Is the CHURCH made up of a conglomerate of denominations?

What I am about to  relate here will be taken by some as heresy because of the stronghold that denominationalism (many different churches, teaching various doctrines they deem to be right) has on the religious world. But the idea of many different churches with their own doctrine is foreign to, and not sanctioned in the N. T. The Church that Jesus that Jesus is building is not comprised of many different denominations segregated into different religious camps. Please understand that what I pen is not a slight against people within denominations, for members of the body of Christ may be found in them all, I am referring to the entity itself. This post is not meant to be taken personal but to give an understanding of denominationalism that not many is willing to present given the criticism that may result from such a view.

The many different churches concept was absent in the early church era. Denominationalism is division personified. The fragmented condition of the Church at Corinth was condemned by Paul, "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. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12: Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:10-13)

Denominationalism rests on the claim of justified diversified understanding of God's word. However, unity and the avoidance of changing the word of God are enjoined (Gal. 1: 6-9; Rev. 22: 18, 19). How can one be expected to "contend earnestly for the once delivered faith" if the faith cannot be understood and understood alike (Jude 3; Eph. 3:1-6). The Believer is commanded not to "bid God speed" to errorists (2 Jn. 9-11). Such a command is totally nonsensical if we cannot understand alike basic truth. Billy Graham's advice in (My Answer, 12/15/55) stating; "Join the church of your choice and glorify God" is totally contrary to what the scriptures teach.

Consider the words of John Wesley: "Would to God that all party names, and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world, were forgot…that the very name (Methodist, dm) might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion" (Universal Knowledge, Vol. 9, pg. 540).

Charles Spurgeon wrote: "I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living! I hope that the Baptist name will soon perish, but let Christ's name last forever" (Spurgeon Memorial Library, Vol. 1, pg. 168). 

God purposed (Ephesians 3:10,11) and Christ promised to build a Church (Matthew 16:18). This Church began with Jesus, and God adds those who become believers to His church (Acts 2:47); His church is the redeemed of the Lord.

God purposed only one Church and Christ built only one Church; all of the redeemed are a part of that one Church. This Church is sometimes referred to in scripture as the body of Christ, (Ephesians 1:21-22). We are plainly told, there is one body, (Ephesians 4:4). If we believe the Bible, we must admit that there is one Church.

Many think that the one Church is denominational. The word denomination means a name or designation, especially one for a class of things (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary.) Another dictionary defines it as, 1. devotion to denominational principles or interests. 2. the emphasizing of denominational differences to the point of being narrowly exclusive: sectarianism.

In religion, denominations are organized groups of people that can be denominated (named) or classified together because they have formed a collective entity. Denominationalism is made up of religious groups such as Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc. Religious sects seeking to distinguish themselves from one another by different names because they have different doctrines, practices, and organizations. People espouse (maybe unknowingly) denominationalism when they join one of these religious groups, and suggest that one church is as good as another.

Some think that Jesus sanctioned denominations when He said, I am the vine, you are the branches (John 15:5). They contend that the branches are different denominations. However, a careful reading of this verse and the verse that follows precludes such an interpretation. Jesus said, I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15:5,6). The pronouns, he, him, anyone, and he, show that the branches are individual people, not denominations.

The Bible does speak of churches: the churches had rest (Acts 9:31); the churches of Christ salute you (Rm.16:16); the seven churches which are in Asia (Rev. 1:4). However, the word churches in the New Testament never refers to different denominations, it refers to believers in a given locality, such as the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) or the church of God at Corinth or the church of Ephesus (Rev. 2:1). In the New Testament, churches refers believers in a plurality of locations. For example, we read, “then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31). The same doctrine was taught in all of these churches (1 Cor. 4:17; 7:17; 16:1). Members of these churches all adhered the same gospel (Gal.1:6). These churches were not denominations. Denominationalism is not taught or approved by the Bible.

