WHAT IS DENOMINATIONALISM?
1. We are warned against following the teachings of men – Gal. 1:6-11.
a. We must accept & speak words of God (1 Pet. 4:11); Abide in doctrine of Christ (2 Jno. 9-11); and test all things (1 Ths. 5:21-22; 1 Jno. 4:1, 6).
b. All things not of God will be uprooted - Matt. 15:13-14.
2. The wisdom of man promotes denominationalism (“choose the church of your choice”).
3. The wisdom of God promotes unity in Christ based on His word – Jno. 17:20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3.
4. One such teaching of men is denominationalism.
5. Denominationalism recognizes many bodies, many teachings & many paths to God, while attempting unity in spite of moral & doctrinal diversity. Such will never work – only cause more division! Amos 3:3; 1 Jno. 1:6-7; Matt. 7:21-23
I. UNDERSTANDING DENOMINATIONALISM.
A. Denominations Are Sects, the Result of Division.
1. To denominate - “The act of naming; a class or kind having a specific name; a religious sect” (Webster’s). To distinguish by a name.
a. Denomination - A part, party, segment.
b. Denominationalism – The result; “division into denominations.”
“Denominations are associations of congregations, though sometimes it might be said that congregations are localized subdivisions of denominations, that have a common heritage. Moreover, a true denomination does not claim to be the only legitimate expression of the church.” (D G Tinder, Elwell Evangelical Dictionary; http://mb-soft.com/believe/text/denomina.htm)
2. In denominationalism there is NOT UNITY in name, organization, doctrine or practice…or at times, even in spirit! Based on division!
B. The Nature of Denominationalism Shows It Does Not Produce the Church of the NT:
1. “Factions, divisions, parties” (ASV) are works of the flesh - Gal. 5:20, 21.
2. There is oneness in Christ (“One body…faith…baptism…”) - Eph. 4:4-6.
3. Every denomination begins out of division & is perpetuated by its distinction from other believers!
C. Attempted Justification of Denominationalism From the Scriptures: Jno. 15:1-8.
1. Vine & branches is equated with Christ being divided into denominations. But:
a. The Vine is Christ, not the Church. For denom. to be valid, the (univ.) Church is the vine, and its subdivisions (denominations) are the branches!
b. 15:2 - If denominationalsim is valid, then 15:2 authorizes the removal of unfruitful denominations!
c. 15:3 – Christ spoke to disciples, not denominations.
d. 15:4-8 – The disciple is in view here, not denominations (you, him, anyone, he, my, disciples).
II. WHAT DENOMINATIONALISM DOES.
A. It Promotes Division – 1 Cor. 1:10-13.
1. “Denomination” separation, division, but Christ is not divided – 1 Cor. 1:13.
2. Denominational use of “Church” not in N.T.
a. Denomination is larger than the local church, yet smaller that the universal church.
b. Universal church is composed of Christians, not of “churches!”
B. It Redefines the Church.
“The one, (John 17:20-21; Eph. 4:3-6) true, holy (I Cor. 3:16-17) church (Matt. 16:17-18; I Cor. 1:2; Eph. 2:18-19; I Pet. 2:9-10) is very broad, and includes all those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.” (A Christ Walk Church Statement of Faith, http://mb-soft.com/cwalk/walk2.html)
1. It ignores the singularity and uniqueness of the true church – Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4. (By establishing many bodies teaching conflicting doctrines that are antagonistic to Bible & each other.)
2. It ignores the church’s relationship to Christ – Eph. 5:23-24. (It is spiritual polygamy!)
C. It Denies the Importance of the Church - Acts 20:28 (blood); Eph. 1:22-23 (body of Christ); 2:16 (reconciled); 3:10-11 (eternal purpose); 5:23 (saved); 5:32 (bride).
D. It Consents to the Choices of Men Above the Word & Will of God.
1. “Join the church of your choice” is the rallying cry of denominationalism.
2. Wrong thinking - Jer. 10:23; Prov. 16:25; Isa. 55:8.
-Naaman was angry at God’s way - 2 Kgs. 5:11; Jeroboam’s religion perverted - 1 Kgs. 12:26-30.
3. No difference in these: “Choose the (river) (God) (church) of your choice”!
E. It Is Built Upon Man’s Sincerity Rather Than God’s Absolute Truth.
1. While sincere hearts are essential - Not enough to please God.
2. Acts 23:1; 26:9; 1 Tim. 1:13 - If sincerity enough, why did Saul have to change? He would have been saved without change!
3. Must abide in truth to be saved – Jno. 8:31-32.
F. It Ignores the Divine Standard of Unity, the Truth of God (Jno. 17:17).
1. Jno. 17:20-21 – cf. the truth of Deity’s unity (10:30). [“Word”]
2. “All read from the same Bible...all are going to the same place.” No, this is spiritual deception! – Matt. 7:21-23
G. It Approves Making Laws Where God Has Not Made Them - Gal. 1:6-9; Col. 3:17.
1. Creeds of men vs. inspired word of God - 2 Tim. 3:16-17.
2. Ex. Sprinkling vs. burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12)…Which is right?!
H. It Elevates Man’s Desire Above the Lord’s Stated Will.
1. Man’s choices vs. God’s revealed will! (Matt. 16:18)
2. The Lord’s word is superior to any desire of man – Matt. 28:18.
III. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS NOT A DENOMINATION (Distinct/unique from churches of men)
A. Due to its Nature, the Church of Christ is Not a Denomination.
1. Built by Jesus, not man; Belongs to Jesus, not man – Matt. 16:18.
2. It is the body of Christ, who is its head – Eph. 1:22-23; Christ has only one body – Eph. 4:4.
3. Christ prayed for unity which reflects the unity of the Godhead – Jno. 17:20-21.
4. The church of Christ is distinct & unique from the churches of men!
B. But Someone Responds: “The church of Christ is also a denomination.”
1. People tend to reach conclusions based on previous experiences/understanding (Matt. 16:13-14).
2. Uninformed think it is; We must educate them (cf. Kaunas – “What sect are you?”).
a. cf. Acts 24:5: Christianity was called a “sect” of Judaism (heresy, “dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims” (Online Bible Greek Lexicon).
b. Acts 24:14 – Gospel is “the Way” – Does not produce a sect!!
C. The Church of Christ is Not a Denomination Because:
1. Jesus did not build a denomination – Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 1:19.
2. It is possible to be a member of the church Jesus established – Acts 2:41, 47.
3. The apostles were not members of a denomination – 1 Cor. 1:13; 3:4.
4. One can be a Christian today w/o belonging to a denomination – Acts 2:47; Eph. 1:22-23; 2:16-18.
1. “Denominations are man-made institutions that neither are recognized in, nor sanctioned by, the Word of God.” (Bert Thompson, Reason & Revelation, 1/98).
2. No man died to purchase/save the church: Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25).
3. We do not claim that churches of Christ belong to a better denomination, or the best denomination, but that there is only one church – the church that belongs to Christ!
4. Matt. 7:24-27 – The fall of denominationalism will be great! (v. 22-23)