The New Testament Church: Its Name

Earl. E. Robertson
Moundsville, West Virginia


Surely somewhere there is a church, which belongs to the Lord, and is not in any way identified as being of man. The Lord said, "I will build my church" (Matt. 1 6: 18). The New Testament scriptures show that Jesus did what he promised t o d o. "And the Lord added to the church daily s u c h as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). If this church to which the Lord added people was not the one he built, he had no business adding people to it

However the Lord has never been the least bit interested in adding the ones he saves to any thing but the church he built.

But someone says that all the churches are of Christ. They are said to be branches of the true church. Usually John 15 is used to prove this. However, just a casual reading of John 15 shows one that the Lord said a "disciple" is a branch. He did not say the church is a branch, but a disciple. One disciple is not the church (1 Cor. 12:12-20). So, an effort to prove that denominations are branches of the true church by John 15 (or any other passages) just does not prove anything.

A Scriptural Name

But how can we know which church is the right church? One essential characteristic is the name. It must have a scriptural name. The church is referred to in the scriptures as: church (es) of God, twelve times (Acts 28:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32; 11:16; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:13; l Thess.2: 14, 2Thess.1: 14; 1 Tim. 3:15); churches of Christ, one time (Romans 16: 16); the church (s), seventy four times; my church, one time (Matthew 16: 18). The collective noun church is used, I believe, one hundred and ten times in the New Testament. Many times it is used to identify the locality in which a congregation exists: the church of Ephesus, Rev. 2: 1; churches of Galatia, 1 Cor. 16:1; Gal. 1:2; churches of Macedonia, 2 Cor. 8:1; churches of Judea, Gal. 1:22, etc. These passages illustrate the statement in Romans 16: 16. The churches of Christ salute you. The above churches were churches of Christ in those places. It is a sad lot for this generation in that the church cannot be referred to as the church and everybody know what you are talking about.

Calling the church the church of God is just as scriptural as calling it the church of Christ. No Bible student makes any argument about this because this is what the New Testament sys. However, a church may be scriptural in name and wrong in about everything else. Just because a church is called the church of Christ or the church of God does not make it such. It may be wrong in organization, work and worship. Many churches have the right name but have corrupted the scriptural plan for worship by adding a mechanical instrument of music and societies, which rival the church in its work.

Such activity, which cannot prove its right to be by the scriptures automatically, stands condemned by Christ who built the church of Christ. He is head over all things to the church, which is his body.

Christ's Church

Inasmuch as Christ said, "I will build my church," it behooves us to notice the fact he claims the church is his. This promise of Christ is in the possessive case and thus denotes ownership. Christ robs God of no glory in saying "my church." The church was built and exists by the wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10). God receives glory in the church by Christ (Eph. 3:21). Jesus said "my church" and Paul said "churches of Christ," so it is indeed scriptural to say what the scriptures say. It would not be right to call the church something that it is not. Or would it?

The church is Christ's because:

(1) He Built It. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Psa. 127:1), and "I say also unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18).

(2) He Is the Foundation of It. "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:10, 11). Paul spoke the wisdom of God, the gospel, the Christ, when he laid the foundation for the church in Corinth (I Cor. 1:17; 2:2, 7; 9:16; 15:1-4).

(3) He Is the Head of It. Paul says, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body' the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22, 23). "And he is the head of the body) the church" (Col. 1:18). ".... Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body" (Eph. 5:23). The headship of Christ is proven by the fact that "the church is subject unto Christ" (Eph. 5:24).

(4) It Is Called His House. Of Christ the apostle says, "Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory that Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after, But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:2-6). We, the saved, constitute the house of Christthe church of Christ. House and church are used interchangeably (I Tim. 3: 15).

(5) It Is His Body. "....gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body" (Eph. 1:22,23). "And he is the head of the body, the church" (Col. 1:18). "....for his body's sake, which is the church" (Col. 1: 24). Inasmuch as Christ is one (1 Cor. 1:13; 8; 6), we conclude he has only one body (Eph. 4:4).

(6) The Church Is the Kingdom of Christ. The word of God (Luke 8:11) or the seed of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19) produces the kingdom. Seed produces after its kind (Gen. 1: 11). Jesus said the kingdom was his (John 18:36). He told the apostles he would give them the keys to the kingdom (Matt. 16: 19). The "keys" the Lord gave them is the authority with which they speak (Matt. 19: 27, 28). When they spoke the gospel and people believed and obeyed it the church was there established, because he promised to save those who believed and obeyed (Mark 16:15, 16), and these are the ones he added to the church (Acts 2.47). Of people like these Paul says God delivered "from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13). So, the dear Son has a kingdom men and women are now in it!

(7) It Is in Him. Paul says he "was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ" (Gal. 1:22). Again, he says "So we, being many, are one body in Christ" (Rom. 12:5).


Someone may object to the church being called the church of Christ because Romans 16: 16 says churches of Christ. But you cannot have the plural (churches) without a singular (church).

From the passages herein given one can see that there are a number of scriptural designations of the church. From these passages you can see what Christ and the apostles called the church. We must call it what they called it if we would be right. We herein call upon you who are wearing religious names unknown in the word of God to renounce them. How can the church of my blessed Lord be the Lutheran church? The Methodist church? The Baptist church? Such are not found in the New Testament! To be in the Lutheran church means you are a Lutheran; membership in the Methodist church means you are a Methodist; membership in the Baptist church gives emphasis to the fact you are a Baptist. But the Lord added the saved to his churchthe church of Christ (Acts 2:47).

TRUTH MAGAZINE XI: 1, pp. 10-12
October 1966