Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 19, 1970

The Church Of God

B. G. Echols

When Paul wrote the saints in Corinth he addressed "the church of God" (I Cor. 1:2). This expression is not a formal name but a description of the "called out." As the Corinthians were dividing over human teachers, the apostle wants them to understand that the church belongs to God. "Of God" expresses His ownership. Paul uses this term extensively (I Cor. 10:32; 11:16, 22; 15:9; II Cor. 1:1). God owns the church since He planned it and set the members therein (I Cor. 12:18). It is the church "of God;" not the church of some human leader. It is devoted to His service. Paul's addressing the Corinthians as "of God" should have struck their consciences. Almost every word in his greeting should have showed them their sins.

As a scriptural description of the church, we should use the expression "church of God" to emphasize again and again the relationship we hold to God. The church is His; not ours. We must not use His church for our purposes or to gain glory to ourselves. Many churches today wear names that honor men, doctrines or forms of church government.

Sometimes, however, in our zeal for the "true name" we may become guilty of wresting the Scriptures. I have heard brethren argue for the name "church of Christ" on the basis that Christ is God (John 1 : 1), hence the expression "church of God" really means "church of Christ." Not only is this untrue, but it reveals a sectarian spirit about "our name." Anytime the word "God" appears, we must consider the context to determine to whom it refers. We cannot take a passage where "God" refers to Christ and conclude that it refers to Him every time it is used. A study of 1 Corinthians shows that Paul uses "God" to refer to the Father in distinction to the Son. He refers to the "church of God" which is "in Christ Jesus" (1:2). The next verse wishes them peace "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Verse four speaks of the "grace of God" given "in Christ Jesus." Thus the expression "church of God" states the relationship the church has to the Father, its owner and the one to whom it owes its service.

A church may have many problems and still belong to God. Notwithstanding their many blots, Paul calls the Corinthian brethren the church "of God." We must always be careful in drawing lines against brethren. We may class a group as no church "of God" because of some disunity or sin, while the apostle would still call them the church "of God." They may be in error surely, but still His.

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