BY DENOMINATIONALISM we
mean the situation we find in so-called Christendom today. We are confronted
with all of these separate and distinct religious groups, or parties, all
claiming allegiance to Christ. In some way, they are all different one
Denominationalism in its full-blown modern version was not known
in the early church. However, among the Jews of that time we see a parallel
to present-day denominationalism in the Pharisees and Sadducees. A word
used to describe them means about the same as denomination. The Jews called
Christianity this, regarding it as a splinter off of Judaism, and those
practicing partyism in the church were labeled with this word.
That word was hairesis, which has a twofold meaning.
It basically has to do with (1) opinion (choice), and (2) a party that
forms around this opinion. This meaning can be seen in the two ways the
word is translated in the New Testament (KJV), "heresy" and "sect." Here
are all of the references containing this word in the New Testament: Acts
5:17; 15:5; 24:5,14; 26:5; 28:22; I Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20;
II Peter 2:1 (and Titus 3:10 with a word from this root, translated "heretick,"
We believe denominationalism is wrong for at least two reasons (and
there are many others): (1) because of division; and (2) because of doctrine.
These two things are interwoven, they are wed, and the last usually produces
and perpetuates the first (unless human personalities per se have
been the factor, or that division simply continues after distinctive denominational
doctrines have eroded).
Denominationalism is wrong because it is synonymous with division.
The Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross to bring about unity and to make
all of us part of one body (Ephesians 2:13-17). It is not a worldly, denominational,
ecumenical unity. That one body and one plan is stressed in Ephesians 4:3-6.
The night before his crucifixion the Lord prayed for unity among his followers
in John 17:20-22. Division and wearing party names is condemned as sinful
(I Corinthians. 1:10-13) and consequently called "carnal" (I Corinthians
3:1-5). Romans 16:17 tells how those who cause division are to be dealt
Diverse doctrines and traditions of men cause division, and thus
separate men into denominations. Doctrines of men are wrong. Even before
the church was started, the Lord Jesus quoted prophecy, saying, "But in
vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men"
(Matthew 15:9). When the church was established, they were all with "one
accord" (Acts 2:46), and "they continued stedfastly in the apostlesí doctrine"
(Acts 2:42). As stated, Ephesians 4:4-6 stresses the oneness of Godís plan.
Then Paul told Timothy by taking heed to himself spiritually and to the
doctrine he would save himself and those who heard him (I Timothy 4:16).
To preach any other gospel is to invite the curse of God down upon us (Galatians
1:8). So, in view of these things, it is alarming that denominations run
counter to the teaching of the New Testament by their distinctive names,
doctrines, and traditions of men. Jesus said, "Every plant, which my heavenly
Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13).
Yes, denominationalism is wrong because of division and because of
denominational doctrines not found in Godís Word. We have not gone into
all of the particulars (this has been very brief), but this should be enough
to make us want to examine the Word of God. We must divest ourselves of
all man-made organizations, creeds, and traditions of men if we want to
be acceptable in Godís sight. Let us practice the oneness of the body of
Christ in the context of the local church. Paul said to the Corinthians,
who were given over to partyism and wearing the names of men, as they disrupted
the unity of the church, "If any man defile [destroy] the temple of God
[the church], him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which
temple ye are" (I Corinthians 3:17). It is no light matter.