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Sunday, February 11, 2017 pm                                        NT Church Index


NT Testament Church (2017-2018)
Supplemental lesson
Answering the Justification of Denominations

We have been studying the NT church on Sunday mornings for quite some time now.  Most recently we have been addressing the subject of unity and the church.  Last week we talked about why denominationalism is wrong.  Tonight, we want to supplement that study by noting some arguments used to justify denominationalism.

Again, I want to remind you that in this study I am not questioning the sincerity of those who advocate the denominational view of the church, though some may have ulterior motives (as Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruits” – Matthew 7:16).  There are many good and moral people who believe these things.  But we must always respect God’s pattern, and as we have seen – denominationalism is not found in scripture. 

Tonight, we want to notice some arguments made to justify this concept of the body of Christ, the church.  IN this lesson, if you have been here awhile you will hear nothing new.  The answers to these arguments are based upon many things we have already addressed in our study of the church and unity.  It is just a matter of thinking and apply principles that we have learned.   Thus we are seeking to give a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15) and rightly dividing (or handling accurately) the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

 I.                     John 15:1-8 - vines and branches (or 1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

a.       Some advocate that when Jesus stated He was the vine and you are the branches, He was indicating there would be differences that would be acceptable.  Some might argue that the various branches are different denominations.  As long as Christ is the vine, we are acceptable.

b.       Consider the context – Jesus was speaking to His apostles. (John 13-16) 
He was speaking about growth (bearing fruit).  Question: When a tree or vine bears fruit, does each branch bear the same type of fruit or different fruits?  IF this illustration fits denominations, then you have a vine producing all manner of different fruits. 

c.        Were the apostles united in their message?   Even when Paul came along, they met and discussed the issues and were in agreement based upon discussing what had occurred (cf. Acts 15).

d.       The POINT of the illustration was our need to be producing fruit. (vs. 5-6)

e.       Finally, vs. 7 notes that we abide in His word and His word abides in us.  Denominations are the product of men and as such they are NOT abiding in His word. 

f.         Similar to this argument, some may appeal to 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 – as the body of Christ.  But again, context makes it clear that each “part” is individuals, not congregations OR denominations.

 II.                   We’re just taking different routes to heaven

a.       If anything is clearly taught in scripture, it is the fact there is only ONE way to heaven.

                                                   i.      Jesus taught He is THE way – John 14:6

                                                 ii.      Matthew 7:13-14 – the way to heaven is NARROW (confined, restricted).

                                                iii.      Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Man can be and is often wrong! 

                                                iv.      Galatians 2:21 – IF man can be saved without following Jesus (including His teachings), then He didn’t need to die!

b.       Show me anywhere in the New Testament (or Old Testament) where there are different doctrines being taught and accepted by God.

                                                   i.      Galatians 1:6-9 – Paul warned that following “another gospel” was not acceptable

                                                 ii.      Again Revelation 2:14-16 - Pergamos, 2:18-20 – Thyatira – both were condemned because in their midst they had conflicting doctrines.

c.        Jesus died on a cross to bring us together, not to splinter us into different groups.

                                                   i.      1 Corinthians 1:10-13 – no divisions.  3:1-4 – you are carnal when you splinter like this.

                                                 ii.      Ephesians 2:14-16 – while addressing bringing Jews and Gentiles together by abolishing the Old Law, the point is, Jesus wants us to be in agreement!

d.       Add to this, as noted in a previous lesson, such allows one to cater their beliefs to what THEY want with no requirement to ensure that it is the ONE true way.

e.       Jeremiahs 6:16 said, Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’   Writing to a corrupt nation, Jeremiah gave them the way back to God.  It was to return to the Old ways.

f.         INCIDENTALLY, virtually all who seek to defend denominationalism will admit it was NOT what we had in New Testament times.  They know it is NOT there!

 III.                 We agree on certain key concepts; the rest are up to our interpretation.

a.       This is the point that many will make.  Example: As long as we agree that: 1) The Bible is the inspired word of God; 2) There is one true God (of the Bible); 3) Jesus is the Son of God, died for our sins and arose: 4) etc.  Their list on the things that matter may also differ – some slightly and others greatly.
All other matters are left to our own discretion.  They may give a list such as the organization and structure of the church, matters of doctrine and/or morality, the plan of salvation (tough they may impose certain requirements on this), how we worship, etc. 

b.       Question: Who gets to choose which concepts are key?

                                                   i.      Matthew 7:21-23 – Jesus taught it is not enough to just acknowledge Him. We must obey Him!

                                                 ii.      Also consider Ephesians 4:4-6 – the 7 “one’s” – is this list important when it comes to agreement?  Yet denominationalism disagrees on many of these points.
How about Hebrews 6:1-2 where the writer gives a list of “first principles” that we must know (and of necessity should agree on).

c.        Paul taught the same thing in every church- 1 Corinthians 4:17. 

d.       Again Galatians 1:8-9 – note Paul’s warning.  If one preaches a different gospel, let him be accursed.  Considering the purpose of the book of Galatians, this “different gospel” did not reject Jesus as the Son of God, nor His resurrection.  It added to the gospel by demanding that Gentiles be circumcised.  This is what Paul was warning against.

