What is the name of the church? There are multiple phrases used to describe the church. The most common reference is to refer to it simply as the “the church”. The second most often used phrase is “the church of God”. Other phrases include “the house of God”, “the church of the living God”, “the church of the firstborn”, “the churches of the saints” and “the churches of Christ”. Are any of these the name of the church?
Obviously, the translators didn’t see any of these phrases as the name of the church since they didn’t capitalize the first letter in the word “church” in any of these phrases. Instead all these words or phrases are meant as a description of the group that follow Christ.
Think of the different uses and what they indicate. The phrase “church of God” demonstrates that the church belongs to God. He planned and brought the church into being through the agency of Christ. The phrase “churches of Christ” shows that the church belongs to Christ, that he is the head, the foundation, the purchaser and the husband to the church which is his bride. The phrase “church of the firstborn” shows the relationship we have with God. The word, “firstborn” is plural and refers, not to Christ, but to those who are born anew into Christ. It demonstrates that every Christian is seen by God as the first born in him. The phrase “churches of the saints” has to do with the make up of the body. Those who are in the church are set apart for him. The phrase “house of God” shows the church is God’s family or household.
So, what about the name of the church? There is no Biblical name for the church. To take one of the descriptions and use it exclusively about the body is to denominationalize the phrase. Just as all the descriptions were important in the first century they still are because of the things that they indicate.
But how will we identify the church or keep it separate from others that are all around us? Suppose I’m traveling in a strange area and want to attend worship, how can I find the Lord’s people to gather with them if there is no name that is accepted as common? Or suppose I move into a new area and don’t know anyone there to ask, how will I find the church? This does show a need for some common phrase that we can observe to find the church in a given area. For that reason I don’t think it is wrong to refer to the body as “the church of Christ” in a given area. But we all know that just having a common name that is used is no warranty that they are going to be loyal to Christ and his word. You can attach a name to anything. How we live and believe is vitally important.
Even if we use a common name we must go much deeper than the label to know what a church is all about. Also, since there are many phrases used to describe the body, to pick out one to the exclusion of all others is to stop speaking as the Bible speaks. To follow Scripture we must use all the different phrases at different times to teach the different relationships the church is to have.
Certainly, it wise in any thing we use to describe the church that we go back to the text and use phrases found there. Why would we pick some name that has no background in the Bible and would thus not even be able to promote any of the relationships described by God?
The key truth is that it makes sense to have some common name from the Bible that is used for a local church so people can identify it as a church that is loyal to Christ. But it is imperative that we understand that whatever word or phrase we use for the church it is not “THE” name for His church.