Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 9, 1961

Does The Church Have A Name?

Gordon Wilson, Sacramento, California

Over and over again I have heard brethren say that the Lord never did give His church a name, but that it is called by several different terms in the Bible, any one of which would be as scriptural to wear as a name as any other. Some have even deplored the fact that all of the congregations use the name, "the church of Christ," and have suggested that by doing so we are making the church into a denomination. They have thought that it would be better if some congregation would put up a sign saying "Body of Christ" or Kingdom of His Dear Son."

Brethren, I have not been able to accept the above line of reasoning, or to agree with those who contend that the church has not been given a specific name. I know that there is no place in the New Testament which says, "The name of this church shall be________. However, some things may be discovered by necessary inference, and by using sound reasoning in connection with things that are revealed. I believe that necessary inference can establish that the Lord intended that His name be given to the church to identify it.

Five terms describe the church or part of the church in the New Testament. These are: Body, Vineyard, House, Kingdom, and Church. Now, the first four of these things are terms which figuratively describe, not the church in its entirety, but various facets of its nature. The term body is a figurative description relating to church organization; that is, we are an organic unit, tied to the head, just as a human body with many members. The term vineyard is a figurative description of the church as a working entity. It is a place to labor and serve God. The term House shows, figuratively, the family relationship we enjoy as God's children. The term kingdom is a figure, relating to church government. We are a monarchy, and subjects of the King in heaven.

But when we come to the term church we meet that which is not figurative, but literal; not a partial description, but a whole term referring to everything we are. It shows us to be "a people" — distinctively and particularly "the people of God." So, while the other terms are only descriptions to point up in a figurative way certain aspects of the church, the term church itself is alone descriptive of everything we are. But by what name if any is the church to be called?

Among the members there is no reason to refer to it except just as "the church." We are all equally related to Christ, we all have the understanding that we belong to Him, so the expression "the church" is used over and over again throughout the Bible. But still the word church may be either secular or religious. There are different kinds of churches. Did not the Lord distinguish His from the others? Yes; He certainly did where it was necessary, and the distinguishing name was His own!

The word church is distinguished by the following expressions: "My," "of God," and "of Christ." But obviously "my" in Matt. 16:18 is a pronoun meaning "of Christ," and everyone so understands it. Whenever the church is called the church of God, I affirm that the God referred to is Christ, the Son! In Acts 20:28 the injunction is, "feed the church of God, which he bath purchased with his own blood." Since it was the Son who shed His blood, the God referred to is the Son. So in 1 Tim. 3:15, "The church of the living God" must refer to Christ; the term "God our Saviour" is used numerous times in the letters to Timothy in reference to Christ. In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead. (Col. 2:9)

Thus, in every instance where the church is distinguished it is called by one of the terms for Christ. And finally, in Romans 16:16, where Paul sends formal greetings from several congregations, he used the proper title or name given the Son of God, and says, "the churches of Christ salute you." Of course if a plurality of congregations are the churches of Christ, then one congregation is the church of Christ in that locality. It is right and correct that our signs read, "The Church of Christ Meets Here." No name but this describes God's people completely. The term church alone tells what we are, and the name of Christ alone tells who we belong to. As individuals let us glorify God in the name of Christ; we are Christians. As His called out people, let us glorify God in the name of Christ; we are the church of Christ. Let us not be mislead by the shallow thinking which leads men to reject this name, and causes them to be ashamed of being distinguished by God.