The Name of the Church
NCW 7, December 1993
Q. Why are you called the "New Covenant Church of God"? Shouldn't you be called the "Church of Christ" or the "Church of Jesus Christ" if you are Christians? How can you then be the only true Church? [from a Mormon]
This is an interesting question. As you know, Christian denominations have, for the most part, called themselves names that have little or nothing to do with the name of the Church established by Christ in the New Testament.
If you search the New Testament carefully you will find that the Church established by Christ was called, collectively, the CHURCH OF GOD (Ac.20:28; 1 Cor.1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Cor.1:1; Gal.1:13; 1 Tim.3:5) or the individual congregations called the CHURCHES OF GOD (1 Cor.11:16; 1 Thess.2:14; 2 Thess.1:4). Nowhere in the New Testament is it collectively called the "Church of Christ" and in only one place are the congregations called the "churches of Christ" (Rom.16:16).
Whilst the Church is certainly Christ's (Matt.16:18), what is Christ's is also God's. Jesus Himself prayed that the Church -- the fellowship of the saints -- would be kept in the Father's Name. In His High Priestly prayer, just before He was seized to be crucified, He said:
The Name of God is of vital importance. Honouring it is one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus honoured the Name of His Father, Yahweh, just as we do. The apostles honoured the Name of God by calling the Church Jesus established The Church of God (i.e. the Church/Assembly/Congregation of Yahweh) twelve times in the New Testament.
"I have revealed Your Name to those whom You gave Me out of the world. They were Yours...I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your Name -- the Name You gave Me -- so that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I protected them and kept them safe in Your Name..." (John 17:6,11-12, NIV)
The name of the Church precisely identifies whose it is -- God's Church. And it has always kept that name. Christ is the living head of that Church, its High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek (Heb.5:10). It is the same Church that existed in the wilderness in the days of Israel (Acts 7:38), the (Old Covenant) Church of God. With a change of covenant, the former Church became the NEW COVENANT CHURCH OF GOD (Jer.31:31; Matt.26:28; Mark 14:24; 2 Cor.3:6; Heb.8:8,13; 9:15; 12:24).
The Church of God, moreover, is made up of several parts, just as the Godhead consists of several persons. Paul greets "the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess.1:1; 2 Thess.1:1) showing in fact that the Church belongs to God the Father and God the Son, as the scriptures verily teach. And therefore the NEW COVENANT CHURCH OF GOD has two divisions, namely, the New Covenant Church of the Father (or Holy Order/Chavurah Bekorot) and the New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ (or Church of Christ), consisting of the local colonies. We also speak of a Church of the Holy Spirit which embraces all those who have been truly born again of the Holy Spirit, irrespective of denomination. We are but one part of this Universal Church, or Body of Christ.
Most Churches name themselves after distinctive features -- the "Baptist Church" after water baptism, the "Pentecostal Church" after the Day of Pentecost and the speaking in tongues, the "Roman Catholic Church" after its headquarters and claim to universal authority, the "Orthodox Church" because it regards itself as being truly orthodox, the "Protestant Church" because it protested against the Catholic Church, the "Church of England" after a country, the "Lutheran Church" after its founder, the "Seventh Day Adventist Church" after the Sabbath Day, the "Jehovah's Witnesses" after God's (supposed) Name, "Evangelical Churches" because they are evangelical, and so on.
Few have called themselves after the true scriptural designation, though many have claimed to. The Mormons began by calling themselves the "Church of Christ", then changed to the "Church of the Latter Day Saints", then the "Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints" before finally arriving at the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". Many different Latter-day Saint denominations (over 100) call themselves by similar names, such as the "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints", the second biggest LDS denomination.
Few Churches are called "The Church of God" today. One, a Pentecostal Church formed by A.J.Tomlinson for blacks, renamed itself the "Church of God of Prophecy", again focusing on one aspect of the Gospel, viz. prophecy (although there is little prophecy evident). Another breakoff of Tomlinson's Church is called the "New Testament Church of God", the nearest one to the actual Biblical name though in structure and doctrine very different in many respects from the Church described in the New Testament. Another American negro church is called the "Apostolic Overcoming Holy Church of God".
Another Church, formed by Herbert J. Armstrong (of Plain Truth fame), is called the "Worldwide Church of God" ("Worldwide" being yet another name addition), and a break-off Church formed by his son is called the "Church of God International".
Perhaps the best known denomination using the designation "Church of God" are the "Assemblies of God", a Pentecostal movement.
The list is never-ending. Church denominations are multiplying prodigiously in the late 20th century to such an extent that it is impossible to in the end know them all by name. They come and go, change and evolve, in structure, form, doctrine and name.
