3 - BECAUSE OF ITS SCRIPTURAL NAME
We now come to a study of a subject that many people consider unimportant. In fact, there is a phrase very common in religious circles that says: "Don't you know that there is nothing in a name?" Falsely led by this belief many people fail to understand what the Bible teaches, on this most important subject.
God has always placed significance on names. In Gen 5:2, we learn of His actions in naming Adam and Eve. He then gave Adam the authority to name all of the animals. Words and names have always been important. Because people have a common understanding about words, names and designations, they are able to communicate and understand each other. This would be impossible if there werepothing in words and names.
In studying about the church, just what designations are given by the Bible? Let us notice some of them. First of all, in Matthew 16:18 when Jesus promised to build the church, He referred to it as "My church.." This shows ownership. The church belongs to Christ, it is His. Again in Acts 8:1 we are told that a persecution arose against "the church." In this verse we have the expression used most frequently regarding this institution. It is merely referred to as "the church." Then, of course, there was just one church. Today, man has started so many different churches that if you tell people you are a member of "the church", they think you are trying to be evasive or comical. Again, in I Cor. 1:2, we read, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth." Here Paul was addressing himself to the disciples who constituted the church in Corinth and calls them the" church of God." Next, in Romans 16: 16 Paul says, "the churches of Christ salute you." Again, he is referring to the various local congregations of the church in that vicinity. The church is also referred to as "the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12), and as "the church of the living God" (I Tim. 3:15). Any or all of these designations are scriptural. They are divine and not human. They may be found in the word of God. Can this be said of the church to which you belong? When you go to church next Sunday look at the sign. Is there a human or divine designation? Is it in the Bible? If not, give serious thought to the situation.
Again, we find God recognizing the value of a name when He changed Abram's name to Abraham, and Sarai's name to Sarah, Genesis 17:5-17. Also, in Gen. 32:27-28 God changed Jacob's name to Israel. This is significant because the descendants of this man were known as Israelites, instead of Jacobites. In Dan. 9: 19 it reads, "Thy people are called by thy name." If in the long, long ago, people of God wore His name, is it any wonder that today God still insists that we wear the name of His choosing? Let us notice what Prophecy has to say concerning the new name: In Isaiah 56:5, "Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." In Isaiah 65:15, "And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for Lord God shall slay thee, and call His servants by another name." In Isaiah 62:2, "And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: andj thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name."
From the above three prophecies the following four things are evident:
A. A NEW NAME WAS TO BE GIVEN WITHIN GOD'S HOUSE.
B. THE NAME GIVEN WAS TO BE AN EVERLASTING NAME.
C. THE NAME TO BE GIVEN WAS FOR BOTH GENTILES AND JEWS.
D. THE MOUTH OF THE LORD WAS TO GIVE THIS NAME.
Let us now go to the New Testament and see if we can locate the fulfillment of these prophecies. First of all we read in Acts 9:15, "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." From this we see that God selected Paul to be the name bearer. Thus, if we can find Paul bearing a name in the house of God, or church, to Gentiles and Jews alike, we will have located the name given by God.
In Acts we learn of the conversion of Cornelius and his family who were the first Gentile converts. Thus, after Acts 10 we have both Jew and Gentile in the church. Now in Acts 11 :25-26 we read: "Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: (or Paul as later changed, Acts 13:9). And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." The divine God-given name is "Christian." But let us notice further and see if Paul continued to preach this name. In Acts 26:28, when before king Agrippa, Paul tried to convert him to the truth of the Lord. The king, being aware of the intentions, said to Paul, "...Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." For further proof that this is the name approved by God, let us go to 1 Peter 4:16, "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." The revised version says, "let him glorify God in this name." This is the name in which we are to glorify God. We should wear it with humility and gratitude. It is the new name selected by God for His people. All other human designations must be rejected.
Perhaps you would be interested in the following quote from Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, in the Spurgeon Memorial Library, Vol. 1, page 168, "I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope the Baptist name will soon perish, but let Christ's name last forever. " Also, listen to the quote from the Life of Martin Luther by Stork, page 289, "I pray you to leave my name alone, and call not yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. St Paul would not that any should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names, and distinctions: away with them all, and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes." Wouldn't you agree that it is better to call ourselves just Christians, instead of using these human names that come from man? The Bible plainly tells us what the divine name is, let us use only what the Bible gives."
Next, let us notice some of the designations given to individual members of the church. In I Cor. 1:2, they are called saints. In Col. 1:2 they are referred to as brethren. In Acts 20:7, they are called disciples. And as we have already noticed, in Acts 11:26, they are called Christians. In 1 Peter 2:9 they are called priests. These designations may be used to refer to all who are in the church. There is no such thing as a special group who are priests and saints. Every Christian is a priest and a saint.
We believe you should investigate the church of Christ, because it uses only scriptural names and designations. Don't be deceived by the doctrine that there is nothing in a name. There certainly is.