Summary: The one name that can bring unity and harmony in Christendom is the name of Jesus.
OPEN: A mother looked out a window and saw Johnny playing church with their three kittens. He had them lined up and was preaching to them. The mother turned around to do some work.
A while later she heard meowing and scratching on the door. She went to the window and saw Johnny was BAPTIZING the kittens. She opened the window and said, "Johnny, stop that! You’ll drown those kittens.
Johnny looked at her and said with much conviction in his voice: "They shoulda had thought about that before they joined MY church."
APPLY: One of the oldest difficulties in Christendom has been this issue of who church belongs to. Whenever you hear people saying “this is MY church” - you know you’ve got a problem. Because people who use that phrase (“My Church”) have generally forgotten WHO their church really belongs to. And they become the most troublesome individuals to deal with because - since they believe it’s THEIR church - they believe it must be run according to THEIR agenda.
ILLUS: Several times now - while I’ve driven kids to JAM (our mid-week elementary youth group) - kids have asked “Do you own the church?” Many of them come from non-church backgrounds, and so the question isn’t all that unusual.
I answer “No… God owns the church.”
And the kids have the hardest time understanding that.
But this is an pivotal concept for all Christians to grasp:
– God owns the church
– ONLY He has the right to say how it is set up… and what we’re “called”
Here in Acts we’re told that “… the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Acts 11:26
There were two intriguing things I learned about this verse at Bible College:
1st – The disciples were called “Christians”.
That word “Christian” literally means “Belonging to Christ”
2ndly – I learned that the disciples didn’t call themselves Christians… somebody else did that. Now, just reading the verse, you wouldn’t necessarily know who gave the disciples that name - but there have been certain scholars who have speculated that the name was intended as an insult by the Greeks or Romans of the city. (for example: John Gill)
I got to thinking about that, and that made no sense at all. If I intended to insult somebody I think I could come up with something a little more offensive than that. I mean, the whole purpose of an insult is to… offend people. How do you insult the followers of Christ… by calling them Christians? That makes no sense.
However, what I learned at Bible College was really neat. It appears that - in the Greek - the disciples weren’t labeled Christians by the Greeks or Romans. It seems more likely that they were named “Christians” by God Himself.
ILLUS: When the Bible speaks of someone or something being “called” something there are usually 2 different words Scripture uses. The first is the most common: the word “Kaleo”. It’s used nearly 150 times in the New Testament. For example in Luke 19:29 this Greek Word is used when we’re told that Jesus “…approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill CALLED the Mount of Olives …”
By contrast, Acts 11 uses a LESS common word – “chrematizo” (it’s only used 9 times in the Bible). And every time this Greek word occurs it’s used in combination with God. God “warns”… or God “reveals”… or God “admonishes”… or God simply “speaks”
If that’s true here in Act 11 that adds a whole new layer to this concept of us being “Christians”. It would imply that God has a special interest in what we’re called. It would mean that He WANTS US to have names that glorify our relationship with Jesus.
In fact, the Bible often describes the Church in the following terms:
· Church of GOD (Acts 20:28)
· Churches of CHRIST (Romans 16:16)
· Body of CHRIST (I Corinthians 12:27)
· House of GOD (Hebrews 10:21)
· And the Church of the FIRST BORN (Heb 12:23)
If you notice, each of these descriptive phrases glorifies the relationship of the church to the Father or the Son. These are names that God uses to describe His church. AND they are not denominational names. The Churches of Christ/Christian churches have long opposed - use of denominational names.
Now this gets to be a ticklish subject.
The term “denomination” simply means: “of a name”. And any church that calls itself any kind of a name could literally be referred to as a denomination.
But our objection has always been that many denominational names don’t point toward glorifying the Father or the Son.
· They either describe a distinctive practice of that denomination
· OR… they are names which point to a human teacher they admire.