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The Names of the Church (1)

There are many different names for the church in Scripture. Each of these names tells us something important about the church. The names used are revelation - part of God's revelation concerning the church.

The name "church" itself, as we have seen, means "called out" and refers to the word and work of God by which He calls His people out of darkness into marvelous light and forms them into a peculiar (unique) people - the church of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 2:9). That this name is most commonly used is not surprising. It shows us that the existence and blessedness of the church are all the result of God's calling and sovereign grace.

That church is also called the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:12-27, Eph. 1:23, 4:12, 5:30, Col. 1:18, 24, 2:17-19). This name emphasizes the glory of Christ as the Head of the church, the church's living union with Christ, and the relationship of the members of the church to one another - in the body they are members one of another as well as of Christ.

This name is used especially in Ephesians and Colossians, though with a slightly different emphasis in each epistle. In Ephesians the emphasis is on the church herself and on the glory that she has with Christ. In Colossians the emphasis is on Christ as the glorious Head of the church. This explains the similarity and the differences between these two books.

Scripture also compares the church to a vine (John 15:1-6) or a tree (Rom. 11:16-26). The fact that the same comparison is made in the OT (Psalm 80, Isaiah 5:1-7) suggests that Israel and the church are one. In any case, the comparison shows the close relationship and union between Christ and his church, as well as the church's complete dependence upon Christ. He is the root, we are the branches.

Somewhat different is the name "temple of God" (I Cor. 3:16-17, II Cor. 6:16, Eph. 2:20-21), or "house of God" (I Tim. 3:15, Heb. 3:6, I Pet. 2:4-9 - note that not the building in which the church meets, but the church itself is the house of God!). This name teaches us several things.

That the church is compared to a building reminds us of her beauty, her orderliness and unity (every member has his own place in that spiritual building). It also reminds us (as does the name "body") of the diversity of the church in which each member is different and has a different place (I Cor. 12), yet all together are one spiritual building belonging to God.

The main emphasis, however, of the names "temple," "house," and "building," is upon the blessed truth that the church is the place where God dwells with His people. He dwells with them as it were under one roof as one family, through Christ, their Head. There God and His people commune with one another and thus He keeps covenant with them and blesses them forever.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 24
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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