Emil Brunner Quotes about ekklesia

Ever since I encountered the risen Jesus in a Spirit-led meeting on a college campus, I’ve wanted to go beyond the formal way of doing church and meet the way Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14:26. In 2008, The Salvation Army asked my wife and me to open a “non-traditional church” in Nashville on that model. In 2015 I wrote a book about meeting that way: Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible–Ekklesia.

Today I discovered Emil Brunner, a Swiss theologian who died in 1966, and his writings about ekklesia. I am amazed at how much Brunner’s writings match what we do at The Salvation Army Berry Street and my book. Here’s a quote from him that matches how I feel about the opportunity to experience ekklesia with The Salvation Army:

“I am inexpressibly grateful that the Lord of my life has granted to me in such abundance these opportunities to take part in the life of His Ekklesia and to bear witness to the Living Christ in so many places and in so many ways.” –Emil Brunner (1889-1966)

Here are quotes from two of Brunner’s books:

Quotes from: Dogmatics: Volume III – Christian Doctrine of the Church, Faith & The Consummation

“The Spirit who is active in the Ekklesia expresses Himself in active love of the brethren.”

“The Ekklesia does not only know that God is love. The Ekklesia also lives from the love of God.”

“Christ did not give the Ekklesia the Word alone, but His life also.”

“Luther realized that the true Church, the Ekklesia, was based wholly on the Word and Spirit of God and not on the Sacrament. He realized that faith is not the obedient acceptance of a doctrine but encounter with Christ present in His Word and Spirit.”

“The more time passed, the clearer it became that the official and institutional character of the the Church hindered the creation of Ekklesia.”

“Only by starting with the Ekklesia can we understand this bond that unites faith to the fellowship of faith.”

“Ekklesia, in it’s love individuals are bound together in fellowship and brotherhood at the same time.”

“The faith which stems from the Church and not from the Ekklesia, from doctrine and not from witness, is not in itself living faith.”

“The misunderstanding of the Ekklesia as the Church, as a sacred institution, corresponds to the misunderstanding of faith, through which faith was misunderstood as affirmation of doctrine.”

Quotes from: The Misunderstanding of the Church

“The ekklesia is what it is through the presence of Christ dwelling within it.”

“The very being of God is Agape — that love which the Son brings to mankind from the Father — and it is just this love which is the essence of the fellowship of those who belong to the Ekklesia.”

“The historical Church . . .has arisen, in the course of a long and complicated history, through a process of development, transformation and retrogression, out of the New Testament Ekklesia.”

“The New Testament Ekklesia is a is not an it, a thing, an institution, but rather a unity of persons, a people, a communion.”

“The Ekklesia of the New Testament, the Christian fellowship of the first Christians, was not a church and had no intention of being a church.”

“There was in the Ekklesia a regulation of the functions— Scripture declares this explicitly— assigned by the Holy Ghost to the various individual members who were thus equipped to perform their special services — falsely represented as offices. For an office belongs to a public organization; an office is part of an institution. The diakoniai, however,
the services, should be conceived on the analogy of the organs with their specific functions which inhere in a living body. Even though it be only a metaphor, this is relatively
the most adequate expression of the truth.”

“The New Testament surprises us again and again by the multiplicity of these functions and their bearers, of the various services and those who render them. One thing is supremely important: that all minister, and that nowhere is to be perceived a separation or even merely a distinction made between those who do and those who do not minister, between the active and the passive members of the body, between those who give and those who receive. There exists in the Ekklesia a universal duty and right of service, a universal readiness to serve and at the same time the greatest possible
differentiation of functions. The metaphor of the organism illuminates one aspect of the reality; the dependence of all kinds of ministration on the one Lord reveals the other. The
head of a body is something different from the ruler of a people. Yet both sides of the reality are expressed and must obviously be expressed, in order to do justice at one and the
same time to the vertical and the horizontal relationship, on the one hand to bring out the mysterious vital fellowship, on the other hand to show that it is the one Spirit who effects
the differentiation of functions. It is therefore quite wrongheaded to describe this pneumatic ordering of the Ekklesia as anarchical simply because it is something different from an organization or institution.”

