WHY I OPPOSE DENOMINATIONALISM
Written by Ron Hutchison
March 20, 2007

The above title may surprise you.  Why in the world would someone oppose denominationalism?  Why would someone oppose something that so many good and honest people support and are a part of? 

It is a fact that many do not oppose denominationalism.  It seems to be a given that denominationalism is pleasing to God and there seems to be very few who would question that belief.

I have friends (whom I consider to be close friends) who are members of denominations.  I have family members who are members of denominations.  I do not oppose denominationalism because I hate the folks who are members of it.  I do not oppose it because I disagree with everything they do.  I do not oppose it because I want to be hateful, or because I want others to hate me or feel sorry for me.   I do not oppose it because I like controversy. I do not oppose it because I think I'm the only one going to heaven. I do not oppose denominationalism because I want to make trouble or because I want to hurt someone, or because I have a grudge against someone.  But I do oppose it, and I believe for very good reasons. It is my prayer that you will consider these reasons carefully before you judge me too harshly.

Before I tell you why I oppose denominationalism, let me define what I'm talking about when I use the word denominationalism.

WHAT IS DENOMINATIONALISM?

When I speak of denominationalism, I am describing those religious groups who profess to follow Jesus Christ, but who are divided because of different teaching and practices.  I'm referring to such groups as the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Christian, Methodist etc... churches. Sometimes you will see denominations referred to as sects. This is because they are sectarian in nature, which means they are divided up into differing factions or parties.

Each denomination teaches something that is different than the other denominations. This is why they exist. This is why they have "creed books." These books describe what makes the various groups different from each other.  They express the beliefs and practices of each individual denomination.

There can be no doubt that many of these religious groups do much good when it comes to benevolence and other activities. But, there are many other groups who do good things that I cannot support and fellowship. The Jews, the Muslims, the Catholics, the Mormons, the Masons, some Atheists and other groups do good things for people. But that does not mean that I can endorse or support their teaching and practices.

So, with denominationalism defined I would like to state the reasons I oppose it.

First, I oppose denominationalism because:

IT EXISTS WITHOUT SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY.

If you begin with the first word of the New Testament and read it through to the last, you will find the Bible as silent as the tomb regarding any denomination that exists today. Not one scripture even vaguely sanctions them. It is a fact that many of the leaders in denominations do not claim that the Bible teaches that they have scriptural authority for their existence.  They just contend that they need no authority from the Bible for their existence. I would just ask, where does God give man the authority to establish his own religious institutions? It is one thing to say that one does not need authority from God to establish a man made religious institution, it is quite another thing to prove it from the Bible.

The apostle Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, "...as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (1 Peter 1:3).  Do you realize that denominations have not come about according to God's divine power? They do not pertain to life and godliness and do not exist as a result of "the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue?"  If God's divine power (Romans 1:16) has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, and it doesn't say anything about denominationalism, then denominationalism does not pertain to life and godliness.  If the "all things that pertain to life and godliness" come "through the knowledge of Him" and the Bible (from which we gain religious knowledge) does not even mention denominationalism, then how can it be sanctioned by God?

To please God one must respect the authority of God's word. Notice what John was inspired to write:  "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).  I know this passage is specifically speaking of the book of Revelation, but does not the principle apply to all of God's word? [see also, Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Numbers 22:18; 24:13; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 John 1:9-11].   Who has the right to add to God's word or the subtract from it?  Do you?  Do I?  Absolutely not!! Denominationalism is to be opposed because it is without any scriptural authority whatsoever. It adds to and subtracts from God's word. 

Denominational authority exists in the creed books that define the denominations' different beliefs. All of these creed books originated with men.  None of them are the revelation of God. It has often been said in the past and I agree wholeheartedly with it: "If a creed book has more than what the Bible has, it has too much.  If it has less than what the Bible has, it has too little.  If it has exactly what the Bible has, we don't need it because we have the Bible. The creed books of denominationalism are unauthorized and unneeded. They actually contribute to disunity among believers. [Also see, "The All-Sufficiency of the Bible"]

Since the Bible does not even mention one denomination, all denominations exist without Bible authority. 

