What's In a Name?
We have been discussing the responsibilities of
Christians. Our last article discussed the importance of identifying
with a local congregation that God is pleased with. But how do we
determine the true church? The answer is to study Godís word and
determine what the church of Christ is. In the New Testament we can
learn many things about the one, true church. We can learn how they
identified themselves, how they worshipped, what their work was, how
they were organized and how one became a member of that church. As we
learn what they did in the first century, we will begin to eliminate
various denominations and other churches and when we are done we will be
able to find a true church of Christ.
By a true church of Christ I a mean a congregation of
THE church that belongs to and follows after the precepts of Christ: A
congregation such as Paul spoke of in Romans 16:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:1
& Galatians 1:2 and John spoke of in Revelation 1:4. In this
article, we will begin identifying the church of Christ by looking at
the name it identifies itself with.
Whatís in a name? Plenty. Associated with a name is
ownership, reputation, and heritage. As Solomon said in Proverbs 22:1,
"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor
rather than silver and gold." While this is true of the name we
wear as men, it is equally true the name associated with the church.
That is why this is a good place to start with identifying the true
church. Names are not given without thought as to their meanings. This
is especially true of churches. For example, Lutherans have adopted
their name after Martin Luther, whose creed they follow (even though he
specifically told them not to attribute his name to that church),
Baptists derive their name after John the Baptist who baptized Jesus,
Catholics have chosen that name because it identifies their form of
government (catholic means universal). With these examples we can see
the importance of a name.
But what name does the New Testament church identify
with? As you study, you will learn that several names are used to
describe the church. Romans 16:16 speaks of churches (congregations) of
Christ. Twelve times, we read of the church of God Acts 20:28 says,
"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among
which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of
God which He purchased with His own blood." 1 Corinthians 1:2,
"To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are
sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every
place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and
ours:" 1Thes. 2:14 says, "For you, brethren, became imitators
of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also
suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from
the Judeans," More than one hundred times, she is referred to as
simply, "The church". 1Thes. 1:1, "Paul, Silvanus, and
Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ." Revelation 2:1, "To the angel of the
church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars
in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:"
Once, Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build My church."
Note that in each of the descriptions, the name
identifies itís relationship either with Christ or God, or else they
simply identify themselves as an assembly of Christians meeting in a
given location. Why is this? Because we learn that the chuch belongs to
Christ. Jesus said this Himself in Matthew 16:18 (above). It IS His
church. Ephesians 1:22,23 says, "And He put all things under His
feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is
HIS body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." Colossians
1:18 says, "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the
beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have
the preeminence." 1 Corinthians 3:11 says, "For no other
foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus
Christ." For these and many other reasons, we see that Jesus is the
head of the church and thus it deserves His name.
While the name "church of Christ" is not the
only scriptural name, any name that is used should be scriptural. We
identify ourselves as the church of Christ because we realize the church
belongs to Him.
But a word of caution: While a name is a good place to
start it is not enough. It is possible to have a proper name and still
teach error. Because of this we will continue to look at some other
characteristics of the true church in coming weeks. What about you? Can
the name of the church where you attend be found in the Bible? We invite
you to come and check us out!