By Kenneth E. Thomas
If every other belief and practice is in complete harmony with the will of Christ except the name by which one is called religiously, that person cannot be pleasing to the Lord.
I hope my opening statement will gain the attention of the reader sufficiently to hear me out completely. If I am correct, then you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by considering this subject except a little of your time.
None Other Name Than Christ’s
Why is the name one wears religiously so very important? It should be sufficient to say because God chose the name for followers of Christ to wear. He did you know. The name he chose is Christian.
It had been prophesied for generations in the Hebrew Scriptures that in the “last days” the Messiah would come and the kingdom would be established. This was to be an international kingdom, not for the Jews only but also for the Gentiles. After these events had transpired and kings and Gentiles should see his righteousness, this new name would be given (Isa. 2:2-4; 56:5; 62:2; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14.)
We read of the first Gentile converts to Christ in Acts chapters ten and eleven, the house of Cornelius. Then we read in the latter part of Acts 11:26, “. . . disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” No one to my knowledge who believes in Christ denies the propriety of his followers wearing this name. My brethren and I hold that not only must we wear this name, we must as a name wear only the name Christian. One reason being that it clearly says in Scripture that one cannot glorify God in any other name! I will call your attention now to two passages of Scripture which I believe prove this point to any honest thinking person:
“But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name” (1 Pet. 4:16, ASV).
If the above isn’t plain enough to prove the point, read on: “This is the stone which was rejected by you (Jewish people, ket) builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12; italics mine, ket).
God the Father has given unto God the Son all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18); a name above every name (Phil. 2:5-11); made him head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18); all things must be done by his authority (Col. 3:17), and such cannot be done while honoring names of men and systems, unauthorized by the Lord (2 John 9-11; Matt. 15:8-9).
When the apostle Paul made his famous defense before King Agrippa as recorded in Acts 26, he just about convinced the king of his need to believe and obey Christ. Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28).
You see, that was all Agrippa could have possibly become. No denomination existed at this point in time, only the church you read about in the New Testament which Christ said was his (Matt. 16:13-18; Rom. 16:16). Every converted person was therefore added to it by the Lord upon hearing, believing and obeying the gospel commands (Acts 2:22-38,41,47). The church is the “house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15; Isa. 2:2-3). God has no children out of his house (family) and his children all wear the family name, Christian (Eph. 3:15).
Six hundred years before what we now know as Roman Catholicism, and fifteen hundred years before the Protestant churches came into existence, there were Christians, citizens of the kingdom of Christ. Paul who later wrote by divine inspiration Romans and other New Testament books was told after becoming a penitent believer in Christ, “arise and be baptized and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Later, he said that he was “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1: 13-14). He said that he and others had been baptized into the name of Christ, as well as into his death and into the one body, where reconciliation between God and man is found through the cross (1 Cor. 1:10-12; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:13-16).
The honoring and wearing of human names is in effect forbidden by what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. They had begun the practice which is so prevalent to this day. Some were saying, “I am of (means I belong to) Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Cephas, or I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12). Paul asked them some rhetorical questions to drive home his point that it was sinful, a sign of carnality, to wear names other than the name of Christ, saying
1. Is Christ divided?
2. Was Paul crucified for you?
3. Were you baptized into the name of Paul (1 Cor. 1:13; 3:1-7)?
You see only such as have heard and believed the gospel, all who repented and confessed said faith before being baptized (immersed) with Christ into his death are Christians. Such also wear only the name Christian. So my title for this article holds true to the Scripture, “The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians.”
The way one becomes something other than a Christian only and a member of Christ’s one blood purchased body or church, makes one something other than a Christian! Let me explain myself further: The Lord does not “add” people not even saved people to some human denomination. He still adds the saved to his church just as in the first century (Act 2:41,47; Col. 1:13-14). You cannot find how to become a member of any denomination on earth by the New Testament Scriptures! The terms of entrance into Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church are different from one another in many cases and different from the terms make the gospel necessary for membership in Christ’s church in all cases! One may therefore “join” any number of the organizations (churches) of men and never have accepted God’s saving grace through Christ and his gospel .or salvation from alien sins. This is why Jesus said, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13). The Psalmist said it in these words, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psa. 127:1a).
