CONCERN: Never once in the scripture is there a mention of a denomination, only Christians and the church that belongs to Christ and he will deliver up to God on that fateful day as his bride whom he sacrificed himself for (Eph. 5:22-33).
MY RESPONSE: The church was obviously young and was young in Doctrine. As time came along and doctrines such as the Trinity came along, it was OBVIOUS that splits would have to be made. Would you remain in fellowship with a church who claimed that Jesus Christ is not the son of God? Obviously not. I think it was evident that denominations would form. You agree with Roman Catholics on this issue of unity, if you do not realize that. They claim that God wants physical unity of EVERYONE and the only way to claim that is to have one TRUE church. So, if you don't like denominations, the only alternative is to be Catholic or Mormon or Jehovah's Witness and claim that your denomination is the "right" one. Just because I'm Baptist doesn't mean I have to be divisive about other denominations. Remember, it's a spiritual unity.
CONCERN: He prayed for unity "as I (Christ) am in thee (God)" in John 17 I cannot see an answered prayer in the malaise of denominational worship where one mans think so is as important as the word of God,
MY RESPONSE: Denominational worship? Denominations are more like skins that Christians wear...it's more like a label to tell people what we believe. I hardly think that the Lord Jesus Christ would expect us to agree on EVERYTHING. Therefore, denominations have formed basically where people of like beliefs can worship. I've NEVER heard anyone say that one man's thinking is as important as the word of God. Your view of Denominations is actually a straw man, my friend.
CONCERN: if it was not then why do we need creeds, catechisms, prayer books, and the like. If we want to see God's plan for man then we should go to God's word and not mans. When Paul proclaimed the all sufficient nature of the Word in II Tim 3:16-17 he must not have known that there were other men much more savvy than him who were going to come around and write about other gospels (Gal. 1:6-10) that are better than what God had him write down.
MY RESPONSE: Again, the straw man of catechisms is a little far-fetched. I don't think anyone that uses a catechism would equate it to the Word of the Almighty God, except maybe Roman Catholicism. NO ONE could prove that people think that catechism are miniature Gospels! Do you use a concordance? Do you have books that help you study the Bible? If you do, those are exactly what catechisms do. Do you listen to your preacher? Thats EXACTLY what catechisms are related to. If you think that EVERYTHING we as humans say is mere fleshly opinion, than don't listen to your pastor! Basically, these catechisms are written to HELP us, not conform us to a certain kind of belief.
CONCERN: If you believe in another gospel besides the Gospel that was "once delivered (Jude 3)" how can you say that someone who follows only the Gospel is wrong and then have to twist in order to make the Gospel conform to your way. Either the Gospel is the word of God and to be followed in all of it's purity without the writings of other men taking an equal footing or it is an abomination and the worst crime ever committed against man.
MY RESPONSE: Explain how this relates to denominations? I think it actually proves my point. If someone is not purely teaching the Gospel and you confront them, and do what the Scriptures say in confronting the Brethren, and they do not change, then find another church. Back then, they just had to start a new denomination. In fact, some of the most spiritually elite and divisive people I've met (BELIEVE ME, this is not directed towards you!) (o: have been Hyper-Calvinists and those that think all denominations are evil. In fact, your statements make it sound like that those in denominations are accursed. That is hardly the case.
I solely follow the Gospel, and I'm Baptist, but because the Bible teaches Believers' Baptism, I'm Baptist. The fact that you're disagreeing with me again proves my point. How far does this unity extend? It's ludicrous to assume that God wants us to agree on EVERY point of doctrine. So, what does a physical unity do for the church? It really doesn't show the world we're too much different does it, maybe like a big club or organization. That would NOT impact the world now, would it? No, so I think that the unity is spiritual. I mean, for me as a Baptist to be friends with a Presbyterian and have that KINDRED SPIRIT between us shows greater unity. It shows the world, Yeah! We're different, but we have the same Father and we're working towards the same goal.
Let's examine some of the Scriptures...
