The Lordís Church & Denominationalism
We often hear the term "denominationalism" in reference to various religions of our world today. In every city you will see differing churches with differing names. Some denominational churches wear the name, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, etc. Some worthy questions to consider are: is God the author of denominationalism? Is God the founder of any of these religions? Is He the founder of them all or did He build only His church? In this article, we will discuss the concept of denominationalism, then look at some distinguishing characteristics of the Lordís Church. In next monthís issue, we will look at several characteristics of denominations and make a final conclusion.
The concept of denominationalism can be represented by a one dollar bill and the different coins that are fractions or a denomination of a dollarĖa penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and half-dollar. In the right combination, these coins can make a complete dollar, which is the total or whole. Many in the denominational world represent the differing "faiths" as fractions of the whole, with the whole being what is often called the "Christian religion," or "Christendom."
The Lordís Church
The Lordís church is very different when compared to any denominational church. As each denominational church is distinct, so is the Lordís church. Hence, if any denominational church is different in founder and name, beginning time and place, doctrine and practice, and organizational structure than the Lordís church, then it follows that that church is NOT the Lordís church as described in the New Testament. Please consider the following:
The Lordís church has the right builder and head and wears His name! The Lordís church was built by Christ and NOT man! In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "...upon this rock (that rock being Christ the son of God and not Peter) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Notice that Christ did not promise to build His CHURCHES or DENOMINATIONS. The Lordís church (in the universal sense) was purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25) hence the church belongs to the Lord and HE does the adding to it (Acts 2:47). In Romans 16:16, Paul referred to congregations of the Lordís church (NOT denominations) when he use the term "churches of Christ." Here he is denoting a plurality of local congregations of believers who belong to the Lord. Christ is the head of the church which is his body (Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18). Therefore, to be of the Lordís church or body, we must submit to the authority of Christ and wear the name of Christ (see Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16; 2 Tim. 2:19) for Christ has been given "...all power ("authority"Ė ASV) ...in heaven and in earth..." (Matt. 28:18). That leaves none for any man!
The Lordís Church has the right beginning time and place! The promise was made that the Kingdom would come "with power" during the lifetime of the apostles (Mk. 9:1) and that "repentance and remission of sins" would begin to be preached at Jerusalem (Lk. 24:47). In Acts 2 we find that the Apostles, being filled with the Holy Ghost (the promised power), preached "repentance and remission of sins" to the Jews assembled in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection and accession of Christ. In Acts 2:41 we read: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day were added unto them about three thousand souls." But, to what were they added? Verse 47 tells us that the saved (or the believers who were baptized, cf. vs 38) were added to the church by the Lord. There is no record of anyone being added to the Lordís church prior to this day, the FIRST Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, we can know that the Lordís church had its beginning on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ at Jerusalem!
The Lordís church has the right doctrine and practice! The church in the first century was instructed to abide in the doctrine revealed by the apostles. John, in 1 John 1 spoke of the things they (the apostles) declared. In order for one to have fellowship with the apostles, the Father and His son Jesus Christ, one must obey and abide in the revealed (declared) will of God. When one does this, he is "walking in the light" (1 Jn. 1:7). John speaks of the importance of abiding (staying in) the "doctrine of Christ" (2 Jn. 9-11). Contrary to the belief of many in the religious world, to abide in his doctrine means to live according to his commandments (1 Jn. 2:3), and not limited to only accept the fact that Jesus came in the flesh! Walking in the light necessitates believing the facts that are divinely revealed and recorded and obeying the commands of God. Therefore the Lordís church teaches and abides in the divine facts and commands, "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Matt. 28:20):
First, the Lordís church of the first century engaged in evangelism; sounding out the word by sending and supporting preachers who preached the gospel to the lost. The proper terms of admission were proclaimed and practiced resulting in believers being added to His church. When a careful study is made of the cases of conversions in Acts, it is evident that during the first century the gospel had to be preached so sinners could be brought to Godly sorrow (Acts 2:1-37; Rom. 10:17); penitent sinners in the first century heard and gladly received or believed the gospel message and placed their faith in Christ (Acts 2:47; Rom. 10:17); sinners in the first century were commanded to repent of their sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Col. 3:1-7); sinners of the first century were commanded to confess their faith in Christ before men (Acts 8:37; Rom.10:10); and sinners in the first century where commanded to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (by his authority - Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16) "for (in order to obtain) the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38; 22:16, see also Acts 8:26-39; 10:48; 16:14, 15; 16:30-33; 19:1-5).
Second, the Lordís church in the first century engaged in worship to God that was "in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:24). They "continued steadfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). Briefly, this involved commemorating the Lordís death on the first day of the (every) week (Acts 2:24; 20:7); singing praises to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16); giving of ones means or laying by in store on the first day of the (every) week according to individual prosperity (1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8:6, 7); praying (Acts 2:42); preaching, teaching and abiding in the doctrine of Christ and his apostles (Act 2:42; 20:7; 2 Jn. 9-11).
Third, the church of the first century was involved in edificationĖbuilding up the knowledge level of the members of the Lordís body in "the faith which was once delivered" (Jude 3) and warning the saints to "abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (Eph. 4:11-13; Acts 20:32; 1 Cor. 6-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Pet. 2:11).
Fourth, the Lordís church of the first century did the work of benevolenceĖhelping needy saints and only need saints (Acts 2:44, 45; 6:1-6; 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; 1 Tim. 5:16).
