St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Monday, July 14, 2003 ::

Catholicity and Matthew 18:20

One of my favorite books is Jordan Bajis' "Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the Western Christian."

It is a gold mine of fascinating tidbits of information and was extremely helpful as I first encountered Orthodox theology from a Protestant perspective.

One of the interesting and useful features of this book is the extensive footnotes after each chapter. In many instances, the number of pages devoted to footnotes almost eclipses the actual text of the chapters themselves! They are an excellent source of knowledge and provide ample material for further research and contemplation.

The following is a personal footnote he adds to his chapter entitled, "Catholicity and the Local Church" (page 147).
After reading a discussion at Mac Swift's blog about Matt. 18:20, I thought this tidbit from Bajis' book might shed some light on their discussion:

"Bible studies, 'fellowship' nights, prayer meetings, etc. may be expressions of the Church, but they are not the Church. The word ekklesia is used only twice in the gospels (Matt. 16:16-19; 18:17); in the first instance ("upon this rock I will build my church..") it is a reference to the faith upon which the Church is built, in the second ("and if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church") it is in the context of a court similar to the Jewish synagogue which had the authority to decide and settle disputes and exercise discipline."

"It is this second quotation which makes it very clear that the Church is not just an occasional gathering of a few random Christians in their living room."

"Certainly, a reflection of the Church is seen in Matt. 18:20 where Christ states that in the gathering of two or three in His name, there He is in the midst, but the idea that this is the same thing as the Church (ekklesia) is countered in the statement that if a brother is not sufficiently corrected by 'two or three witnesses' (Matt 18:16) 'tell it to the church.'"

"If the Church were merely the grouping of two or three brothers, why would there be a need to report it 'to the Church?' To borrow from St. Paul's description, the Church *as the body of Christ* is not merely two or three members but the entire body *assembled.* It is the whole Body of Christ which makes the Church (again the significance of the Eucharistic celebration can again be seen here)."

"Going back to the image of the Qahal, a couple of Jews together celebrating the Sabbath did not constitute the nation of Israel (i.e. the Qahal). They *expressed* Israel, they *belonged* to Israel but *those few gathered* were not Israel."

"It is the same with the membership within the ekklesia. Two or three Christians in prayer may *testify and demonstrate* their membership in the Church, but these few gathered are not the Church."

"Besides, as we have explained, to merely gather with Christians is different that to gather in Jesus' name, for to gather in Christ's name is to signify the covenantal and organic understanding of God's bond with His people...."

:: Karl :: 11:56:00 AM [Link] ::

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