By Ron Halbrook
Billy Graham is like Caiaphas when he spoke more truth than he realized. Caiaphas said, “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” He was trying to say that Jesus must be murdered or else the Jewish leaders would lose their national power. Without realizing it, he used language which was prophetic of Jesus’ dying for the salvation of the Jews (Jn. 11:47-53).
Billy Graham’s new book, Facing Death – and the Life After, includes the following statements:
In heaven there will be no sectarian worship, no denominational differences, no church creeds . . . . I was brought up as a Presbyterian and later became a Baptist. But in later years I have felt that I belong to all churches.
God did not invent denominations, man did.
Only one question will be asked [on Judgment Day]:
“What did you do on earth with My Son, Jesus?” It will make no difference whether we were Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Gentile.
Billy Graham is trying to promote the ecumenical idea that it is right to join a denomination and that it does not matter which one we join. But like Caiaphas, he spoke more truth than he realized.
1. Billy Graham condemned the very existence of denominations when he said that “sectarian worship,” “denominational differences, ” and “church creeds” were not invented by God and will not be tolerated in heaven! Jesus was asked “by what authority” he received worship, cleansed the temple of the money changers, worked miracles, and opposed the traditions of the Jewish sects. His answer was in the form of a question, “The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men?” Jesus meant that he had the same authority John had (Matt. 21:23-27). If John’s baptism originated in heaven and was revealed by God, every Jew was required to receive it. All who did not accept it “rejected the counsel of God against themselves” – i.e., were destined to hell (Lk. 7:29-30).
If the baptism of John was invented by men and not tolerated in heaven, it should have been rejected by every Jew who respected the authority of God. So it is with Jesus. If God gave him authority from heaven for what he taught and practiced, everyone who respects the authority of God must accept and obey the words of Jesus. If the claims of Jesus were invented by man’s authority and are not tolerated in heaven, we must reject Jesus. Jesus insisted that God neither approves nor accepts religious practices based on the authority, traditions, and doctrines of men:
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me, But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matt. 15:8-9).
At this point the words of Jesus and of Billy Graham agree the very existence of denominations with their sectarian worship and human creeds is unauthorized by God.
2. Billy Graham’s language condemns membership and participation in denominations! Since God did not authorize denominations and will not tolerate them in heaven, we separate ourselves from God when we join a denomination. Jesus promised to build only his church (Matt. 16:18). He shed his blood to save only his church (Acts 20:28). He reigned as head over the “one body” or church which came from heaven (Eph. 1:22-23; 3:10; 4:4). He gave a Bible patterrn for his church (1 Tim. 3:14-15; 2 Tim. 1:13). Man did not invent the church of Christ, God did.
“God did not invent denominations, man did.” Jesus did not build denominations, “man did.” He did not shed his blood to save people in denominations, but men have shed their blood to defend denominations. He does not reign over the many bodies of denominationalism which came from men – man does. Jesus gave no pattern for a denomination and no denomination follows the pattern he gave for his church. Who, then, invented the patterns for denominations? Billy Graham says, “Man did.” Amen and amen!
In the first century, people obeyed the gospel of Christ without denominational theories or doctrines. Sinners believed in Christ, repented of their sins, confessed Christ as God’s Son, and were baptized in water for the remission of their sins by the authority of Christ (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 10:10; Acts 2:38). “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). God added them to the church revealed from heaven, not to some human denomination. Under apostolic teaching, these early saints worshiped God and functioned in every way in local churches without inventing “sectarian worship,” “denominational differences,” and human “church creeds.” People today can obey the same gospel, form local churches, and worship according to the Bible pattern without inventing denominations. Is anyone doing that today? Yes. “The churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16).
Strange indeed that Billy Graham would advocate joining any and all denominations rather than advocating the simple gospel and pattern for the church which Jesus gave in the New Testament. He does know the difference. “God did not invent denominations, man did.”
3. Billy Graham’s words condemn wearing denominational names! He makes it clear that God did not invent the “denominational differences” signified by such sectarian names as “Presbyterian,” “Baptist,” “Catholic,” and “Protestant.” Neither will God tolerate such human inventions in heaven, says Mr. Graham.
God gave his people the name of his Son to wear to identify their unity in the divine family. By apostolic revelation, “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16). This alone is the “worthy name” of our identity (Jas. 2:7). When human names were first added by some early Christians, the Holy Spirit condemned the practice as carnal and divisive. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” We must wear only the name of the one crucified for us – the one in whose name we were baptized – the wonderful and worthy name of Christ (1 Cor. 1: 10-13; 3:3).
It is strange, sad, and shameful that Mr. Graham embraces the sectarian names of all denominations when he knows that “God did not invent” them and will not tolerate them “in heaven.” Those who follow Mr. Graham’s errors will miss the kingdom of God, like those who followed Caiaphas. Yet, such men sometimes stumble upon and teach the truth in spite of themselves. Let us be sure we are following Christ!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 6, pp. 172-173
March 21, 1991