There are several Biblical names for the Lord’s church as well as His followers. The church for which Jesus died (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25), over which he is head (Ephesians 5:23), and about which anyone can read in the Bible is divine.
These names are divine in origin and always glorify God or Jesus Christ, with the possible exception of the simple term church (Matthew 16:16; Acts 2:47). This term can be compared to the term “called out”. Thus, the church (people who have been called out of a life of sin to live for God) should be easier understood. The “sinner” is covered by the blood of Christ and is thus now a “Christian”. He or she has been born-again, redeemed, saved, etc..
In like fashion, the New Testament records divinely given names for the members who comprise the church. Once the Biblical names of the Lord's church and its members are learned, one can easily identify whether the names of contemporary churches and their members are divine or merely human in origin.
Names for the Church from the Bible
The Biblical names of the Lord's church to which reference is made herein are only descriptive terms. These terms describe the nature of the church or its’ relationship to God or Jesus Christ.
Commonly, names, as such, are used to identify one brand of the same or similar product from another brand. If there were only one of something, distinguishing names would not be necessary; the item would simply be called what it is or by its’ association with its’ maker.
Similarly, before the rise of the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant denominationalism, Biblically descriptive terms identified the one church without confusion. All these terms simply describe the church or its relationship with its Maker. However, denominational names are used by the thousands to distinguish between the denominations and inadvertently from the church of the Bible.
Hence, Biblical names for the Lord's church are not brand names, whereas the many denominational names are brand names. The Lord died for and established only one (His) church (Matthew 16:18). Denominational names identify one brand of church from another and one brand of religion from another, instead of identifying the one true church of the Bible and simple New Testament Christianity.
The Apostle Paul scolded the Corinthians about division among themselves in I Corinthians 1:10-17. He told them that some of them were followers of Paul, others of Apollos, others of Cephas (Peter), and others followers of Christ. He told them that Christ was not divided. In fact, He taught that His followers should not be divided in John 17:20-23. When a person calls himself one type of a Christian and another calls himself another type Christian - is not this going against Jesus’ wishes for unity among His followers? If people in Christianity are ever going to have unity, shouldn’t it be a good starting place to depart from human names that have been placed on the church? Is not Paul talking as though it is sin to have division within the body of Christ? Even Martin Luther (Founder of Protestantism) told his followers not to call themselves Lutherans, but only Christians. However, after his death his wish was not carried out. No one can find fault in wearing the name “Christian”, but many can and have found fault with names on religious bodies who have named themselves after their leaders or a certain type of church government.
The descriptive terms by which the Lord's church is Biblically known include these: "my church" (Matthew 16:18), "the church" (Acts 2:47; 8:1), "church of God" (1 Corinthians 1:2), "churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16), "body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12), "church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15), "church of the firstborn" (Hebrews 12:23), "temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:16), "bride of Christ" (Ephesians 5:21-32; Revelation 22:17), "kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13) and "house of God" (1 Timothy 3:15). Though wearing a divine name is a crucial identifying mark of that one true divine church of the Bible, assuming a divinely authorized name alone is not the only characteristic of the Lord's church.
Biblical Names for Members of the Church
Throughout both Testaments, various descriptive names are also applied to God's people. Many of these terms used in the Old Testament are also used in the New Testament. There is, though, a singularly different and new name given to the people of God in the New Testament.
Terms used in the Old Testament and applied to God's people in the New Testament as well include: "members" (1 Corinthians 12:27), "disciples" (Acts 6:1; 20:7), "believers" (Acts 5:14), "saints" (Acts 9:13; 1 Corinthians 1:2), "brethren" (Romans 8:14) and "children of God" (1 John 3:1, 2), "beloved of God" (Romans 1:7), "heirs of God" (Romans 8:17) and "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9).
There is yet another New Testament name for God's people that was the subject of prophecy long before its application. Isaiah taught that once the Gentiles gained admittance into the kingdom (church) and its blessings, all God's people would "be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name" (Isaiah 62:1-2; 56:5). After the admission of Cornelius and his household the new name CHRISTIAN was given God's people (Acts 11:26). Used twice more in the New Testament (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16), the term Christian singly describes one's relationship to his Redeemer and serves as a continuous reminder of Christ.
May we strive to be a Christian and a Christian only with Biblical knowledge that only Christians comprise the Lord's divine church. Denominational names are human in origin and bring chaos to the divine term Christian. There are no labeled Christians, being a Christian only, is striving to be a faithful Christian! Of course many people are sincere believers and are involved in various denominational groups unknowingly that they are “going against” the Lord’s wishes that His followers not be divided up into various groups who wear different names, follow different types of baptisms, and exclude a part of worship (Communion) on Sundays that was Christ founded. It is the person who has chosen to be a “Christian Only” who should lovingly attempt to teach others the way of the Lord more perfectly. The apostle Paul set this example for us as is recorded in Acts 18:18-28. It is here that we read where a tent making Christian taught Apollos more thoroughly concerning the Scriptures. Thus, God is calling upon everyone of us to do likewise. In doing so, one can expect that there will be some who will not want taught more thoroughly, even if they can be shown from the Bible that one is wrong. May we be sensitive to God’s calling and to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). To purposely turn our back on baptism (immersion) for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and to neglect Communion weekly (Acts 20:7) as a part of worship is very risky.