Christian religious denominations have been in existence since the first century AD. Jesus instructed His apostle John, to write a letter, to the congregation of believers in the city of Pergamum, in what is currently the country of Turkey. In that letter, one of the things that Jesus said was this; “Thus you also have some who in the same way, hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” Rev 2, verse 15.
Now, we aren’t told anything specifically about the teaching of the Nicolaitans, but evidently Jesus didn’t agree with it, because he told the people plainly; “Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” (Verse 16) The “sword of His mouth” is the word of God. So Jesus promises “war” between HIS word, and the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
And that’s how it is with ALL denominations. Religious groups, who in the “name” of Christianity, use men’s names, to promote men’s teachings, and Jesus is going to make “war” with them. Who do you think is going to win that war?
Many people are familiar with the verse of scripture, in Mathew 16, verse 18, where Jesus proclaimed; “I will build MY church, and the gates of hades shall not overpower it.”
The statement; “I will build My church..” refers to the church in a “universal sense”, meaning that Jesus was going to build ONE church, that would spread throughout the whole world.
As a matter of fact, the scriptures affirm, in Ephesians 4, verse 4; “There is ONE body..” And that one body is the one church.
The fact that the body and the church are the same thing, is spelled out in Ephesians chapter 1, verse 22 & 23. It says there; “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him (Jesus) as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
So then Jesus built ONE church, and He is the “Head” of that one church, which is said to be His “body”. God compares His “body of believers”, to a human body, so that we can easily understand how the church is structured. One body, one head, but many individual members of the body.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 12, verse 12; “For even as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body; So also is Christ.” So there’s the comparison; Just like the human body has many members, but yet is still one body, Christ and His “body of believers”, are one body.
Verse 14 says; “For the body is not one member, but many.” Verse 27 says; “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually, members of it.” So then INDIVIDUAL Christians, are individual members, of the one body of Christ. A group of Christians, do not constitute a member.
Some people believe that a GROUP of people in a denomination, make up ONE member of the body. Not so! Your eyes are members of your body. One right eye, and one left eye. You don’t have a group of left eyes. there’s just one. How many right legs do you have? A group of them, or only one? So then an individual Christian, is a member of the body, not groups of Christians.
“Now you are Christ’s body, and INDIVIDUALLY, members of it.” That’s what the bible says.
Here’s another analogy that Jesus used to describe the relationship that exists, between Himself and Christians. In John chapter 15, Jesus refers to Himself as a living vine. He says in verse 5; “I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; For apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
When Jesus says; “You can do nothing”, He means that apart from Jesus, you can do nothing PLEASING to God. You can’t do anything according to His will, apart from Christ. It’s God’s will that EVERYTHING should be done, through Christ.
That’s why it says in Colossians 3, verse 17; “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him, to the Father.”
So then, in Ephesians chapter 1, and also in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, Jesus compares Himself, and Christians, to a human body, with Him being the head, and we as individuals, being the many members. And then in John chapter 15, He compares Himself to a vine, and we as individuals, are the branches of the vine.
And we’re told clearly, that apart from Christ, we can do nothing at all, pleasing to God. If you were to break off one of the branches from the vine, it loses all it’s value. It can’t do anything on it’s own, actually, it’ll die. Only by being connected to the vine, can a branch live and produce fruit. So then if you as an individual, are not “attached” to Christ, you can do nothing for God. But if you ARE “attached” to Christ, then you can live, and produce fruit.
It’s the same with your body. If you were to remove a member from the body, say an arm or a leg, that member would be useless on it’s own, and it would die. It has to be attached to the body to live and to function. So now, let’s consider this as it applies to the church. The church is Christ’s “body” so to speak. What God is telling us, is that if an individual removes himself FROM the church, that individual is no longer useful to God. That individual can do nothing, pleasing to God, apart from the church.
Now that’s simply a fact. That’s what the bible is saying. Individuals are members of the body, just like individuals are branches of the vine. And apart from the vine, and therefore apart from the body, an individual can do nothing of any value for God.
