The Name of the Church
The Church of the Bible, Lesson 5 of 13
To be the church of the Bible, a church must have a Bible name. However, there are many man-made churches with many man-made names and titles. How did these come about? Some of these names were given to honor their founders, such as "Lutheran." Some of them exalt a doctrine such as baptism. Some of them glorify a day such as the day of Pentecost or the Sabbath day. Still others place emphasis on the form of government by underlining the work of the presbyters of the church. But all of these, and many others that might be mentioned, take all of the glory, praise, and honor that belong to Christ, and give it to those mentioned in these names, titles and descriptions that have originated with men.
Man-made names and titles are wrong for several reasons. First, they cause division. They make differences where God did not intend differences to be. They separate people. They oppose the very prayer of Christ as recorded in John 17. He prayed that we might all be one. Second, they are condemned in the Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, the apostles Paul showed His brethren the error of wearing the names of men. Third, the names of men are substituted for the Lord's name. Yet, we read concerning the name of Christ, "And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Fourth, man-made names and titles are misleading. They are confusing. They give the wrong impression among unbelievers. They cause unbelief. Fifth, they will cause all who wear these names to be lost. For these reasons, they are wrong. They are sinful.
Christ promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). He purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He is the Savior of it (Ephesians 5:23). He is the head of it (Colossians 1:18). It is only natural that the church should wear His name to honor its founder, builder, Savior, and head. So when Paul wrote to the church at Rome, and sent along the greetings of the congregations in his area, he said, "All the churches of Christ salute you" (Romans 16:16). Then in speaking to the church at Corinth, he said, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof" (1 Corinthians 12:27). Since the body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), then he was simply talking about the church of Christ. It is also called the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 20:28), the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9), the kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:5), the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13), the kingdom of our Lord (2 Peter 1:11), the church (Acts 13:1), the church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:15), the church of the Firstborn (Hebrews 12:23), etc. So the church is not called by only one name. Remember, that which belongs to God belongs to Christ and that which belongs to Christ belongs to God. Also, those names all refer to the church that Christ built. If it is not the church of Christ, then whose church would it be? It would seem that one would not really want to get away from the Scriptures to choose another name for the Lord's church. Let us stay with the Bible. Let us call the church what the Bible calls it. Then we will be right.
As to the names of the members of the church, the Bible makes that clear also. First, the prophet Isaiah said God would give His people a new name (Isaiah 62:2). The name was carried by Paul many years later (Acts 9:15), but it was not to be given until the Gentiles had received an opportunity to obey God. All of this was fulfilled in Antioch of Syria. The disciples were first called Christians there (Acts 11:26). Later, Paul was preaching to King Agrippa, and he responded by saying, "...Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" (Acts 26:28). Finally, we read where Peter said, "But if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name" (1 Peter 4:16). It is plain that the followers of Christ in New Testament times were Christians and Christians only. The Lord wants us to be the same today. If we wear names and titles added to the name "Christian" then that means that we are not true Christians. The name "Christian" shows one is different from the rest of the world. That is all the Lord requires.
In both the name of the church and its members, the name of Christ is to be exalted. Why? Because it is the family name (Ephesians 3:13-15). It is a name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11). It is the name in which salvation is to be found (Acts 4:12). Therefore, we are to believe in the name of Christ (1 John 5:13). We are to confess that name (2 Timothy 2:19). We are to repent and be baptized in that name (Acts 2:38). We are to meet for worship in that name (Matthew 18:20). We are to do all in His name (Colossians 3:17). We then will have eternal life through His name (John 20:30-31).
With all this in mind, surely no one could say there is nothing in a name. There is certainly no salvation in the name and titles of men. However, those who wear them will be lost because of them. There is salvation only in the name of Christ!
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