Years ago I had a lady tell me it was impossible to be just a Christian without being in a denomination. Did Jesus build a denomination? Which denomination did Jesus build? I fear the lady I spoke of above was in grave error those many years ago but she was in a bind. What do I mean? Those who are in denominational churches generally all agree that those in other denominations can and will be saved the same as they will be. Which means what?
It logically follows if you hold to that thinking that you can never
admit your denomination is the one church Jesus built. If you did that
it would put all other denominations outside the church thus you have to
take the position this woman took. Jesus is “the Savior of the body”
(Eph. 5:23 NKJV) and the body is his body, the church. (Eph. 1:22-23)
That is the very thing your denomination can never admit to being if you
believe others in other denominations can and will be saved.
Think about that long and hard. You can never admit your group is
the body of Christ, the church Jesus built. Is there something wrong
here? Why would anyone want to be a member of your group if it is not
the body of Christ, not the church Jesus built, if you cannot admit that
it is? If it is the body of Christ, the church Jesus did build, then
it excludes all other groups.
Of course they say the answer to that is that all denominations
collectively make up the one church and our denomination is a part of
that one church, the universal church. It would be comical if not so
serious. The implication is that doctrine and truth do not matter nor
does practice. Believe what you want, practice what you want, just
believe intellectually that Jesus is the Son of God and that is all that
What a waste - Paul writing all those letters to the church at Corinth
trying to correct wrong practices (shall we say sin). A waste because
it did not matter; they believed in Jesus and were going to be saved
anyway. And Jesus too for there was evidently, according to
denominationalism, no need for those 7 letters to the churches of Asia
found in Revelation, especially those giving warning, for doctrine and
practice do not matter if you can be saved in any denomination
regardless of belief and practice.
Paul spoke of his ways in Christ which he said “I teach everywhere in
every church.” (1 Cor. 4:17 NKJV) Every church in New Testament times
received the same teaching. There were no opposing doctrines save from
false teachers. What was taught in one place by a Holy Spirit inspired
teacher was taught in every place. Now we say it doesn’t matter; they
will be saved the same as we, just believe in Jesus.
What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Does it mean it makes little
to no difference what he taught on a subject through the inspired
writers of the New Testament? Is the idea we will believe in Jesus for
salvation but we will not believe him in doctrinal teaching and it won’t
matter in the least? Is that the idea?
Denominationalism by its very nature has at its core the concept that doctrine does not matter. It
teaches opposing and contradictory doctrines and sometimes things
clearly condemned in scripture, things like the acceptance of
homosexuality, women preachers and women in leadership positions in the
church, these things just as examples, and we say they will be saved too
because they believe in Jesus.
I have long felt people do not know what it means to believe in
Jesus. Today it seems to mean you can believe he is the Savior but you
cannot believe another word he uttered. Is that faith in Jesus, the
faith that matters, the faith that saves? Or, we just take the approach
that he said it but it does not matter. If you want to believe it and
obey it okay but it does not matter either way as regards your
salvation. That is denominationalism.
Paul said we were to all be “of one mind.” (2 Cor. 13:11 NKJV) To
the saints at Philippi he said, “Stand fast in one spirit, with one
mind.” (Phil. 1:27 NKJV) We are to be “likeminded … being of one
accord, of one mind.” (Phil 2:2 NKJV) Peter taught the same thing in 1
Peter 3:8, “all of you be of one mind.” (NKJV)
Denominationalism says it does not matter; we can be saved with
division and difference being of many minds, not just one mind. We can
practice what another denomination considers sin and yet be saved for
what denomination you are in makes no difference. That is
Jesus prayed in John 17, “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.” (John 17:20-21 NKJV)
One sin of denominationalism stands out very clearly for any thinking
individual. If your denomination thinks those in another denomination
can be saved the same as you can and will be (?) is it not sin on your
group’s part if you do not disband and join together with them? If not
why not? Who gives your group the right to stay separated from fellow
believers that you admit will be saved? Why are you not guilty of
willful sin if you refuse to disband and join with them, if you refuse
to be of one mind with them? Reread Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
If your disagreements are considered to be insignificant as far as
salvation is concerned why are you so hard hearted as to refuse to be
one with them? Why do you refuse to be of one mind?