Second, I oppose denominationalism because:

IT VIOLATES BIBLE TEACHING ON UNITY

Read Jesus' prayer in John 17:20-21: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." In view of what Jesus prayed for in this passage, it is strange that denominational preachers often thank God for all the different denominations so that everyone can join the church of his choice.  They are, in fact, praying for division among believers.

Jesus prayed that those who believe in Him be one as He and the Father are one.  Who can imagine the Father and the Son teaching different and contradictory things?  Who can imagine them not offering fellowship to each other?  Who can imagine the Father following a creed book that teaches one thing, and the Son following a discipline that teaches something completely different?  Who can imagine the Father belonging to one denomination and the Son to another? Who can imagine the Father teaching that one must believe, repent of sins, confess Christ and be baptized for the remission of sins to be saved, and the Son teaching that one can be saved by faith only? Surely no one would contend that believers following different creed books, teaching different and often contradictory things, being divided up into different groups and factions answers the prayer of Jesus.

Paul takes up the plea of his Master in First Corinthians 1:10:  "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."  It has never been God's will that His people be divided. The problem the Corinthians had is the same problem that men have today. Rather than following God in all things, people are following the teaching and practice of different people. They are divided just as surely as Corinth was divided.

Many denominationalists will tell you that we can not obey what Jesus and Paul taught. They will tell you that the only place we will ever reach this unity is when we get to heaven. They say we can't all understand the Bible alike and that every man has a right to choose the church best suited to his needs.  There are many who think that agreeing to disagree is unity. It can, of course, be in some sense some sort of union. But it's not the unity that Jesus prayed for and that the apostle Paul commanded. Surely, the Holy Spirit would not have inspired the apostle Paul to plead for something that was impossible.  It is possible for all believers to "speak the same thing."  It is possible for all believers to "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."  But it will occur only when every believer puts down his creed book and accepts the Bible as his only guide; does away with the denominational name he wears and wears only the name of Christ; teaches the one plan of salvation set forth in the New Testament; and is added to the church of Christ by obedience to that plan of salvation.

Our actions and attitudes demanded by the New Testament toward those who sponsor division contrary to the doctrine of Christ show that division is wrong. The apostle Paul was inspired to write: "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them."  Rather than having fellowship and lending support to those who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine of Christ, we must note (mark - KJV) and avoid them. We must reject man's ideas and standards and accept wholeheartedly the Bible on unity and everything else. There can be no unity where there is no complete compliance with the New Testament!  When we speak as the word of God speaks (as Peter teaches in 1 Peter 4:11), there is unity.  When we don't speak as the Bible speaks, there is division. I oppose denominationalism because it violates the Bibles' teaching on unity.

Third, I oppose denominationalism  because:

IT BELITTLES THE LORD'S CHURCH

Much of what is said in the Bible regarding the church is completely ignored by the denominational world. In Acts 20:28, the apostle Paul said,  "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."  This verse clearly shows the importance of the church.  It was so important that Jesus shed His blood for it! He paid the ultimate price to build it.

The commonly accepted idea today is that "one church is as good as another" unless, of course, that church opposes the others.  There can be no doubt that "one denomination is as good as another" seeing that they all originated in the minds of men rather than in the mind of God. But to say that one church is as good as another is to ignore or be ignorant of what the Bible teaches about the Lord's church.

It is not right to belittle the Lord's church by putting it on equal footing with denominations. Jesus taught in Matthew 16:18,  "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."  Did Jesus build His church? Of course He did. He not only built it, He bought it with His blood as we have already seen from Acts 20:28. He paid the ultimate price for it. 

This church is described as the bride of Christ:  "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones" (Ephesians 5:22-30).  It is a terrible sin to place the bride of Christ alongside the prostitutes that men have espoused. The church that Jesus built, not the churches of men, is the bride of Christ. Those who invent to themselves other brides (which is what they do when they invent other "churches"), would make Christ a polygamist - which He is not!  Jesus loved the church so much that He "gave Himself for her." This shows the love that Jesus has for His bride. Jesus "nourishes and cherishes" the church because of His love for it.