There is much that is not biblical with with regard to denominationalism. Jesus prayed for unity among believers (Jn. 17:20,21), and Paul condemned division saying that “...that there be no division among you but that you be joined together in the same mind and same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Denominationalism thrives on division, different doctrines and names, and is, therefore, wrong. Paul admonished brethren not to call themselves after himself or others because Christ is not divided; it was Christ who was crucified for us, and it is in Christ's name that we are baptized (1 Cor. 1:12,13). We err when we divide and call ourselves after men as denominationalism promotes. In the New Testament, one reads of the church universal (all Believers) and the local church (the Believers in a given locality) denominationalism is neither. A denomination is an organization of churches greater than a local church, but less than the universal church. Such organization is foreign to the scripture therefore, cannot be the Church that Jesus is building. Furthermore, denominations often have synods, executive councils, conferences, etc. that meet to determine their beliefs and practices. This, too, is wrong. We cannot establish Church belief by a majority vote. Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22); He is the only law-giver. We must look to His scriptures for doctrine (2 Tim.3:16); they are authoritative and cannot be broken (Jn. 10:35). We should not change them by adding to them nor taking away from them (Rev. 22:18,19; Gal. 1:6-9). We must reject denominationalism and all of its error in favor of the true Church and truth. Believers are found within denominations but denominations are not the Church.

There is only one  true Church; it belongs to the Lord and it is not made up of denominations. When people become believers, the Lord adds them to His church (Acts 2:47), not to a denomination. Christ’s Church is not denominational.

"For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

What is the Church? It is Christ in living union with those He purchased with His blood who on a daily basis exhibit the life of Christ by loving people and allowing Him to work through them.. That is the Church. He did not shed His blood so different groups with different beliefs could have their own segregated church building to teach their brand of doctrine or build their own empires that requires most of the resources to keep the event-driven programs functioning.

You do not build a special building and call it "the Church". You do not have a special organization...a religious institution...which you call "the Church". Believers in living union with the risen Lord constitute Church, and desire fellowship with the whole of the body of Christ! Denominationalism hinders such fellowship.

By being in union with Christ risen, all human limitations are transcended. This is one of the wonders of Christ risen as a living reality. We are brought into a realm of capacities which are more than human capacities, where, because of Christ in us, working through us we can do what we never could do naturally because of His power and ability.

Our relationships are new relationships, they are with God and therefore with people. Our resources are new resources, they are designed and provided by God. That is why Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “God hath chosen weak things, the foolish things, the things which are not...that by them He might bring to naught the wise, the mighty, the things which are.” Why did God appoint it so? Because it is not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit...and to show that there are powers, energies, and abilities for His own which transcend all the greatest powers and abilities of this world.

I believe that is God's way, and the world never can measure that. Nor can that be done by human wisdom, strength, or ability at its greatest. God has chosen weak things for that. Why? Simply because weak things, in their dependence, are the best instruments, the best means of allowing God to show that such works are not of any human sufficiency at all...but all of Himself.

The thing that matters is that we, being weak, may know resurrection union with Christ in all His might and power; and, in that union with Him, mighty spiritual things should be done through us.

We may know the Lord in a personal and inward way. We may draw upon the Lord's resources in a personal and inward way. All that the Lord has is available to us inwardly. Heaven is no longer closed when we are united with Christ on the ground of His atoning work.

Denominationalism is not, was not  nor was it ever in the mind  of God.

God didn’t intend for such an entity to exist. There is no biblical mandate or justification for the many denominations that are in existence. In fact the N. T. points to a very different way of being the Church.

Denominationalism hinders body life. Nowhere in the N. T. can we find that God intends for His Church to be different formal organizations to which rank-and-file membership belongs by virtue of signing cards, paying dues and attending meetings, an association which is organized, guided, and governed by a professional leader and administrative bureaucracy. Yet that is exactly what most denominations are. The purpose of the Church is to manifest the life of Christ to the world, denominationalism on the other hand, manifest the goals of the denomination using Christ as a means to accomplish that goal and keeping its people dependent on the denomination for their spiritual life, which of course it is unable do!
The Lord Himself is building His house, and we are laborers together with Him. That is, we participate in the growth of His ever-expanding Kingdom, as we flow in His purpose for us.

