By Jim Sparks
What about names and titles? One big difference between the early New Testament churches and the modern day churches is that none of the churches in the Bible had names, and all the ones I know of today do. You might think, well, that is one of those areas of liberty that I mentioned earlier, that God isn’t bothered by it. But, is it? Remember, if God has something to say about it, then we shouldn’t take liberties in the matter, but we should do what God says.
Notice that in the Scriptures, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, or to the church at Ephesus, and so on. Dozens of churches mentioned in the Bible, and it was always to the “saints” at Jerusalem, or to the “brethren” at Colosse, etc. Never was there a name like “Grace Baptist Church” or “Bethel Methodist Church” or whatever. Never. You say, “It’s no big deal. That’s a matter of liberty, and it has to be that way in modern times.” Well, God knew these modern times would come when He wrote it 2000 years ago. And, If He said we are to do it a certain way, then we should do it that way.
In speaking of the church in Matt 18:15-20, Jesus states in verse 20, “For where two or three are gathered together IN MY NAME, there am I in the midst of them.” Notice that He says “in my name”. Whose name? The Baptist name? The Methodist name? The Pentecostal name, or whatever the name of your church is? NO. He said “in MY name.” In the name of Jesus we are to meet.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together,” (I Cor. 5:4. Are we to gather together in a sectarian name, the name of the church or the denominational name? Whose name are we to gather? IN HIS NAME.
Col 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do) all IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” ( This is a command of God that whatever we do, we are to do it in the name of Jesus.) (“In His name” means by His authority.) So, are you serving in His name or are you serving in the name of your church and your denomination?
And IN HIS NAME shall the Gentiles trust (Matt 12:21). But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send IN MY NAME, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26. (He will send the Holy Ghost not in a denominational name, but in the name of Jesus Christ).
And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call ON THE NAME OF THE LORD shall be saved (Acts 2:21). There’s just something about that Name. Why then do we want to add other names with it? I believe it makes God jealous, for He said He is a jealous God. He may even see it as spiritual adultery. Wouldn’t you men be jealous if when you married your wife, she didn’t want to take on your last name, but wanted to take on another one instead? And it is not much better, as many women do, when they do take the husband’s last name, they keep their last name too. Then they have both. No, the correct way is that they lose their last name and identity and take on the husband’s name, because she becomes part of the husband. The two become one body, one flesh. So, is it with the Lord. He is the head and we are the body. We take upon ourselves his name and we shouldn’t be adding other names to it. You say, “Aha! But we as individuals have names.” Don’t be silly. The church is His body, and we shouldn’t be saying let us come together and make another name for ourselves “the body”.
I know, you are saying that it is all semantics. But, it is more important than you think. (The Devil tempted Eve through semantics.) Furthermore, the Bible says that those who claim to be of Christ and who identify themselves with other names, are carnal and walking in the flesh. II Cor 1:10-13 says, “Now I beseech you, brethren, BY THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; (sects or denominations) but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? (denominated?) was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” We all know that the church at Corinth was very carnal. Paul had to straighten these people out on many things. One problem they had was becoming cliquish (divided or denominated). These people were trying to invent the first denominations. Thus began sectarianism in the church. (the beginning of religious sects or subgroups). Some in the church said “I am of Paul”, others “I am of Cephas (Peter)”, some “I am of Apollos”, and some were correct by saying “I am of Christ.” But many wanted to identify themselves with men rather than Christ. No doubt the reason for them choosing a man to identify with was that the person was probably saved by that particular man’s ministry and probably baptized by him. “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” Then he said, “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel”(II Cor 1:14-17). Notice, that Paul seems to be saying that people that he had personally led to the Lord and baptized were denominating or dividing themselves unto him, as did others unto whomever ministered to them. Thus, they wanted to become followers of Paul, and could be called “Paulites”. Those who favored Apollo could have been called “Apollites”, and those of Peter; “Cephites or Cephists” or whatever you want to call them. Silly you say. Well, no sillier than today. Today, people likewise say, “I am of the Baptist”, or “I am of the “Methodist”, or “I am of the Catholics”,etc. (Did you know that most denominations were started by a man?) Baptist could say, “I am of John Smyth (first to start a Baptist church).” I have even heard some Baptists say, “we are of John the Baptist”. The Methodists could say, “We are of John Wesley” (founder of the Methodists), and so on and so on.
