The Name of the Church

Lesson 5

If the church is to be scriptural, then it must have a scriptural 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 or a method of doing the Lord’s work. 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 any others that might be mentioned, take all of the glory, praise, and honor that belong to Christ, and give it those 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 distinctions where God did not intend distinctions to be. They separate people. They oppose the very prayer of Christ as recorded in John 17 when he prayed that we might all be one. Second, they are condemned in the Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 the Apostle Paul showed his brethren the error of wearing the names of men, thus dividing up into parties and sects. Third, the names of men are substituted for the Lord’s name. Yet, we read con­cerning the name of Christ, “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). Fourth, man-made names and titles are misleading, confusing, and create the wrong impression among unbe­lievers. They cause unbelief. Fifth, they will cause all who wear them, and all of those who are turned from Christ because of them, to be lost. For these reasons, they are wrong and sinful.

As to the church, Christ promised to build it (Matthew 16:18). It is said that he purchased it with his own blood (Acts 20:28), that he was the saviour of it (Ephesians 5:23), and the head of it (Colossians 1:18). It is only natural that it would wear his name to honour its founder, builder, saviour, and head. So when Paul wrote to the church at Rome, and sent along the greetings of the congregations in his area, he said, “The churches of Christ greet you” (Romans 16:16). Then in speaking to the church at Corinth, he said, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27). But since the body is the church (Ephesians 1:22,23), 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 any one exclusive name or descrip­tive phrase. At the same time, it should be remembered that that which belonged to God belonged to Christ and vice-versa. 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? Furthermore, with all of these names and descriptive phrases of it, it would seem that one would really be desirous of getting away from the scriptures to have to choose another name for the Lord’s church. But let us stay with the Bible and call the church what the Bible calls it. Then we will be right.

As to the names of the members of the church, the scriptures make that clear also. To begin with, the Prophet Isaiah said that God would give his people a new name (Isaiah 62:2). That name was borne by Paul many years later (Acts 9:15), but it was not to be given until the Gentiles had had an opportunity to obey God. All of this was fulfilled in Antioch of Syria when the disciples were first called Christians there (Acts 11:26). Later, we read where Paul was preaching to King Agrippa, and he responded by saying, “Then Agrippa said to Paul, You almost persuade me to become a Christian ” (Acts 26:28). Finally, we read where Peter said, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16).

It is therefore plain that the followers of Christ in New Testament times were Christians and Christians only. The Lord would have us to be the same today. If we wear names and titles tacked on to the name Christian then that means we are not true Christians. The name Christian distinguishes one from the rest of the world and 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 3:14,15), a name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11), and 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), con­fess that name (2 Timothy 2:19), repent and be baptized in that name (Acts 2:38), meet for worship in that name (Matthew 19:20), do all in his name (Colossians 3:17), that we might have ete-.;al life through his name (John 20:30,31).

With the foregoing in mind, surely no one could say that there is nothing in a name. There is certainly no salvation in the names and titles of men, but those who wear them will be lost because of them. On the other hand, there is salvation only in the name of Christ.


Please complete these phrases:

1. “The church must have a scriptural

2. “Man-made names and titles are …..

3. “The prayer of…………………….” plead for .

4. “Now ye are the …………………………………..

5. “God would give his people a ………………..

Please circle the correct answer:

YES NO 1. Must the church have a scriptural name to be scriptural?

YES NO 2. Are man-made names and titles wrong?

YES NO 3. Is salvation in the name of Christ?

YES NO 4. Would the Lord have all of us to wear the same name today?

YES NO 5. Can one glorify the Lord if he does not wear his name?

Please give correct answers:

1. How did some of the man-made names come about?

2. List some reasons why man-made names and titles are wrong.

3. For what did Christ pray?

4. Tell what Paul did when he found out that his brethren were dividing into parties

5. Why should the church wear the name of Christ? .

6. Quote Romans 16:16

7. What is the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:27? .

8. Give some other names of the church.

9. If the church was not the church of Christ, whose church would it be?

10. What were the members of the church called?

11. List three references that speak of the name Christian.

12. What would the Lord have us be today?

13. Is it possible to be a certain kind of Christian?

14. Why are we to exalt the name of Christ?

15. What are we to do in the name of Christ?


This article is from “The Church of the Bible” by J.C. Choate Publications

To Contact Us: [email protected]