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April 29, 2012
Christ’s Church and Denominations
The church belonging to Christis not a denomination because it does not fit the definition of a denomination. A denomination is a class, or a kind, one of a series. The church of Christ is the only one. It is not one of a kind, or one of a series. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build My church.” (Matthew 16:18). Paul referred to it as “the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28). Christ built one church, and He bought only one church with His precious blood.
Christ prayed that his disciples be one even as He and the Father are one (John 17:20,21). What this means is the disciples of Christ should be characterized by a perfect unity. Christians are told to speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among them, and they should be of the same mind and same judgment (1Corinthians 1:10). They are to work to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Denominationalism must be contrary to the will of God because, with its divergent doctrines, it divides those who claim to be God’s people into various conflicting groups. Denominationalism, instead of being the answer to Christ’s prayer, promotes division.
The church of Christ is not a denomination because it was established before the beginning of any present-day denomination. When Jesus was here on earth, he said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). He also said that some who were hearing Him preach would not taste of death until they had seen the kingdom come with power (Mark 9:1). Just before He ascended in His return to heaven He promised His apostles that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. (Acts 1:8). The kingdom was to come with power. The power was to come when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. On the day of Pentecost, following the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, as we read in the second chapter of Acts. This chapter tells of the preaching of the gospel for the first time and the obedience of three thousand souls that day. The last verse of the chapter says that the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved (Acts 2:47). This means that the church which Jesus built and purchased with His own blood was established on that Pentecost day in the AD 33.
In regard to the denominations, history shows that one had its beginning in 1855, another in 1729, another in 1607, another in 1521, another in 1517, another in 606. Some of these may go back hundreds of years, but not one goes back to Jerusalem, back to AD 33 and that memorable Pentecost day.
The church of Christ is not a denomination because it is prominently identified in the New Testament, while the name of no present-day denomination is to be found in the word of God. The church of Christ is identified by the descriptions which the Lord himself has given to it. Christ said, “My church” (Matthew 16:18). Paul said, “the church of God” and “the church of the Lord” (Acts 20:28). Since Christ built it and bought it with His blood, it belongs to Him, and if we give Him preeminence in all things (Colossians 1:18), we will gladly recognize His ownership. Paul in sending greetings from local congregations honored the Lord’s ownership by saying, “All the churches of Christ greet you” (Romans 16:16).
We may search the scriptures diligently and still not find the names Lutheran, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Baptist, Metho-dist, Presbyterian, Holy Roman Catholic, etc., as names applied to the church which Jesus built and bought with his blood.
The church of Christ is not a denomination because it does not have a denominational head. About all the denominations have headquarters in some certain city, and have governing bodies with legislative, judicial, and executive authority. But, various heads promote confusion and division. Christ is the only head of the church, and he has all authority (Colossians 1:18; Matthew 28:18).
The church of Christ is not a denomination because it does not have a denominational organization. Denominations are highly organized with councils, conventions, conferences, synods, and various forms of hierarchy. The church of Christ knows no such organization. God has given to his church a very simple organization. Each congregation is independent and autonomous, with its elders, deacons, and members (Philippians 1:1). In times of need disciples help other saints (Acts 11:27-30; 1Corinthians 16:1,2). The wisdom of this simple, God-given organization is seen in that no man, nor any set of men, has the authority to countermand the divine laws God has given in his revelation.
The church of Christ is not a denomination because it is not denominational in its work. Denominations work through many organizations and societies. The church of Christ does its work through the local congregation. This work is threefold—evangelism, benevolence, and edification (Ephesians 4:12). The New Testament shows clearly that the local congregations met their responsibility without resorting to the invention of other organizations or societies to do its work (Acts 13,14; 1Corinthians 16; 2Corinthians 9).
The church of Christ is not a denomination because it is not denominational in its worship. Denominations have many kinds of worship, some very elaborate, some simple. The church of the New Testament engaged in five acts of worship: disciples assembled and studied the word of God together; they prayed; they gave; they ate the Lord’s supper; they sang (Acts 2:42; Ephesians 5:19). There was no instrumental music, no burning of incense, no lighting of candles, no elaborate ritual calculated to appeal to the eye.
Christ’s prayer and his instructions to his disciples require unity among his people—unity based upon adherence to his word. Christ said that this unity would cause the world to believe (John 17:21). Denominationalism, being divisive in nature, weakens and hinders the cause of Christ. Furthermore, any sectarian and divisive spirit within the church hinders the cause of Christ. It makes fruitless the prayer of Christ. It is contrary to the will of God. It is sin.