What should those who are in the church be called as a people?

When added by the Lord to His church, a person has been born into the family of God (John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:23; Acts 2:36-41, 47). God is the Father of those in His spiritual family (2 Corinthians 6:18). The relationship of those who are in God’s family to one another is similar to that of siblings in a physical family. Thus, the terms, “brother” and “sister” are not formal titles, but rather pertain to a family relationship. Although there is certainly nothing wrong for those in Christ to refer to one another as brother or sister, still it is not to be used as a formal address.

Just as a physical family has its family name, so do the children of God. During the patriarchal age, Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, received a new name given unto him by the Lord. That name was Israel, which means prince of God (Genesis 32:28; 35:10; and 2 Kings 17:34). He was the father of twelve sons whose descendants became known as the twelve tribes of Israel (Exodus 5:1-2). As a people the Jews were called Israelites, meaning the children of the prince of God (Joshua 13:6). In speaking of these same people as a nation, it became the nation of Israel (2 Samuel 7:23). It was during the Jewish dispensation that the prophet Isaiah foretold that the family of God would receive a new name when Gentiles saw the righteousness of God (were converted) (Isaiah 62:2). After the Gentile household of Cornelius obeyed the gospel (Acts 10), obedient believers in Christ were called Christians (Acts 11:26). This was the new name given by the mouth of the Lord. We are to glorify God in the name Christian and in no other name (1 Peter 4:16; Acts 26:28). To be a Christian is to be a follower and learner of Jesus Christ. Salvation is found only in the name of Christ in whom we honor as Christians (Acts 4:12).

There are other scriptural terms pertaining to the family of God, but these are not a proper name or a family name. For example: A man whose name is John Brown includes both a given name and a family name. If Mr. Brown’s occupation is farming, then it is correct to refer to him as farmer Brown. The word “farmer” is not his name, but depicts his occupation. In a similar manner, the following terms are descriptive, but do not fall in a category of a given name or a family name. Some of these terms are: sons of God (Romans 8:14); disciples (John 8:31,32); brethren (Ephesians 6:23); saints (2 Corinthians 1:1); children of God (Galatians 3:26); a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3); a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).

--Dub Mowery

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