An article recently crossed my desk, which was written by a man for whom I have respect. Disclosing his name would serve no purpose, though I would like to examine something in the article. It was titled, "When Is The Church The True Church?" I do not have a problem accepting his teaching in the main, it is a fine article. He sets forth the necessity for the church to follow the word of God in all matters, and that the first digression led to the development of the Catholic Church. His arguments are strong and apply to any denomination in existence today. The point at which I disagree is found in the following quotation:
"For a church to be the New Testament church, it must be identical to the one in the New Testament. IT MUST HAVE THE SAME NAME (emphasis mine--D.O.), foundation, law, worship, etc., as the church in the Scriptures."
Notice, for the church today to be the New Testament church, "It must have the same name." It is implied that God gave His church a name. What name did He give to it? Where is it stated in the Scriptures that God gave a name to His church?
The assumption that God named His church is believed by many today without question. It was probably born out of endless discussions and debates with the Denominationalists, especially those who adopted "church names" from WORDS not found in the Bible, i.e. Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, etc. Our brethren were quick to point out that "our name" is taken from the Scriptures: "churches of Christ salute you," (Rom. 16:16). Therefore, one congregation would be "a church of Christ." Sounds right doesn't it? But the question remains, "Did God intend for that to be THE NAME of His people? I reply emphatically, NO!
The fact is that "churches of Christ" simply describes a relationship between the people of God and Christ, His Son. Notice other descriptions: "called to be Christ's...called saints," (Rom. 1:6,7); "the church of God which is at Corinth," (I, II Cor. 1:1); "churches of Galatia," (Gal. 1:2); "the saints that are at Ephesus," (Eph. 1:1); "the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi," (Phil. 1:1); "the saints and faithful brethren in Christ...at Colosse," (Col. 1:2); "church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," (I, II Thess. 1:1); and "church of the firstborn," (Heb. 12:23). Now, you tell me which description is "the name" of the New Testament church!
Make no mistake about it, God did give a name to His people. Isaiah prophesied, "Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name," (62:2), and "he will call his servants by another name," (65:15). This name, given by God, was not applied to His people in the aggregate but as individuals. "They were called Christians first in Antioch," (Acts 11:26), and "If a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God IN THIS NAME," (I Pet. 4:16). The name God gave to His people was "Christian" and Christian only.
People have made a denomination out of "church of Christ" by insisting that this is a name given by God to His people. Webster defines "denomination" as,
1. Act of denominating, or NAMING. 2. A NAME, designation, or title. 3. A CLASS, OR SOCIETY OF INDIVIDUALS, CALLED BY THE SAME NAME; A SECT" (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary -- Emp. mine--D.O.).
When you insist that "church of Christ" is "THE NAME God gave to His people" you make a denomination out of the Lord's church. Is it any wonder that we have a difficult time converting people today? In their estimation, "Why should I leave my denomination to join yours; after all, one denomination is as good as another!" We need to concentrate on converting people to our Lord Jesus Christ, and make Christians of them instead of trying to convert them to "the church;" which, of course, must be the "church of Christ." Nearly everything you read today is along the lines of "identifying the church." Brethren, let us put the emphasis where it should be. Paul said, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified," (I Cor. 2:2).
We have insisted that we have an identity in the denominational world of today, so, we have chosen our own designation --"church of Christ." People talk about "church of Christ preachers," "church of Christ teaching," and even "church of Christ building." Some even say, "I'm a church of Christ." Let us rid ourselves of this "language of Ashdod;" and speak in "sound words" and "sound doctrine," and then the world will know once more that we are a "peculiar people" and not "just another denomination."