Know Your Bible Course

By Gene Tope

I. DENOMINATIONALISM

In lesson four, we studied the church of the New Testament. We discovered that Christ had come to build His church and that the saved were added to it. We also saw that Christ only built ONE church and that every Christian in the first century was a member of that church.

Today it is different! There are hundreds and hundreds of differing churches. Where did they all come from? Do they please God? Is there a remedy for religious division? These and similar questions enter the mind of the student as he reads the Bible. It is the purpose of this lesson to demonstrate that all believers can and should be one in Christ Jesus.

What Is Denominationalism?

Webster says a denomination is "A class, or society of individuals, called by the same name; a sect." To go further, it may be said that denominationalism is the dividing up of believers in Christ into religious parties. Each has its own human name, creed, organization, and terms of membership. Each must remain distinct one from the other in order to survive. Each one considers itself to be right, no matter how tolerant of others it may be.

The church of Christ was of divine origin; hence, it was not a denomination in any sense of the word. Churches established since the first century are of human origin and of human wisdom. They are denominations because they teach differently from the original church. It is exactly in this way that one may identify a denomination. God does not intend for man to change one single thing originally taught by the apostles: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).

In the chart below, we point out some errors practiced by denominations. Please compare these errors with the Bible truths stated below:

  DENOMINATIONAL ERROR BIBLE TRUTH
1 Wearing human titles (Baptist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist, etc.) Wear Christ's name - Acts 11:26, Romans 16:16, Colossians 3:17.
2 Infant baptism Believer immersion - Mark 16:16, Romans 6:4
3 Instrumental music (piano, organ, etc.) Singing only - Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16
4 Sabbath (Saturday) worship First day (Sunday) worship - Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2
5 Clergy - titles and dress ("Reverend," "Pastor," "Father;" robes, collars) No clergy (all Christians as priests) - Matthew 23:5-12, 1 Peter 2:5
6 Tithing and suppers Giving "according to prosperity" on Sundays - 1 Corinthians 16:2
QUESTIONS:
  1. Every Christian in the first century was a member of _______.
    the Catholic church
    the Protestant church
    the church of their choice
    the one church
  2. Today, hundreds of denominations follow _______.
    the New Testament example
    the Scriptures
    their own creeds (man-made rules)
    only the Bible
  3. Denominationalism is the _______ of believers in Christ.
    dividing up
    unification
    glorification
    organization
  4. The church of Christ was of _______ origin.
    divine
    apostolic
    evangelical
    human
  5. Churches established since the first century are of ________ origin.
    divine
    apostolic
    scriptural
    human
  6. Christ only built one church.
    True
    False
  7. It is fine to teach a gospel different from the one Paul preached.
    True
    False
  8. The man who preaches another gospel will be accursed.
    True
    False
  9. Denominations teach differently from the original church.
    True
    False
  10. The Bible authorizes us to wear human names in religion.
    True
    False
  11. New Testament disciples wore Christ's name.
    True
    False
  12. There are examples in the New Testament of infants being baptized.
    True
    False
  13. Paul and Peter taught Christians to address them as "Reverend."
    True
    False
  14. In Matthew 23:5-12, Jesus tells us that teachers should wear special dress.
    True
    False
  15. 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 authorizes church suppers to raise funds.
    True
    False
II. WHY DENOMINATIONALISM IS WRONG

It should be clear at this stage that denominationalism is wrong. When man takes upon himself human religious titles and practices, this alone is sufficient reason to condemn sectarianism. However, we wish to pursue the matter further to make it abundantly clear to every sincere seeker after truth that denominationalism is not the plan of God but of man.

Unscriptural

"Unscriptural" means that denominations are unknown to the New Testament arrangements. What denomination do you read of in the Bible? Instead of many churches, only ONE is spoken of. Jesus said, "I will build My church" (notice the singular use of the term "church") - Matthew 16:18. Paul makes this clear when he says, "But now indeed there are many members, yet one body" - 1 Corinthians 12:20.

