Is There Anything in a Name?

By Ronnie McCarty

The subject material in this article has been dealt with many times before. Therefore, all Christians should have some knowledge of the topic at hand. Sadly, this is not always the case. As all the Word of God, this lesson must be taught and continue to be taught because of the lack of knowledge of the Bible in the world, and even in the church, how God has designated particular things.

In the beginning, God saw fit to name the various works of His creation (Gen. 1:3-5, 8). God also entrusted man to name the birds of the heaven and the beasts of the field (Gen. 2:19-20ff). Later, in the book of Genesis, we see that God named the child of Abram and Hagar (Gen. 16:11). Under the law of Moses, God named the place of worship as the tabernacle. He designated how it was to be designed, what the furniture would be, and how those who ministered in the tabernacle were to dress (Ex. 25-30). He also named the office of those who were to minister in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:15; 28:1).

God designated the name of the forerunner of Jesus (Lk. 1:13). Zacharias, the father-to-be, recognized the importance of not changing that name (Lk. 1:57-64). The point is, that when God gives a name or names for various things, no man has a right to designate it any other way. For instance, neither Hagar nor Zacharias could have named their children any other name. Man would not have had the right to change the furniture, or the name of the furniture in the tabernacle. To illustrate as an example, a man could not have entered the tabernacle and seeing the golden candlestick, have said, “I think this should be called the ark of the covenant.” Or, looking at the altar of incense, say, “I believe it’s okay to name this the table of shewbread.” Man did not have the right at that time to re-name or redesignate something God had previously named, nor does he have that right today. The question is asked so often, “What is in a name?” The simple answer is plenty, if God has designated that name.

It is said by the majority that the “name of the church you area member of doesn’t make any difference; any name will do.” But contrary to this, let us notice what the Bible says. Paul said, “. . .that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow. . .and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father” (Phil. 1:9-11). Also, the apostle Peter said that, “. . . in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Therefore, not just “any name” will do; only those names which were given by the Lord.

Let us note some of the terms by which the church is designated. In Eph. 1:22-23 and Col. 1:18, it is simply called the church. It is called the church of God in 1 Cor. 1:1 and Acts 20:28 (church of the Lord in ASV). Jesus called it “my church” in Matt. 16:18. The term “church of Christ” is used in plural form in Rom. 16:16 as Paul speaks of the local congregations that are located throughout the various provinces. It is called the kingdom in Matt. 16:19 and, more specifically, the kingdom of the Son of His love Son (KJV) in Col. 1:13. It is designated church of Firstborn (Heb. 12:23)

and the body (Col. 1:24, Eph. 5:22). All these are Scriptural designations for the church; any other name or names will not do. Some ask, “What about the names Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.? Are they not acceptable?” The obvious answer is no. All these names, and many others, are additions of men and cannot be found in the Word of God.

Truth Magazine XXII: 15, p. 249
April 13, 1978