The statement that forms the title of this article—or something similar—is commonly heard from many religious people. The idea is that God really does not care where a person “goes to church” because (supposedly) all churches are the same to Him. This belief is common, but it truly is a “deadly doctrine.” Our thoughts on this matter are irrelevant; the most important question is, “What does the Bible say?”
Jesus never spoke of His church in terms of being divided or being more than one. He told Peter, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The words “church” and “it” both are singular. Jesus never referenced “churches,” nor did He ever indicate that His church should be divided.
Jesus uses two metaphors for the church that show His intention for the church to be one. First, Jesus teaches in John 10:1-30 that He is the Good Shepherd, and His followers are His flock. He says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:14). In that same context, He clearly states, “There will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). If one should wonder how to determine who belongs to Jesus’ flock, Jesus answers that question also when He states, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Similarly, Jesus speaks in John 15 of the oneness of His church (or, His collective group of disciples), saying, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). He then goes on to say, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). Some might say that Jesus is the vine and the various denominations are the branches, but this cannot be so. Why not? Because Jesus was speaking to people, not denominations (and the concept of denominationalism is completely foreign to New Testament Christianity).
Combining Jesus’ teaching from John 10 and John 15, Jesus clearly says there is one Shepherd (Jesus) and one fold (His disciples), and that one fold is made up of those who hear His voice and follow His teaching. Likewise, there is one Vine (Jesus), and the branches are disciples who follow His teaching, not denominations that each have their own beliefs and doctrines. Those not following His teaching—whether an individual or group of individuals—are not His fold (and, by implication, cannot be His fold), nor can they be a part of the True Vine (Jesus). Jesus Himself taught, “You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16). It would be illogical for Jesus to have “branches” teaching differing doctrines, many of which are contrary to His own teachings. The concepts of one Shepherd with one flock and one Vine with
individual disciples as branches show that Jesus fully intends and expects His people to be one. May we never forget: Jesus has all authority (Matthew 28:18), so His word is final on this—and all— matters.
The apostles speak of the church as singular.
Particularly, the apostle Paul references “one body” (Ephesians 4:4), and he says the church is that body (Ephesians 1:22,23). In writing about the unity of the body, Paul says, “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:20). One need not be an expert in Koine Greek or linguistics to know what Paul says over and over and over: the body of Christ, which is the church of Jesus Christ, is one.
Going back through the points made in this article, consider a few questions. If a person carefully builds one solitary, unique structure, would that person agree or disagree if someone said, “Well, that structure is nice, but there are many others, and they are really all the same?” Does a shepherd think all flocks are the same, or does he know his own flock intimately? Imagine a landowner hiring a man to work in his field and, when the times comes for pay, the owner finds out the man worked in another field instead. When questioned, the worker says, “It really is no big deal, for the fields are all the same.” Will that man receive payment? To ask these questions is to answer them!
The Bible sometimes uses the phrase, “Do not be deceived” (Galatians 6:7) to warn against ignoring plain, obvious teaching in Scripture. The devil is a counterfeiter; he will always make a counterfeit of God’s genuine creation. Satan has counterfeit doctrines (“doctrines of demons,” 1 Timothy 4:1), counterfeit apostles (“false apostles,” 2 Corinthians 11:13), and even counterfeit churches (“the synagogue of Satan,” Revelation 3:9). Do not be deceived by counterfeits!
Reading the teachings of Jesus and His apostles and using simple common sense tell us that all churches are not, in fact, the same in God’s eyes at all. Genuine Christians are those who believe Jesus is the way, truth, and life (John 14:1-6), repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9,10), and are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 3:27) to have their sins washed away (Acts 22:16). Upon becoming a genuine New Testament Christian, a person is added by Jesus to His one genuine church (Acts 2:47). Jesus purchased one church with His blood (Acts 20:28), and He is the Savior of His one body (Ephesians 5:23). Our eternal destiny depends upon our searching the Scriptures diligently and making certain that we are a part of that one body of the saved.
— Chad Dollahite