 IV.                 All denominations teach some truth

a.       Maybe so. I will even acknowledge that some denominations may teach MOST of the truth – especially morally.  BUT that doesn’t make them right.  
Furthermore, we can take that further.  Some atheists may teach truth on some issues, Muslims and Buddhists teach some truths, Humanists teach some truth.  Does that make them acceptable?

b.       Paul sought to teach the “whole counsel of God” – Acts 20:27
In Romans 15:19, Paul notes, “I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”

c.        Jesus in Luke 18:22 told the rich, young ruler, “You still lack one thing.”

d.       James 2:10 – notes that to stumble in one point is to be guilty of all.  This is a context dealing with showing partiality.  James notes that some kept other portions of the law, but they failed in this one key concept

e.       Also, by saying this one is acknowledging that some of what is being taught is NOT the truth.  For this we can appeal to Matthew 15:9 – where worship to God is vain when we teach the doctrines of men.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – Paul determined to ONLY declare “Christ and Him crucified”.  Clearly Paul meant more than JUST the account of His crucifixion (read the rest of this letter and you will see that).  BUT his point is that he did NOT teach the doctrines of men.  Cf. Galatians 1:11-12.

f.         What does error do?

 V.                   Good people in all churches  (denominations)

a.       Again, that may be a true statement, depending on whose definition of good we are using. 

b.       What about God’s definition? Romans 3:9-10…; Romans 3:23 – we all have sinned.  HE is the one who gets to define what and who is good.

c.        But let’s assume the definition of goodness from a societal standpoint that agrees with Biblical morality.  Mere goodness doesn’t save!  I ask again, what about the atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or humanist?

d.       Acts 10:1-2, 6 – Cornelius was a good man, but he wasn’t saved (see Acts 11:14 – he still needed to hear and respond to the truth)

e.       We need the blood of Jesus to be saved – Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 3:23-26

f.         Furthermore, this argument doesn’t justify denominations at all.  If anything it DIMINISHES the importance of the church. 

 VI.                 There are “saved” people” in all churches (denominations)

a.       What constitutes salvation? God’s plan! First, there are many different plans of salvation among the denominations.  They cannot all be right.  Again, consider Ephesians 4:5 - there is ONE faith and ONE baptism.  Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, 1 Corinthians 12:13, etc.

b.       Most denominations teach a false plan of salvation – faith only.  How can a church have saved people in it, when it doesn’t teach what God says about being saved?  James 2:24 – “not by faith only”.

c.        And again, even if it were true (I am not saying that), that argument doesn’t justify denominations.  We still need to look to God’s word to determine what the church is.

 VII.               One church is as good as another

a.       Often this is the point that is intended when they talk about good people and saved people in all churches.  This is also the premises of the mantra, “Join the church of your choice”.

b.       To this I appeal to our year long study about the church.  But I remind you of these key points:

                                                   i.      Jesus built ONE church – Matthew 16:18. He purchased it with His own blood – Acts 20:28, Ephesians 5:25 – gave Himself for her.

                                                 ii.      It is his body – Ephesians 1:22-23.   We are baptized into His body – 1 Corinthians 12:13

                                                iii.      The church was a part of God’s eternal purpose – Ephesians 3:10-11.  AND it manifests His wisdom. 
Furthermore, is God capable of giving us a church that is united and in which we are all in agreement?  Or is He is the author of confusion? 1 Corinthians 14:33

                                                iv.      Christ is NOT divided – 1 Corinthians 1:10-13.
Paul taught the same thing in every church – 1 Corinthians 4:17

                                                  v.      God wants unity!  Ephesians 4:1-3, etc.

c.        Then I would ask, IF one church is as good as another, then why not abandon yours for the sake of unity?  In reality, most believe in principle that where they are at is BETTER than some place else (or they would go there). 
What about doctrinal contradictions? They are many – dealing with doctrine (who is baptized and when); morality – homosexuality; worship – how and when we worship, etc.

d.       Ecumenicalism – the advocacy of accepting all (or most) Jesus believing religious bodies – really does dismiss the importance of God’s pattern. 
Personally, I have more respect for a denomination (not agreement), that believes it is the one true church than these inter-denominational, so called “non-denominational” churches.  At least they profess that there is only one true path. 

e.       Friends when it comes to the church, shouldn’t we seek to join the church of Christ’s choice?

 

Denominationalism is not what we find in the Bible.  Most, when challenged will admit this.  But they still seek to justify it as being acceptable because it is what they want.  In this lesson, we have seen that some of the arguments they make are not valid by God’s standard.  As with all we do, let us seek to be a part of the church we find in the Bible and let us boldly stand up for it and it alone.  Think about it!