Why Were They Called Churches of Christ?

Text: Romans 16:16

Paul referred to the congregations with which he was associated as “churches of Christ.” Many brethren, in an effort to follow the New Testament pattern, have also used this to identify local churches. But some have tried to distance themselves from this name. Our desire must be to please Christ and serve Him faithfully. So let us consider this question: Why were they called “churches of Christ”?

The Universal Church is “of Christ”

  • There is just one church in the universal sense (Matthew 16:18) – built by Christ (Matthew 16:18); bought by Christ (Acts 20:28); body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23); bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23, 32); therefore, it is “of Christ
  • Local churches were called “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16)
  • The universal church has no organizational structure on earth – it is simply the body of the saved (Acts 2:47)
  • But the fact that THE church is of Christ naturally means that local churches are also “of Christ” (cf. Acts 20:28)

The Members Are “of Christ”

  • The apostles were charged in the Great Commission to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) – disciples of whom? … not of the apostles, but of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 1:12-13)
  • Paul gave three reasons why we are to be “of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13) – Christ wants us to be united in Him (John 17:20-21); Christ was crucified for us (Hebrews 10:10); we were baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4)

The Churches Are Not Part of Anything Else

  • Most local congregations in the religious world are part of a larger denomination (not “of Christ“) – ex: the ___ Baptist Church is part of the Baptist denomination
  • There were no denominations in the first century church (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)
  • Elders were to oversee the flock among them (1 Peter 5:2) – they were accountable to Christ (1 Peter 5:4), not to some larger hierarchy

The Churches Uphold the Truth “of Christ”

  • Paul described the church as “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) – context indicates that this was the local church (1 Timothy 3:1-13)
  • Uphold the truth by teaching the truth (1 Thessalonians 1:8; Acts 20:27)
  • Uphold the truth by practicing the truth (Colossians 3:17; John 4:24)
  • We should expect uniformity of doctrine/practice (1 Corinthians 4:17) – not because a “conference” decided on it, but because we hold to the same standard (2 Timothy 1:13)

Nothing More Accurate Than “Churches of Christ”

  • “Church in ___” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14) – ekklesia is a generic term (Acts 19:41); what does it mean? … what kind of church is this?
  • “Christians Meet Here” – meet for what purpose?
  • “Church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1) – true, but what person of God? … Christ (Acts 20:28)
  • “Church of Christ” – no other name better describes to us and to the world what a local church ought to be


  • If a church cannot be accurately described as a “church of Christ,” it is not a sound church
  • If a church is hesitant to call itself a “church of Christ,” you cannot help but wonder why

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