Christ’s church goes by many, many different names in this day and time. The signs in front of Christian churches testify to the countless denominations that exist as well as thousands of independent or non-denominational groups. Christ’s church may indeed be hard to identify with a sign.

Wikipedia defines a Christian denomination as a “distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization and doctrine.” According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there were approximately 45,000 Christian denominations worldwide. That’s a lot of different names!

What does Scripture call Christ’s church?

how Scripture answers "What is Christ’s church called?"

an answer short on commentary and long on Scripture as footnoted1 | please contribute with your comment at the bottom

Scripture makes reference to Christ’s church in several ways.  It’s referred to as the “church of God”1,2,7,10, the “household of God”4, the “household of faith”9, the “church of Christ”5, and possibly “the Way”8. However, it is most often referred to as simply the “church at [location]”3,6.

In fact, it may be more important (or at least more telling) to note that Christ’s church is never explicitly named in Scripture (unlike, for example, what disciples were called in Acts 11:26). Instead, we find several descriptors or qualifiers around simply “the church”1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following passages and their BSF application

1

From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia.

Paul and Timothy address the church in Corinth that contained all saints in Achaia.

Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.

How does it inform?

Paul refers to the Corinthian church as the church of God. He makes the same reference in 1 Corinthians (1:2 and several more times in the letter).

Does it apply? Yes

2

For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I was savagely persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it.

[Paul’s] life in Judaism was well known, that he viciously persecuted the church of God and wanted to destroy it.

Paul’s opening in his letter to the church in Galatia.

How does it inform?

Paul referred to the church (not one location in particular) as the church of God.

Does it apply? Yes

3

2:1 – To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the following:
(with subsequent verses: “church in Smyrna”, “church in Pergamum”, “church in Thyatira”, “church in Sardis”, “church in Philadelphia”, “church in Laodicea”)

Message addressed to an angel of several churches in different locations.

John’s vision on Patmos and somewhat of a prelude in the first three chapters where Jesus, in heaven, addresses a letter/message to the seven churches in the province of Asia.

How does it inform?

The seven churches are referred to by Jesus as simply the “church in [location].”

Does it apply? Yes

4

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you in case I am delayed to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God, because it is the church of the living God, the support and bulwark of the truth.

[Paul] is hoping to come soon, but in the meantime is writing instructions for how members of the church ought to conduct themselves as they are the “support and bulwark” of truth.

Paul’s letter to a young preacher, Timothy.

How does it inform?

Paul refers to the church as the “household of God.”

Does it apply? Yes

5

Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Greet each other with a holy kiss.  All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Paul’s closing in his letter to the church in Rome.

How does it inform?

Paul refers to all of the local, individual congregations as the “churches of Christ.”

Does it apply? Yes

6

And Saul agreed completely with killing him.  Now on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were forced to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. Some devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was trying to destroy the church; entering one house after another, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

Saul agreed with killing him, and on the same day persecution began against the church in Jerusalem.  As a result, all the Christians scattered throughout Judea and Samaria except for the apostles who remained in Jerusalem. The death of Stephen was mourned while Saul continued persecuting the church, taking Christians from their homes and imprisoning them.

The church has grown in Jerusalem since the Day of Pentecost along with opposition from the Jewish leaders. Stephen, a Deacon in the church, has just been arrested and stoned.

How does it inform?

The only congregation at this point in time is referred to as the “church in Jerusalem.” Later, we see in Acts 13:1 (“church at Antioch”), Romans 16:1 (“church at Cenchreae”) and Colossians 4:16 (“church of Laodicea”)

Does it apply? Yes

7

Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

Watch out for yourselves and the entire church.  The Holy Spirit made you caretakers of the church of God which he purchased with the blood of his Son.

Paul is meeting with the elders of the church in Ephesus on the beach before boarding a ship back to Jerusalem.

How does it inform?

Paul refers specifically to the congregation meeting in Ephesus as the “church of God.”

Does it apply? Yes

8

So Paul entered the synagogue and spoke out fearlessly for three months, addressing and convincing them about the kingdom of God. But when some were stubborn and refused to believe, reviling the Way before the congregation, he left them and took the disciples with him, addressing them every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

Paul (and company) preached in the synagogue for three months about the kingdom of God.  However, some were stubborn, refused to believe and spoke out publicly against “the Way.”  As a result, Paul and the disciples left them (the Jews in the synagogue) and preached everyday in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

Paul has travelled to Ephesus in the midst of his second missionary journey.  He remains in Ephesus preaching for two years (vs 10).  “God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands,” (vs 11) and the success of the gospel was known throughout so that “a great disturbance took place concerning the Way.” (vs 23)

How does it inform?

Twice in the text the writer (Luke) refers to the believers in Ephesus as “the Way” – although it’s not entirely clear if that is referencing the specific group meeting in Ephesus or the Christ movement that was sweeping the region/world at the time.

Does it apply? Possibly

9

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Whenever you have the opportunity, do good to all people but especially those of the household of faith.

Paul is encouraging Christians in the churches of Galatia to resist false teachers and remain faithful to their calling in Christ Jesus.

How does it inform?

Paul refers to the broader church (sometimes referred to as the “universal church” vs the “local church”) as the “household of faith”.

Does it apply? Yes

10
Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
Therefore we boast about you in the churches of God for your endurance and faith in spite of your many persecutions and afflictions.

Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica.

How does it inform?

Paul refers to all of the other local congregations as “churches of God”.

Does it apply? Yes

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If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

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