Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. (Romans 16:16)
The Churches Of Christ
When Jesus promised to build His church He did not indicate a special name that would characterize the identity of His body. It would be called by many names in the early years. The Lord referred to it as His church as He had come into the world to fulfill the plan of redemption that would find its completion in the kingdom of God. Luke described the body of saved as the church on the Day of Pentecost when three thousand souls were added by the grace of God. When the needs of the early Christians arose there was the multitude of those who believed with one heart and one soul who had all things in common to care for those in need. Great fear came upon the church when the Lord struck down Ananias and Sapphira. Saul of Tarsus breathed threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord persecuting the church which was at Jerusalem. Luke refers to the disciples of the Lord as the Way. Paul would later try to join the disciples but not believing he was a Christian was received with suspicion. Barnabas would testify on behalf of Paul and he would be part of the brethren of the Lord. Luke records the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. The disciples were first called Christians at the church in Antioch where Paul and Barnabas labored. Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church killing James and imprisoning Peter. The church kept constant prayer on behalf of Peter. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every church during their journeys to spread the gospel. Warning the elders from Ephesus, Paul called the body of saints the church of God. He would later call the saints in Corinth the church of God on four different occasions. In the letter to Ephesus, the apostle Paul called the church the body of Christ. To Timothy he calls the body of saints the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth. The Hebrew writer speaks of the church of the firstborn. In his great revelation, the apostle John writes to seven churches located in seven cities.
The church is described by different phrases in the New Testament giving different emphasis upon the nature of the church. Using the idea of the church is simply the meaning of a called out body of people. It is called a body that is made up of many members individually suggesting the singularity of the church. There are many members but one body. This body is called the church concluding there is only one body and one church. The church is a bride as described in the letter to Ephesus where Christ is the divine groom. Three books of the New Testament call the church the house of God or family of God. The church is the kingdom of God with Christ as king and its members citizens in God’s kingdom. Paul will hearken back to the Old Testament to describe the church as the spiritual building in which the Spirit of God dwells – the temple of God. Christ and the apostles are the foundation and the members stones built together into the temple. Jesus will refer to the church as His vineyard with Himself the vine and its members the branches.
In the closing remarks of Paul’s letter to Rome, he implores the brethren to greet one another in kind benevolence extending them a greeting from the churches of Christ. The name “church of Christ” is not found in scripture but the elements of the church of Christ are clearly defined. It is fitting to call the church of God Christ’s church because He said He would build it and it would be His church. Jesus died for the church shedding His blood to redeem all men as Paul told the Ephesian elders. As the head of the church Jesus Christ has all authority and rule given to Him by the Father. In the figure of the church being the body of Christ He is the only head. The church is the bride of Christ bearing the name of her husband giving Him the glory. Everything about the church points to the glorification and exaltation of Jesus Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Calling the church by the name of Christ is befitting the nature of His sacrifice and His love. It is not imperative the church be called by the churches of Christ as many names describe the nature of the kingdom. The name is fitting but is not exclusive. Lost in the minds of the religious world is the glory of the church should bear the name of the one who died for it and gave His life for the salvation of men. Whether it is called the church of God, church of the firstborn, the Way or whatever descriptive name that is given, it bears the nature of the one who gave His life for it.