Vol. 5, No. 2
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We must know that the church of the New Testament is neither denominational, nor sectarian. We must also know that there is no single, exclusive name in the New Testament identifying the church. This is a part of its uniqueness. In this connection Hugo McCord wrote:
"The New Testament church is unique in that it has no proper name. Denominations have proper names. The word denominate means to name something. But the New Testament church is nameless. Though it is called the house of the Lord, the family of God, the body of Christ, and the kingdom of Christ…yet it has no proper name" (These Things Speak, p. 121).
Denominations and denominational names originated in religious differences that sprang up after the New Testament was written. The divisive principles always suggested party names, whether those principles had to do with ordinances, particular church theories, methods of work and worship or personal preferences as to distinguished leaders. One writer put it this way: "Soon they began to differ among themselves and it was necessary that some terms be used to express these differences. In this way different denominations arose." Thus we have the many different denominational names that we all hear and know. The justification for such seems to be this: How are you going to distinguish one Smith from another, without some sort of given name to express these differences? It seems not to have occurred to many people that distinguishing one Smith from another is the one thing we do not want to do. Rather, in keeping with the Lord's Prayer in John 17, all the Smith's should be one! For this reason all these "given names" not found in the New Testament should be abandoned. The Lord's church today knows nothing of them because it is nameless.
Exactly what do we mean by the "nameless church"? We simply mean that the church which Jesus promised (Matthew 16:18) and built (Acts 2:37-38) had no given name. The denominational names that exist today have no root in Scripture. But the church was known by various designations or simply as the church (Matthew 16:18). The word that Jesus used and which is translated church in this passage has no religious meaning in and of itself. The word in the Greek is ecclesia, and means "a called out group." In the New Testament this word was employed to describe an angry mob (Acts 19:32, 41, "assembly"), and a "lawful assembly" (Acts 19:39). It is translated in Matthew 16:18 by the word church and refers to those people whom Jesus called out of the world to live for him (Matthew 11:26-28; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9).