Just as Jesus promised to do, He built His church. We read about it in the New Testament. In fact, His church, which is the “one body,” is the only church about which we read in the Bible (Ephesians 4:4).
Today there are a number of religious groups in existence which identify themselves as “churches.” Not one of these denominations, however, is mentioned in God’s word. By definition, the verb “denominate” means “to give a name to; designate”; the noun “denomination” means “the act of categorizing or making a category, particularly of a religion” [www.yourdictionary.com]. As the term commonly is used, a “denomination” is viewed as a religious group/church that counts itself as part of the body of Jesus, but not His whole body. Per the concept of denominationalism, it is acceptable for those who believe in Jesus to be divided into different religious groups, teach conflicting messages, have differing organizational structures, engage in differing worship, and identify themselves using differing designations. There is no New Testament support for such a concept.
What differences exist between the Lord’s church and denominational groups? In the chart below, we will highlight some of the clear distinctions. In this study, we are not looking at differences in teaching about specific subjects such as salvation from sin, the reign of the Christ, or the Lord’s Supper; rather, we are pointing out some fundamental facts. While each side-by-side comparison below is brief, the points are plain – so plain that a truth-seeking person cannot miss them. Of course, reading the noted verses will make these matters more meaningful.
New Testament Church
|1. Planned by God (Eph. 3:4-6,9-11)||1. Planned by humans|
|2. Jesus promised to build it (Matt. 16:18)||2. Jesus did not promise to start them (Mark 7:7)|
|3. Jesus built it (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:46; 8:1)||3. Men founded them (Psa. 127:1)|
|4. Began in the 1st century (Acts 2, A.D. 30)||4. Began many centuries later|
|5. Jesus bought it with His blood (Acts 20:28)||5. No connection with Jesus’ blood (Eph. 1:7)|
|6. Jesus is its Head (Eph. 1:22,23)||6. Jesus is not the head; humans are|
|7. Jesus is the Savior of it (Eph. 5:23)||7. They are not part of the body of the Christ|
|8. In it, Jesus has all authority (Matt. 28:18)||8. Authority resides in men, creeds, and councils|
|9. Scriptural descriptions/designations (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Tim. 3:15; Rom. 16:16)||9. Man-made designations (founder, doctrine; might use a N.T. description, but still not N.T. church)|
|10. Lord “adds” the saved to it (Acts 2:47)||10. People “join” them|
|11. Its only creed is the gospel (Gal. 1:6-8)||11. Man-made creeds which can be revised|
|12. Exists by the authority of Jesus (Matt. 16:18)||12. Exist by the authority of humans (Matt. 21:25)|
|13. Jesus will deliver it to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24)||13. Will be rooted up (Matt. 15:13)|
Other distinctions could be noted, but surely these points suffice. Biblically speaking, denominationalism is wrong – it does not please the God of heaven. Denominationalism is wrong because such an approach is contrary to our Lord’s prayer for unity (John 17:20-23). Second, denominationalism is wrong because it is not authorized by God, and that is no small matter. What was it that Jesus asked about the baptism of John? “From heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25). The same question could be asked about denominationalism: “From heaven or from men?” All denominations are human-planned, human-planted, and human-perpetuated. For a third matter, denominationalism is wrong because it puts man-made religious groups in competition, so to speak, with the church of the Christ. Denominational teaching hinders people from seeing and accepting the truth, in the process gathering people into various man-made groups and keeping them out of the Lord’s blood-bought church.
Many are convinced that all “churches” are the same. Not so, my friend, not so at all. The Bible and Bible alone reveals God’s plan for His church. Today we can sow the seed, which is God’s word (Luke 8:11), and get the same results that such sowing caused in the first century: saved people added to Jesus’ church.
— Roger D. Campbell