The Name of the Church
The Bible teaches that local church which we should attend, will have certain essential characteristics. One of these is the name of the church. However, before we study such an issue, we must first recognize that there is indeed a pattern for the church that God expects us to follow, and we must also understand some basic concepts about the church.
Names of Human Origin and Basis
The Bible does not consistently use a specific title to refer to the local church. However, the Bible does always use a certain kind of reference. Both the universal church and local churches are always named after the being that loved us and died for us, Jesus Christ.
The Bible strictly condemns dividing into sects, or denominations, based upon following a certain man. Consequently, it also condemns being named after certain man, besides Jesus. Please read Paul's rebuke to the Christians at Corinth who made this very mistake:
"Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.
"For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am of Paul', or 'I am of Apollos', or 'I am of Cephas,' or 'I am of Christ'.
"Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"
... "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God - and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (I Corinthians 1:10-13, 30)
It is by Jesus' name we should be called, since He is the one that was crucified for us. Moreover, it is by His authority, or by His name, that we are baptized.
Christ is Head of the Church
The Bible teaches that Christ is currently the head of the church. This position was given to Him at His resurrection by God, the Father (Ephesians 1:22-23). However, the Bible teaches that after Judgment Day, Jesus we will return rule back to the Father (I Corinthians 15:20-28). All of the details about this transfer of rulership are not revealed, and those revealed are difficult to understand. However, it is clear that Christ is currently the King of the church by the Father's authority. And after the end of time, Christ will return the kingdom's rule to the Father. But, for the time being, Christ is the head, so the name should reflect His rule.
Examples for Names of the Church
In addition, all of the examples of references to the church mention Jesus Christ as its owner and head. Please consider the following examples:
- "the church of God" - Acts 20:28
- "the church of the living God" - I Timothy3:15
- "His body" (referring to Jesus) - Ephesians 1:22-23
- "the churches of Christ" - Romans 16:16
- "the churches of God" - I Corinthians 11:16
- "My church" (spoken by Jesus) - Matthew 16:18
- "the general assembly and church of the Firstborn" (conformed to Jesus) - Hebrews 12:23 (also see Romans 8:29 and Colossians 1:18)
In all of these cases, it is either obvious, or it can be established, that the ultimate subject is Christ. The Bible teaches that Christ is God - deity, a member of the Godhead (John 1:1-18; Colossians 1:13-20, 2:9-10).
Churches in the first century were often noted as belonging to a specific city or location (Acts 8:1; 11:22; 13:1; Romans 16:1, 5; I Corinthians 1:2; II Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 4:15-16; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 2; Revelation 1:11-12; 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14). Consequently, many local churches today include some physical description of their locale, which also helps to identify the assembly location and promote clear communication (I Corinthians 14:7-11, 33, 40).
Based upon these three points, the church should bear the marks and name of Christ, the one who died for it and now reigns over it. The varying examples found in the New Testament teach there is no exact title, but the name should reflect the churches relationship to its Savior. An optional label designating locale or geography is also authorized by Biblical example and often proves helpful, especially to visitors. Any of the above names could scripturally be used. There is nothing wrong with using any of the names above.
From this list of examples, the designation "Church of Christ" is often used. It is often selected simply because it simply and clearly expresses the church's necessary relationship to its Savior. It also avoids confusion concerning which member of Godhead is head of the body. Consequently, many churches often use this name on signs simply because of these reasons and the association often made with this designation that those who there worship “try to only teach what the Bible teaches”.
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