By Hal Synder
There has been much talk lately throughout our brotherhood that has centered on the title of this article. The confusion concerning this topic stems from a non-Bible understanding of both the church and denominationalism.
Most Christians understand that when someone obeys the gospel (Rom. 6:17) the Lord adds him to His church (Acts 2:47), which is the only blood-bought (Acts 20:28) institution the Bible speaks of. This is the “church.”
The Bible speaks often of the Great Apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). This manifested itself in Roman Catholicism, from which every denomination in the world today sprang (Rev. 17:5). Error really does begat error.
The Bible also speaks of (and condemns) sectarianism, partyism, and division, which, if men would only be honest with themselves, is what denominationalism really is, as each term stands firmly against the Bible-based unity of Ephesians 4:4.
In Galatians 5:19-21, the Holy Spirit, through His instrument Paul, lists “factions, divisions, and parties” as being “works of the flesh,” and warned all men everywhere and for all time that “they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
In trying to understand why there are no Christians in any denomination, let us consider three points.
First, there was division at Corinth. Just a mere six years after the Corinthian church was planted, some of these brethren had developed a sectarian spirit. In 1 Corinthians 1:11 Paul begs his brothers in Christ there to free themselves from all contentions.
The problem with the Corinthian church was that they’d become “preacher-followers,” a modern problem with many in the religious world. Apollos, an “eloquent” speaker and “mighty in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24-25), was mentioned. Some Corinthian brethren preferred the apostle Peter, while others were partial to Paul, who was their “father in the gospel” (1 Cor. 3:3). A fourth group, though, rejected human leaders and held only to Christ (1 Cor. 1:12).
Brethren need to understand that the problem was not in liking to hear any one of those preachers preach. Their real problem was that they had elevated “their preacher” to the level of Christ. We must always follow after Him (Matt. 4:10).
Many of the Corinthian brethren had been numbered among the vilest of sinners, but they had been redeemed (1 Cor. 6:11).
Which brings us to our second point of consideration, that of the modern denominations. The overwhelming bulk of the denominations in the world today subscribe to most of the views of John Calvin, in particular the “faith only” (that they are saved at the point of belief, separate and apart from further obedience, regardless of what John 3:5 may say) false doctrine.
Therefore, those in the denominations have never obeyed the gospel. They have deceived themselves into believing a lie (see 2 Thess. 2:11-12), and will, therefore, be destroyed at the Lord’s coming (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Our being given the “crown of life” is predicated upon our being “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2: 10). Those who continue in error, even those who somehow render initial obedience to the gospel (Matt. 13:18-30), will not enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 7:21).
Besides their failure to render Bible obedience to God (see Luke 6:46), denominationalists advocate worshiping God after the traditions of men, which is in vain (Matt. 15:9).
Perhaps the height of sectarianism is denominationalism, as each of these man-made organizations do have several things in common, yet are different in many ways. Christians, though, have assurance from the Scriptures that whatever the denominations may claim to be, they have their reward laid up for them (Matt. 15:13).
Finally, New Testament Christians must be careful not to make man-made laws for our brethren (as some sought to do in Acts 15:1-2). When such happens, a sectarian spirit will develop and will result in something other than New Testament Christianity (Psa. 127:1).
Our remaining faithful to God depends on where we walk (1 Jn. 1:5-7). Let that be the “strait and narrow” way of Matthew 7:13-14 and based only on what Scripture reveals (Jn. 17:17; 8:32; 12:48; 2 Tim. 3:15-16).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 18, p. 555
September 18, 1986