Fifth, the Lordís church of the first century was commanded to discipline members who walked disorderly. In Paulís letter to the saints of Thessalonica he wrote, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us" (2 Thess. 6, 7 & 11). Further, Paul commanded the Corinthian brethren "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" to "put away" the brother involved in an incestuous relationship (1 Cor. 5). Paul illustrated using the concept of "leaven" that to ignore sinful conduct of this type the result would be the pollution of other member and the local church as a whole. Hence, for a congregation claiming to be the Lordís church to avoid having their candlestick removed (Rev. 2:5), then, discipline of wayward members is expected by the Lord.
The Lordís church has the right organizational structure! The Lordís church in the universal sense is not organized. The universal church is the body of all the saved or "called out" and was built, loved, purchased and sanctified by Christ. The universal church is the body we are baptized into (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27). Local churches or congregations were composed of brethren or saints (believers). The local church at Philippi was scripturally organized and was composed of bishops (a plurality of elders meeting the divine qualifications - 1 Tim. 3:1-7), deacons (servants - meeting the divine qualifications of 1 Tim. 3:7-13), and saints (Phil. 1:1). Each local congregation was autonomous (self governing in congregational affairs, but governed by the Lord in doctrine and practice) and overseen by the elders that were among them (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). Congregations in the first century did not report to, nor were they governed by, any one man or governing board of men. They were overseen by their own elders.
Denominational churches have the wrong builder and they wear the wrong name! The denominations we have already mentioned - Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and many others that could be mentioned where founded by a man and wear a name that is NOT a Bible name. Christ said in Matthew 16:18: "I will build my church." Christ did not build churches with differing names, heads, origins, doctrines and creeds. He built His church! The result of manís tampering with Gods plan is the confusion created by denominationalism. The apostle Paul said: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33).
Denominational churches have the wrong beginning time and place! For example, the Roman Catholic religion was founded in 606 by Boniface III in Rome; the Lutheran religion was founded in 1520 by Martin Luther in Germany; the Episcopalian religion was founded in 1534 by Henry VIII in England; the Baptist religion was founded in 1607 by John Symthe in Holland; the Mormon religion begin in 1830 by Joseph Smith in America; the Jehovahís Witnesses religion begin in 1872 by Charles T. Russell in America. These and all other man-made religions have the wrong NAME, the wrong BEGINNING TIME AND PLACE, the wrong BUILDER and therefore are NOT the Lordís church, contrary to their claims. Denominations (false religions of man) will be rooted up and cast away by the Lord in the last Great Day (Matt. 15:13; 7:21-23).
Denominational churches have the wrong doctrine and practice! To mention a few, some denominations practice sprinkling or pouring for baptism and some even "baptize" infants. The Bible teaches that sinners are to be "buried in baptism" (Rom. 6). Some use mechanical instruments of music in the worship, when the New Testament authorizes only singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Some commemorate the Lordís death quarterly, or semi-annually or only on the traditional "Easter Sunday," even though the Bible teaches that the saints in the first century commemorated the Lordís death on the first day of the week, each and every week (Acts 20:7). Some denominations have women "preachers" and in their "clergies" even though Paul taught that the woman is are to keep silence in the church and not to usurp authority over the man (1 Cor. 14:34). Some have "ordained" homosexual "pastors" in their "clergies," even though the clergy system is man-made and the inspired apostle Paul condemned moral impurity, which includes homosexuality (Rom. 1:21-32; Gal 5:19-21). Many teach the false doctrine of the one thousand year reign of Christ on the earth, better known as the doctrine of Premillennialism, which pivots on perversions of Revelation 20. Many denominational clergy members have their distinctive clerical dress such as the Roman collar, even though Christ condemned this practice when he denounced the dress of the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23. Denominations have their entertainment including plays, food feeds, recreational gymnasiums, fellowship halls and all manner of schemes used to satisfy the lusts of human desire. Did Christ die for His church or an entertainment hall and recreational program? Paul opposed such activity in the Corinthian church and pronounced a divine apostolic condemnation when he wrote: "What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not" (1 Cor. 11:22).
Denominations have their man-made creeds and manuals! The Baptists have their Standard Baptist Manual, the Presbyterians have their Book of Order and Book of Confessions, the Pentecostals have their manual stating their "Articles of Faith, Constitution, Judicial Procedure, and Position Papers," the Methodists have their Discipline; the Mormons have their Articles of Faith and Book of Mormon. It is not difficult to see that denominationalism places the doctrines and commandments of men ABOVE the authority of Christ and the Bible. This practice was condemned by Christ during his personal ministry and His apostles during the first century and renders denominationalism and its worship vain (Matt. 15:9; 1 Cor. 4:6).
Denominational churches have unscriptural organizational structure! In denominationalism you will find governing boards, district councils, ruling bishops over a diocese, the pope, cardinals, synods, and universal ruling bodies of men who rule and reign over a plurality of churches. No such organizational structure is found in the New Testament! The head of the Lordís church is Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23; 4:12; 5:23) who is now reigning and will continue to reign until all enemies are under his feet, the last enemy being death (1 Cor. 15:25, 26).
With this short comparison of the Lordís church and denominationalism, it is evident to any honest person that denominationalism originated from man, and NOT from God! The Hebrew writer sums up well the truth that we must live by concerning true religion when he wrote in Hebrews 8:1, 2: "Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." Are you a member of the church built by the Lord, or are you a member of a denomination built by a man? Which?