Furthermore, those of any denominational group might become even more divided or denominated by saying, “I am of the Independent Fundamental Baptist;” or “I am of the Southern Baptist;” or “General Baptist” or any of dozens of other Baptist groups. The Methodist could do the same as well as all other denominations. People seem to think that the more they divide, the more spiritual they are, but God says just the opposite; that the more one divides, the more carnal they become. Well, Paul rebuked them for it, and in I Cor. 3, he says they are carnal because of their divisions and identifications with men. (Please take note that these Corinthians were identifying themselves with good men, such as Paul, Peter, Apollos, etc., but nevertheless, they were rebuked for it, and rebuked for it by those good men. Evidently, only bad men or ignorant men would allow men to divide unto them, because it will make them, the followers, carnal). “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, [even] as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able [to bear it], neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas [there is] among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not CARNAL?” (I Cor. 1:1-4). Notice this time he did not include “I of Christ”, as he did in I Cor 1:12-13. Only those who divide over men, Paul, Apollos, and so on, are carnal).
So, making application to modern times, the Word of God says here in principle, that when you say I am a Baptist, or I am a Methodist, or I am a Pentecostal, and so on, you are carnal and not spiritual. When you say “I am a (whatever) and proud of it” as I hear many that do, you are carnal. That’s not my judgment, but God’s. If you divide unto a sectarian name, then you are carnal. God said whatever you do in word or deed, do in his (Jesus) name. Where two or three meet in HIS name (JESUS), he will be in the midst. Why do we want to add two or three other names to His name to meet under? This should apply to today as it did then. Has His Word changed? Why are churches carnal today while the world is going to Hell? They serve in other names along with his name, and become followers of men, and the world knows it. You know that is true. When a Baptist, for example, goes out to witness or visit someone as a prospect, they say, “I am John Doe, from Such and Such Baptist Church, and I would like to invite you to church. That person usually thinks, “Well, you want to make me a Baptist.” I will tell you from experience that it is a lot easier to go out in the Baptist name and invite someone to church than it is to just go in His name and say, “I’m a Christian (a follower of Christ), and I want to talk to you about Christ.” They realize then that you are trying to get them to join Jesus and not the Baptist. You know, maybe if you’re honest, you would admit that you are a little ashamed of His name, and it’s a lot easier to represent or hide behind the Baptist name or the name of your church than His name. Maybe you don’t want to be persecuted. He said you would be for his name’s sake. “And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name’s sake:” (Matt10:22). Most people in this country are either Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals or whatever. It is easy for anybody to be one of these. But, are they of Jesus? Do they love Jesus? Do they follow Jesus? Do they serve Jesus? When I die, I don’t want on my tombstone, “Baptist born and Baptist bred, and now I’m finally Baptist dead”. No, I want it to say “a servant of the Lord Jesus”, or ” a follower of the Lord Jesus”. How can you love and serve two masters? The Bible says you can’t. Whose name will you serve? In the name of Jesus? Or, in some man-made denominational name? “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served………BUT AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD” (Josh 24:15) .
Most all denominations started within the past 400 years and most coming within the past 200-300 years. Almost 2000 years since Christ, and almost all denominations were started in the past 200-300 years. So, what did we have during the first 1700 years since the first New Testament churches? The corrupt Roman Catholic Church, and the real church, which met underground most of the time. That was it, for the first 1700 years. There were no others. What were the names or denominational titles of the real churches? They had none. As people, they were referred to only by their geographical or ethical names. (As the Galatians were in the Bible) So, most all denominational titles we have today are recently new. That may correspond with a statement that Paul made, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a FALLING AWAY FIRST” (II Thes. 2:3).
