A church by any other name . . .

Lukes church words.jpg

Here's word cloud of Luke's terms for the followers of Jesus in Acts. The larger the word, the more he uses it.

The word church is just one term that Luke used to describe the communities of Jesus’ followers. Luke described Jesus’ followers as the church, saints, the disciples, Christians, the people, believers, the brothers (the term includes both male and female), and those who belong to the Way. The most common terms he used were the church, the brothers, and the disciples.

Luke doesn’t mention the word church until Acts 5:11. In Acts 2 he used other terms to describe God’s people: those who received the word, those who believed, and those who are being saved.

The word we translate as church can mean a gathering of people for any purpose. Using the word church enabled Jesus’ followers to distinguish their gatherings from those in the Jewish synagogues and those in the pagan temples. It also enabled Jesus’ followers to retain their link with God’s people in the Old Testament. The same word was used in the Greek Old Testament for the gatherings of God’s people.

Another term used to describe Jesus’ followers was "Christians" (belonging to, or followers of Christ). You'll find it under the letter "e" in "Disciples."

The term "Christians" was coined for the first time in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Previously, Jesus’ followers were regarded a faction of Judaism. In Antioch, for the first time large numbers of Gentiles were converting without becoming Jews. The term Christian set them apart as being neither pagan Gentiles nor a Jewish sect, but a separate movement founded by Jesus.

The terms we use to describe the Christian movement are important, but not nearly as important as the reality they describe.