Vol. 9, No. 1
~ Page 4 ~
"Churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16). In this passage Paul is speaking of a collection of congregations, each of which is a local church (assembly) of Christ. This term shows ownership. Those local congregations (churches) were his by right of divine ownership as they belonged to him. To us the designation "church(es) of Christ" is entirely proper and scriptural, but it is not a proper name. Thus, to speak of "Church of Christ congregations," "Church of Christ preachers," etc., is to take a scriptural designation and use it in an unscriptural way. As Hugh Fulford has so well noted, "Christians no more constitute a 'Church of Christ' congregation than they constitute a 'Church of God' congregation or a 'Body of Christ' congregation! All of these terms carry equal weight and equal meaning in the New Testament" (Gospel Advocate, 10/7/82, p. 596).
"Churches of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14). This designation also shows ownership. They are congregations (assemblies, churches) of God, who is Owner of all things. Eddie Cloer wrote, "If the church is designated in the New Testament as the church of Christ, we would also expect it to be referred to as the church of God, for Jesus said that He and His Father are one (John 10:30)." (What Is "The Church"? p. 101)
"The Kingdom of God" (1 Thessalonians 1:3-5). This is one of the most frequently employed designations of the church in the New Testament (some 68 times). It designates a function of the church in purpose, design and action. The church is called a kingdom, and we must think of God's people as citizens in the realm of God's reign (John 3:5; Colossians 1:13), with Jesus Christ as King (1 Timothy 6:15).
"The house of God" (1 Timothy 3:14-15). This house is God's family--"the church of the living God." Christians are "of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19). They are children of God (2 Corinthians 6:17-18) and brethren of Christ (Hebrews 2:11-12) in this spiritual family. No one is able to "join" the church of our Lord, rather he is "born" into it (John 3:5) by his obedience to the truth (1 Peter 1:22-23), being immersed for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27). Then, the Lord "adds" one to his church (Acts 2:47). Such is the way a person becomes a member of the family of God today.
Do not think the New Testament church deprived in any way simply because the Lord has chosen to leave it nameless. God has not given his church a proper name, and neither should any man presume to do so. As churches of Christ, we wear the name of our owner to show whom we follow. Whom or what do you represent by the religious name that you wear? If you will own Christ in obedience to him, then wear his name!
*See the first article in this two lesson series.