Assembled as One

When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem.  - Ezra 3:1


The Israelites had been scattered around Babylon for about 70 years.  From all the corners of the empire, the Jews were called together to return to Judah and Jerusalem for one purpose.  To renew the worship of their God.  When they had finished unpacking the boxes, they turned their attention to the task for which they had returned.  They came together to worship God!

As one Man

When it came time to worship, the people who had been scattered, now gathered. The text does not say something as simple as they all came together to worship.  Rather, it says that they all came together “as one.”  Though the new gender neutral translations have left it out, many older translations say “as one man.”  While these may be essentially the same, the emphasis of the singularity of mind and purpose is particularly evident when we think of over 42,000 people coming together and behaving as if they were a single person.  Compare this to Judges 20:1, when all of Israel gathered together to pass judgment on their brothers who had gone astray and to 2 Samuel 19:14 when Judah agreed together to bring David back to Jerusalem.  This is not simply telling the story of their gathering, but making a statement as to how they gathered.  There was unity of purpose and passion regarding that purpose.

The Church

The word that the writer of Acts chose to describe Old Testament assemblies such as the one in Ezra 3 was Ekklesia.  Acts 7:38 uses this term to describe the “assembly” of God’s people in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses.  The Greek New Testament repeatedly uses this word and, in most cases, this word is translated to “church.”  It is used twice by Jesus in the book of Matthew and 23 times in the book of Acts.

Together Together

The initiation of the church after the resurrection happened on the day of Pentecost.  We are told that on the day of Pentecost, the church was “all together in one place.”  While, in English, this sounds like a continuous locational statement, Greek scholars might help us understand that the author is saying two separate things with two separate words.  They are “all together” and they are “in one place.”  One statement is locational and the other is directional.  They are not only gathered, but they are of one purpose or one body.  Essentially, the are located together and they move together.

The Church or a crowd?

In Acts 19, we find a group of people called together for the purpose of doing something about the trouble that Paul and his companions were causing in Ephesus.  This group is also called an Ekklesia, although it is clearly not the church.  In verse 32, this same “assembly” was in confusion and we are told in verse 33 that the Jews in the “crowd” pushed Alexander to the front and gave him instructions.  I began to wonder what the difference was between an “assembly” and a “crowd.”  In the Greek, like in the English, these are 2 different words. The word for crowd or multitude is ochlos.  It describes many individuals.  Often, in a crowd, there is confusion because there are many people with their own agenda and purpose.  Many want to be heard.  An assembly, and the church, should not be this way.  Instead, this is a group of people who are called together with an express purpose.  Therefore, they act as one body.  There is one agenda, not many.  The decisions of the assembly are binding as the decisions of one individual.  They are, in effect, gathered together as one!  Unfortunately, I’m not sure that this image of the church is one that fits many of the experiences I’ve had in the church.  Rather, I often find a group of people that has come together with their own agendas.  We don’t act as one.  We don’t worship as one.  We come together as a crowd, but not the church.  We’re in the same place, but we aren’t really together.  God can change that!  When he calls us together, his desire is to give us one purpose…His purpose.  His desire is that we all follow one will…His will.  When we become passionate about the One who called us together, we will become the true church that God has called us to be!

Looking Forward

In our study of Ezra, we are going to find that there is an enormous task ahead of the people of Israel.  They have come back to rebuild the temple and reinstate the worship of the Living God in Jerusalem.  There is opposition and they are tempted to turn back.  This is also true in our own spiritual lives and in our desires to accomplish the mission of the church.  We must be united as one if we are to accomplish the mission to which God has called us!

I’m looking forward to continuing this study with you in the coming weeks.  Join me as we pray for unity in the church.  Then, become an instrument of God’s unifying work!

Pastor Pete