What’s in a Name?

When you think about a church and why you should go to a church, the name, oftentimes, can tell you a lot about the church. In many cases, the name simply reflects the city or town in which the church resides. “Sutton Bible Church,” or “Sutton Community Church.” This identifies the church with a community or town. Sometimes a church is named for the street on which it sits, for example “Main Street Presbyterian Church,” or “First Avenue Baptist Church.”

However, in other cases, great care is given to naming a church. Each component of the name means something special, or carries a meaning significant to the identity of the church. That’s the case with Emmanuel Reformed Church. Let’s unpack each of these components of our church’s name.


Emmanuel

The name “Emmanuel” (sometimes spelled “Immanuel”) comes from the Bible. Consider this verse from the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV): Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

This prophecy is taken up in the Gospel of Matthew and applied to Jesus at the prediction of His birth:

Matthew 1:23 (NKJV): Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Note Matthew’s additional editorial comment: “which translated means ‘God with us.’”

The name “Emmanuel” means “God with us,” and that is what we believe the church of Jesus Christ is. The church is made up of people in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. The church is the body of Christ, which is in union with our risen Savior. When we gather each and every Sunday for worship, we believe that “God is with us.” Present not only as the church gathers, but also as God the Holy Spirit indwells His people.


Reformed

“Reformed” identifies theological distinctions as compared to other Protestant denominations (in general), and with the Roman Catholic Church (in particular). The 16th century Protestant Reformation was a watershed moment in the history of the Christian Church. During the years spanning from the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century AD) to the Reformation (a period of just about 1,000 years), the purity of the gospel was obscured behind layers of ritual and sacramentalism that was being practiced in the Roman Catholic Church.

In particular, the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone, was “lost.” We say “lost” to emphasize that we’re not saying that for a period of over 1,000 years no one was saved. What we’re saying is that the Roman Catholic Church added much to the gospel and thereby confused and muddled its message. In a sense, if people were saved, it was in spite of what the Roman Catholic Church officially taught, not because of it.

The Protestant Reformation brought a return to the purity of the gospel message, as well as a return to the Scriptures as the sole source of infallible authority of faith and practice for the people of God. Again, Roman Catholic doctrine was a combination of Scripture and church tradition—a two source theory of authority.

Most churches who are members of the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), which follows in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation, have as part of their name Reformed to identify with this rich tradition.


Church

Nowadays, it seems vogue to drop the word “church” from the name of a church altogether. It’s not uncommon to see churches called “The Village,” “The Gathering,” or “Harvest.” The thinking behind this is that the word “church” connotes something that is old, stale, out of touch with modern sensibilities. We don’t want to scare people away by this ancient sounding word “church.”

Well here at Emmanuel Reformed Church, we’re not afraid of the word “church.” The English word “church” translates a Greek word ekklesia in the NT and two Hebrew words qahal (“assembly”) and edah (“congregation”). All of these words describe the people of God. That is what the church is: The people of God.

In fact, in the Greek word, ekklesia, if you were to do a study of the word, you would see that etymologically, the word means “ones who are called out.” Now, we don’t want to engage in a word study fallacy, but whenever you think of the word “church,” think of it as meaning “the people of God assembled.” Individually, we are God’s children, bought with the blood of Christ and sealed by His Holy Spirit. But when we gather together on the Lord’s Day for worship, we are the people of God in assembly—I.e., the Church.


So in a nutshell, that’s who we are. Emmanuel Reformed Church is a gathering of the people of God who worship according to the tradition of the Protestant Reformation with the belief that when we gather for worship, God is with us!