“It is the mystery of the Ekklesia as the fellowship of the Spirit that it has an articulate living order without being legally organized.”

“The impression made by the life of believers plays a part of decisive importance in the genesis of faith. People draw near to the Christian community because they are irresistibly attracted by its supernatural power. They would like to share in this new dimension of life and power, they enter the zone in which the Spirit operates before they
have heard a word about what lies behind it as its ultimate transcendent-immanent cause. There is a sort of fascination which is exercised mostly without any reference to the Word,
comparable rather to the attractive force of a magnet or the spread of an infectious disease. Without knowing how it happened, one is already a carrier of the infection.”

“It is so much easier to discuss from an intellectual and theological standpoint the ideas implied in the revealed Word of God and to analyse them conceptually than it is to allow
oneself to be transformed at the center of one’s life by the action of the Holy Ghost”

“It is so much easier to secure the life of the fellowship, its coherence and its indispensable hierarchy by means of solid legal forms, by organization and offices, than it is to allow the
life of communion to be continually poured out upon one, to allow oneself to be rooted in it by the action of the Holy Ghost. You can handle and shape as you please such things
as law and organization, but you cannot act thus towards the Holy Ghost.”

“The fellowship of Jesus discloses a paradoxical unity of terms which elsewhere are incompatible. It is a mystical unity of visible earthly persons with an unseen,
heavenly, and yet present Person, their Head, with the eternal ever-present Christ.”

“The Ekklesia is the sphere of actual and realized fellowship with the Christ — a fellowship which is as real as faith and love and hope are real.”

The Ekklesia wherein the one Spirit bestows upon each his peculiar gift and therefore assigns to each his characteristic ministry . . . is reality, heavenly divine reality.”

“The Ekklesia of which the apostles speak was thus not simply a theory or ideal springing from the vision of Christ; it was also the sphere of the new life grounded in the historical
fact of redemption through Jesus Christ, and in His effective presence and power as living Head of the body.”

“What we know as the church or churches resulting from historical developments cannot claim to be the Ekklesia in the New Testament sense.”

“The meaning of the Ekklesia is what we recognized from the New Testament as its characteristic essence: communion with God through Jesus Christ, and rooted in this and springing from it, communion or brotherhood with man. The oneness of communion with
Christ and communion with man is the characteristic mark the Ekklesia.”

“With or without the churches, if necessary even in opposition to them, God will
cause the Ekklesia to become a real community of brothers. Whether the churches yield to this recognition or on the contrary blind themselves to it will determine the question whether or not they have a future.”

Here are a few additional quotes from Emil:

“To be united with Christ through the Holy Spirit means: to be directly united with Him. Here there is no difference between an ordinary Christian of our own day and an Apostle.”

“The fact of our redemption—the history of salvation—is transmitted by the proclamation of facts, that is, by the testimony of the Apostles under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

“Above all the teaching of the Church, even above all dogma or doctrinal confession, stands Holy Scripture.”

“The Dogmatic Theologian who does not find that his work drives him to pray frequently and urgently from his heart: ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ is scarcely fit for his job.”

“Theology is an assault on the sin-distorted intellect.”

“Gospel preaching, is the spreading out of the fire which Christ has thrown upon the earth. He who does not propagate this fire shows that he is not burning. He who burns propagates the fire.”

“Take oxygen away and death occurs through suffocation, take hope away and humanity is constricted through lack of breath; despair supervenes, spelling the paralysis of intellectual and spiritual powers by a feeling of the senselessness and purposelessness of existence.”

“I am trying to express a view of revelation which does not fit in any of the ready-made patterns.”
Emil Brunner

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About Steve Simms

I like to look and think outside the box. In college I encountered Jesus Christ and I have been passionate about trying to get to know Him better ever since. My wife and I co-lead a non-traditional expression of the body of Christ in Nashville based on open participation and Spirit-led sharing. We long to see the power and passion of the first Christ-followers come to life in our time. I have written a book about our experiences called, "Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible--Ekklesia" that is available in Kindle & paperback @ http://amzn.to/2nCr5dP
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