Sunday, February 4, 2018 am                                            NT Church Index

The New Testament Church (45)
Unity (3)
What is Wrong with Denominationalism?


We have devoted considerable time to identifying what the church is and noted various characteristics we should consider to help us identify THE church that is TRUE to God’s word.   Our two previous lessons have identified the unity God wants us to have and why division is wrong (including noting some things we can do to avoid division).  Yet, in the religious world (so-called Christendom), there is great differences of belief and divisions.  We KNOW this is not what God had in mind, yet many today advocate that denominationalism is acceptable to God.  But is it?  In this lesson we want to show why denominationalism is wrong.

NOTE: I realize this lesson is not comfortable for some because of its implications, especially with friends and loved ones.  But as is always the case, I encourage you to consider whether or not what is said is true to the teachings of God’s word.  I this lesson I am NOT questioning the sincerity of anyone, nor do I see myself (or us) as superior to anyone, nor do I intend for this to sound arrogant, condescending or hateful.  As with every subject we study, we simply want to ask, What does God want us to do?  So let’s get started.

 I.                     What is a denomination?

a.       Denomination - 1. A large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name, usually organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy.
2. One of a series of kinds, values, or sizes, as in a system of currency or weights: Cash registers have slots for bills of different denominations. The stamps come in 40¢ and 70¢ denominations.
3. A name or designation, especially for a class or group.
(American Heritage Dictionary)

b.       Denominationalism – the tendency to separate into denominations.

c.        In this lesson, we define denomination as a group of congregations that are joined together under some governing body.  Typically, they acknowledge that this governing body is only PART of the whole body of Christ.  So when we speak of denominations it with the usual acknowledgment that there are many denominations that make up the body of Christ. 
“A denomination is a part of a larger whole.  Religious groups of this classification see themselves as "saved" in God's eyes, but they do not believe their group is all the saved.  They believe that there are "saved" persons in many other religious groups as well.”  Roger Blackwelder, Huntsville, AL (reference unknown)

d.       It is a term not found in the Bible, nor is the concept of denominations found in the Bible.  That is our lesson today.

 II.                   Why is denominationalism wrong?

a.       It is unbiblical

                                                   i.      It is NOT the pattern for the NT church – in our study of the church, we have sought to define and identify the church based upon the pattern found in the New Testament.  Denominationalism confuses God’s pattern and redefines what the church is.  It strikes at the very core of autonomy and independence of congregations. 
It makes the pattern in virtually every area (how to establish authority, its organization, work, worship and doctrinal teachings) arbitrary.

                                                 ii.      It is NOT the Biblical pattern of unity – John 17:20-21 – Jesus wants unity like that He has with His Father.
1 Corinthians 1:10 – Paul’s pleading – that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together. 

                                                iii.      It is NOT the Biblical pattern for TRUTH – John 17:17, etc. In John 14:6 Jesus noted that He is the ONLY way to heaven.  In Matthew 7:21-23 He noted it is not enough to simply call Him Lord.  We must do His will. 

b.       Denominations are the product of men

                                                   i.      God has never been pleased with the religions of man –
Exodus 32:1-10 – the golden calf; 1 Kings 12:26-33 – the religion of Jeroboam;
Perversions to the gospel – Galatians 1:6-9, 2 John 9, etc.

                                                 ii.      Many warnings about false teachers and false teaching – 2 Peter 2:1-3; cf. Acts 20:28-31 – where Paul warns of savage wolves entering in).

                                                iii.      Denominations can trace their origins back to specific men teaching specific doctrines.  They amassed a following based upon their teachings.

c.        It is divisive – by its very definition it. 

                                                   i.      1 Corinthians 1:10-13 – the closest thing we read of to the concept of denominations, and it is condemned.  Christ is NOT divided! Furthermore, Paul said that we ought not to say, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Peter” or even, “I am of Christ” (in a divisive fashion).

                                                 ii.      Ephesians 2:14-16 – Jesus came to break down walls of division. 
Denominationalism either builds walls or ignores the division.

d.       It implies that we cannot understand God’s pattern

                                                   i.      Ephesians 3:3-4 – Paul wrote so that we may understand God’s will.  In Ephesians 5:17 he even commanded it. 

                                                 ii.      It promotes ignorance (whether intentional or not) – Acts 17:30-31
NOTE: When we are taught not to challenge the beliefs of others, or that it doesn’t matter, it often leads to our failure to challenge our own beliefs (e.g. Is what I believe the truth?)

                                                iii.      It confuses many – 1 Corinthians 14:33 – God is NOT the author of confusion.
He has written in such a way that we CAN understand what we need to do.
But the idea of denominationalism confuses many.
How many see all the denominations and say, “How do I know which one is right?”
Others use it to reject following God, Jesus or any faith system all together (except their atheism or agnosticism).
Recall our emphasis on John 13:34-35 and how the world has the right to judge us by our love.  Recall John 17:21 how the world will believe when we are united!

e.       It makes the church about what we want rather than what God wants.

                                                   i.      Denominationalism is man centered.  “Join the church of your choice” is the mantra of many.    If you don’t like what one church teaches or does, just find another one that will accept what you want.  When we do that it makes it about us rather than about pleasing God.

                                                 ii.      If often appeals to what make you feel good – emotional driven (subjective) rather than truth driven (objective).

                                                iii.      BUT, we read in scripture, There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12);
And “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

                                                iv.      Romans 10:1-3 says, Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.

                                                  v.      Look at where we are today in the religious world because of ecumenicalism. Change almost always veers toward a more progressive and accepting mentality.  
And no wonder, IF you teach that the Bible is unclear in doctrinal matters (such as salvation, the church and relationship with God), how can you expect people to accept it as clear in matters of morality? 

In conclusion, as you study your New Testament you will find NOTHING similar to the denominational concept of faith. 

Ideals such as denominationalism almost NEVER lead one back toward God’s pattern.  The next generation always progresses further away from God’s strict standards and pattern.  We even have some in the denominational world today advocating and defending the persecution of those who disagree with them (such as defending those who destroy bakeries and photo studios for taking moral stands against homosexuality; OR churches that resist the ever-expanding feminist movement, etc.).