Consider. . . .
1. The Bible plus the Methodist Discipline or a Book of Major United Methodist Beliefs is, when followed, what makes one a Methodist.
2. The Bible plus the Standard Manual for Baptist Churches by Hiscox equals Southern Baptists.
3. The Bible plus the Baptist Church Manual by J.M. Pendleton equals Northern Baptists.
4. The Bible plus Luther’s Catechism equals Lutherans, etc.
The most generally held doctrinal position among Protestants is that made popular by a noble man in many ways, Martin Luther. It is the doctrine of “Salvation by Faith Alone.” Strangely enough many Protestants include in their membership infants who were “baptized” without faith. The Roman Catholics also are among the number who count their numbers including infants, though neither Protestant nor Catholic are they considered full members until after confirmation classes on “their faith.” In Scripture, we have already seen a person was not a Christian until he of his own volition and will responded by faith to the gospel commandments for forgiveness (Rom. 6:16-18; 1 Pet. 3:20-21; Mk. 16:15-16; Matt. 28:18-20). The only time we find “faith” and “only” together in the Scriptures of the New Testament, they are preceded by a not”! (See Jas. 2:14-26, v. 24 in particular.) Salvation is not by faith only regardless of what Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham or any other uninspired man may say.
Proof further that one is not saved in a man-given religious name may be seen in a number of ways. For example: Ask a Methodist preacher if one must be a member of the Methodist church and wear the name Methodist to be saved? He will answer in the negative. I suggest you follow this procedure on every preacher in town and you will likely get the very same answer from every preacher until you happen to run into a preacher of the ancient gospel of the Son of God, who holds membership in no human denomination, but is simply and only a Christian. He will say one must obey the gospel and become a part of the bride of our Lord Jesus Christ via the “new birth” of the water and the Spirit, and wear the name of the bridegroom Christ to please the Lord. He will be correct regardless of what all of the “pastors” and “reverends” you may have asked have said (Jn. 3:3-5; Eph. 5:22-27; Rom. 7:4).
Sometimes members of the church of Christ are accused of being so narrow-minded in the matters herein under consideration. “We say we are the only ones right and everyone else is wrong.” “We believe, they say, that we are the only ones going to heaven. Well, let us see who is narrow-minded and who it is according to the Scriptures that will be going to heaven.
1. We bind nothing on anyone as a matter of faith and/or fellowship but what the Lord revealed as his will for man (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3; Gal. 1:8-9). One must submit to a human creed to join a denomination (2 John 9).
2. Every person in all the world who has obeyed the ancient gospel is our brother and the church of our Lord is large enough to contain all of the saved in all the world (Eph. 2:11-16; 3:1-6; 4:1-6; Acts 2:47). We accept into fellowship on the local level all such requiring no more than the Lord does for fellowship. No denomination claims to be large enough to contain all the saved. Who’s narrow-minded?
3. When one “accepts Jesus as his personal Savior” and is according to denominations a Christian at the point of faith, is he a member of any denomination? They all say no to whom I have asked this question. So there you have it. If they are right, they are still wrong! If one is saved out of a church, it certainly cannot claim to be the Lord’s blood-bought church for all, the saved are added to it (Acts 2:47). Furthermore, one does not take the denominational name peculiar to whatever denomination he may be speaking of until such time as he is “baptized” into that name, thereby dividing people into different sects promoting, against the will and prayer of the Christ, division caused by human names, creeds, organizations, etc. Can’t you see?
The solution is so simple, yet so many refuse to accept it. Just come with us back to the Bible and the Bible alone. Leave off all human elements in religion. Don’t be a slave to the man-made rules of denominationalism. Step out and become a free man or woman under Christ. Obey the ancient gospel and become just a Christian as in the Bible days.
Identify with a faithful local congregation of New Testament Christians where you can engage in those activities the Lord enjoins upon Christians collectively. You will never be sorry. As Jesus said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). Do you want to be free? It’s up to you! Act now (2 Cor. 2:2)!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 3, pp. 80-81, 87
February 7, 1988