memorial pillar and consecrated it unto God by pouring oil upon it. He also called the name of the place Bethel which means “the house of El”.

Jacob’s memorial pillar was typical of a house of Elohim which would exist through the ages and consummate with divine glory in the day when Jacob would arise from his sleep of centuries.

The apostle Paul alluded to Jacob’s dream and its outcome, by describing the ecclesia of God as “a house of Deity, an ecclesia of living Deity, a pillar and material habitation of the Truth” (Bro Thomas, Eureka Vol 1, p391—1 Tim 3:15). This pillar and habitation is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:20). As such a pillar, the ecclesia was anointed on the top on the day of Pentecost, when the spirit was poured out upon the apostles and this anointing has flowed by the Spirit Word to subsequent generations of believers. The Greek word “hedraioma” translated as the “ground” of the truth, denotes a habitation in which Deity dwells. In another place the same idea is expressed by Paul: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).

In Practical Terms

 As the pillar and ground of the truth, the ecclesia is an assembly of men and women, all of whom have been begotten by the incorruptible seed of the word. They have been called out of Gentile darkness into the marvellous light of Deity, purposing to show forth His wondrous virtues (1 Pet 2:9). While God-manifestation is their focus in life, they also look with joyful anticipation to serving their Creator as a royal priesthood, an holy nation and a purchased people in the kingdom of God. With such lofty origins and directions in life, the ecclesia should be alive and vibrant with a ceaseless feeding upon the Word of God. As doers of the word, and not hearers only, the ingesting of the mind of Deity will be expressed both within and without the ecclesia as a particular quality of godliness in which a self sacrificing, caring and upright disposition is evident. Such believers, though in the world, are not of it, and avoid being entangled in its affairs, practices and indulgences.

An ecclesia which functions as a house of Elohim and habitation of the Spirit of the Father, is a well ordered community, firm in their resolve for a holiness of life, setting their affections on things above and standing fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.

Structure and Order

 As a habitation of living God, the ecclesia reflects both structure and order in its regular organization. For this cause a pattern of office and duty was established in the first century ecclesia (Eph 4:11). While submitting one to another in the fear of God, the various elements of the ecclesial structure are essential to its co-ordinated and successful functioning.

Leadership in the Ecclesia

 Leadership and shepherding in the ecclesia is of prime importance to both its immediate well-being and future prospect. Although the Lord Jesus Christ is the “shepherd and bishop of our souls,” shepherding is also the responsibility of elders, administrators and dedicated workers in the ecclesia. In the first century, the Scripture speaks of elders, bishops and deacons; today’s equivalents are seen in the arranging brethren, serving officers and supporting committees.

Because of the diverse range of members in the ecclesia, thoughtful and sensitive oversight is essential to preserve harmony and the spirit of the Truth. Those given to rulership must be in touch with all members of the meeting, be good communicators and extend their friendship and hospitality to all. The power of example and personal discipline are very effective means by which leadership can be implemented. To lead from the front as a comrade, and not from behind as a commander, will commend others to follow and embrace the cause of maintaining the Truth in our midst.

In these days of performance and quality control, it is easy to specialise personnel, maintaining that the best few are the only eligibles. However if leaders are wise, they will not only maintain a healthy and profitable spiritual diet, but look to developing their essential resources to build a sound and well trained future generation.

A worthy shepherd will care for his flock as a provider and protector. He will lead his sheep to the best pastures, protect them from preying wolves and ensure that none is lost. In administrating such duties in today’s ecclesial environment, it is essential to maintain brotherly respect for the honour and dignity of fellow brethren in other ecclesial communities. Oftentimes difficult and sensitive issues arise where parochial attitudes harden and sour what should be a congenial ecclesial harmony. While the honour of God’s rightness is essential in all things, to esteem others better than one’s self is a deterrent to exclusiveness. The good shepherd of the sheep, whose life was fully occupied in performing the Father’s will, never avoided those with life’s blemishes and always found a moment for the tired and needy.

When promoting good relations in any context, frequent communication and regular association are essential ingredients. Competent leaders will seek opportunity for spiritual and fraternal associations with other ecclesias.

Qualifications for Ecclesial Leaders

 When administering the spiritual and fraternal welfare of the ecclesia, the habitation of Deity, it is important that the most suitable brethren are involved. In both the letters of the Apostle Paul to Timothy and Titus, the qualifications of a leader are quite specific and require the highest moral and spiritual integrity.

Such a person is to be self-controlled, gentle, not quarrelsome, not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not a lover of money, able to teach, having a good reputation, upright, holy and above reproach. As a family man he is faithful to his wife, manages his family well, sees his children are obedient, is not given to abuses and is honest in all things.

The deacon or brother who is given to general service in the ecclesia, and may be involved with assisting others, is to be exemplary in his own family and its management, temperate, conservative, a lover of the Truth, sincere and respected.

It is important that any who accept a public role in the ecclesia should be devoted readers and students of the Word of God. They should “study to show themselves approved unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

The Role of Sisters in the Ecclesia

 Contrary to the mistaken thought that a sister’s role was only to sit in the meeting and work in the kitchen, we learn from the Scriptures that she may perform a valuable, essential and fulfilling role in the ecclesia. While sisters have been divinely appointed for a subordinate role to the man, this is not to be interpreted as inferiority. As counterparts to the service of the brethren, sisters are able to make complete, or fill up our family and ecclesial service to our God.

