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Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 12:26-30
1. Repeated warnings in the Scriptures against man-made religions:
a. Israel and the golden calf, Exo. 32:1, 8-10.
b. Jeroboam, 1 Kgs. 12:26-33 ("this thing became a sin", 12:30).
c. Perversions of the gospel, Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Jno. 9; Rev. 22:18-19.
2. Denominationalism is in decline (Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism, Aaron Menikoff, http://bit.ly/Hy6RL0).
-Some say we are now in the 'post-denominational' world.
3. Denominations: The creation and will of men. Matt. 21:23-25
-"We take the raison d’etre (Fr., "reason for existence") of our denominations for granted – those of us who belong to them. I wonder, though, to what extent they are able to be defended as an expression of biblical Christianity." (Louis Kinsey, A Church of Scotland Blog, http://bit.ly/Hy5BaP)
a. Historical development: Result of division, not harmony.
b. Gradual ecumenical acceptance over time.
c. Held as acceptable, honorable and generally pleasing to God.
I. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST (is not a denomination).
A. Divine in Ownership, Matt. 16:16-18.
-Unique (singular) in design and construction.
B. Composed of Individuals (those who are saved), Acts 2:47.
1. One body under one head, Eph. 1:22-23 (Col. 1:18); 4:3-4.
2. Purchased and saved by blood of Christ, Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23.
C. Without Universal (earthly) Organization, Heb. 12:22-23.
1. Local churches of Christ: Assemblies of saints, 1 Cor. 1:2 (Rom. 16:16). Sufficient in organization and work.
2. "Independent congregations are not free from controversy and confrontation, I am sure, but they are surely spared the sort of intra-denominational strife and warfare that currently plagues western Protestant denominations, where congregations are bound by constitutional and financial ties to structures that force congregations and church leaders into conflict with one another when independent church leaders would be free simply to turn away and get on with the kingdom business at hand." (Kinsey, op cit.)
II. WHY HAVE DENOMINATIONS? (Three common defenses and their Bible answers)
A. "There are Many Ways to God."
1. Scripture: Only One Way to God, Jno. 14:6; Matt. 7:13-14.
a. Path of truth, Jer. 6:16; Psa. 119:30.
b. Without deviation, cf. Josh. 1:7-8.
2. Ways that seem right to men (our wisdom, design) are wrong! Prov. 14:12
B. "They Allow You to Express Yourself." (culturally, organizationally, liturgically, spiritually, etc.)
1. Scripture: Sacrifice yourself, Lk. 9:23; Gal. 2:20.
2. "Find the church of your choice". No, find the church Jesus built and bought with His blood!
C. Unity in Diversity: "The Only Realistic Unity that can Exist."
1. "Christian First - Denomination Second". 1 Pet. 4:11
-Quotes from Luther, Wesley and Spurgeon against party names.
2. Scripture: Unity in Oneness, Eph. 4:3; 1 Cor. 1:10, 13.
a. One body: One church, Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:23.
b. One Spirit, one Lord and one Father: One Godhead, Jno. 10:30.
c. One hope of our calling: One approved way of life, Eph. 4:1.
d. One faith: One gospel, one teaching, Rom. 16:25-26.
e. One baptism: Way of salvation (not many), Mk 16:16.
1. Jesus and His apostles taught unity without denominations, Jno. 17:20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3.
2. Why have denominations, when Jesus did not command, endorse or encourage them?
a. When His apostles did not, either?
b. When the highest authority for them are the councils and creeds of men?
3. The decline and death of denominations? We pray it will be so!
Martin Luther (reformer and founder of the Lutheran church):
"I pray you to leave my name alone, and call not yourselves 'Lutherans,' but 'Christians.' Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. St. Paul would not permit that any should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter but of Christ. How, then, does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with them all; let us call ourselves only 'Christians' after him from whom our doctrine comes." (Life of Luther, by Stork, 289)
John Wesley (founder of Methodism) condemned denom. :
"Would to God that all party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world were forgot; that we might all agree to sit down together as humble, loving disciples at the feet of a common Master, to hear his word, to imbibe his Spirit, and to transcribe his life into our own." (Hardeman's Tabernacle Sermons, Volume V, page 60)
Dr. Charles H. Spurgeon:
"I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone. I hope the "Baptist" name will soon perish, but let Christ's name last forever." (Spurgeon Memorial Library, I:168)