11 - The Holy Assembly|
In part one of this book we
looked at the names and titles of God's People Israel. They were,
- A People set apart
- A Holy People
- A Community set apart
- A Holy Assembly
- The Descendants of Abraham
- The Chosen People
- A Holy Nation
- The people of God
- Children of God
Each of these names and titles can be found in
the New Covenant and attributed to the believers. Not to a new church
of Gentile believers, but to Israel and the Gentiles who enter into the
covenant with them. Let us look at these names and titles and see how
they are used in the New Covenant.
Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch
no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the
vessels of the LORD. (Isaiah 52:11)
Here we have a First Covenant passage commanding
Israel to be separate from the other nations. This passage is quoted in
part by Paul.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For
what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship
can light have with darkness? ..."Therefore come out from them and be
separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive
you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty." Since we have these promises, dear friends,
let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and
spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians
6:14 - 7:1)
In this passage, Paul is inferring that the
command for Israel to be separate from the unbelievers is still a
requirement for Israel. By quoting the First Covenant passage, Paul is
connecting Israel in the first covenant with Israel in the new
covenant. Paul even carries this concept of separation into the act of
not touching anything unclean as commanded in the Torah.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this
world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans
Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For
everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his
eyes and the boasting of what he was and does - comes not from the
Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15-17)
Just as Israel was a people set apart from the
world in the Old Testament, They are still to be set apart from the
world in the New Testament.
I am the LORD who brought you up out of
Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus
Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in
all you do; for it is written; "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter
Here again we have a New Covenant passage
quoting a First Covenant passage. This First Covenant command is for
Israel in the New Covenant as well.
Community Set Apart
The Hebrew word used in the First
Covenant for the community of Israel is "edah". When we looked at this
word in Chapter 3 we saw that this word applied to all of Israel, all
those born in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Septuagint translated the Hebrew word "edah"
into the Greek word "synagogue". By the New Covenant period, this word
came to be used for the places of worship and study of the Jewish
people as it is today.
The First Covenant concept of community was
carried over into the synagogues of the New Covenant period. Each town
had a synagogue or community of Jews who met on each Sabbath for
worship and study. In one case it is used exclusively of a gathering of
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord
Yeshua Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your
meeting (synagogue) wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor
man in shabby clothes also comes in... (James 2:1,2)
The second Hebrew word used in the First
Covenant for a gathering of Israel is "qahal". The First Covenant
Septuagint translated this word into the Greek word "ekklesia". We can
also see this qahal-ekklesia relationship in the New Covenant.
[Moses] was in the assembly (Greek: ekklesia) in
the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai. (Acts
The New Covenant writers continued to use the
Greek word ekklesia, used in the Septuagint for the assembly of Israel.
When we look at the word ekklesia in the New Covenant, we find that it
is used over 100 times for the assembling of the believers. Ekklesia is
usually translated as the "Church" in English translations. Many people
believe that the Church is new and unique to the New Covenant. As we
can see this Greek word was used long before Christ in the Old
Testament Septuagint to identify the "ekklesia of Israel" or using the
New Covenant English translation of the word; the "Church of Israel".
By using the word ekklesia, the New Covenant writers are identifying
themselves as the "Holy Assembly" those who have set them themselves
apart from non-believers by keeping God's Torah.
Christ loved the church (ekklesia) and gave
himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with
water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant
church (ekklesia), without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but
holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Remember when we looked at the word holy in the
first part of the book? We saw that those who were holy are those who
kept the Torah. Was not this God's desire for Israel from the very
beginning? Israel failed to make themselves holy and blameless before
the Lord, but God did not give up on them. He sent his own Son to earth
to be holy for them. He then gave them the Holy Spirit and wrote his
Torah on their hearts. Since the word "church" is usually thought of as
a new people of God by most people, I will, just as I did with the word
Torah, use the word assembly in its place since this word is more
consistent with the Old Testament definition.
Descendants of Abraham
If you belong to Christ, then you are
Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians
This promise given to Abraham is for all that
have faith in that promise just as Abraham did. Going back to our
chapter on the covenant with Abraham we remember that God promised
Abraham He would be his God and the God of his descendants and that he
would make him into a great nation and with an everlasting inheritance.
Those who put their faith in Yeshua are also heirs of this promise and
are therefore descendants of Abraham. Does this mean that Israel is now
rejected as God's people? No.
Therefore, the promise came by faith so that it
may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring - not
only to those who are of the Torah but also to those who are of the
faith of Abraham, he is the father of us all. (Romans 4:16)
Therefore, remember that formerly you who
are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call
themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of
men) - remember that at that time you were separate from Christ,
excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of
the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians
Here we see that Gentiles, known as foreigners
in the First Covenant were excluded from citizenship with Israel and
therefore excluded from the covenant with God, but all that has changed
with the coming of the Messiah.
But now in Christ Yeshua you who once were far
away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. ...