You say it is not that big of a deal to add the name Baptist, Methodist (or whatever). Well, if it is not such a big deal, then why is it so important to you? Why will you not fellowship with a person if he is not the same as you? A person might say, “I am not of any denomination. I am just a Christian. I’m saved by grace. I believe the Bible from cover to cover and follow the Lord Jesus.” You find out he believes similar to the way you believe. Many would say, “Well, I’m sorry. You’re not of my denomination so I can’t fellowship with you.” You see, if you’re honest you would admit that you would rather fellowship with someone of your denomination who differs on Scriptural matters, than you would a person who believes the same Scripturally as you, but is not of your denomination. It does mean more than you think. You say, “Well, I identify with people of my denomination, because it gives me security in what is believed.” But, friend I have found out the hard way that all people in the same denomination don’t believe the same. Many differ over salvation and other major doctrines among themselves. Why can’t saved people just be Christians and separate from those who believe wrong on Bible doctrines? Let the others make up names for themselves.
You say, “Well, ‘Christian’ is a title.” It may have gotten to be that way, but, it was really a descriptive word that was given by their enemies describing those who followed Christ. “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” The word meant “Christ-like”. The word was only mentioned 3 times in the Bible. Saved people were most commonly called “saints”(98 times), “brethren”(542 times), “disciples” (259 times), and many other descriptive terms. But, nowhere did they take one of these terms and give it to their group as a title to meet under. They met in the name of Jesus, and His name only. Now, any of the words, Christians, saints, brethren, and so on, represented all the saved. Now, does Baptist, Methodists, whatever, stand for all the saved? Of course not. Not all Baptist are saved, and there are saved people who are not Baptist. But, all Christians are saved. All saints are saved. All brethren are saved. Another example. Jesus only has one name, Jesus. That is his name. His name is not Jesus Christ. Jesus is His name, and Christ is His title. “Christ” is a Greek word which means “messiah”(Hebrew), which means “anointed one”. Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus the Anointed One, or Jesus the Christ. When we are called “Christians”, then we are being referred to as “christ-like”, or “anointed ones”. He does have other descriptive titles: “and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace, etc .” They are different titles, but they all refer to JESUS. Now, is Baptist a title for Jesus? No. Is Methodist a title for Jesus? No. Is Jesus a Baptist or a Methodist? Say no! And No, they’re not titles for saved people either. Why then do we want to be called by and meet in or under those names? You say, “Because they describe us.” So, you would rather be called Baptists than Christians? The Baptists would rather be referred to as “baptizers” (that’s what the word means) than “Christ-like”? The Methodists prefer to be identified as “methodical” than “Christ-like”? The word “Christian” means “Christ-like”. We are to serve in His name and we do that as a Christian, or one who is Christ- like (or “anointed-like”) which associates us with Him. The descriptive word “saint” means “holy, sanctified, or set apart” which we have been in the Lord. The word “disciple” means “follower” which we are, followers of Jesus. The word “brethren” means “brothers”, which we are in the Lord, the word “believers” means we are believers in Him, and so on. But, these were Scriptural descriptive words for saved people, all saved people. And even some of these descriptive words have been taken and used as names or titles for some denominations (When capitalized). But, “is Christ divided?” NO! “Is His body divided?” NO! All saved people are “brethren”, “believers”, “saints”, and “christians”. Maybe we like these nonscriptural, organizational man-made names because they build us up. We want to make a name for ourselves so everybody will know us. We want everybody in town to know the name of our church. We want the church’s name on pens, paper, tracts, ads, caps, T-shirts, etc. Churches have become like businesses. Are we to lift up our name or the name of Jesus? Remember, the early churches didn’t have to worry about it because they didn’t have names to lift up. Even recently, I saw on the front page of the paper a picture of a large city celebration. There were many of those large air balloons you ride in, with each having an advertisement on it to fly high above the city. One of the large balloons said, “Such and Such Church, rising high to meet the needs of Louisville.” It made me laugh. How silly. They were advertising the name of their church, and saying that it could meet the needs of Louisville. Notice, they didn’t say anything about Jesus, and that Jesus could meet the needs of the city. “Well, that was inferred.” Don’t think so. I’ll tell you, it was a lot easier for them to promote their church name than it is Jesus’ name. The problem could be they are ashamed to proclaim His name publicly. To put on the balloon “Jesus, rising high to meet the needs of Louisville” might raise a few eye brows and offend a few people. Besides, if they wrote that alone, that particular church probably wouldn’t get any credit for it. So, truth of the matter is, they were trying to make a name for themselves and not for Jesus. Are we to lift up our name or the name of Jesus? Remember the early church didn’t have to worry about it because they didn’t have names to lift up, but His. Nimrod had this problem in Gen 11:4. Why did they want to build the Tower of Babel? Because of spiritual pride and to make a name for themselves. “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name,” They wanted to make a name for themselves. They wanted to be known. They wanted to be famous.