The church is the body of Christ: "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23). Just as your body follows the directions of your head, so also the church (the body of Christ) follows the directions of it's head, Jesus Christ. To teach that "one church is as good as another" is to teach that Jesus has many bodies. Yet, Paul clearly teaches here that there is "one body" and that the body is the church. Which means there is ONE CHURCH!

To be in Christ one must be a member of His body: "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones" (Ephesians 5:30).  Christ is not only the head of His body but He is it's Savior: "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23).  In order to be saved then, one must be in the body of Christ which is the church. One cannot be saved outside of the church.

No wonder the Bible calls the church a glorious institution. Christ built it, bought it, directs it, and saves it.  It is such a shame that the unity of the body of Christ should be prostituted upon the desires and commandments of men. It is such a shame that men have created substitutes for the church that Jesus built. Such actions belittle the church of Christ. That's why I oppose denominationalism.

Fourth, I oppose denominationalism because:

IT TEACHES THAT A PERSON MAY BE SAVED
WITHOUT MEETING ALL OF GOD'S CONDITIONS OF SALVATION

Just before Jesus left His apostles and ascended into heaven, he gave them the great commission: "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned'" (Mark 16:15-16). Belief and baptism are conditions of pardon. The instructions given here were strictly followed by the apostles and first century Christians. They preached the gospel and required that men believe, repent of their sins (Acts 2:38), confess their Savior before men (Acts 8:37) and be immersed (baptized) for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). [See "Examples of Conversion"]

Most of the denominations say that one is saved by faith only, although they somehow get grace and repentance in there too. The Bible says in James 2:24, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."  The only time the phrase "faith only" is used in the Bible is in James 2:24 where it says that it is "not by faith only!" We have to choose which we are going to believe. Will we accept man's word for it, or will we accept James' inspired word for it?

Now I'm going to make a statement that may shock some of you. People who become members of denominations do not become members of the Lord's church. Why? We saw earlier in our study that in order for one to be saved, he must be a member of the church that Jesus built. The reason I say that those who are members of denominations do not become members of the Lord's church is because those who become members of denominations do not obey the gospel (See 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). They obey the teachings of men (Matthew 15:9). They do not become members of the church that Jesus built, they become members of denominational churches with no higher authority for their existence than mere men. In order to be saved, members of denominations must renounce denominationalism and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I cannot accept denominational people on their "denominational salvation experience."  Some of my own brethren (members of the church of Christ) are saying things like: "Who am I to say they are not saved?" "Who am I to say they are not Christians?" "Who am I to say their salvation experience was not valid?"

Those who say such things better stop asking "who am I," and start asking "who is the Lord?"  He is the one who has all authority both in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).  He is the one who shed His blood for the sins of mankind (Acts 20:28).  He is the One who set forth His plan of salvation in the New Testament (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 8:24; Luke 13:3; Matthew 10:32-33).  Therefore, He is the one to say how one is to be saved, and if one is saved or not.

God saves the person who obeys Jesus Christ's plan of salvation and no other [See "Examples of Conversion"; "God's Chain of Salvation"; "What Must I Do to be Saved?"]. God saves the person who becomes a member of Jesus Christ's church and no other (Ephesians 5:23). God saves the person who loves the Lord enough to go to His word to find out what His will is (Matthew 7:21). It has often been said, and it bears repeating, "the faith that saves is the faith that obeys!"

CONCLUSION

Should we oppose denominationalism? Yes, because it exists without scriptural authority; because it violates Bible teaching on unity; because it belittles the Lord's church; and because it teaches that one can be saved without meeting all of God's conditions of salvation.

These are some of the reasons I oppose denominationalism.  I invite everyone who reads this article to join me in rejecting denominationalism and in just being a member of the church you read about in the New Testament - the church of Christ.

If I can help you in your obedience or in further study, please contact me at the email address on the main page.


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