The Forum

The Forum


In what manner is the appellation Church of God to be distinguished from that of Church of Christ?


To the majority of saints the only approach to this proposition entails first an enquiry into any similarity that might exist between them, and then an enquiry into any distinctive feature which might distinguish them.

Similarities: These must be discovered by a comparison of Scriptures, consequently, we must examine the numerous passages in which references are found. Let us commence with the references to the Church of God. We shall endeavour to decide from the context which of the two aspects of the Church each passage deals with.

The local Church: “Take heed to all: the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God,” (Acts 20:28). “Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth,” (1 Cor. 1:2). “Despise ye the Church of God?” (1 Cor. 11:22). “Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth,” (2 Cor. 1:1). “For ye, brethren, became followers of the Churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thess. 2:14).

The Universal Church: “For I am… not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God,” (1 Cor. 15:9). “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God,” (1 Cor. 10:32). “Beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God and wasted it,” (Gal. 1:13). “The House of God, which is the Church of the Living God,’“ (1 Tim. 3:15). There is some disagreement as to which aspect of the Church is referred to here in this last passage; we give our judgment without dogmatism.

From the comparison of these Scriptures it becomes obvious that the name Church of God is used of both aspects of the Church.

Let us now in a similar manner list the Scriptures which deal with the Church of Christ. This appellation occurs very seldom, but from deduction we learn that in the first three passages on our list, We have the Church of Christ in its Universal aspect. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee but My Father which is in heaven… Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church,” (Matt. 16:17-18). “Christ is the Head of the Church… the Church is subject unto Christ… Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it… that He might present it to Himself.” (Eph. 5:23-27). “Fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body sake, which is the Church,” (Col. 1:24). The last reference which we shall list is very definitely the local aspect of the Church. “Salute one another with an holy kiss. The Churches of Christ salute you.” (Rom. 16:16). From the comparison of this list it is clear that both the Universal and the local aspects of the Church are spoken of as Church of Christ.

There must be a similarity in the use of the appellation Church of God and Church of Christ. There is an interchange of thought for the Universal Church is Church of God and also Church of Christ. In like manner the local Church is Church of God and Church of Christ.

Divergences: From many Scriptures we know that Christ is the Foundation and Corner Stone of the Church (Matt. 16:17-18; Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6), that the Holy Spirit is the Builder during this dispensation (Eph. 2:22), and that God indwells the Church (Eph. 2:22). Would not these facts therefore, suggest that the appellation Church of Christ suggests the structure and stability of the Church, whereas, the Church of God suggests its true character of holiness.


From these observations it becomes very obvious that the local church in its character must be an expression of the Universal, a minature of the entire gathering of all saints in Christ. With the indulgence of our readers I would copy the words of Mr. William Rodgers as they appear in his Notes on First Corinthians.

“This thought of responsibility indeed seems to underlie the use of the expression, “Church of God,” wherever we find it. Usually it has reference, as here, to the responsibility of those who compose it, but sometimes, as in Ch. 10:32, and Ch. 15:9, it suggests the solemn responsibility of all who interfere with that which is the property of God. Because of this, the term is peculiarly suited to the local assembly, since it is in this connection that most of our responsibilities are incurred; but to look on the phrase, merely as a badge to distinguish the local from the universal Church, is to miss the solemn message which the words ‘Of God’ are meant to convey. In some of the passages where it occurs, the local sense, it exists at all, is at least not prominent; and it seems a pity to tie up the clear distinction which the New Testament everywhere draws between the local assembly, and the whole Church of the dispensation, with a word or phrase; when in by far the greater part of the references to each, no such word or phrase occurs. Moreover, the use of the term (Body of Christ) in Ch. 12:27, where it is clear that exercise of gift in the local assembly is in view, and of ‘Church of God’ in Ch. 15:9, where we may be sure Saul was not too particular as to which assembly his victims were members of, should deter us from making a statement stronger than these passages warrant.”