By Dennis L. Shaver
Denominationalism is one of the greatest evils ever to face mankind. Through this device Satan offers false hope to an innumerable host of individuals. Have you ever wondered why such institutions came into existence and how they are perpetuated? Why does the cry for oneness of our Savior fall upon deaf ears? Why do so many accept the way of denominationalism? I am sure that these are questions continually in the mind of sincere Christians. Perhaps if we understood the reasons, or attitudes, behind denominationalism we could better defeat it. I would like to suggest the following reasons, or attitudes, behind denominationalism.
Denominations Exist Through Man’s Ignorance
Every individual has at least one area in which he is ignorant. Among the many things of which I am ignorant is electricity. When I do battle with electricity, I end up the loser. The times have been many when my ignorance concerning electricity gave me a “little tingle.” However, ignorance does not have to continue, unless I allow it. It can be easily corrected with knowledge.
Ignorance of God’s Word caused denominations to begin and it fans their flame today. Ignorance of the Lord’s will will cause man to devise his own ways of righteousness and to ignore the way of God. The apostle Paul said, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:1-3). When man is ignorant of God’s way of salvation and righteousness he seeks his own ways and fails to submit himself to Almighty God. This is what denominations do-they fail io submit themselves to God. I do not mean to say they do it purposely. Many times they fail to realize, as did the Jews, their wrongs. Jeremiah said that the way of man is not in himself. Those who would perpetuate denominations fail to realize this important fact, for they are trying to reach God through ignorance instead of submission.
There is a way to remedy this problem. Study. If we are to rightly divide the word of God we must study it, know it, and understand it (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Cor. 14:20; Jn. 8:31,32). As long as men continue in ignorance of the Bible, denominations will continue to stand and grow larger. We need to encourage men everywhere to study their Bibles. As the apostle Peter declared, “. . . to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of life” (Jn. 6:68).
Because of Man’s Pride-Solomon stated that pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before the fall. So it is with denominations. Man is a creature that places much pride in his own creations and would rather “go down with the ship” than admit error. According to history, both Alexander Hamilton and his son died in pistol duels over a matter they knew they were wrong about, yet because of pride neither would admit wrong. Many in denominations know they are wrong, but rather than admit it they will lose their soul to the devil.
Denominations look with pride upon their accomplishments, from social work to large buildings and youth organizations. In many instances denominations are nothing more than a social club. When men build human organizations, and use their own wisdom in such building, they point to this thing he has done with great pride. Denominations depend upon such pride as their life’s blood, rather than the blood of our Lord.
As long as man puts pride before obedience, denominations will exist and prosper. Men must be taught that submission and obedience will please God, not human pride. The works man can point to with pride are not the works of God which lead to righteousness. We cannot take credit for the works we perform, for they are ordained of God (Eph. 2:10). The works of a Christian are not of his own making, but they are of the direction of God. As the apostle Paul stated, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me: yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).
Christians can be thankful they are members of the body of Christ, the church of Christ. However, we cannot look with pride to the church, for it is not of our own making. God purposed it before man ever existed, and without the help of man. Christ died before it could come into existence. The Spirit had to reveal the plan of God unto man before he could know the mind of God. Without the purpose of God, the sacrifice of Christ, and the revelation of the Holy Spirit, man would still be without salvation, groping to find more than this life. Let us teach men to look to God and his divine organization, the church. Teach all men to submit themselves to the Lord of all, and obey with gratitude His will.
The defeat of ignorance and pride will do much in wiping away all denominations, no matter what name they wear. In the next article we will discuss two more attitudes of denominationalism.
Truth Magazine XX: 37, p. 588
September 16, 1976