What Denominationalism Does to Christ
This may sound shocking to many but the concept of denominationalism (many different churches, teaching many different doctrines) is not taught or sanctioned in the New Testament. Jesus promised and did build "one body" or church (Matt. 16: 18, Eph. 1: 22, 23, cp. Eph. 4: 4). The concept of many different churches was absent in the First Century. Paul, therefore, taught "every where in every church" (I Cor. 4: 17). Denominationalism is division personified. The closest that we can come to denominationalism in the New Testament is the divided state of the church at Corinth. Paul did not praise this fragmented condition, but rather he condemned it. Observe Paul's inspired teaching:
"10: Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11: For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12: Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13: Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (I Cor. 1.)
Denominationalism rests on the claim of justified diversified understanding of God's word. However, oneness and the avoidance of changing the word of God are enjoined (Gal. 1: 6-9; Rev. 22: 18, 19). How can one be expected to "contend earnestly for the once delivered faith" if the faith cannot be understood and understood alike (Jude 3; Eph. 3: 1-6). The Christian is commanded not to "bid God speed" to errorists (2 Jn. 9-11). Such a command is totally nonsensical if we cannot understand alike basic truth. Billy Graham's advice of "Join the church of your choice and glorify God" is totally contrary to what the scriptures teach (My Answer, 12/15/55). To further present the folly of denominationalism, I want to briefly share with you what denominationalism in essence does to Christ.
Denominationalism mocks Jesus' prayer for unity. In the shadow of the cross, Jesus poured out his heart in prayer to the Father. Observe one particular for which Jesus fervently prayed: "Neither pray I for these alone (Jesus' apostles, dm), but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn. 17: 20, 21). The reality of multiplied thousands of different churches and theologies make a mockery of Jesus' prayer for the oneness of his followers (see addendum).
Denominationalism produces unbelief. Beloved, the state of many different churches, teaching many different doctrines is a prolific cause of unbelief. Notice why Jesus prayed for unity: "that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn. 17: 21). The atheist is heard to say, "how can you expect me to believe the Bible when there are so many different religions that claim to believe and go by the same book?"
Makes Christ a contradictory Lord. Have you ever really stopped and thought about all the mixed messages of denominationalism? For instance, some teach that all babies are born sinners and if they die in that state, they are eternally lost (hereditary total depravity). Others present babies as pure and innocent (Matt. 18; 19). Some say the non-Christian must be scripturally baptized (Acts 2: 38); others contend water baptism has nothing to do with salvation. Calvinists teach that unless God arbitrarily selected you for salvation before he created the world, there is nothing you can do to alter your lost condition; others maintain salvation is available to all (Jn. 3: 16). The point is that denominationalism is responsible for contradictory messages being given to the lost. Some in hearing these conflicting teachings have concluded Jesus is a contradictory Lord.
Denominationalism makes Christ a hypocritical Lord. If Jesus embraces and sanctions all the incongruous teachings of denominationalism, he is indeed hypocritical. This is especially true in view of the teaching of strict obedience and doctrinal purity found in the New Testament (Lk. 6: 46, Matt. 7: 21 ff.).
Denominationalism presents Christ as unfair and unjust. Just think of all the inequities of denominationalism - some men must be baptized; others do not need to in order to be saved; some babies are in sin; other babies are in a safe condition, ad infinitum. The Bible says: " God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10: 34, 35). Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn. 8: 32).
Makes Christ the author of confusion. The doctrinally diversified religious world is nothing short of mass and utter chaos. One can find anything taught today that one wants or desires. Many "worship services" today are nothing more than side shows that seek to placate the selfish desires of their clients. Consider what the scriptures actually say about God and such chaotic contumacy: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints Let all things be done decently and in order" (I Cor. 14: 33, 40).
Denominationalism makes Jesus an incompetent Lord. Denominationalism, in view of the conflicting teaching and practices, would have us believe that Jesus was unable to present to the world a Book that all could understand and understand alike. However, the problem is not the Lord's inability, but the problem is man's unwillingness to accept what is taught in the Bible. This is why creeds, dogmas, and confessions of faith in addition to the Bible are needed. Many religions also exist only based on the "authority" of latter day revelation, a matter strictly forbidden (Jude 3).
In closing, there is something better than the system of denominationalism. Pristine New Testament Christianity is still available today. Please consider the words of John Wesley: "Would to God that all party names, and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world, were forgot that the very name (Methodist, dm) might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion" (Universal Knowledge, Vol. 9, pg. 540). Charles Spurgeon wrote: "I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living! I hope that the Baptist name will soon perish, but let Christ's name last forever" (Spurgeon Memorial Library, Vol. 1, pg. 168). (Please consider "Ancient Christianity, a Trip Back in time," click on to visit.)
Addendum: I grant that in reality a fragmented religious world does not constitute a true parallel to the divided state of the church at Corinth (I Cor. 1: 10 ff.). Such is the case because all the foreign religions do not belong to Christ, but are the results of human creeds and the ambitions of their selfish founders (Mk. 7: 6-13).