By Jim Deason
David said it this way, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psa. 127:1). Jesus said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13). Either way the meaning is the same — if it doesn’t begin with the Lord it begins in the wrong place.
The religious systems of men with their attendant doctrines have one critical flaw: they didn’t originate from within the mind of God. The authority for their existence came from some other source than Scripture. This being so, their message is corrupt, their mission is vain and their destiny is destruction. For ourselves, we must avoid their influence at all costs. For others, we must devote our lives to the work of rescuing them.
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 15:13 was made in a context where men had elevated human tradition into the position of divine law. The noxious plant of human doctrine had been placed by human hands into the fertile soil of human hearts and, as a result, a religious system was born. Not from God did the seeds of Phariseeism spring but from the determined will of men bound to make burdensome the simple way of righteousness by exalting themselves and their petty interpretations over others while unwilling to live by their own code. Jesus despised this process and reserved his sternest rebukes for the hypocritical Pharisees (Matt. 23).
At the very root of the Pharisees’ traditions, and the Pharisaic system itself, lay hearts unwilling to yield to God’s simple plan. These were hearts determined to make their own rules; rules which to them were in addition to, in the place of, and more attractive than the statutes of God. This was the seed from which the plant of Phariseeism grew. This was the plant which God the Son promised would be rooted up.
Likewise, this dissatisfaction with God’s way is the seed from which all modern day denominationalism has grown. From Catholicism in the sixth century through the Protestant Reformation to the present, the plants of denominationalism with their corresponding and often contradictory dogmas have flourished. The division represented by these denominational systems is deplorable (Jn. 17:20,21; 1 Cor. 1:10). They serve only to confuse honest hearts and to prejudice otherwise sincere seekers against the truth. These noxious plants shall indeed be rooted up.
To be sure, most all denominations teach some truth. There are, without doubt, moral people and good neighbors within all of these systems. But while they may claim the name of Christ they are unknown to him (Matt. 7:21-23) and their worship is worthless (Matt. 15:9). They are known as Christians to the rest of the world but not to Christ. To be a Christian is to belong to Christ and to submit in all things to his head-ship. Denominationalism and its members fail on both counts.
This makes the appeal of first century Christianity unique and powerful. You don’t have to belong to a denominational system. You can lay all doctrines and practices of men aside and follow the simple, pure New Testament pattern. To do so will make you a Christian, a follower of Christ, and nothing more. Your allegiance will not be to a man-made system governed by man-made rules, but to Jesus Christ and the New Testament as your guide for daily living. You will enjoy a relationship with others who have the sameallegiance as do you in a local congregation (Phil. 1:1). With them you will be able to work and worship as God has given direction. Any question about practice and procedure can be settled by an appeal, not to a denominational council or creed book, but to the New Testament (2 Tim. 3:16,17). There is no invitation more inviting, no plan more powerful, than that contained in the word of God (Matt. 11:28-30; Rom. 1:16).
Every plant which God did not plant, whose roots are not found running deep into the Book, will be destroyed. This means that every denominational system and every denominational doctrine, having had their beginning in the will of man, will be uprooted. They will not stand in the judgment day (Jn. 12:48).
I can’t conscientiously close this article without making another observation. Even among the Lord’s people problems arise from time to time over man-made dogmas. Today ominous clouds loom on the horizon that threaten the peace and unity of the people of God. Issues concerning divorce are a constant menace. I am appalled at what I hear some teaching regarding the nature of Jesus and his divinity which threaten the very foundation of all that we have believed and held dear. Strange things are being said about fellowship which is strained. The list is endless but the answer is not. To some it may sound trite but we must get back to a “thus saith the Lord.” We must get back to basic preaching!
Let all who read these words remember that every man-made doctrine or system will be uprooted. Even those concocted by brethren. We are not immune to the influence of denominationalism among us. Of this we must be aware and fore-warned.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 3, p. 18
February 4, 1993