Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you. (Romans 16:16)
What’s In A Name?
Names identify a person, place or thing. The sadness of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier is that no one knows his name. When a person dies their name is engraved to show the life story of an individual. Without the identifying mark of a name, the subject becomes unspecified with no clarity. One of the first things Adam did in the Garden of Eden was to name the animals. God called the firmament Heaven, the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. Adam called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living. In the history of the Bible, names were significant. God changed the names of Abram and Sarai. John the Baptist and Jesus were named by the angel Gabriel before they were born. When the church began on Pentecost Luke records the Lord added to the church those who were being saved. The early church taught that salvation was not in any other name under heaven but the name of Jesus Christ. Fear came upon the church after the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Saul of Tarsus received letters from the high priest against the disciples of the Lord that if they were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Paul would later recount that he persecuted the Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. Luke refers to the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria having peace and were edified. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every church as they returned from their first missionary journey. The church in Antioch is simply described as the brethren when men came down from Judea teaching the necessity of circumcision. The church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to the church in Jerusalem to answer the false doctrine. A great commotion arose about the Way while Paul and Silas were in Ephesus leading to a city-wide riot. When the disciples came together on the first day of the week in the city of Troas, Paul spoke to them until midnight. The apostle Paul exhorts the elders from Ephesus to shepherd the church of God which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers. In Jerusalem Paul again refers to the church as the Way. Defending himself before Felix the apostle declared he worshipped according to the Way which was called a sect. Luke writes Felix, the governor, had accurate knowledge of the Way. Recounting his persecution of the church, Paul thought he had to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
In his letter to Rome, the apostle Paul writes to all who were in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints. Addressing the church in Corinth the apostle calls them the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ. In his second letter to Corinth, the author simply calls them the church of God at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia. In other letters Paul writes to the churches in Galatia; saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus; saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons; saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse; and church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the writings of Paul, he describes the church as being the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the kingdom of the Son of His love, household of God and holy temple in the Lord.
The church is never designated by human terms or names of men. Men have been very creative in coming up with names for the various churches they have established. Most churches give glory to a faith, a man or an idea that sparks interest in the subject. The New Testament church has no singular official name but in his letter to Rome, Paul refers to the churches of Christ (plural) as those believers who name Christ as their head. This is a fitting name to use because Jesus is the head of the church, the savior of the body, the groom of the spiritual bride, the King of the kingdom and the one who purchased the church with His own blood. Whatever name is given for the church it must reflect the principles and language of the New Testament. If the church is named for a man, ideal or anything not found in scripture it does not glorify the establishment of the church in the First Century. What is in a name? It means a great deal to the author and finisher of our faith.