Is the Name “Church of Christ” Scriptural?

by Bryant Evans on August 19, 2008

This is the first in a series of lessons offered in response to a denominational preacher who has violently attacked the church. I will begin with his statement and then respond below. Comments are welcomed from all.

“Why does the “Church of Christ” insist that their name is scriptural when it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible? The church is referred to as the “church of God” eight (8) times in the Bible, but never is it called the “church of Christ.” The verse they use is Romans 16:16, but it doesn’t say “church of Christ.” Where does the Bible call the church the “church of Christ”?

The Bible does use the term “churches of Christ” in Romans 16:16. The singular form is typically used by individual congregations.

At the time Paul wrote his letter, around the middle of the first century, there was but one church. It was the church for which Jesus died (Acts 20:28). The unity of that church was of great importance to Paul. Through inspiration he gently corrected the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 1:10) and sternly rebuked the Galatian brethren (Galatians 1:6-10) over issues of unity. To the Ephesians he declared there was but “one body” and “one faith” (Ephesians 4:4-5). Therefore, the was no need to identify separate congregations by differing names – there simply were no denominations.

Because the church was truely universal in its teaching and doctrine, men used a variety of names to refer to the church but all names pointed to the one church given by Jesus prophetically (Matthew 16:18) and in actuality (Acts 2:41-47).

Sometimes, this single body of believers was referred to in the plural (churches) and sometimes in the singular (church). Plural examples include Acts 15:41; Acts 16:5; Romans 16:4; Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 2 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4 and many many more.

Singular examples include Acts 5:11; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:31; Acts 12:5; Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 10:32; Hebrews 12:23 and many more also.

It is further the case that “church of Christ” is but one acceptable name among many given in Scripture. “Church of God,” “Church of the Firstborn,” “Church of the Saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33) are all acceptable names. One could also simply refer to “the church” and be within the bounds of Scripture.

Now as to the singular use of “churches of Christ” we would observe the following. Since there was but one universal church at the time of Paul’s writing but numerous individual congregations, Paul was obviously speaking of those multiplied congregations when he spoke of the “churches of Christ” in Romans 16:16. In order to speak of a single congregation would he not use the term “church of Christ?” Why certainly. Sound reasoning from the text makes this abundantly clear.

In fact, there is an example of just this sort of reasoning. Three times Paul uses the term “churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14 and 2 Thessalonians 1:4). Paul also uses the same term, except in the singular, when speaking of an individual church or of the church universal (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Timothy 3:5 ). The point is that the name shows ownership. Paul shows us that it is acceptable to switch between the plural and the singular.

Some might wonder why not use the term “church of God” to describe the Lord’s church? One could but men have exercised the option to use another term which has equal Scriptural validity.

We would add that our inquisitor has found himself impaled upon the horns of a dilemma. If the name is not important, as Baptists must assert,  then why is he concerned with it? If it is important, as we hold, then should he not consider using a Biblical name? He cannot have it both ways.

Tomorrow, we look at his pejorative use of the term “Campbellite.” It’s a term never used by the churches of Christ but often thrown around in the past. We are not Campbellites, we are Christians.

Please post your comments below.

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