It is naturally expected that younger sisters will be principally occupied at home in bearing children and raising their families. This will necessitate diligence, discipline, loving care and foresight to support their husbands and prepare their charges to embrace the Truth of our God and the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the ecclesia such young sisters will walk with their husbands and direct their commitment to the Sunday School. The rewards of loving response from husbands and children respectful and upright in the Truth, provide a fulfilment which would eclipse any other human alternative.

For the mature sisters who are mothers, grandmothers and aunties, occupation in the ecclesia is an essential element to manifesting a living God. Such sisters who have the experience of many years, both of life and in the Truth, can be a powerful inspiration because of their example, self-sacrifice, wisdom, competence, diligence, hospitality and care for others.

The kind of activities applicable for mature sisters are as follows: prayers for the needy in the ecclesia, supporting their husbands in the furtherance of the gospel, offering practical help to younger sisters and those in need, teaching other sisters in both spiritual and domestic matters, providing hospitality, corresponding to others with answers for many of life’s circumstances, attending to practical needs at ecclesial functions, supporting the sisters’ class and giving an answer for the hope that is within them.

Such sisters are required to be “grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things” (1 Tim 3:11). Older sisters should see themselves as role models for the younger, and therefore recognise the importance of their position. A quiet, conservative and godly demeanour, consistently displayed, will have a powerful effect upon the new and emerging generation.

The Role of Serving Brethren in the Ecclesia

 As sisters are not divinely permitted to assume positions of leading and teaching in the ecclesia such duties are the responsibility of the brethren. In serving the ecclesia there are many and varied duties to be performed, from speaking and presiding, to doormen and stewards, and many more. However it is important to accept that as God has given each brother his ability, it should be appropriately exercised with the spirit of a cheerful giver, and for the purpose of bringing honour and glory to God. As a body has many parts each fulfilling its particular function, so also with the ecclesia as brethren are given to their different duties. Common to them all is the necessity for self-sacrifice that others might receive the benefit. Also, each should be built up in our Lord and established in the faith through a diligence to study both the Word of God and the standard Christadelphian writings.

Agape love, which is derived from the Word, is that matrix which binds into one all the elements of ecclesial life. As God is love, so then ecclesial activities facilitated by serving brethren are the evidence of a living God, and the ecclesia a habitation of Deity.

For those who would be given to speaking, the exercise of discipline and sacrifice is essential to the building of a knowledge and resourcefulness in the Truth. Oftentimes the pleasures enjoyed in one’s uncommitted hours are resigned for the desk and the books. Nevertheless the rewards of discovery and the peace of mind which is developed with our God are benefits with eternal consequence.

The Manner of Serving in the Ecclesia

 When serving with other brethren and sisters, a brother in the ecclesia should show himself reliable, responsible, careful, honest, co-operative, and considerate of others. All duties, be they menial or significant, should be performed as unto the Lord, who in all things was precise and orderly.

When one is called upon to deal with the private matters and sensitivities of others it is essential that the highest integrity, trust and faithfulness be exercised, not only to deal with the matters correctly, but to maintain the necessary confidences. A brother ought to be accompanied by his wife if called upon to deal with issues involving sisters. In all things that may engage serving brethren, there ought to be no appearance of evil, but of the highest standards of the Truth.

Technology in the Ecclesia

The past three decades has witnessed an amazing advance in technology and its significant impact upon the ecclesia. Today is the world of the computer, photocopier, overhead projector, tape recorder, video system and fax machine. While each piece of “high tech” equipment brings its revolution of surpassing advantages, they do not replace the basic mental processes that Yahweh intended for man. To exercise the intellect and develop the moral sentiment, so as to produce a spiritual mindedness, is the intention of the Father in our lives. However, today’s Bible programmes for the home computer offer rapid fire information, tracing words and their meanings, finding quotations, developing themes, all at the tap of a button. While the data collecting advantages are enormous, the dangers of avoiding the important thinking processes are ever present. While it is proper to utilise the facilities available and enjoy their advantages, it is important they be kept in their correct perspective. To see a person using an electronic Bible in the meeting is to regard the technology as larger than the book, the buttons more important than the precepts. There is a time and place for everything, and everything should be in its place.

Conclusion

 When Jacob awoke from his dream, his immediate desire was to preserve the impact and memory of his awakening. This he did by erecting a pillar of stone and anointing it with oil. Likewise today, members of the ecclesia should count it a joy and privilege to have been enlightened by Yahweh and become prospective sharers of the Hope of Israel.

The level of our appreciation is somewhat proportional to our devotion and commitment to the Truth in the ecclesial environment. As a spiritual oasis and refuge in the wilderness of this world, it is good to draw from the wells of living water in the “house of Elohim.”

Our desire to be amidst the family of God today is a foretaste of a much greater occasion, when we shall stand in the presence of our Lord amidst the great congregation of the future. As the kings and priests of the age to come, we shall carry the messages of Yahweh to a humbled and awakened world, “for unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come” (Rev 5:10; Heb 2:5).