In the Enchiridion Theologicum Niels Hemmingsen includes a discussion of the church that is remarkable for both its lucidity and its brevity. Several important Reformation emphases emerge, and he avoids the mistake of identifying the church with her hierarchy or institutional structure. I plan to serialize it here, because it has not been available in English up until now.
Ecclesia graeca vox est, ab ἐκκαλεῖν, hoc est, evocando dicta, cuius vocis usus apud Athenienses fuit. Coetus enim civium voce praeconis de reliqua turba evocatus ad audiendum sententiam senatus, ἐκκλησία dicebatur. Hinc vocabulum Apostoli transtulerunt ad suum institutum, propter similitudinem. Est enim Ecclesia apostolico usu coetus hominum, voce praeconum verbi evocatus e regno mundi, ad audiendam et recipiendam sententiam Dei, de salute generi humano parta per Christum Pontificem. Huius rei pulcherrimum exemplum in Abrahamo habemus, qui cum esset idolatra apud Caldeos, inde voce Dei evocatus in terram Canaan, cui obtemperavit, et cultum iuxta eius voluntatem praestitit, etsi in eadem terra non pauci impii et hypocritae fuerunt. (Classis III, Caput II)
“Church” is a Greek word, formed from the verb ἐκκαλεῖν [ekkalein], that is, “to call out,” which was the word’s usage among the Athenians. For a gathering of citizens, called out by the voice of a herald for hearing the determination of the assembly was called an ἐκκλησία [ekklesia]. From here, the Apostles transferred the word to their own practices, on account of their similarity [to the Athenian assembly]. For the church, in the apostolic usage, is a gathering of men, called out from the kingdom of the world by the voice of the heralds of the Word, in order to hear and receive the determination of God concerning the salvation obtained for the human race through Christ the High Priest. We have a most beautiful example of this thing in Abraham, who, when he was an idolater among the Chaldeans, was called out by the voice of God into the land of Canaan, which he obeyed, and he performed worship according to his [i.e., God’s] will, although there were not a few impious and hypocritical men in the same land.1