555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

172. When Was the First "Church" So Called?

The word "church" is first applied by Luke the evangelist to the company of original disciples at Jeru salem at Pentecost (Acts 247), and is afterwards applied in Acts, Epistles and Revelation to the whole Christian body or society, as well as the sanctified of God (Eph. 537), and to those who profess Christian faith under pastors (I Cor. 12:28). It was also applied to early societies of Christians in cities and provinces (Acts 8:1), to Christian assemblies (Rom. 16:5), and to small gatherings of friends and neighbors in private houses (I Cor. 11 :18 and 14:19, 28). In those early days and for a long time afterward, there was no distinctive body and certainly no denomination; the church was simply an appellation describing groups of believers anywhere. Later, these groups were organized into congregations and districts and parishes were defined. Then they were called "Christians," the first use of this appellation being at Antioch. The Romanist claim to priority is an old one, but it does not stand the test of history. The title "Catholic Church" (meaning the "church universal") was originally given to the Christian Church on account of its not being confined to Jews but embracing other nationalities. The earliest use of this title was about 166 A. D., whereas the Roman Catholic Church as such did not come into existence until several centuries afterward, when the original church divided in consequence of the rivalry between the bishops of Rome and Constantinople.