Know Your Bible

VOL. 12                                                                                                                          September 1, 2013                                                                                                                            NO. 27



Though the denominational concept of the church was never Christ’s intent, as is often the case, man thinks he knows better than God and, as a result of that thinking, we now have over 32,000 ‘Christian’ denominations today. Christ said that He would only build one church (cf. Matt. 16:18; note the singular term “church”) and only one church was established by Him (Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:18, 24). What happened, over time, was that men started introducing error little by little into congregations and those who followed those errors effectively left the true church and became, or outright established, something other than the one, true church. Multiple instances of this are what brought us to the current state of what the world sees as ‘the church’: a fractured, confusing institution that has no hope of real unity.

The reality, though, is that all these ‘denominations’ are not ‘parts of the body’ at all, for the Lord’s church that He established and for which He shed His precious blood was never divided; people divided. Whenever men abandoned the truth and the pattern Christ established, they did not divide the church — they left it! Truth has no part with error (cf. 2nd Cor. 6:14-17), so when error is introduced and accepted, division [between truth and error and those who accept one over the other] naturally and without exception occurs. Though men have persisted in calling these fractured groups still ‘a part of the church universal,’ they are not a ‘part of’ the one true church, for as long as they propagate and practice error, they can have no part with the true church. Consequently, God has no part with them, either.

Let us not forget that Christ never intended the church to be as the world perceives it today: as some divided entity with literally hundred [if not thousands] of creeds and doctrines. In His prayer to the Father, Jesus desired that all future disciples “may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21) — unified. Are we to believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son had different creeds, or ‘agreed to disagree’ on certain issues? That one believed baptism necessary for salvation and the other that it was not necessary? That one taught a man may surrender salvation after obedience and the other taught one could never lose it? Who could believe that!?! Yet that is what exists in the denominational concept of ‘the church’ today — and men act as if that is logical!

So, if the current denominational picture of the church is not what God or Christ intended [and we can be certain that they are in agreement on this], then what must God think about those who have introduced these errors and have caused so much division? Well, we do not have to guess, for God’s word does speak about such men. Let us note the words of Paul to the Roman brethren in Romans 16:17, 18 —“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.”

From this short passage, let us note some important points that apply to the current denominational arrangement, and what God says about it.

Note Them. (v. 17) The Greek word used here is the root word for what our English language has translated as “skeptical”; that is noteworthy in this context, for Paul is basically telling us to listen to what they say and to watch them with great caution and doubt, not blindly accepting that what they say or do is truth. That is certainly an applicable warning for us today in regard to those who promote and maintain the denominational concept of the church! Anyone who proposes that which is in direct opposition to the desire of Jesus Christ should be viewed with great skepticism!

They Speak Contrary to the Pure Doctrine of Christ. (v. 17) While those who promote the denominational concept of the church purport to be a part of it and claim to have this great desire for unity, the two simply cannot coexist, and such double-speak is not of God. God does not, at the same time, desire unity among His people and tolerate or even promote division! Those who seek true unity cannot, at the same time, tolerate [much less promote] the denominational concept of the church. The basic idea that is the foundation of denominationalism [i.e., division] is contrary to the doctrine and desire of Christ; therefore, those who teach denominationalism is acceptable are speaking that which is contrary to the very words of Jesus Christ.

Avoid Them. (v. 17) Note well this warning! In the past few decades, there has been a great push for ecumenicalism — a ‘union’ [more correctly stated, an agreement to tolerate one another’s errors] of churches and religious organizations that differ on many points. The aim is to ‘unite’ in the work of the church while ignoring and avoiding altogether any discussion of their differences.

Those who promote the ecumenical idea will paint themselves as ‘taking the high road’ by refusing to discuss their differences while simultaneously condemning those who would debate the issues as ‘unloving.’ Anyone who refuses to join with them is labeled as ‘divisive’ [think about that for a minute] and of holding a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude by saying they can have no part with error.

Well, we have a choice here: Refuse to stand with error while standing with Christ (cf. 2nd John 1:9-11) or standing with error and receiving the praise of men. We cannot do both. God says, “avoid them.”

They Do Not Actually Serve Jesus; They Serve Themselves. (v. 18) If those who promote and maintain the denominational concept of the church were honest, no one would follow them, and they know that. To keep the masses following them, they continue to claim they are followers of Christ, but God says those who cause division “do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” The basic reasoning here is that Christ desired unity and those who promote and maintain the denominational concept of the church desire division [regardless of their claims to actually seek true unity]; they want denominations to continue to exist!

Unfortunately, much of the motivation for this continuation of denominational division is selfish pride, a desire for power, and plain old greed. As sad as it may be to hear, many men who are leaders in these denominations know they would lose their positions of leadership because they are not Scriptural, and many know they would lose a large portion [if not all] of their contributions should they start teaching there is only one true church. Like the religious leaders of the first century, there is no real interest in truth, just holding onto power (cf. John 11:47, 48).

They Deceive the Simple. (v. 18) The greatest cause for the success of the denominational concept of the church is, as Paul noted, “smooth words and flattering speech.” Those who promote it use smooth words [“Can’t we all just get along?”] and flattering speech [“That’s such a loving attitude”], but never forget that it is also deception. It is a lie. Since this concept does not originate from God, it is not truth.

Don’t be deceived; denominationalism is not of God.

---Stephen Harper

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