Every believer has a spiritual gift and a purpose in His household. The exercise of that gift will give life to others and bless you as it flows through you. In this way we contribute to the growth of that living organism known as the Body of Christ. The need in this hour is for us to abandon many of our old concepts of ministry and simply abide in the flow of His life. It may be necessary to question, challenge, prove or disprove the validity of all of our present church concepts and practices. Then perhaps we will be liberated from the traditional thinking that has often limited us and drained us of spiritual life and energy.

Building in the wrong house is both frustrating and wasteful. Building in God's kingdom may be challenging, but nothing could be more fulfilling. In Haggai 1:1-14 the story is told of a group of people who left off of building God's House in order to pursue their own goals and desires. Because of this, not only was God's purpose neglected, but the efforts the people made on their own projects failed as well. The principle of seeking first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness was not adhered to.

Much energy and resources are expended building religious houses, yet the great commission is still a unfulfilled commission even though religious houses has been in existence since about 200 AD. Is it because we have a wrong focus of the Church? The word and vision from God needs to consume us and release us from the useless and meaningless pursuits unto which we might have given ourselves. We need spiritual understanding to realize exactly the what, the where, and the how of God's plan for His Church and become highly motivated. This motivation is the Zeal of the Lord that energizes us in the glorious quest of giving, loving and serving others which is the work of the Church. The end result is a kingdom that cannot be moved, which will crush death in every form. In this kingdom, no one desires to envy, cause strife, become bored, and or succumb to worldly vices. Their lives are filled with meaning, purpose, and the joy and satisfaction of activities in which the Lord Himself is involved in the building up of His church.

The whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain, waiting for the body of Christ to get its act together, strong and united in Christ to witness THE GLORIOUS LIBERTY OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD! Of course, none of this could take place without the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in whom and from whom are all things! He is at the center.

People need to see the City of the Living God! In her there is closeness and intimacy. All hearts are warm and affectionate, and bound together with an unbreakable cord! At the same time she demonstrates the power and security she draws from her Lover, Who is always by her side. This City, this House, is not like those temporal ones that are constructed by men. The House of the Lord is a safe haven in which we find peace and safety.

At the sight of her all the worldly systems will fall, for her beauty is irresistible. She bears the likeness of her Lover, with whom she is forever one. Out of her womb will spring forth an abundance of life and blessings such as the world has never known. The Seed that has been planted in her originated from The Source of All Life -- The Lord Jesus Christ Himself!

People shall see Him and desire Him as He is fully revealed through His glorious Body! As we begin to hear the cries and the groaning of humanity, may the flames of compassion be ignited in us to respond. Then, the fire of God's love in our hearts and our passion for Him will empower His CHURCH to finally break down the gates of hell, liberating the wounded and bound! That is what this is all about! Freedom for all! Freedom from every kind of oppression is ours to share as we find our place in His glorious Church!

As we learn to flow together in Christ, as we let go of our vain traditions, as we find ourselves painfully growing to be one we must never forget what is at stake! Christ is the answer to the needs of every man, woman and child, and He is bringing that answer through you, His many-membered Body! No religious order or doctrine must be permitted to inhibit the flowing of God's Life through the parts of His body! In the areas where we misunderstand each other, we must trust in the workmanship of God to correct us. We belong to Him, and no other! Let us worship and adore only Him as we bind together in deep and true relationships. Let us shed the garments of religious form, to simply and purely behold Him in one another. Let our hearts and minds and our entire lives be filled with the wonder of our Almighty Lord and Savior, who lives and breathes and walks the earth today in a people known as...THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT, the BODY of Christ!

George Carey once said, "The church is only one generation away from extinction”. That can only be said of the human institution of religion that is widely accepted as the “Church”. Jesus said, of the Church that He is building, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The Church that Jesus is building will never be subject to extinction! Many religious buildings known as church are closing their doors. But, His CHURCH is the CHURCH TRIUMPHANT made up of all believers in Christ!

Comments

  1. Okay so how do we discern this church? Is it invisible like the teachings of the same denominationalists you mentioned above? Or is it visible as the church of the first century was where you could see the people you could see the leaders you could see their practices?

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