Which ‘church’ do you attend? This question presupposes that when one uses the word church, a place or a building is being spoken of. The question, though common, is highly misleading and in no way reflects the Biblical view of church.
The New Testament Greek word translated ‘church’ is ἐκκλησία (ekklesia). This word means ‘separated or called out ones’, and shows that the church is not a building, but rather a gathered people. This is reflected in the Apostle Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome:
Likewise greet the church(ekklesia) that is in their house. Romans 16:5
When he uses the word ‘church’, Paul is not speaking about a building or a place but rather of a group of people. Who are these people?
The Bible teaches that the ekklesia consists of people who have repented of their sin and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Acts 16:31)
These people are ‘born again’ of the Spirit of God (John 3:1-8); they have become sons and daughters of God:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
The ‘ekklesia’ then is a group of people who have placed their faith in Jesus, who have been transformed by the Spirit of God becoming new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are brought back into fellowship with God through Christ’s death on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) and are now saved (1 John 5:13), not by their own effort and works (Ephesians 2:8-9) but saved unto works (Ephesians 2:10, James 2:14-26).
These people are what the Bible calls ‘the body of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 12:13; 27) with the Lord Jesus Christ as the head (Ephesians 1:22-23). This ekklesia, this church, this group of ‘called out’ ones is both universal and local.
The ekklesia is universal because it is made up of all those throughout the world who are born again and have a personal relationship with Christ. The ekklesia is also local in that believers gather together to worship in their own localities, as shown by the Apostle Paul who greets the ‘churches’ in Galatia (Galatians 1:1-2).
The Biblical ekklesia then is not a building, but a people. These people, having had their sin forgiven by placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, join together to worship God, and to encourage and exhort one another as they seek to live out the gospel.
The Jehovah’s Witness view of ekklesia is something altogether different.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses acknowledge that the Greek word ekklesia speaks of a gathered people not a building, and as such, they do not call their meeting places ‘churches’, but rather Kingdom Halls.
The name Kingdom Hall is not just used to do away with the confusion over the word church, but is also to separate themselves from the churches of Christendom. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe themselves to be the only true ‘ekklesia’ (called out ones) on the face of the earth, and as such, they see all other churches to be apostate, that is that they no longer have any authority and they do not represent God.
Believing themselves to be the only true ‘ekklesia’ and with agreement upon the fact that the church is people, not a building, how does the Jehovah’s Witness teaching on the ekklesia (called out ones) compare with the Biblical view?
Who are these ‘called out’ ones? How do you become one?
As a Christian would want to lead a person to Jesus to be saved the Jehovah’s Witness, in stark contrast, would seek to introduce a person to the Watchtower to be saved. Notice these quotes:
“Similarly, Jehovah is using only one organization today to accomplish his will. To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it.” Watchtower 1983 Feb 15 p.12
“Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the “great crowd,” as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil.” Watchtower 1989 Sep 1 p.19
It is clear from these statements that people need to join the organisation, not Jesus, to be a ‘called out’ one. These people do not need to come to Jesus or be ‘born again’, they just need to wear a suit, a smile and be obedient to all the dictates of the Watchtower Society (but even this does not guarantee God’s love and acceptance).
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe themselves to be the ‘called out’ ones, and if you want to be a member of this ekklesia, you need to join them. No real repentance of sin is needed, no need to confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, no need to be born again!
Of course the Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about repentance of sin, talk about Jesus being their ransom sacrifice and they use the term ‘born again’ but they are interpreted in a way that is not Biblical. Read more about JWs and ‘born again’ here
Also, the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the ONENESS of the body of Christ. In their theology the ekklesia is split into two groups, with the 1444,000 ‘born again’ ones going to serve as kings and priests in heaven, and the lesser ‘great crowd’ having only a hope of life on a paradise earth. Read more about 144,000 here.
In short, here is the difference in how the Bible and The Jehovah’s Witnesses understand the Greek word ‘ekklesia’ translated ‘church’ in English.
Bible – ekklesia = called out ones – not a building but rather all those who have repented of their sin, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, had their sin forgiven, are born again, have a personal relationship with Jesus and have an assurance of salvation.
JWs – ekklesia = called out ones – not a building but all those who are baptised as Jehovah’s Witnesses and call on the name of Jehovah; they don’t need to be born again unless they believe they are one of the anointed ones, never being sure if their sins are forgiven, they have a personal relationship with the Watchtower Society and they can never be assured of salvation because they are never sure they have done enough to earn it.
Click here to find out how to truly come to know the Lord Jesus and become part of His ekklesia.