To the one church in the city of Ephesus, Paul made an impassioned plea exhorting them to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The inspired writer went on to explain: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" - Ephesians 4:4-6.

It is evident then that no denominations existed in the first century. The church of Christ was under the authority of God, and throughout the world Christians all practiced the same things, believed the same things, and worshipped the same way.

Anti-Scriptural

Not only is denominationalism unscriptural, it is actually against the Scriptures! When man adopts his own plan in preference to what God has said, he always goes against divine wisdom incurring the wrath of God. Christ died that His disciples might all be united in the church. He planned that through their unity, the world might believe in Him. Christ prayed this for His disciples: "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). Do you not think that man is extremely audacious when he not only ignores the prayer of our Savior but also proceeds to establish denominations to pamper his desires?

Paul delivered a scathing rebuke to disciples at Corinth when division threatened. Being guilty of envying and divisions, Paul asks: "Are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" (1 Corinthians 3:3). In chapter one, the inspired Paul says: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). Paul did not think that differing personalities needed different churches. He urged rather that Christians not only be of the "same mind" but even the "same judgment." As pointed out in Lesson 4, three questions were asked the Corinthians in verse 13 - "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" The correct answer to these inspired questions spells the death blow to denominationalism. Believers who accept these instructions will not be divided, nor follow men, nor wear men's names in religion.

QUESTIONS:
  1. Denominationalism is not the plan of _______ but of _______.
    God; man
    Jesus; God the Father
    Satan; God
    the Holy Spirit; Jesus
  2. "there are many members, _______" (1 Corinthians 12:20).
    and various churches
    and several doctrines
    yet one body
    and many denominations
  3. It is evident that no ______ existed in the first century.
    churches
    authorized pattern
    denominations
    scriptural organization
  4. Jesus prayed that his disciples might all ________ (John 17:21).
    start their own churches
    write their own creeds
    be one
    be divided
  5. Paul besought the Corinthians to be of the same ________ (1 Corinthians 1:10).
    creed
    opinion
    denomination
    mind and judgment
  6. Denominationalism is both unscriptural and anti-scriptural.
    True
    False
  7. The one body is the church (see Ephesians 1:22, 23).
    True
    False
  8. The Bible offers but one hope, one faith, and one baptism.
    True
    False
  9. Christ prayed that His disciples would divide up into denominations.
    True
    False
  10. Paul wanted the Corinthians to wear his name.
    True
    False
III. THE REMEDY FOR DENOMINATIONALISM

The church of the first century was the answer to our Lord's prayer for unity. Paul could write in an affirmative way to the Ephesians saying, "there is ONE body." The Corinthians were instructed to "all speak the same thing." How did this amazing unity come about? How could thousands of first century Christians all speak the same things, be of the same mind and judgment? The answer lies in the fact that they were all following the same teaching or doctrine. Acts 2:42 tells us that the Jerusalem disciples "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine." It is important to notice that it was the apostles' doctrine these early Christians followed. The apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit in this teaching. Christ Himself promised, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth [. . . ]" (John 16:13). Paul affirms this of his gospel: "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11, 12). So, to follow the apostles' teachings is to follow the teachings of Christ.

If people today follow only the apostles' teaching, we will be united as those early Christians were. Because men have followed the teachings of men rather than the apostles, denominationalism has resulted. For example, the Lutheran Church follows the teachings of Martin Luther, the Methodist Church follows John Wesley, the Presbyterian Church follows John Calvin. Let us give up human names and human creeds and return to the Bible as our sole authority in all religious matters. The Bible not only gives us a solid basis for unity, it assures us that we are following the will of God. John says: "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

What can you do? It is not necessary to wait for all the churches to unite (this will probably never happen). There is a way in which you can defeat denominationalism right in your own life - by becoming SIMPLY A CHRISTIAN! How is this done? Begin first of all by studying what Jesus requires of you - no more and no less. If you will believe in Christ, repent of sins, confess His name, be immersed for forgiveness of sins this will make you a Christian. You will not be a member of any denomination and you should not join any. Instead, find and associate yourself with other disciples who have obeyed the gospel in the same way you have. Strive together with them to be the New Testament church. Worship regularly on the first day of the week, wear no human names, and practice nothing in the work or organization of the church unauthorized by God in the New Testament Scriptures. This is the remedy for denominationalism. It is a way that cannot be faulted.