On its own, however, a name is of secondary importance to what a Church actually is and does. Nevertheless, a church claiming to be based on the one established by Christ and the apostles ought to have the same name.
The NEW COVENANT CHURCH OF GOD is more than a name, however. It is an attempted restoration in every respect of the Church described in the New Testament. In truth it could regard itself as "apostolic" (for it has apostles and gives apostolic ministry), as "baptist" (for it baptises by immersion), as "pentecostal" (for it believes in the gifts of the Holy Spirit), as "latter-day saint" (for it is made up of saints gathered in the latter days of our dispensation), as "witnesses of Jehovah (Yahweh)" (for it witnesses of God's Name), as "evangelical" (for if possesses evangelists and is missionary-oriented), as "seventh-day adventist" (for it observes the sabbath), as "prophetic" (for it possesses prophets and prophetic ministry), as "orthodox" (for it teaches Biblical orthodoxy), as "catholic" (for it is a universal church), and so on. And yet it resembles none of the denominations which use these names for it claims to represent the WHOLENESS of God's Church.
So what is the New Covenant Church of God? Is it just another denomination? Does it have exclusive authority as some denominations claim for their own Churches? Does it see itself as a part of the greater "Body of Christ"?
New Covenant Christians (members of the New Covenant Church of God) believe that the Church of God has always been on the earth. It has never been taken away. Jesus Himself said so when He declared: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matt.16:18, NIV).
Denominations claiming exclusive authority frequently speak of an "apostasy" removing the true Church from the earth and its "authority" being taken back to heaven. But Jesus said that the Church would always be on the earth in one form or an other. (It is interesting that the Mormons, who claim that the "Church of Jesus Christ" was withdrawn from the earth in its totality -- authority, priesthood, etc., -- until Joseph Smith "restored" it, still claim that the apostle John and three American apostles from New Testament times have been on the earth ever since this "apostasy", and must, by their definition, possess "authority" and "priesthood" -- the "true Church" must still therefore be here. And if so, why was a "restoration" needed?).
Other denominations, like the Seventh Day Adventists and Worldwide Church of God appeal to their most correct doctrine as giving them authority, and therefore invite unbelievers and believers from other denominations to embrace their Church. Others, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, claim that they alone are the only true "channel" to heaven and that everyone outside their organisation will be destroyed. The Roman Catholics, by contrast, claim that no apostasy ever took place and that it, and it alone, stands in line of true apostolic succession, and therefore alone possesses the "keys of the Kingdom" given to St.Peter.
The New Covenant Church of God maintains none of these positions. It certainly believes that an "apostasy" or "falling away" has taken place (2 Thess.2:3) but does not see this as a single event or group of events in one historical period of time. We believe apostasy has always been present, and always will be present in the world and in Christian Churches, to differing degrees, until Christ returns and fully orders His Church.
Neither do we believe that we are the one and only "true church". We do not believe that authority is exclusively vested in us as Mormons and Catholics might. We believe that whilst denominationalism is to be greatly regretted, that it is, in truth, an inevitable consequence of the human condition. Denominationalism is a reflection of man's own fragmented soul, his fragmented possession of the fullness of the Gospel, and (most importantly) his lack of Christian love and virtue. Denominationalism is therefore something to be tolerated until "a unity of the faith" (Eph.4:13) takes place at the consummation of this age.
There are, in Christendom, small nuclei of what we would call "true Christians" who, whilst perhaps not possessing the fullness, possess sufficient light as to be the gathering points of the true and faithful for the gathering of God's people at the last day. Like grains of light scattered throughout the denominations, THEY are the true Church of God. They are that Church of God that has been on the earth since time immemorial, scattered by the Lord as yeast amongst the Churches.
The New Covenant Church of God is a special gathering of these people as well as a training centre for those returning to their denominations as leaven. The New Covenant Church of God is both a "denomination" -- an organisation with a highly developed doctrine and practice -- as well as a servant to other churches. Its spiritual calling is utterly unique, its mission largely hidden in terms of identity with its name.
You will therefore find it difficult, if not impossible, to "label" or "define" us for the New Covenant Church of God is not hidebound by the norms and rules of men and their traditions. Even the word "Church" is understood somewhat differently by us from that associated with most, if not all, church denominations. We have outer forms, but we are not bound by them. At our heart, though, is the LAW OF GOD -- immutable, unchangeable, uncontainable -- the New Covenant which God is writing into men's and women's hearts (Jer.31:31). That is God's New Covenant Church.
This page was created on 18 April 1998
Last updated on 18 April 1998
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