By Larry Ray Hafley
Before we deal with the question as to the advisability of using the designation, “church of Christ,” perhaps we should establish that it is a scriptural label. In 1 Thessalonians 2:14, the Spirit cited “the churches of God.” However, when he wanted to speak of one such church, he spoke of “the church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2). Thus, the singular of “churches of God” is “church of God.” In Romans 16:16, the Holy Spirit mentioned “the churches of Christ.” Since the singular of “churches of God” is “church of God,” what is the singular of “churches of Christ”? (If you do not know the answer to that question, there will be no need for you to worry, or to read further. Bless your heart, God will take care of you.)
Over the years, some have said it would be best if we ceased to put the name, “Church Of Christ,” on our meeting houses. Various reasons have been given. “It’s confusing.” “People with a negative view of the church won’t attend when they see the name.” “It’s too traditional.” What shall we say to these objections?
If we drop the name “Church of Christ,” and replace it with “Christians meet here,” we will confront the same set of problems and objections. The name “Christian,” too, is “confusing.” When we use it to tell folks what we are religiously, many wonder “what kind of Christian” we are — Baptist-Christian, Methodist-Christian, Catholic Christian? Others have a “negative view” of it (cf. Jas. 2:7 — “Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?”). It is a very traditional term, used widely and loosely around the world. Since the name “Christian” is greatly abused and misunderstood, shall we, therefore, cease to call ourselves “Christians”?
Shall we quit referring to “elders” because certain ones may link us with the Mormons and their “elders”? Obviously, we dare not call our elders, “pastors,” for that would certainly confuse most people (even some of our own brethren!).
Shall we drop references to “baptism” since it is a traditionally used and often misunderstood term? “Baptism” makes some think we approve of “sprinkling,” for that is their concept of it. Thus, they are misled about what we believe. Does that mean that 1 Peter 3:21, like the name, “church of Christ,” must go by the way side, for it employs that confusing, traditional expression, “baptism doth also now save us”?
Neither can we speak of being “born again,” for that designation is misunderstood and misrepresented. To use it would identify us with Protestant churches.
Obviously, we dare not speak of the Holy Spirit, or “Holy Spirit baptism” or “tongues,” for those are “buzz words” of wild-eyed faith healers in particular and Pentecostalism in general. Of course, we absolutely must not even breathe the word “miracle,” for everyone knows what would be assumed of us!
If we must cease references to “churches of Christ,” to be consistent we must do away with these other terms — Christian, elder, pastor, baptism, Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit baptism, tongues, and miracles. However, the truth is that we need not dispense with any of them. Rather, without shame or apology, we must teach the world the truth and use every opportunity to show the distinction between the words of men and the word of God (Acts 17:23; 1 Pet.
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