By Roy E. Cogdill
There are any number of scriptural reasons that should enable any one to see that Christianity is incompatible with denominationalism and religious division. 1) Christ prayed that division might not exist among believers (John 17:20-21). 2) Paul commanded by the authority of Christ, “Let there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor. 1:10). 3) Division is evidence of carnality of spirit (1 Cor. 3:1-9). 4) Division is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). 5) Division misrepresents Christ as a divided Christ (1 Cor. 1:13). 6) Division destroys the Temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Matt. 12:25).
There is no representation of the church of the New Testament that permits division or denominationalism. 1).There is one head and one body (Eph. 1:19-23; Col. 1:18; Eph. 4). 2) There is one bride and one bridegroom (Rom. 7:1-7). 3) There is one family and one father (Eph. 3:14; Eph. 4). 4) There is one kingdom and one King (Luke 22:29; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:5-6).
Denominationalism is not only unscriptural but it is anti-scriptural. Division is sinful and therefore condemned in God’s sight. A Christian cannot be a party to it or give it any endorsement or encouragement. It is the product of the wisdom of man and contrary to the will of God.
The church of the New Testament was and is not a denomination wherever it may exist upon this earth because it respects the will of God and is therefore unalterably opposed to religious division and denominationalism. There is no compromise with error that can be made without truth’s being forsaken and forfeited and when the Lord’s Church is guilty of that, identity with the Lord is lost (2 John 9-11). We must not go beyond that which is written (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Cor. 4:13).
The word “denomination” signifies a part of something. It is fractional in its meaning and cannot therefore truly represent the religion of Christ and the teaching of New Testament scriptures. The church of the New Testament is not made up of the various sectarian bodies in the so-called “religious world” and, if it were, it would be a living monstrosity for it would be characterized by a mass of contradictions in its doctrine, worship and organization. This concept of the New Testament church can only result in confusion and unbelief. When we preach a different “body,” we preach a different Christ and that is unbelief.
The church of the New Testament cannot therefore be characterized by denominational organizations. The churches that men have built have their own established authority and man made regulations and laws. They have their various types of human organizations with their government designed by the wisdom and will of man. The Mormon Church, for example, has its president and the twelve apostles to govern it. The New Testament church had no “president” and it does not today have any living apostles for the reason that there are none living on earth today who can qualify as an apostle of Christ (Acts 1:20-23). The Roman Catholic Church has its universal organization with the universal Pope and his college of Cardinals. But in the New Testament we read nothing of a Pope or a Cardinal or any such authority vested in men as these prelates of Catholicism claim. Such human organizations centered in a single head of government or centralized governing body or some Convention or Association form of government is characteristic of all human religious institutions but no hint or description of such organizations can be found in the New Testament scriptures. Such human organizations did not exist in New Testament days. They are all the result of departures from the teaching of the word of God and cannot be justified in their existence by it.
The church of the Lord or “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) of the New Testament day knew no earthly head, had no centralized authority to govern it such as a conclave, congress, synod, convention, etc. There is not even an amalgamation of association of local churches known to New Testament scriptures. On the contrary each congregation in its own locality was an independent body under its own elders or bishops, governing itself in the conduct of its own affairs in harmony with the will of Christ. These local “churches of Christ” are all that is known to New Testament teaching. They had no human societies, missionary, benevolent, educational, or of any other kind. When any church of Christ forms, becomes a part to, or affiliates itself with the work of any human institution, that “church of Christ” departs from the New Testament pattern of things and apostatizes and it does not matter what kind of sophistry might be used to justify it in doing so. Human arrangements and organizations without or within the “churches of Christ” are no more justifiable by the Word of God than universal denominational organizations. The church of the Lord can denominationalize itself and does do so when it either establishes or maintains such human organizations. Brethren today who are busy building human organizations to do the work of the Lord’s church cannot consistently or sincerely condemn the organizations of human denominations. They are guilty of the same error.
The “church of Christ” of which Paul wrote had no human creed. They rejected all of the doctrines and commandments of men and adhered only to the “doctrine of Christ.” When Judaizing teachers went about among them teaching that Gentiles had to be circumcised in order to be Christians, the Apostles in Jerusalem said, “We gave no such commandment” (Acts 15:23-24). Only the Apostles could bind and loose on earth by the authority of Christ (Matt. 18:18). No Christian can teach anything which the Apostles of Christ did not teach without alienating himself from God and being accursed (Gal. 1:6-8; 2 John 9-11). Human creeds therefore are condemned and when the church of the Lord departs from the truth and teaches the doctrines and commandments of men it loses its identity and its worship to God is in vain (Matt. 15:7-9). ‘What then is the creed of a Christian and what must he teach? Christ is the only authority and His word the only creed a Christian can have.
The “churches of Christ” in the New Testament did not recognize and wear any human name. Paul condemned the Corinthians who claimed to be followers of Paul and raised the question: “Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13). The answer to these questions was negative, of course! Paul had not died for them and neither had they been baptized into his name. The argument was then “why wear the name of Paul?” They had no right to do so. But reverse the argument, “Who was crucified for you? and into whose name were ye baptized?” The answer is Christ died for us and into His name are we baptized. The argument then is, “Why not wear the name of Christ?” We have no right to wear the name of man-any man-for none of them died for us and into none of -their names have we been baptized, if we are Christians. This simply demands that all believers wear only the :name of Christ.
The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Isaiah had prophesied that a new name would be given by the mouth of the Lord when the Gentiles saw the righteousness of God and Kings beheld his glory (Isaiah 62:2). Saul of Tarsus was made a special emissary of Christ to the Gentiles to bear the name of Christ before them and the kings of the earth (Acts 9:15). When he was at Antioch where the Gentiles and the Jews were brought together in the fellowship of a church of Christ for the first time, the new name was given and it was the name “Christian.”
The name of Christ is above every name (Phil. 2:9). We can glorify God in this name (1 Peter 4:16). Whatever we do in word or deed is to be done in the name (Col. 3:17). There is no other name in which men can please God and there is no other name in which unity can be possible. Human names are divisive.
Undenominational Christianity can never be characterized by human organizations, human creeds, or human names. Any church of Christ on earth loses its identity with the Lord whenever any of these are adopted or recognized.
Truth Magazine, XX:19, p. 8-9
May 6, 1976