The Ecclesia According to Jesus
By Edgar Jones
CLEAR THE TABLE!
One does not think of serving up a proper meal without first clearing the table of the remnants of the last one. So here. You can have no proper conception of what I am about to set before you unless you first clear the table of your mind of all the refuse of Christendom's worldly feasting. Everything must go and the surface must be wiped down to remove every trace of the stale repast. Otherwise, our fresh provision will be contaminated and spoiled even before it reaches you.
All that you have ever learned about church -- let it go! Let go every idea that Christendom has utilized to brainwash you and destroy your capacity for Truth. The vast apparatus of church administration, of hierarchy, of teachers, of pastors, of priests, of overseers, of bishops, of archbishops, of popes and patriarchs -- let it go! The creeds, the faith statements, the orders and contents of worship, the liturgy, the catechism, the formal theology and ecclesiology, all if it -- let it go! Yes, and all the chapels, church houses, worship centers, temples, cathedrals and the associated real estate -- let it go! Be rid of it all for, at the least, it is deceiving you and, at worst, it will destroy you eternally.
The First Question
Now that you have cleared the table, I invite you to join with me as we listen to the clear and firm voice of our Good Shepherd, whose rod and staff will comfort us. Who of you will be the first to submit a question to him?
Yes, you Sir! You there by the seaside, near the boats, with your hand up. What is your question?
Please, Master, tell us which of the many churches is the true . . .
Stop! You haven't cleared your table! Wipe out that idea of the "many churches" that can only be waste from the previous meal. Now, would you like to submit another question, Sir?
Yes, and I apologize. I just didn't realize how thoroughly you meant for me to clear the table.
Please, Master, how many churches . . .
Stop again! That word, "church" is only a scrap from the feast of the past. Do you mean to ask how many different assemblies of followers he has called out from the world? He referred to this as his "ecclesia."
Well, yes Sir. Please, Master, how many ecclesias do you have?And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16)
I have introduced this paper in this manner to impress upon you how absolutely essential it is to erase the preconceptions before we can began to hear and receive the Truth. John 10:16 is the answer to this question, in which the ecclesia of Jesus is represented as a flock of sheep. And the answer is crystal clear. . . there is only one! Before we continue with another question for our Good Shepherd, this seems a good place to interpose with a little lesson in hearing and understanding Jesus.
When Jesus makes a statement such as the above, even though it be clothed in metaphor as is this one, it is final, absolute and unequivocal. He stated that there is to be one flock; we can take it to the bank . . . one is all there is! Don't you remember what the master said to Peter about his ecclesia:And I tell you, you are Peter (little rock), and on this (big) rock I will build my ecclesia, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)Do you not see that the word is in the singular? He promised to build only one, not two or many!
The Second Question
Now you, Sir, do you have a question? Yes, you seated on the rock mending your net?
Well, I was just wondering, how does one get to be a member of this flock, or ecclesia?they will heed my voice.Please, Master, don't make light of me. This is surely a very significant question and I really need to know the answer. How does one qualify for your ecclesia?they will heed my voice.
Oh! Oh! We need another point of explanation. Jesus doesn't need to repeat himself, and if you ask him to do so, he may conclude that you are making light of him. Everyone in authority insists that those under him carefully listen to every word of response or instruction. They don't like to have to repeat their words, for it only means that the hearers are careless about their hearing. My parent taught me that quite early so that I seldom dared ask him what he had just said. So it is with Jesus. Be careful how you hear!
On the other hand, when he answers a very important question, such as this, he often repeats his answer for emphasis so as to leave the hearers without excuse for failing to hear and understand. This is just such a question, and he repeated this same answer numerous time. I refer you to our companion paper, The Ecclesia for his repetitions of this answer.
Again, you can bank on it if Jesus said it. There is nothing else whatsoever that one does to qualify for his ecclesia. It includes everyone who heeds his voice and no one who does not heed his voice.
The Third Question
I recognize the lady with the basket of bread to my right. Your question, please?
Master, surely there is more than one shep . . .
Sorry to have to interrupt you lady. Where do you get this idea of multiple shepherds? Ha! You haven't wiped your table clean either, have you? Don't you know that each flock has only one shepherd? This one is no exception. Didn't you hear him? He said,So there shall be . . . one shepherd.Yes, I heard him, Sir. But in the Epistle of I Peter it is written,And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:4)Also, in the Epistle to the Ephesians it is written,And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some shepherds and teachers . . . (Ephesians 4:11)Doesn't this imply that there are many shepherds, and that Jesus is the chief shepherd?
Yes, dear lady, that is what this implies. And perhaps I owe you another apology, because when the brother previously asked the Lord what one must do to become a member of the flock, the Lord gave us but one qualification: that we hear his voice. Perhaps we should also mention that the Lord has also given to us another characteristic feature of his sheep, those who are of his flock:When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (John 10:4,5)When you quote words from I Peter and Ephesians, or any other epistle that contradicts what Jesus says, you must be heeding the voice of strangers! Jesus does not contradict himself, and he has plainly stated that there shall be but one shepherd.