It is sometimes said that in the parable of the vine and the branches
in John 15 that the branches represent the denominations. Whoa! When
Jesus spoke that parable there was not a denomination in the world. Not
even the one true church he built had yet been established. He was
speaking to his audience, his disciples. He says, “If anyone does not
abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered.” (John 15:6
NKJV) He says, “If you abide in Me.” (John 15:7 NKJV) Get the words
“anyone” and “you.”
If he was speaking to denominations, obviously false, it was as an
act of prophecy for there would not be a denomination such as we have
today established anywhere for well over 1,000 years into the future.
One has to ask the question why is it that a person cannot be just a
member of the church Christ established? Why must one also be a member
of a denomination which was unheard of in Jesus’ time? I asked the lady
that who I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article. She could
never give me an answer other than to say just because, just because it
was no longer possible.
Do you believe that? If so why do you believe it? Why could one not
just follow the teachings of the New Testament and do what they did in
the first century to become Christians (there are many examples of
conversions in the book of Acts), then join together in a congregation
of like minded people and worship doing exactly what they did way back
in the days of the apostles, no more, no less, organize the congregation
as they organized theirs–elders leading the congregation with deacons
serving–and just try and do exactly the same things in the same way as
they did back then? Let us then call ourselves nothing but disciples,
nothing but Christians, and give our congregation a name that is
scriptural (call it what they called it back then). If we were to do
that would that make us just another denomination or would it make us a
true church of Christ, a church built by Jesus?
Some believe it would make you just another denomination. Think
about that. It is the same as saying what Jesus established in the
first century was a denomination. If we did what they did back then we
would just be a denomination. Jesus established a denomination? Yeah, I
really believe that don’t you?
Can the church we find in the New Testament be restored in a
community today? If not why not? As long as you have the original
plans you can restore or make anew anything just as it was in its
original form. Give me the original plans for a piece of antique
furniture that has been unseen for even hundreds of years and it can be
made again today just like it was originally.
Give me a set of plans for playing a game, say a game the American
Indians played 200 years ago, and even though I have never seen the game
played I can replicate it simply by following the plans. When I play
that game I will be playing what they played. You get the idea. All
one needs is the plan. Does the New Testament give us a plan regarding
the one church? To ask is to answer.
The original New Testament church we read about in our Bibles did end
up in apostasy. This was prophesied. “Let no one deceive you by any
means; for that Day will not come (the Day of Judgment–DS) unless the
falling away comes first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of
perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God
or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God,
showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thess. 2:3-4 NKJV)
Paul also told the elders of the church in Ephesus, “For I know this,
that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not
sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up,
speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
(Acts 20:29-30 NKJV)
While Catholics believe they are the one church there is none of them
that I know of who would claim they are the church one would have if he
was able to replicate today the church we find on the pages of the New
Testament. They readily admit they must go outside of the pages of the
New Testament to get the church they have today. Authority with them
does not reside solely in scripture.
You cannot find the original New Testament church in the Catholic
church of today but neither can you find it in any of the Protestant
denominations either. If Jesus built a church and just one there was a
time when he did that–on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Thus we have a time for its establishment admitted by all (at least
as far as I know never having heard of any who disagree). Yet, not a
single denomination will lay any claim whatsoever as to having come into
existence back then. When one admits the group he is a member of did
not even exist in New Testament times he pretty much has lost his case
as to making any claim as to being a part of that which was established.
If your desire is to be a part of the church Jesus built you have the
original plans for it. You are only a denomination because you want to
be one. If you have the plans for the original church Jesus built what
more do you need than the will to implement them? Once you do so you
can then admit to being the one church Jesus built and will no longer
have to deny it. I would call that a bright day.
Author: Denny Smith