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow
citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Yeshua himself as
the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together
and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are
being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his
Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13,19)
Through Christ and his sacrifice, Gentiles
become fellow citizens with Israel and are able to enter into the
covenant with God. Although the word Israel still applies to the nation
of Israel, the Gentiles can join Israel as part of the assembly. There
is a teaching within today's churches that the church has become the
new Israel by replacing Israel of the First Covenant. This is not true.
In chapter 15 we will look at this relationship between Israel and
Gentiles. But for now recognize that the church is the Holy Assembly of
Jews and Gentiles together.
While the name "Israel" is for those who
are physically descended from Jacob, the name "Hebrew" applies to the
descendants of Abraham. Since all believers, Jews and Gentiles, are
descendants of Abraham (Gal 3:7), then all believers, Jews and
Gentiles, are Hebrews. When we looked at the Meaning of "Hebrew" in the
first part of this book, we found that it meant "the crossing ones".
Yeshua mentions this "crossing over".
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and
believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he
has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)
For he chose us in him before the creation
of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)
Therefore, as God's chosen people holy and dearly
loved, clothe yourselves with compassion.... (Colossians 3:12)
But we ought always to thank God for you,
brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to
be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief
in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
Israel has been the chosen people and this has
not changed. The Gentiles, who have joined the Assembly, join Israel as
fellow citizens and become part of the chosen people.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people belonging to God. (1 Peter 2:9)
This passage is also a quote from the First
Covenant, which was a title given to Israel. God only chose one nation
out of all the other nations and that is Israel. All other nations were
invited to join Israel and their covenant with the one true God. Here
we see that the title, Holy Nation, continues in the New Covenant for
those who are in the covenant with God. (Exodus 19:5,6)
For we are the temple of the living God, As God
has said; "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be
their God, and they will be my people." (2 Corinthians 6:16)
This is a quotation of Leviticus 26:12 where this
promise is for Israel. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians he is
telling them that this promise is also for them.
In the First Covenant God chose Israel to be his
people, but God clearly tells Israel that all the nations were to be
allowed into the nation of Israel and also be a part of God's people.
Those who except Christ are fellow citizens of God's house with Israel
as Ephesians 2 has stated. The "Replacement Theology" taught in many
churches say that God rejected Israel as his people (divorced?) And
made a new group of people out of the Christian Church to be his
people. Scripture in no way supports this view, but rather shows that
the nation of Israel and all other people who wish to join them and
God's Covenant are all fellow citizens.
For there is no difference between Jew and
Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call
on him. (Romans 10:12)
This mystery is that through the gospel the
Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body,
and sharers together in the promise in Christ Yeshua. (Ephesians
All of God's people are of one body. All people
are welcome into this body.
This is one name that is new to the New
Covenant for the assembly of believers. The book of Acts says that
those who followed Yeshua were called Nazarenes, because Yeshua was
from Nazareth. The Jewish Religion
(Judaism) is made up of many different sects
(similar to our denominations). At the time of Yeshua, there were at
least 26 different sects (denominations) within Judaism. Although each
sect varied in their views and beliefs of the scriptures, they were all
considered a part of Judaism and were fellow Jews. A few of these sects
are mentioned in the New Covenant such as the Pharisees, Saducees, and
Zealots. One of the newer sects of Judaism was known as the
We have found this man (Paul) to be a
troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He
is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect. (Acts 24:5)
The believers did not consider themselves as a
separate religion, but actually a sect within Judaism. This is evident
in the fact that they continued meeting in the Jewish synagogues.
As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue,
and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures.
As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul
and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish
Synagogue. (Acts 17:10)
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there
for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. (Acts
The believers of the New Covenant consisted of
Jews who continued to believe in the one true God of Israel and the
Scriptures. The only difference between the believing Jew and
unbelieving Jew is in the acceptance of the Messiah Yeshua who is
taught, even in the Old Testament scriptures.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on
us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)
Just as Israel was called the Children of God as
in so also are the New Covenant Believers, children of God.
For you were like sheep going astray, but now you
have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul. (1 Peter
In Acts 2:24 we have a believing Jew
(Peter) calling non-believing Jews, brothers, and In 2 Corinthians 1:1
we have a believing Jew (Paul) calling a believing Non-Jew (Timothy)
brother. All who lived under the covenant (the first and the renewed)
are brothers in the LORD, and brothers as descendants of Abraham.
All of the names and titles that applied
to the Holy Assembly of Israel in the First Covenant are also used in
the New Covenant for the believers of Yeshua Christ. The New Covenant
is not the story of a new group of people chosen by God to be his holy
assembly, but the continuing saga of Israel - God's chosen people and
the Gentiles who join Israel in the covenant with God. This can be seen
in the fact that the same names and titles are used for those under the
first covenant in the First Covenant and those under the renewed
covenant in the New Testament. Many First Covenant passages applying to
Israel are quoted in the New Covenant. These passages in the New
Covenant do not say that there is a new Israel, rather it is reminding
Israel of whom they are.
- All the names and titles applied to Israel in
the First Covenant continue as the names and titles of Israel in the
- In the New Covenant we see Gentiles Joining
Israel with the two groups coming together as one people of
- A new name given to the Holy Assembly in the New
Covenant is the Nazarene Sect of Judaism.