“The Congregation of the Peoples”

"THE CONGREGATION OF THE PEOPLES"

By Wayne S. Walker

      "So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You; for their sakes, therefore, return on high" (Psalm 7:7). In our language the word "congregation" is used almost exclusively in a religious sense, although we sometimes use the verb form more generally, saying that people "congregate" for different purposes. The dictionary defines the word as "a gathering of people or things, assemblage," especially, "an assembly of people for religious worship" or "the members of a particular place of worship." It comes from a Latin word made up of the prefix com or con meaning "together" and gregare meaning "gather," which in turn comes from the Latin word grex/gregaris meaning "flock." (Gregarious people are those who like to gather with others). So, the basic meaning of the word is a gathering or assembly, although few people would refer to a garden club assembly as a congregation.

     The English word "congregation" is found in the New Testament only in Acts 13:43 where Paul had preached at the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia and Luke says, "Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God." In the synagogue was a gathering or assembly of Jews and proselytes who heard Paul and some of whom believed him. We usually use the word "congregation" almost exclusively to identify a local church, but experts in the Greek language tell us that it could be an acceptable translation any time the word ecclesia, usually translated church, is used.

     Thus, a local church is a congregation of God’s people worshipping and working in a specific locality. However, the universal church might be thought of as "the congregation of the peoples" who belong to God wherever they happen to live. In this sense, God’s congregation consists only of those who have repented and been baptized for remission of sins, thus being saved by God’s grace through the blood of Christ and added by the Lord to the church (Acts 2:38-47). Beyond this, God’s congregation is made up of those who are striving to live in a way that is right with Him. The Lord’s seal by which He knows those who are His is, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Timothy 2:19). Are you identified with "the congregation of the peoples" who belong to God?

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