What’s In A Name?
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
Loved ones, we have all heard the old untrue statement that “There Is Nothing In A Name.” This statement is made by our denominational friends in an attempt to give credence to the many man-made denominational names in so-called Christendom. We now are hearing some of our own brethren in the Lord’s church say that the church of the Bible is nameless. We know it is time that someone sounded his trumpet on this matter (Isa. 58:1). We therefore count ourselves particularly happy in having the privilege of presenting what we believe to be the truth. We wish to say that our only object is the acquirement or defense of the truth. We desire the truth, the whole truth, and the truth unmixed with error, and we must have it at whatever cost. The people want light. They demand the facts. They want to see both positions as they are. When people differ someone (or both) is in error. Who is it? Let the Bible, as it is written settle it, for nothing else can or will.
We affirm that it is impossible to identify anything in heaven or on earth without knowing its name. Knowledge cannot be classified without naming it. Everything known to man, from the smallest atom in the physical world up to Him who inhabits eternity and fills immensity with His presence, can only be known by name. Man made slow progress in learning, and in order to assist his memory and help the generations following, he has given every new fact discovered a name. This is true in every department of human attainment. If by some miraculous intervention, the recognized names of all things in all departments of knowledge should be changed overnight, the world, as we now know it, would tomorrow morning be a mass of worthless ruins. It would be impossible to turn the wheels of the educational, commercial, and spiritual worlds a single time. There is something, yea, much in a name, for the simple reason that things are known by their names.
Many Churches have one special denominational name, i.e., the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Jehovah Witnesses Church, the Nazarene Church, the Lutheran Church, etc. No institution, whatever else it may be, with a name unknown to Peter, James, and John can be “apostolic” in doctrine and practice. This may at first glance appear to be a small matter, but let us test it. If your organization is identical in doctrine and practice to the church in the days of the apostles, you must find your name in the Bible; yes, in the New Testament; yes, you must find it in the book of Acts or in the Epistles. No equivocation here. We demand the book, chapter, and verse for your name.
Any denomination could be used, but for this illustration or example we will use our Baptist friends. The Baptist Church has an unscriptural name. Where is the proof that Jesus established a Baptist Church or that the apostles did so, or that either Christ or His apostles ever called it the Baptist Church, or the Baptist Church of Christ? They must, in order to establish their claims, prove that the apostles were called "Baptists," and that the churches established by them were called "Baptist Churches." They must show some Bible authority for assuming a name that is not recorded as a name for the followers of Christ, in the New Testament. They cannot, even if their life depended on it. Neither can any other denomination.
The New Testament church does NOT have ONE exclusive name. God has given His church MANY names. The apostolic church is called the house of the Lord (Heb. 3:5-6; 1 Tim. 3:15), the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13), the churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16), the church of God (1 Cor. 1:2) and other names. To speak of the New Testament church as “the church of Christ” is right, as it is to speak of it as “the church of God.” However, to speak of “Church of Christ congregations,” “Church of Christ preachers,” is to denominationalize that church. Some of our brethren have drifted away from the old foundation in reference to the name of the church. “Christian Church,” "Disciple Church," or "Church of the Disciples" is just as unscriptural and sectarian as Baptist Church, or Methodist Church, or Presbyterian Church. We denounce these names as an apostasy from the plain truth. We stand by the simple name, church of Christ, or church of God. No one has a patent on the name, and we respectfully suggest that while the church is not known by ONE name exclusively we cannot go wrong unless we adopt one and make it sectarian by excluding the others.
Christians must be careful with the way they phase things - even things which are true. To our denominational neighbors there are hundreds of denominations, and one of them, a small one, is the Church of Christ. If we say to them, "You must be a member of the Church of Christ to be saved," the idea that goes into their minds is repulsive. They think we mean they must join a small sect called the Church of Christ. That is not what we mean, but that is what they think we mean. Inwardly they feel sorry for us because they think we mean one has to be a member of one sect or denomination to go to heaven. Outwardly they may be courteous to us, but they may never enter into another conversation about religion with us. We have driven them away. We have done harm, and not good. That one has to be a member of the New Testament church is what the well‑intentioned Christians intend to say, but phrased as "the Church of Christ," the neighbors get another idea.
What about the members of the church – the people of God - do they have a name? A long time ago "Israel," the name that God gave to Jacob and to his descendants (Genesis 32:28; 35:10; 1 Kings 18:31; 2 Kings 17:34), was to be replaced, said Isaiah (62:2, ASV), "by a new name which the mouth of Jehovah shall name." Some have said that the "new name" was "Hephzibah" (Isaiah 62:4), but Hephzibah was not new, being the name of Manasseh's mother (2 Kings 21:1). Some have said that the "new name" was "Beulah" (Isaiah 62:4), but the word "Beulah" was not new, having already been used by Isaiah (54:1, Beulah, "married"). It is sad that Alexander Campbell exalted the word "disciples" into a proper name, "Disciples," thus making it the "new name" of Old Testament prophecy. His fellow restorationist and friend Barton W. Stone criticized Campbell for this error. But today Campbell's error remains in "The Disciples of Christ" denomination, a "sect founded by Thomas and Alexander Campbell" (WEBSTER'S UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY, p. 321).
Biblically the only name that came originally from
"the mouth of Jehovah" (Isaiah 62:2), and in which Jesus' followers are
to "glorify God," is the name "Christian" (Christianos, meaning
to Christ"). It fulfills the prediction of "a name better than of sons
daughters," of "an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off'”
56:5). Yes, Jesus' followers were called "believers" (Acts 4:32; 5:14),
"brothers," “saints,” “brethren” and "disciples" (Acts 6:2; 9:26).
However, the name
of the individual members of the New Testament church is not
though they are disciples (John 15:8; Acts 9:1). Their name is not
though they are brothers and sisters (Acts 9:30). Their name is not
though they are saints (Acts 9:32). Their divinely given name is
“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts
Paul did his best to persuade King Agrippa to become a Christian (Acts
Peter wrote, “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed;
let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16). The words “on this
means literally “in this name.”
If you are a Christian the name belongs to you by Divine right ‑ wear it, honor it, and, if needs be, die for it. We have shown (given the proof) that the followers of Christ in apostolic times were named Christians and called disciples, saints, brethren, heirs of God (Rom. 8:17), and sons of God (1 John 3:2). Where is the Bible proof that Christians were ever called Baptists, or Methodists, or Mormons…? Are you married to Christ (Romans 7:4)? If so, whose name should you wear?
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