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Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:24-29
Does God Approve of Denominations?
1. Part 1: Denominations are the product of division, not unity, Jno. 17:20-21; Gal. 5:20-21.
2. Denominations supplant the word and wisdom of God for the will and wisdom of men, 1 Cor. 1:23-25.
3. “Denominations are man-made institutions that neither are recognized in, nor sanctioned by, the Word of God.” (Bert Thompson, Reason & Revelation, 1/98)
4. The church of Christ, produced by the gospel, seems insignificant by worldly standards in comparison to the grand denominations of men, yet the church of Christ glorifies God - they glorify men. 1 Cor. 1:26-31
I. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST (not a denomination).
A. Divine in Ownership, Matt. 16:16-18.
-Unique (singular) in design and construction.
B. Composed of Individuals (those who are saved), Acts 2:47.
1. One body under one head, Eph. 1:22-23 (Col. 1:18); 4:3-4.
2. Purchased and saved by blood of Christ, Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23.
C. Without Universal (earthly) Organization, Heb. 12:22-23.
1. Local churches of Christ: Independent assemblies of saints, 1 Cor. 1:2 (Rom. 16:16). [i]
2. Sufficiently organized to do the work given them by Christ.
II. THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS NOT A DENOMINATION (distinct and unique from the churches of men).
A. Because of its Nature, the Church of Christ is not a Denomination.
1. Built by Jesus, not man; Belongs to Jesus, not man, Matt. 16:18.
2. It is the body of Christ, who is its head, Eph. 1:22-23; Christ has only one body, Eph. 4:4.
3. Christ prayed for unity which reflects the unity of the Godhead, Jno. 17:20-21.
B. But, Someone Responds: “The church of Christ is a denomination, too.”
1. People reach conclusions based on previous experiences, perceptions and misunderstandings (Matt. 16:13-14).
2. Uninformed think it is; Must educate them (“What sect are you?”)
a. Christians were called a “sect” of Judaism (heresy, “dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims” (Online Bible Greek Lexicon), Acts 24:5.
b. Gospel is “the Way” – It does not produce a sect, Acts 24:14.
3. Brethren are influenced to think of churches of Christ as a "movement" and even as a sect of "an independent (American) denomination". [ii]
C. The Church of Christ is not a Denomination because:
1. Jesus did not build a denomination, Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 1:19.
2. It is possible to be a member of the church Jesus built and never be in a denomination, Acts 2:41, 47.
3. The apostles were not members of a denomination, 1 Cor. 1:13; 3:4.
4. One can still be a Christian without belonging to a denomination, Acts 2:47; Eph. 1:22-23; 2:16-18.
1. None who formed denom. died to purchase and save them: Jesus did for His church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25).
2. We do not claim that churches of Christ belong to a better denomination, or the best denomination. We claim there is only one church – the church that belongs to Christ - and we strive to be that church.
3. The fall of denominationalism will be great, Matt. 7:24-27 (v. 22-23).
[i] "Independent congregations are not free from controversy and confrontation, I am sure, but they are surely spared the sort of intra-denominational strife and warfare that currently plagues western Protestant denominations, where congregations are bound by constitutional and financial ties to structures that force congregations and church leaders into conflict with one another when independent church leaders would be free simply to turn away and get on with the kingdom business at hand." (Louis Kinsey, A Church of Scotland Blog, http://bit.ly/Hy5BaP)
[ii] "One of the new churches spawned by the religious ferment in early nineteenth-century America was the Disciples of Christ. Biblical literalists with an activistic faith, the early Disciples preached a "restoration of the ancient gospel"; their central plea was "to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." By the early 1830s the Disciples of Christ had emerged as an independent denomination and, under the capable and energetic leadership of Alexander Campbell, made impressive gains during the decades between 1830 and 1860." (David Edwin Harrell, Jr., "The Sectional Origins of Churches of Christ", American Origins of Churches of Christ, 45)
"The conservative wing of the divided movement, the Churches of Christ, has grown very rapidly in the half century since 1906. By 1961, according to the estimate in the most recent Yearbook of American Churches, the Churches of Christ had a membership of around 2,250,000. Together with the more liberal segment of the movement, the Christian Church, it forms the largest and most significant religious movement native to America." (op cit., 47)
"The sectional bifurcation of the Disciples of Christ - using the name to refer to the whole movement—is one of the most vivid American examples of the bending of the Christian ethos to fit the presuppositions of the community. All of the complex antagonisms in nineteenth-century American society-North and South, East and West, urban and rural, affluent and dispossessed—left their marks on the theology and institutional development of the group." (op cit., 48)
By: Joe R. Price
Posted: December 18, 2014