What’s in a Name?
Names of the Church
When Juliet discovers Romeo is a Montague asked, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d, Retain thy dear perfection which he owes Without that title. Romeo, doff they name And for that name which is not part of thee Take all myself.” Romeo and Juliet loved one another. Yet, they could not express that love, for their families fought against one another. Juliet wonders aloud, “What is in a name?”
This morning, we want to ask that same question, “What is in a name?”
Scripture Gives Descriptions for the Church
The Bible really gives no name for the church—There isn’t one name that we must wear; however,
There are several different descriptions in Scripture for the church.
- “My church” (Matt. 16:18).
- “The church” (Acts 8:1).
- “Church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2).
- “Churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16).
- “Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
- “Church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15).
- “Church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23).
- “The Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9).
- “The house of God” (Heb. 10:21).
- “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).
The church needs to wear one of these descriptions—Man cannot improve upon what God has given.
What Shall Members of the Church Call Themselves?
Just as with the church, Scripture gives many names for individual believers.
- “Disciples” (Acts 20:7).
- “Saints” (1 Cor. 1:2).
- “Beloved of God” (Rom. 1:7).
- “Brethren” (1 Cor. 15:6).
- “Sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
- “Children of God” (1 Jn. 3:1).
- “Heirs of God” (Rom. 8:17).
- “Royal priesthood” or “priests” (1 Pet. 2:9).
- “Christians” (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16).
- “Believers” (Acts 5:14).
- “Beloved children” (Eph. 5:1).
- “Elect (Matt. 24:22).
- “Sons of light” (Lk. 16:8).
These are the names we must wear if we are to please God.
Does God Really Care about Names?
Some would have us believe that God really doesn’t care about the name we wear. But does he?
God takes his own name seriously. The Hebrews were told not to take God’s name in vain (Ex. 20:7). If the Hebrews did not revere God’s name, God would bring terrible plagues upon them and their descendants (Deut. 28:58-59). The Jews so carefully guarded God’s name that they did not even utter his name when they read from Scripture.
In the Old Testament, God would often change individuals’ names to give them a name with significance. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude” (Gen. 17:5). God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, which means “princess” (Gen. 17:15). Because Jacob strived with God, God changed his name to Israel, which means “he who strives with God” (Gen. 32:27-28). Because Simon was a rock-like figure, Jesus gave him the name “Peter,” meaning stone (Matt. 16:18).
Each time God changed someone’s name, the new name had some significance. God never changed someone’s name needlessly—the new name told something about him. Likewise, God cares about the names of his people. These descriptions tell something about us.
Jesus’ Identity is Important
Jesus came and asked his disciples who he was (Matt. 16:13-16). The apostles gave various answers. Jesus then asked who they thought he was. Peter immediately stood and said that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus blessed Peter because he got his identity right.
Our prayers are to be in Jesus’ name (Jn. 14:13-14).
Before one can have salvation, he must accept Jesus for who he really is. Unless one believes that Jesus is the Messiah, he will die in his sins (Jn. 8:24). One will be saved if he confesses with his mouth that Jesus is the Lord (Rom. 10:9).
We are baptized in the name of Christ (Acts 2:38). To be baptized in the name of Jesus means to do so by his authority. The authority of another in baptism will not suffice. When Paul found disciples who did not know about the Holy Spirit, he asked them into what they had been baptized (Acts 19:1-2). When they replied they had been baptized in John’s baptism, they were baptized again in the name of Jesus (Acts 19:3-5).
Whatever we do is to be done in the name of Christ (Col. 3:17). This means that whatever we do needs to be authorized by Jesus. Jesus has not authorized any names other than are in the Bible.
Salvation can be found in no other name but the name of Christ (Acts 4:12).
The New Testament Condemns the Wearing of Human Names
In Corinth, the Christians had certain preachers they liked. Some said they were of Paul or of Apollos or of Peter or of Christ (1 Cor. 1:12). Yet, Paul pleads with these Christians to get rid of all such names (1 Cor. 1:10-11). These human names were getting in the way of the Corinthians’ serving God. These Christians needed to unite instead of divide. We in the religious world today need to unite rather than divide; human names continue to divide the church.
Wearing human names belongs to the fleshly nature (1 Cor. 3:3-4).
Scripture teaches that I can neither add to nor subtract from Scripture (Rev. 22:18-19). Wearing a name not found in Scripture would be adding to God’s Word. I cannot, therefore, wear a human name.
Are you honoring God by wearing the name “Christian?”
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.