Monday, January 2, 2017
Jesus told his apostles, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). We often ask others, “Whose church is it?” The normal answer is “It is Jesus’ church.” Prior to his birth, an angel told Joseph that Mary’s son would be called “Jesus” (Matthew 1:21). When he was born, they “called his name Jesus” (v.25).
In Acts, Peter stated, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 KJV).
Paul stated, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:9-10 KJV).
We sometimes sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know . . .” (He Keeps Me Singing, by Luther B. Bridgers, 1910). In Matthew 1:16 we are introduced to, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Jesus is his name, Christ is his title. “Christ” (χριστος) is not translated, just spelled out with English letters. It’s called transliteration. If the Bible committees had translated it, we would have the word “anointed.” You would read, “Jesus, who is called Anointed” (Matthew 1:16), or “churches of the Anointed” (Romans 16:16). The word “Christ” is from the Hebrew word “messiah” which means “anointed.” The King James and other versions usually translated the Hebrew word mashiah (Messiah) as “anointed” in the Old Testament if it did not refer to Jesus, but as “Messiah” if it did. Seldom is the word “Christ” ever translated in the New Testament. Although it may not have been their purpose, this failure has created some false concepts.
Although Jesus said, “I will build my church” the expression “my church” is never employed as a descriptive name on street signs or lettered on church buildings. What is even more unusual, the name “Jesus” is never utilized as a name to describe HIS – “my church” among a number of religious bodies! When is the last time you saw a street sign or lettering on a church building with the words, “The church of Jesus”? Going back through the Freed-Hardeman Lectures, several speakers used the expression “church of Jesus Christ” beginning in 1970 with Garland Elkins, then in the following years by Jon Gary Williams, W.D. Jeffcoat, G.E. Woods, Robert R. Taylor, Jr., Perry B. Cotham, G.K. Wallace, Cleon Lyles, J. Wayne Kilpatrick, Winford Claiborne, Robert D. Rawson, Mark Hawk, Everett Donaldson, Ralph Gilmore, John W. Dale, Richard N. Taylor, Sr., Loy Mitchell, Warren Baldwin, and Richard English, Sr. Only two speakers, William Woodson in 1990 and Dan Winkler in 1995 used the expression “church of Jesus” without the title “Christ” being included. In spite of these speeches and their use of the expression “church of Jesus,” not one single inspired writer followed their example!
The church is referred to as “the body of Christ,” but never as “the body of Jesus” (1 Corinthians 12:27). It is referred to as “the church of God” or “the churches of God” but never as “the church of Jesus.” Once it is referred to in the plural as “the churches of Christ” but never as “the churches of Jesus.” It almost seems that “Jesus” has been eliminated by inspiration as a descriptive term for the church? I know of none in my faith that would letter or erect a street sign with the expression “The church of Jesus” even though lecturing brethren have used it in their speeches. It is almost as if “Jesus” has been vetoed by the silence of the scriptures as unauthorized or taboo as a “scriptural” designation for Jesus’ – “my church.”
Actually, there is no proper name designated by God for street signs or lettering upon places of worship. God seems to have put believers on the horns of a dilemma to see if we would denominate ourselves with a specific one! Over a thousand different churches do. The question is often asked, “How would we identify ourselves to let people know where we meet if our street signs contained nothing but the biblical expression, “the church” (Acts 4:23; 5:11; 8:1, 3, 14; 11:22, 26; 12:5; 13:1; 14:27; 15:3; 18:22; 20:17, 28; etc.)? What did the first century congregations letter on their street signs or buildings to identify their meeting places? What if they didn’t use the expression “the church”? What if they didn’t own a building?