Church of Christ
Mission USA

Is Denominationalism Acceptable With God?

By Perry Sexton

      First of all we should do a search in the Bible for the word denomination and its inflections. I use the King James Version of the Bible and found no trace of the word. I also checked two other versions with like results, but just because a word is not found in the Bible does not mean that the idea is not there.

      Second we need to define denominationalism. Here is what I found in Webster as I traced the meaning: “denominationalism n. SECTARIANISM denominational-ist, n. sectarianism n. narrow-minded devotion to a particular sect, esp. in religion. sect n. 1. a body of persons adhering to a particular religious faith; denomination. denomination n. 1. a religious group, usu. including many local churches. 2. one of the grades or degrees in a series of designations of quantity, value, measure, weight, etc.: bills of small denomination. 3. a name or designation, esp. one for a class of things. 4. a class or kind of persons or things distinguished by a specific name. 5. the act of naming or designating a person or thing. denominational, adj. denominationally, adv.”

      Based on the definitions given, basically what we find is the same as how people have described it: Division! Every denominational person I have talked with about the matter has given me the same picture. They believe there are saved in all churches even though there is much division! The saved from all the different churches make up the one true church, they say. It has been expressed in many ways such as “We are all going to Heaven, just different ways.” If you have a different view of denominationalism, please let me know. The conclusion is: They would have us to believe that God’s people are divided! But is this true?

      Third, does this idea (the denominational doctrine) fit the pattern that God has set forth? Now that we have the idea, the doctrine, we need to search the Scripture to see whether it is so (cp. Acts 17:11). We have the responsibility to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21). The doctrine is either of God or of man. If it is not of God, being a religious doctrine, it is sinful (cp. Matt. 15:9; 7:13-27; II John 9, etc.). What does the Bible teach?

One Church

      Jesus promised to build one church: “my church” (Matt. 16:18). As anyone can see, “church” is singular. Paul further shows that in fact Jesus did build only “one church.” He declares "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;" (Eph 4:4). Paul by inspiration said “one body” and he had already explained what the body is: "…and gave Him [Jesus] to be head over all things to the church, {23} Which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:22-23 cp. Col. 1:18). The “one church” doctrine is consistent throughout the New Testament.

Is Dividing The Church Scriptural?

      The great Builder and Purchaser of the church with His own blood (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28) earnestly prayed for unity, i.e., “oneness” (John 17:20). Paul pleads: "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. {4} There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; {5} One Lord, one faith, one baptism, {6} One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph 4:3-6). Are you willing to go against the Lord’s prayer and Paul’s plea from God?

      Here is a dilemma even the atheist can see, and use against religious people: There is one God; there is one Lord; there is one Bible from God; yet there is great division (doctrinally) among the so called Christian world. Friends, this cannot be so! Yes, there is major doctrinal division in the so called Christian world, but not in God’s church – the saved (Acts 2:47).

      Division means there is corruption of doctrine! We are strongly warned by inspiration: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son" (II John 1:9). Christ’s doctrine is the same for all people everywhere! As Paul said: "…my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church" (I Cor. 4:17). Now let us at this point clear up a potential misunderstanding: Paul said “every church,” true, but he does not contradict the Lord or himself by meaning there is more than one church from God. He is speaking of the church in different locations such as to the church at Corinth (I Cor. 1:2). The church is spoken of in the local sense and in the universal sense: “I will build my church” – universal (Matt. 16:18); “The churches of Christ salute you” – local (Rom. 16:16).

No Division In The One True Church!

      “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Could it be any planner? Paul continues and asks a rhetorical question for emphasis: “Is Christ divided?” (v. 13). The obvious answer is NO! “There is one body” (Eph. 4:4) and it is whole – not divided asunder!

      Denominationalism is not of God and it is sinful! Jesus warned: “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Mat 15:13). Jesus gave a judgment scene which describes very well those in the denominational world (Matt. 7:21-23, please read). These folks believed in Christ and were doing good works, they thought to the glory of God, but they were lost. It is obvious by the words “I never knew you” that these had never obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ, and therefore were never added to His glorious church (Acts 2:47, see v. 38 for what these did to be saved).

      Dear denominational friend, I have written these things in true love for your soul. Please receive this material in the same spirit and search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11; I Thess. 5:21). If you have any questions, we of the church of Christ would be most happy to assist you. If you know of any verses that you think justifies denominationalism please let us know.

Some Closing Questions

1. Did Christ promise more than one church (Matt. 16:18)?

2. Did Christ build more than one church (Eph. 1:22, 23; 4:4)?

3. Did Jesus pray for unity among His people (John 17:20)?

4. Is there more than one gospel, faith and creed? (Eph. 4:3-6)

5. Should Christ, the Groom, have more than one wife (Rev. 21:9)?

6. Does doctrine matter (2 John 9-11; Gal 1:6-9)?

Are YOU a member of the one true church that Jesus built, and is coming back to receive some wonderful day (cp. Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:25-27)? ♥