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." (Matt. 16:18).

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!





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