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The Church - Lesson 21

The Church in 25 Lessons

Jon Gary Williams

Lesson 21 - The Church: What It Is Called

In order for the church to meet the pattern set forth by God it must be identified in the way he has identified it. It must be called what he intended for it to be called. Although the church was never given one specific "name," there are ways in which God intended for it to be identified. These God-given descriptions always reflect Deity or the relation the church has to Deity. Identifying ("naming") the church in ways that fail to glorify Deity are unacceptable to God. What does the Bible reveal about the identity of the Lord's church?

I. What is the God-given name for God's people?
A. A new name was to be given by God himself. (Is. 62:2)
  1. The new name, "Christian," was to be given after the Gentiles saw God's righteousness (Is. 62:2) and was fulfilled at Antioch in Syria. (Acts 11:26) 

  2. People who were exposed to the preaching of the gospel had no trouble identifying the new name. (Acts 26:26-29)
  3. By this name God was to be glorified. (I Pet. 4:14-16)
  4. The new name was a worthy name. (Jms. 2:7)
  5. General descriptions by which members of the church are known:
  • "saints" (Phil. 1:1
  • "disciples" (Acts 20:7)
"brethren" (Rom. 12:1; 15:30; 16:17)
B. Ways in which the church is identified.

  1. "church of God" I Cor. 1:2 (cf. Eph. 3:14,15)

  2. Collectively the church was called "churches of Christ" (Rom. 16:16)
  3. General descriptions by which the church is known:
  • "kingdom" (Col. 1:13
  • "body" (Col. 1:18
  • "house" (I Tim. 3:15,16)
  • "bride" (Rev. 22:17)
II. Why God's will must be honored
A. The church is the bride of Christ and therefore should honor him. (II Cor. 11:2)

B. We must do all things in the name of Christ. (Col. 3:17)

C. To have unity there must be a common name, but there is no name greater than 
the name of Christ. (Eph. 1:20,21; Phil. 2:9-11)

D. Under Christ's name only is salvation found. (Acts 4:12)
III. Why the names given by men are wrong
A. Names for the church given by men are divisive. They are given to distinguish 
particular parties. They are sectarian in purpose in that they separate professed 
believers from each other.

B. Holding to man-made names is condemned in scripture. (I Cor. 1:10-15)

C. Popular modern-day denominational names were designed for the purpose of giving honor to men and/or religious movements. For example: "Baptist" 

"Lutheran" "Methodist" "Presbyterian." These names divert honor away from
Christ who is the founder and head of the church. (Matt. 16:18)

D. They are antagonistic to the spirit of Christ. (Jn. 17:20,21)

E. They constitute stumbling blocks to non-believers, for they leave the impression 
that Christianity is a religion of division and confusion.