The Name - "Church of Christ"
Two extreme uses are made of the designation "Church of Christ", both of which sectarianize it. Before we notice those, however, let us examine what Paul said. in his closing remarks to the church at Rome, he said, "churches of Christ salute you". (Rom. 16:16).
It should be easy to recognize 'that Paul did not use the phrase "churches of Christ" as a name at all. Such an expression simply indicated ownership by the Lord. He was actually saying that the assemblies called out by the Lord "salute you". The phrase "of Christ" excluded all other assemblies. Paul's expression was a descriptive one, not a name.
It has been suggested that if there were "churches of Christ", then there must have been a church of Christ. With that this writer is in perfect agreement. All of those bodies (assemblies) called by the Lord belong to Him and if they can be described in the plural, then, necessarily there is also a "singular" use of such. However, let it be remembered that this is to use the phrase as a description, not a name.
There are brethren who object to the use of the term "church of Christ," because they believe it is too restrictive. They say it implies that all the saved are in this body. They say we thus sectarianize its use. Actually this group believes that there are saved people in various denominations and that the church of Christ is just another sect (denomination,) made up of part of the saved.
But the Bible teaches that all the saved are added to the Lord's church (Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:23). There are no saved ones outside that body. All who have believed and obeyed the gospel of Christ belong to him and are in his church. So, to refer to "the churches of Christ" is to include all the saved. This is not a man-made fellowship, but a God-given relationship. For instance, the "churches of Christ" of Chicago, contain all the saved of that city, though some may not have their name upon a book in an assembly where the ADVOCATE, FIRM FOUNDATION or TRUTH magazine might be recommended.
Other brethren use the term "Church of Christ" in, such a careless way that it implies that the body of which they speak is just one among many that belong to the Lord. When someone speaks of "Church of Christ preachers", "Church of Christ churches" a n d "Church of Christ Christians"' they thus imply there are other gospel preachers than those who are in the Lord's church, that "the one church" is bigger than the "churches of Christ" and that there are other Christians than those who are a part of the body of Christ.
It is not my purpose to try to encourage anyone to quit using the designation "church of Christ". We should, however, learn not to use that as an exclusive name for the Lord's church. Since the Lord choose not the name His church, then why should we not be satisfied to describe it as it is described in the scripture: "church of God", "church of the Firstborn", "the body of Christ", "the church", "churches of Christ", etc.
Let those who contend that "church of Christ" is too restrictive, point out how one could be a child of God without becoming a member of that blood bought body, the Lord's church. On the other hand, let those who, for instance, speak of "Church of Christ Christians" point out how one could be any other kind of Christian! Why not just say, "He is a Christian"?
While we are discussing this matter, a related, though somewhat separate item needs to be mentioned also. Christians in general and gospel preachers in particular have become very careless in that they refer to the church building as "the church". It doesn't make any difference what the dictionary says, if we are going to use "sound speech that cannot be condemned" (Titus 2:8), even though it may be unpopular and old-fashioned, we will still use the term "church" to refer only to the assembly. Jesus purchased the church with his blood, and yet we hear preachers announce that "a group of fine ladies came together last Friday and cleaned,the church". And in the next breath that preacher may plead for people to "speak where the Bible speaks; be silent where the Bible is silent"!!!!
Truth Magazine I:9, pp. 20-21