Though we may sometimes fail to become alarmed when we should, we also see “bogies” when they exist only in imagination. The Catholic Church is afraid the members might spill some of the fruit of the vine, they say, so they take it away from them. The Lord had no such fears.
The Baptists say:
It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but ‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, ‘baptism was the door into the church. Now, it is different; and while the churches are desirous of receiving members, they are wary and cautious that they do not receive unworthy persons. The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their ‘experience,’ and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members (Hiscox’s Manual, p. 22).
If the Lord had seen the danger that Baptists thought they saw he could have fixed it like the Baptists, but he did not!
Sometime we are told that if we speak of the church as “Church of Christ,” or “Church of God,” we make a denomination of it. If the Lord had entertained any such fears we could not read of the “churches of Christ” and “church of God” in the New Testament.
But we are told that we are liable to include less than all of God’s children if we use those terms. But the Lord himself had no such fears.
The church in the aggregate sense includes all of God’s family, but in the local sense includes all who worship together. A child of God living in a city is not a member of a local congregation unless he “congregates.” To speak of the church of Christ at a certain street address includes all who worship at that place, and no more. A Christian might be a member of a certain congregation for years and then join the Baptists, or some other denomination. He does not cease at that moment to be a child of God. though he sinned in so doing and remains in sin so long as he remains a member of a denomination. He is an erring child of God like the fellow who gets drunk. He then is a member of the church of God in the aggregate sense and also a member of the Baptist Church. Though he is a member, still, of the church of God in the aggregate sense, he is no longer a member of the local congregation.
The same is true of the child of God who refuses any longer to assemble for worship. He is an erring member of the church in the aggregate sense but is no longer a member of the local congregation. A letter of commendation from one congregation to another is not “membership.” One is a member of the congregation with which he congregates. It is said that the expressions “churches of Christ” and “church of God” are not names. This is indeed a strange position. It is well known that the Greek word ekklsia, translated usually by the word church, was in common use for hundreds of years before the church of the Lord was established or the New Testament written. So the word church, does not properly designate the divine institution. But, it is asked: Does not the New Testament speak sometimes simply of the church? Yes, but that is an elliptical expression. When it is used those to whom it was spoken knew that it was not a mob, a civil court, or the Jewish church.
To be allowed only to use an expression which might mean any one of many things reminds me of the man whose name was Robert Fountain Garrett. He had two boys and they were both named Robert Fountain Garrett. The wife avoided confusion by calling the old man Robert Fountain, and one of the boys Robbie Fount, and the other one Bobbie Fount. So, after all, they had different names. What is a name? “A word or term embodying any knowledge, notion, or conception so as to fix and make it subject to record and recall for future or common use in the process or interchange of thought.” (New Standard Dictionary). The expressions above mentioned do this: therefore, they are names of the church. Whatever a thing is called, that is its name. I once saw a brand of cosmetics—the no-name brand. No-Name was its name! But the Lord does not have a no-name church. The church of Christ? Because Christ built it (Matt. 16: 18); bought it (Acts 20: 28; Eph. 5:25) ; is head of it (Eph. 5:23); married to it (Rom. 7:4; John 3:29) ; it is his body (Eph. 1:22-23); called it “my church” (Matt. 16:18); and, congregations were called churches of Christ (Rom. 16: 16). Why is it called the church of God? Because “all things that the Father hath are mine” (John 16: 15).