Denominationalism and the Bible

By Randy Cavender

In some of my religious discussions with others, I have found that individuals are disturbed by the number of denominations if our community. They are troubled by the different “gospels” that are preached. This is very difficult for some to understand. Sometimes it is difficult to explain also. What does the Bible say concerning denominationalism? Is it of God? Did Christ promote or encourage denominationalism in his death? Did the apostles establish denominations? Let us investigate what the Scriptures teach concerning denominationalism.

First of all, we must realize that the Lord expects his people to be one. Jesus prayed earnestly to the Father on behalf of those who would believe, “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jn. 17:21). What does it mean to be one? Paul pleaded with the Corinthians, “let there be no divisions among you” by speaking the same things and being perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Now it is obvious that the religious community does not speak the same things. They are not perfectly joined together in the same mind or judgment. You might hear some who are members of the Methodist church proclaim that one’s baptism may be a sprinkling, while the Baptist church believes baptism is immersion, but neither of the above believes that baptism is essential to one’s salvation. Notice the following quotes:

We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deserving. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only (emp. mine, RHQ is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort (Discipline of the Methodist Church 1956, Articles of Religion, IX. Of the Justification of Man, p. 71).

We believe that the great gospel blessing which Christ secures to such as believe in him is justification; that justification includes the pardon of sin, and the promise of eternal life on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith (emp. mine, RHQ in the Redeemer’s blood; by virtue of which faith his perfect righteousness is freely imputed to us of God (Baptist Church Manual, J.M. Pendleton D.D., Declaration of Faith, V. of Justification, p. 48).

While these two denominational bodies disagree concerning the mode of baptism, both agree that it is not essential to one’s salvation. Still yet, many of the Pentecostal groups believe and teach that one must be baptized to be saved. The amazing thing about this is these groups all claim to be one. They claim to believe the same Bible; they claim to follow the same God; but these religious bodies do not speak the same things. They are not of the same mind or judgment. Neither are they one as the Lord prayed.

Still yet, denominationalism violates another Bible principle. In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul gives a list of the works of the flesh. Two words one should notice are “seditions and heresies” (Gal. 5:20). The term “seditions” means, “disunion, dissension: division, sedition” (Strong’s Concordance). Also notice what W.E. Vine says concerning this word in his Dictionary of New Testament Words, “a standing apart, hence a dissension, division.” Kind reader, if denominationalism does not fit this description, what does? They are divided among themselves on various subjects such as salvation, their religious names, and their worship. The term “heresies” means, “a choice, i.e. (specially) a party or (abstractly) disunion: heresy [which is the Greek word itself], sect” (Strong’s Concordance). Again, I suggest to you that denominationalism violates this Bible principle by the various groups dividing into parties or sects. Each group calls itself by a name foreign to the New Testament. Some call themselves Pentecostals, while others call themselves Methodists. Many are Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others, Baptists. Friend, you can search your Bible completely, and you will never find any of these names mentioned. Those who were members of the church of Christ died for were called Christians. That’s all, nothing more.

One might object and say, “I believe the church of Christ is a denomination.” Well, let us see. If you attend the congregation where I preach, you will find that everything one must do to be saved will be preached. You will be given Bible proof for the teaching we do. If you attend the church of Christ elsewhere, you will find nothing different preached concerning how to be saved. The reason there are no differences in doctrine is that each church is “of Christ,” teaching and practicing only those things which please him! There is no variation at all because the Bible is being taught! You will also notice that there is no difference in our worship services. Oh, the order or arrangement might be different, but each act of worship will be the same. Our work is the same also. You will find each congregation doing its own work, abiding in the teaching of God’s word. If you were to find something different concerning these subjects, then that is evidence that the truth is not being followed and someone is wrong.

Furthermore, the church of Christ is not a denomination because Christ established it, not man. You can look back in history and see where man, not God, established denominations. Jesus promised, “. . . and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). The Bible clearly points out when the church of Christ was established, i.e. on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2). The church Christ built was not a denomination, for they all obeyed the same commands and were added to the church by Christ himself (Acts 2:47).

We also see members of the New Testament church were called Christians. They did not call themselves “Church of Christ Christians.” These people were simply disciples or followers of Christ, and the Bible declares plainly what name God chose for his followers. Notice two passages, “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name. ” “And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Isa. 62:2; Acts 11:26). We are simply Christians, wearing this wonderful name given by the great God of Heaven.

Where will you put your faith, in denominationalism or the Lord? Please don’t close your eyes to the truth of the Bible. Denominationalism is wrong and sinful. It promotes sects, divisions, and men. The church of our Lord seeks to promote only God and his Son (Eph. 3:21). How can you be part of the Lord’s church? Simply obey the commands of God as the Jews did on Pentecost and be added by Jesus himself to his church (Acts 2:47).

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 2, pp. 33, 41
January 17, 1991