Many of the mighty works of Jesus, the Son of God, were done around the Sea of Galilee, and since he was human as well as divine, time came when he got tired and had to take a rest away from the crowds and multitudes. As recorded in Matthew 16, he left the press of the surroundings and went with his disciples to Caesarea Philippi. There he asked them what public opinion was concerning his identity.
They said that some believed that he was John the Baptist (risen from the dead), others that he was Elijah, others said Jeremiah; and still others announced that he was at least one of the prophets. Then he asked them, “but who do you say that I am?” What is your opinion? What do you think?
Peter, quickly gave answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” With their silence the rest gave their endorsement to Peter’s statement. The Lord then blessed Peter for his confession, which he said, that “flesh and blood had not revealed” to him, but was revealed “by the Father which is in heaven.” Peter had heard the teaching, seen the healings and the miracles of Christ, and as with the rest, knew that The LORD God Almighty was behind it all.
Then Jesus said, “…and I also say to you that you are Peter” (a name he had given him, and a clear play on words – as the name Peter means a little pebble), “…and upon this rock,” (this great rock – this confession you have made Peter – or as some understand it, upon the great rock of the Christ himself), “…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Here the Modern English word church first appears in our Bibles, and there are some significant points to be considered.
1) The word we find in English Bibles for an assembly is an Anglo-Saxon extraction of the Scottish word chirche, pronounced “kirk“ for a gathering (of a clan or clans).
2) No Scotsmen or Scottish language was around for the first several centuries AD, so this word was unavailable when the NT was written and compiled. The only word identifying any assemblies in the NT is the Greek ecclesia; a transliteration or spelling of the word for assembly out of the Greek and into both Latin and English. And alone it does not mean a thing to an uninitiated reader. And while Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic and Hebrew, they likely never spoke Greek or Latin. Ecclesia is the root word from the title of the OT book Ecclesiastes. And it comes to us straight from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation of 382 AD. It was misidentified (then and now) as a proper name or position: The Preacher. But most of the scholars (then and now) tell us it is not. But it is this word in both the Greek and Latin root form (ecclesia), which came to be used throughout the New Testament for the word church or assembly.
(This is a copy of Matthew 16:18 as it appears in the Vulgate – so that you can see the similarities: “et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam” And in the Greek (from the Westcott-Hort New Testament): καγω δε σοι λεγω οτι συ ει πετρος και επι ταυτη τη πετρα οικοδομησω μου την εκκλησιαν και πυλαι αδου ου κατισχυσουσιν αυτης). (These things are included to provide history and information. Please remember that the editors here are not linguists nor scholars.)
3) With that noted, the Hebrew (or Aramaic) word always used in the OT for “assembly” (literally an assembly called out of a larger body), transliterates into English as kohelith or qohelith. The transliterated Hebrew root word of kohelith is kahal or qahal. From this was fashioned the Latin word calo and the much later English word call.
Therefore, it is correct to state that the Church of Christ is a “called out assembly,” in exactly the same sense as the assemblies of Israel and Judah were “called out” by the Lord God or the chosen leaders of Israel such as Moses, Joshua and the rest.
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”