Monday, March 21, 2016
When most preachers refer to the biblical names of the “church,” they will inform you that it does not have an exclusive title. You will be cited to several singular and plural designated names in the New Testament. Yet none are the exclusive or proper name of the saved.
In most languages the plural expressions may be inverted. For example, “churches of Judaea” may be written “Judaean churches.” The “churches of the saints” could be expressed as “saints’ churches.” Although the Holy Spirit never put the following in print, we know that “saints” are “Christians” or “disciples,” so the expression in 1 Corinthians 14:33 could be referred to as “churches of the disciples” or “disciples’ churches.” It could also be spelled out as “churches of Christians” or “Christians’ churches.”
The preposition “of” shows possession. “The church of God” indicates that the “called out” belonged to God. The “church of Ephesus” were the saved belonging to or citizens of that city. Even when Phebe traveled, she was identified by the local assembly she met with (Romans 16:1). In the plural form, the “churches of the Gentiles” would be local assemblies inclusive to Gentiles rather than Jews. However, it is difficult to visualize two congregations in any first century city, one with a restricted Jewish membership and the other with only a Gentile one! Jesus referred to it as “my church” (Matthew 16:18). Yet, I know of no congregation that has a street sign nor painting “My Church” on its edifice. I suppose if they made that scriptural designation their church name, then the expression, “I belong to ‘My Church’” would have more meaning? Sometimes an individual will speak of the assembly which they have joined as “my church.” This doesn’t mean they possess it in the same way God or Christ do (Acts 20:28b). It is sad when Christians are so concerned in crossing a man made “t” that they refuse to speak of “our church” or “my church” and distance themselves with “they.”
It is strange that one is criticized if he uses the expression “my church,” but not if he says “my Bible class” or “my class.” Does that mean he purchased that smaller assembly with his own blood? The “of” did not mean the church in that city belonged to the Ephesians because they purchased it with their blood. Some use the expression, “the Lord’s church.” But, regardless of how lofty the term is, the Holy Spirit never used it. In Philippians 2:9-10 God gave Jesus a name above all other names. Verse 10 says, “That at the name of Jesus. . .,” yet few use the expression “Jesus’ church” or “the church of Jesus.” Why? Is it because the Holy Spirit didn’t? If the silence of the scriptures do not eliminate those non-biblical expressions, why would that absence eliminate others not found in scripture?
There has been some discussion on whether “church” must not be capitalized when writing an article or on a street sign. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek. For example, we capitalize God when referring to Yahweh. Greek manuscripts were usually all upper or all lower case. In some, where both cases were used, titles were not capitalized, only proper names. However, we do not have the original manuscripts to settle this opinionated debate! So, all the hoopla over whether to capitalize pronouns or titles is moot and falls into the realm of human opinion. God never made human opinion and/or judgment His standard even though some do (Matthew 15:9)!
When God added that first group of obedient people to His called out saved community, they met in the Temple courtyards and in the homes of members (Acts 2:46). We don’t read of church signs for several hundred years because the saved did not own edifices to pin some name on. Yet, without buildings or signs, they preached Jesus “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Wouldn’t you call that New Testament Christianity?