QUESTIONS:
  1. The Jerusalem disciples continued __________ (Acts 2:42).
    writing their own creeds
    steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine
    forming new churches
    dividing into various denominations
  2. The Holy Spirit guided the apostles ______ (John 16:13).
    to start various denominations
    to write their own creeds
    with different doctrines
    into all truths
  3. If we "______ the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with ______" (1 John 1:7).
    purify; every church
    walk in; one another
    absorb; all men
    see; all denominations
  4. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19,20) and the book of Acts tell one how to become a ______.
    Protestant
    Methodist
    Catholic
    Christian
  5. When one obeys God's commands, he/she will not be a member of ______.
    the New Testament church
    the body of Christ
    Christ's church
    any denomination
  6. Christ's prayer for unity was never answered.
    True
    False
  7. There is one body (Ephesians 4:4).
    True
    False
  8. First century Christians all spoke the same thing.
    True
    False
  9. Paul received his gospel from other men.
    True
    False
  10. There is no possible way for religious unity today.
    True
    False
  11. Denominationalism results when we follow the teachings of men.
    True
    False
  12. The Bible should be our sole basis of authority in all religious matters.
    True
    False
  13. If you become simply a Christian you are helping to defeat denominationalism.
    True
    False
  14. After becoming a Christian you should join the denomination of your choice.
    True
    False
  15. After becoming a Christian you should associate with others in striving to be the New Testament church.
    True
    False
IV. THE END OF DENOMINATIONALISM

On an occasion when the Pharisees were opposing the Word of God, Jesus said: "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch" (Matthew 15:13, 14). And so it shall be with denominationalism. God did not plant it. Religious division and denominationalism is a device of man, originating in the mind of man rather than the mind of God. It opposes the will of God and Christ that His disciples should all be one. Its doctrines are contrary to Bible doctrine. It does not teach God's way of salvation. As God has done with every erroneous system, so He shall do with denominationalism: it shall be rooted up!

Consider yet another statement of Christ's: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23). What a remarkable statement by our Savior! Your attention is called to the fact that these people are religious: They call Him "Lord;" they prophesy; they can cast out devils; they have done many wonderful works. Yet, THEY ARE LOST. "I never knew you" are the words of Christ.

To be religious is not enough. We must do the will of our Father in heaven if we expect salvation. It makes a tremendous different what one believes and practices in religion. We must be religiously right. What about you?

QUESTIONS:
  1. God did not _________.
    plant denominationalism
    provide a specific doctrine
    authorize the church
    plant the church
  2. "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be _______" (Matthew 15:13).
    cultivated
    harvested
    watered
    uprooted
  3. "Not every one who says 'Lord, Lord' shall ________."
    be lost forever
    join a denomination
    enter the kingdom of heaven
    join the church
  4. "Depart from me, you that ______" (Matthew 7:23).
    covet
    steal
    murder
    practice lawlessness
  5. To be religious is not enough. We must be religiously ______.
    sincere
    enthusiastic
    zealous
    right
  6. There are some plants that God has not planted.
    True
    False
  7. Denominationalism originated in the mind of God.
    True
    False
  8. Denominationalism shall be rooted up.
    True
    False
  9. Those condemned by Christ in Matthew 7:21-23 were religious people.
    True
    False
  10. Those condemned had not done the will of God.
    True
    False
What We Have Learned From This Lesson
  • The church of Christ is of divine origin
  • It is sinful to belong to any other church
  • You can defeat denominationalism by becoming simply a Christian

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Copyright (c) Know Your Bible Course 2011