The Importance Of Bible Names

W. Terry Varner
May 7, 2017

Christians are a people of the Book, the Bible. Christians look to the Bible for our beliefs, doctrine, and practice; Christians, unlike many other groups, are not permitted to determine what we will believe doctrinally and in practice, except for areas of opinion. We believe that the Bible only makes Christians only.

Religiously, this is generally is not so. Many, calling themselves Christians, accept and appeal to other books, authorities, and such like. Consequently, they will never be able to find a common ground for agreement concerning doctrine and practice. If we appeal to the Bible and the Bible only, we will believe the same and at the same time be pleasing God.

Names Are Important to God. One does not read far into the book of Genesis to see that God changed the name of Abram to Abraham (Gen. 17:5), Sari to Sara (Gen. 17:15), and Jacob to Israel (Gen. 35:10). Jesus changed Cephas’s name to Peter (John 1:42) and Saul of Tarsus’ name to Paul (Acts 13:9). If these names were important, then Bible names are of importance. The question we raise, if these names were suitable for the Holy Spirit to express, then for us to change Bible names is presumptuous, insolent, and disparaging. When we use Bible names for Bible things we are using Bible language or “pure speech.’

Why Is Calling Bible Things by Bible Names Important? Almost every group who call themselves Christians recognizes the biblical authority that was given to the apostles. Jesus Himself gave the apostles this authority. He promised them knowledge and guidance (John 14:26; 16:13) and gave them authority (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; John 20:23). The apostles were baptized with the Holy Spirit giving them all biblical authority (Acts 2) promised by Jesus. The apostles recognized they had this authority (1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Peter 3:15-16).

Applying Bible Names to Bible Things. This principle is applied in many areas. For example:

(1) The Name of the Church. The Bible uses several names to identify the church: the church (92 times), the Church of God (10 times; 1 Cor. 11:16; 1 Thess. 2:14), the Church of the Living God (1 Tim. 3:15), the Church of the First Bom (Heb. 12:23), the Churches of the Saints (1 Cor. 14:33), the Churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16). These are all Bible names used to describe the Christians who compose the church. I have heard of new churches starting in a community and the people polled the community to see what the people would like a church called. By what authority can we do this?

(2) The Name of Those Composing the Church. The Bible uses various names to identify the members composing the church. In the Bible, we find terms like disciples, saints, brethren, the way, believers, etc. Interestingly, it was not until Acts 11:26 that the term Christian was used referring to the members of the early church. It is also found two other times in the New Testament: Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. The question arises why? The answer is simple. The name Christian is the prophetic name new name called upon the redeemed by God—it was not a name they chose, nor a name called upon them by outsiders. The prophesy is: “And the nations [Gentiles] will see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory; ana you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will designate” (Isaiah 62:2). After the Gentiles were converted (Acts 10, the household of Cornelius), God called upon His redeemed the new name thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah of a new name. God used the apostle Paul to call the new name upon the Christians first in Antioch (Acts 11:26). This became the universal term and accepted term by which God’s children are known.