But Sir! In the very same Fourth Gospel, Jesus said to Peter:A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Shepherd my sheep." (John 21:16)Dear Sister! I do admire your persistence. But can't you see clearly that, if Jesus said this to Peter, then Peter makes two shepherds? This would again contradict what he has said to us above, that there is only one shepherd. I should explain that even the scholars agree that Chapter 21 of the Fourth Gospel is a later addition. That doesn't mean that everything in it is spurious -- no, not at all. But it does mean that it is fundamentally a separate document and was added later, perhaps after the writer had been influenced by Paul and his associates, all of whom ignored the voice of Jesus and created as many shepherds as they liked. This cannot be a valid statement of the Lord, who never contradicted himself. If the Lord Jesus contradicted himself, who could depend on anything he said?
I see, Sir. But I still have a question for the Lord. Please, Master, who is that one shepherd?I am the good shepherd. (John 10:11)That was surely a good question, Dear Sister! And did you note how the Lord repeated himself for emphasis? He wants to be absolutely certain that we hear the answer to so important a question.
I am the good shepherd; (John 10:14)
It will be good, for the sake of everyone gathered here to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd, if we summarize what he has just taught us. The summary runs as follows:There is one and only one ecclesia, which consists of all who, like sheep listening to the voice of their shepherd, heed the voice of Jesus. Then, there is only one shepherd, who is Jesus. There are no other ecclesias of the Lord, no other shepherd, no sheep of his flock save those who heed his voice.Please do not think me impertinent, sir, but I have yet one more question for him. It is this:
How many offices are there in the one ecclesia? I understand now that there is only one shepherd, but what about fathers, teachers (rabbi's), and leaders?
Sister, I don't think you have cleared your table very well after all! But I see that the Lord is going to answer you. Let us hear him:But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.Neither be called leaders, for you have one leader, the Christ.He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; (Matthew 23:8-11)O, thank you dear Lord Jesus! Now I see -- everything is a single unit! there is only one of everything, except of course the sheep, or members of the ecclesia, and even they have only one qualification! When your friend and I were discussing the matter of a single shepherd, I was wondering which of the two contradictory utterances was truly yours. Now I see that it is the one that allows for only one shepherd. A shepherd leads, teaches, feeds, and protects the sheep, so of course only you, Dear Lord Jesus, the Lord's anointed, fill all of those offices. They are indeed a single office, that of the Good Shepherd! I see now that the only other office is that of servant, and we all fill that office together, for we are all your servants and servants of one another, and brothers and sisters together in the family of the Father..
Now, please do not think me as too forward, Dear Lord, but I am wondering, What will happen to me if I should become proud and vain and seek to occupy one of your offices, teacher or leader or shepherd (pastor)?whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)Thank you, Lord Jesus. That surely is clear enough. But I must dare ask you one . . .
Sister! You have surely occupied enough of our Lord's attention, don't you think?
But Sir, this is very, very important to me, being who I am, and I promise, this will be the last.
Well, just one more.
Dear Lord Jesus, what about this matter of all the members of your flock being . . . well . . . you know . . . brothers?Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Mark 3:35)Of course! It doesn't make any difference, does it? Everyone who does the will of God is the same, whether brothers, sisters, or mothers!
But Lord Jesus, What is "the will of God?"
Sister! Dear Sister! You promised that would be the last. I cannot permit you another question, for there are others seeking to question the Lord and you must give way to them. However, I think I can myself direct you to the answer to that question. When the Lord Jesus went up onto the Holy Mountain and was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, and God our Father spoke from heaven, he said:This is my beloved Son; listen to him. (Mark 9:7)This is above all else what the Father wills for us, because if we heed the voice of our Good Shepherd, everything else will follow. Furthermore, this takes us very neatly right back to where we started, because that, listening to him, is the very thing we must do to become members of his flock. Please, Sister, no more questions now. Let another speak.
The Fourth Question
Now, will the young man seated on the rock there, with his staff in his hand -- yes, you. I saw you raise your hand and then withdraw it. Don't be ashamed to speak. What is it that you want to know? You may ask of the Master what you will.
Dear Master, I am Judas by name. I have been listening as you answered the questions of others and I have become very curious. My brothers and I are leaving this place tomorrow, to join others from our village who are migrating to Egypt where we have friends and family. How can you be our shepherd there? Furthermore, I know the time will come when you will return to the Father. How can you remain our shepherd if you are no more in the world? Besides all this, the sheep will in time become more and more scattered about over the face of the earth. How is it possible that we can remain all one flock when we may never see each other again?I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (John 14:18-21)Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?"Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. (John 14:23,24)Yes, Lord, but when you are gone, you will no more be with us to speak your word. How can a person hear and keep your word when you are not here to speak it?
and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Matthew 28:20)Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Mark 13:31)Folks, it is growing late in the day and many of you are miles from home. Besides all that, the Lord must have become weary with answering so many questions. So, let us have one more questions, from that sister standing there near you, Andrew.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)
Dear Sister, what is your question?
Lord, I am Salome and, like Judas, I am wondering how it is possible for the one flock, represented in so many different places as there are on the earth and perhaps over many lifetimes, can make do with a single shepherd? We are your sheep and we will grow weary and need a shepherd, and we will grow lonely and need the fellowship of many others of the flock. Some will stumble and need the shepherd to lift them up. Can you explain how you will perform all this in every time and clime?Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.But what will we eat, Lord? We will need our shepherd to lead us into green pastures.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in
the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6:48-51)
. . .Do you take offense at this? (John 6:61)
Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:62,63)
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