Worship Times

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                    4:00 p.m.

Today's Verse


What Denomination Are You?

by Mark Grant

 

Through the years while trying to live a Christian life, I have been associated with people who recognize that I am a Christian and ask the question: “What Denomination are you?” While I believe those who ask this question certainly mean well, I do not think they really know much about what the scriptures teach concerning the unity and oneness of the Lord’s church. Have you ever considered the question, “Is denominationalism even taught in the word of God?” It is my sincere hope that this article may offer encouragement and guidance in the study of God’s word on the matter of denominationalism to those who are truly seeking the truth.

What Is A Denomination?

A “denomination” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as, “1. The act of denominating 2: A name, designation, esp.: a general name for a category 3: a religious organization uniting in a single legal and administrative body a number of local congregations 4: a value or size of a series of values or sizes (as of money)” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). While “denomination” has multiple meanings most people associate the meaning of the word to be a class, kind, or type designated by a specific name. So to understand how the word “denomination” is used today in our modern religious world, we find the belief that the Lord’s church is divided into hundreds of different religious organizations, all existing separate and apart from each other, possessing distinctive names, doctrines, and practices, and each claming to be faithfully following Jesus Christ. Is this what Jesus intended in the very beginning or has man totally ignored what is taught in the gospels of Jesus Christ.

How Many Churches Did Jesus Build?

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (NKJV). Notice that Jesus said, “I will build My church” which shows that Jesus is the builder and that he intended to build only one church. Jesus did not say I will build My churches. The word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklasia” which means, a calling out, or assembly.” Thus, “My church” is more than just an audience. It is an assembly or a group of people who have been called out of the world by the gospel of Christ. All who have been called out of the world of sin constitute His church. This is why the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as one body. In Ephesians 4:4 it reads, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” The church of Christ is the whole, the complete one body of Christ, consisting of all who have been saved by the redeeming blood of Christ. In no sense could this be true of denominationalism. The word “denominationalism” itself suggests a fraction or part of something! Therefore, the church of Jesus Christ is not a denomination. So why be a part of some religious organization of human origin when Christ built His Church and it is of divine origin? Why not choose to be a member of the Lord’s church, the church that Jesus pledged to die and shed His blood for?

Jesus Prayed For Unity

In John 17:20, 21, we find recorded the important prayer of Jesus that he offers to the heavenly Father concerning all who would believe in Jesus that they all would be one: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 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.” Jesus does not leave us confused as to the meaning of the oneness or unity he desires of His followers. It is to be the same as the relationship between the Father and Son. Jesus said, “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” (John 17:21).

In what sense are the Father and Son one? Does the Father teach something which is in opposition to the teaching of the Son? Did the practice of the Son contradict in any way the will of the Father? Are the intent, purpose, and plan of the Father different from those that were set forth by the Son? Note carefully the expressions of Jesus in the following passages: “Then Jesus answered and said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19), “Then Jesus said to them, When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things” (John 8:28), “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49), “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10). From these scriptures we learn that the relationship of the Father and Son is that of perfect unity or oneness. They are exactly in agreement as to teaching, practice, plan, intent, and purpose; no contradictions whatever exist between the two. This is the perfect standard of unity Jesus desired for His disciples.

Is the unity of the Father and Son characteristic of denominationalism? Not at all! Denominations are many different religious groups, each teaching different religious doctrines, each one being separate and apart from others. When a denominational church is distinguished from all other denominations by its peculiar doctrine, practice, plan, intent, and purpose; then they exist in direct opposition to the prayer of Jesus for unity.

Is it any wonder why people today question the divinity of Jesus when hundreds of different denominations exist all of which contradict the very character of Jesus. It was Jesus who prayed, “…that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). Consistency demands that one be accepted and the other rejected. Those who sincerely respect the word of God will reject denominationalism and accept the prayer of Jesus for the unity of all who believe and follow Jesus.

What about John 15

Do you truly believe that all of the denominations that exist today also existed in the New Testament? Does anyone really believe that Jesus came to establish all these denominations, or that He created them? Do you truly believe that the apostles were members of any denomination, or that any denomination even existed in the time of Jesus and the apostles? However, to justify the presence of denominations today, people sometimes use John 15:5,6 where Jesus says: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” Jesus’ own words show that He does not speak of a tree composed of branches that are themselves denominational, for the branches He speaks of are “men” or followers of Christ. The fruitful branches are true believers who by their living union with Christ produce much fruit. “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit…” But those who become unproductive will be separated from the vine and burned. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered…” So the body of Christ is not composed of denominations but simply followers of Christ who produce much fruit or become unproductive.

Human Or Divine?

Is the church you belong to of human origin or divine origin? Any religious body having begun since Christ’s church was established has originated at the wrong place, by the wrong person, at the wrong time. Soon after Jesus declared, “I will build My church,” the Lord’s church began in the city of Jerusalem, the record of which is found in the second chapter of Acts. “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41-47). Here we have the earliest record of the Lord’s church. And those who obeyed “continued steadfastly in the apostle’ doctrine and fellowship, all who believed were together and had all things in common, and continuing daily with one accord in the temple.” Does this sound like denominationalism or just the opposite? It must be concluded that the church of Christ is not a denomination of human origin. It is a divine institution of divine origin, divinely identified by name, doctrine and practice, with a God-given mission in the world to preach a divine doctrine. “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). This is why Jesus prayed for unity for all of His followers and not to be divided. This is the reason we ought to avoid man-made religion that consists of names, doctrines, institutions, organizations, and practices that come from man, not God. This is why Jesus said, in Matt. 15:8-9, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

Final Plea

Dear reader, are you a member of a denomination? Then make the decision to become a member of the Lord’s church by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son, the only begotten of the heavenly Father (John 8:24). If so, will you not repent of your sins (Acts 17:30), confess the name of the Saviour (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)? By doing so, the Lord will add you to His church (Acts 2:47), and you will not have “joined any denomination.” This is the way of true unity. The unity that Jesus Christ prayed for so long ago can still be practiced today when we submit to His authority. Unless, of course, you have no desire to depart from the practice of division by remaining a member of a denomination that is of human origin. If this is the case then I would like to ask you one question, “What denomination are you?”