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What Does the Bible Say About … The CHURCH’S NAME?

Is cremation right or wrong?

To answer any Bible related question, we should go to the Bible so we might call Bible things by Bible names (2 Timothy 1:13). What does the Bible reveal about the church’s name?

It is interesting to note our Lord gave no one specific name to His church. Someone has pointed out you do not have to name anything there is only one of. We give names to our planets to distinguish between them. But what name did we give the moon? We just call it “the moon” since we have only one. Christ’s church is simply the people who belong to Him. He has just one church (Matthew 16:18). This is why as we read in Acts 8:1, it simply says “persecution arose against the church.” There was no need to specify which church because in the book of Acts, I am reading only about the one which began on the day of Pentecost, the one Jesus died to purchase (Acts 2:47).

It is more accurate to say the Lord used designations which describe His church. Let’s notice some descriptions which the Lord gave His church.

It was called “the church” in Acts 8:1. Sometimes today in talking with Christians, I will ask, “Is he a member of the church?” They don’t ask me “Which one?” They know I am talking about the one Jesus built and is still adding people to today.

It was called the “church of Christ” in Romans 16:16. Paul said, “The churches of Christ salute you.” If several local churches are called “churches of Christ,” then it is scriptural to call one of them the “church of Christ.” It reflects ownership. It belongs to Christ, Who purchased it.

The universal church is called the “body of Christ” in Ephesians 4:12 and Colossians 1:18. All the saved are added to Jesus’ body. I have a friend who often uses this description. He will ask me, “Is he a member of the body?” Again, I don’t have to ask which body, because Jesus has just one body of which He is the Savior (Ephesians 5:23).

The church is called the “church of God” in Acts 20:28 and 1 Corinthians 1:2. In Acts 20, “church of God” refers to Jesus since He purchased the church with His blood.

It is called the “church of the firstborn” in Hebrews 12:23. This has reference to those in the church of the Lord. They are referred to as “firstborn” because of their high privilege as sons. Jesus also shares this designation (Colossians 1:15).

Let me share one more which I find packed with meaning. Paul addressed the church at Thessalonica as “the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). The church’s make up is seen; Thessalonians. It also reflects location; Thessalonica, and it emphasizes relationship. This church was composed of people who were in God and in Christ.

The one common thing we see the Lord doing in all of these designations is He is emphasizing Christ, the Savior who died for the church, purchased it and brought it into relationship with Him.

In contrast to these descriptors, many denominational church names are not even found in the Bible. Remember when we read our Bible, we find that none of the modern-day denominations are mentioned. They did not exist. They were started at a later time by the men who founded them. Some denominations are named after men (ie. Lutheran), others are named after a church ordinance or perhaps after John the Baptist, others may reflect a methodical way of doing things (Methodist) or church leadership (Presbyterian, Episcopal). With the arrival of many denominations comes the arrival of many names and many names are not found in the Bible.

Names are important. The name of Christ is supreme. The Bible says of His name, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Furthermore, the Bible forbids party names (1 Corinthians 1:12-15). Christians wear the name of Christ. No one ever asked in the Bible, “What brand of Christian are you?” They were just Christians and members of Christ’s church. If we take on a denominational name, we do something the first century Christians did not do.

Is it pleasing to Christ for His bride (the church) to wear the name of another man? Would I want my wife (Susan May) to wear another man’s name or to call herself after my favorite line of shoes? No, I want her to wear my name since I love her and I give myself for her (Ephesians 5:22-33). Even Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran denomination pleaded with his followers saying, “I pray you to leave my name alone, and call not yourselves Lutherans but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. St. Paul would not let any call themselves after Paul, nor of Peter but of Christ. How then, does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of God. Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions: away with all; and let us call ourselves only Christians after him from whom our doctrine comes” (The Life of Luther, Stork, pg. 289). I could not say it better and this also is my plea. Let us exalt the name of the One who died for us, bought us with His blood, and is leading us home to Him.

Jeff May

Submitted by Angelita