Well...let's examine the passage in John. What exactly is Jesus trying to say? Is He saying that we must have no denominations and all gather and agree on everything. Not quite. What is the purpose of this unity? "...that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Now, let's examine a parallel passage in John 13:35. That verse says: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." That is what Christ is talking about. The most touching thing to me is when a Methodist and a Baptist are in fellowship, or a Presbyterian and an Episcopalian. There is a deep love and a deep unity there that transcends a physical limitation. Remember, His ways are higher than ours. I don't think God is limited by physical limitations. His Spirit is moving in different denominations where the Gospel is pure, and the hearts wanting to seek God.
Plus, if you're saying that God doesn't want denominational boundaries than you are saying Christ's prayer is of NO effect. I don't think you would admit to that, but that is at the root. You're saying denominations cause divisiveness. Okay then, Christ's prayer is unanswered. As I've heard it explained, we cannot assume that Christ is begging, PLEADING to God that we will be one and saying, "Well...Father I really really hope that they'll be one, but I don't know." Nope. Christ says that "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one;" If Christ is in us (i.e. if we're a believer), then we're ALREADY ONE because God is one and Christ is one and we're in Christ, so we have that familial relationship with EVERY believer. Jesus goes on to say "that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." It goes back to love again...that familial love relationship. It is said that "no man sticks closer than a brother" and that "blood is thicker than water." Those sayings point back to the truth of Scripture that we are all related just as physical families are related.
As John MacArthur puts it, "The idea here [in John 27:23] is that they may be brought together in the same spiritual life around the truth that saves. That prayer was answered by the reality of 1 Cor. 12:12, 13; Eph. 2:14-22" Well...since he mentioned those, let's move on to examine them.
1 Corinthians 12:13 states that, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
At the moment of Salvation we were ALL SPIRITUALLY baptized together, so we are already one body. Now that body has its implications, like we will love each other, etc. That will come as we learn to love our brethren with the love of Christ. So, we are ALREADY one just as Christ is with the Father--they are spiritually united, and so is EACH and EVERY believer.
Now, let's move on to Eph. 2:14-22 and hit the highlights of the passage. The Bible says:
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
What is this verse talking about? Let's see...First it says that we are a new person. It also says that we are fellowcitizens with each other (again, that deep transcending spiritual bond). We are now of the Household of God! We already HAVE that unity with one another. We are united, no matter what denomination. That delights my soul! I'm sure it does yours too!
One of the strongest that speaks for unity is 1 Corinthians 1:10. The passage reads: "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."
This verse tells us some of the physical limitations of unity. We are to speak the same thing--not all denominations speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those other denominations are to be dismissed as not being Christian (e.g. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses). Remember...that is to prove which of us is from God! God allows those divisions. For one thing, we are probably in agreement that those people that rely so heavily on their denominational name and their confessions isn't exactly the way to go. Those books are not to be shunned altogether either.
If I call you a Christian that is a label, correct? Would we both assume that Mormons are not Christians? So...to separate ourselves, there MUST be denominations or else we would be Unitarian, which (if I'm correct) pretty much allow any belief into their church. Is that what you want? No...I sincerely don't believe you do. You see, many denominations weren't formed by divisive people...merely by people with like beliefs wanting to worship with people of like beliefs. You're church is non-denominational, I assume. Well...your church probably also has certain beliefs that are characteristic to your church. I wouldn't say that all Christians should agree with those beliefs or doctrinal stance of your church, nor would I claim that all Christians must disagree. The point is...Go to the place where you feel the Scripture is taught best. For me, that is a Baptist church. Most non-denominational churches are Pentecostal, etc. I don't agree with that set of beliefs, and so I'm sticking with the Baptist church. Again, the point is a spiritual unity, just as the Father and Son have a spiritual unity (John 17). It CANNOT be a physical unity for God is a Spirit (John 4:24).
There's nothing wrong with having different beliefs that don't undermine the authority and the message of the Gospel. The point is, some do, and we must separate ourselves from heresy and come out from among those. That is Scriptural. Denominations do not have to be bad.
Kenny Wells (email@example.com)
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July 7, 1999