Christians should want to lift up the name of Jesus Christ, not their own. The name of John the Baptist was getting so popular that he said, “He must increase , but I [must] decrease” (John 3:30). Let me ask you, which name are you increasing and which one are you decreasing? The name of your church? name of the Baptist? or the name Jesus? (I’ve heard some Baptists say they get their Baptist name from John the Baptist, that it is a Scriptural name. Well, then do as John said and let his decrease, and increase the name of Jesus.) Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [ men ] unto me.” Lift up His name and you will draw men to him. Lift up the name of your church or denomination and you will draw men away from him. Jesus gave us a perfect example. He didn’t even try to lift up his own name while on earth. When Jesus was on earth, He said that he didn’t come in his name, but the name of the Father. “I am come in my Father’s name , and ye receive me not:” (John 5:42). He didn’t glorify his own name, but the name of the Father. “Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:28). But, now things are different. God has glorified Jesus and WE are to come and go, not in the Father’s name, but in the name of Jesus. We are to glorify the name of Jesus. We are to meet in His name. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” “In the name of our lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together…” (II Cor 5:4). “We do.” Yes, but you also meet in other names, too. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do) all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Col 3:17). So, my friend, be careful you don’t glorify and lift up other names, because, God is a jealous God. He is jealous of anything concerning His Son, Jesus. Why, do we want to take anything away from His name? We do when we add other names to it. “… for I the LORD thy God [am] a JEALOUS God” (Ex 20:5). “….the LORD thy God [is]a consuming fire, [even]a jealous God (Deut 4:23). “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy:” (II Cor. 11:2).
What about titles for men? You sure hear many of them in and around the modern day church, such as, Brother, Sister, Reverend, Doctor, Pastor, etc. But, what does the Scriptures say about this? In Job 32:21-22, it says, “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; [in so doing] my maker would soon take me away.” Jesus also condemned it. Speaking of the Pharisees, Jesus said they “love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, [even] Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, [even] Christ.” (Matt 23:7-10). Jesus is saying that they were not to call any man Rabbi, Master, or Father, which were spiritual titles for teachers and authoritative spiritual leaders. Then, He added that they were not to allow others to call them by those titles. He said in verse 6 and 7 that the Pharisees loved these flattering titles. After saying this, do you think Jesus would call a minister today, Doctor Jones or Reverend Smith? No, He would not! He said we are not to have religious titles, and we are not to call other men by them. Did you know that most people today would be offended if you did not put “Brother” or “Doctor” or some other title before their name? Certainly many preachers would. They would say that it is a lack of respect. But, in the Bible no one had these titles before their names. It wasn’t Doctor Paul, or Reverend Paul or even Brother Paul; it was just Paul. Just Peter, James, and John. Just plain Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Now, I know Paul and some of the others were apostles, and we all say “Apostle Paul” and “Apostle John”, and so forth. That is tradition, but unscriptural. The word “apostle” in the Bible is never capitalized and never used as a title. You will not find it before any person’s name as in Apostle Paul or the Apostle Peter. Nowhere. Look it up. Just Paul. Just Peter. Otherwise, the Bible would be inconsistent.But, God’s Word is consistent. Jesus is the only one who deserves a title, and that is Lord, or Christ, as in Lord Jesus or Lord Jesus Christ. These others didn’t feel they deserved titles. Yea, but tradition today has won out. It doesn’t matter what the Bible says; we are going to follow tradition. We are still going to give men spiritual titles. “That’s the way it’s always been done, and everybody does it that way.” The Pharisees would agree with you.