Since that is the case, what about a person who has NEVER been a member of the church? Is that person able to please God? The answer has to be, NO! Apart from Christ, you can do nothing!
Are Denominations a Part of Christ?
I believe that a fair question to ask would be; Are denominations a part of Christ? If we’re truly interested in our own salvation, then we need to know the answer to that question. We can see clearly, that denominations, are different groups of people, who go by different names, and who promote different teachings, including different methods of being saved, and different means of admission into their particular group.
Is that how the church is described in the bible? Different names, and different teachings? Remember the Nicolaitans? They had a different name, other than Christ. And their teaching was evidently different than Christ’s. And Jesus said; “Repent therefore..” Jesus’ word also says; “Come out from among them..” (2 Cor 6, verse 17)
We need to ask ourselves, the question that the apostle Paul asked in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 13; “Has Christ been divided?” The answer of course is, NO! Christ has NOT been divided! God hates division and He condemns division. God said, through the writings of Paul, in verse 10, of 1st Corinthians; “Now I exhort you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete, in the same mind, and in the same judgment.”
That right there, should be enough to convince us that God does NOT condone division. And a division is exactly what a denomination is. But then Paul went on to write this, in verses 11 & 12; “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe (Chloe was a Christian woman who the church members were obviously familiar with), that there are contentions among you.” And here’s what the contentions were about; “Now I mean this, that each of you is saying; I am of Paul, and I am of Apollos, and I am of Cephas, and I am of Christ.”
That’s when Paul made the emphatic statement; “Has Christ been divided?” It was maybe more of an exclamatory statement, than a question. And it really was almost a “slap in the face”, for the purpose of bringing them to their senses; “Has Christ been divided!” (Exclamation point!) NO, Christ is NOT divided. But you are, if you claim that you are of anyone other than Christ! That’s wrong! And it’s not only wrong, it’s SINFUL!
Here’s a Serious Thought
So now again, if you’re serious about your own salvation, you must ask yourself; If I am willingly involved in what I know to be a “division”, am I REALLY any part of the church? And, am I any part of Christ at all? If I divide myself in name and in teaching, even if I’ve joined up with a group of others who have divided themselves, haven’t I still divided myself from Christ?
Picture a very large vine, with lots and lots of branches. If several branches are broken off the vine, divided from the vine we might say, and if we put them all in their own pile and bind them together, does the fact that they’re all in the same pile and bound together, does that make them a part of the vine again? Of course not!
Isn’t your salvation important enough to deserve some serious thought? When the people of Corinth were saying that; “I am of Paul, or I am of Apollos, or I am of Cephas”, they were dividing themselves from Christ. They were giving credit to those OTHER men for their salvation. But they should have been giving FULL credit to the “Author of salvation”, Jesus Christ. They should have remained “attached” to Christ.
God has “Highly exalted Jesus, and given Him a name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2, verse 9)
“Names”, For the Body of Christ.
The bible uses several “names” or phrases to describe the body of Christ, the word “Body” being just one of them. Most often, the body of Christ, is simply called “the church”. But what that really means, is “the called out”, or “the congregation”, or “the assembly”. The bible calls it the “church of God”, in Acts 20, verse 28. Some manuscripts use the word Lord, instead of God, in that verse. So it’s the “called out who belong to Lord”, or you could say, “the congregation of the Lord”.
The body of Christ is called, “the church of the living God”, and also “the pillar and ground of truth”, in 1 Timothy 3, verse 15.
And speaking of the various congregations of Christians, located in different towns and cities, the scriptures call these congregations, “churches of Christ”, in Romans 16, verse 16. But remember, the word translated “church” simply means a congregation of people who have been called by God.
So then Romans 16, verse 16 is saying; “The congregations of Christ salute you.” Congregations of the Lord’s people, that all share in the same name, and in the same teaching, and in the same belief, and in the same practice of worship, and in the same desire for everyone to be united in Christ, and wishing for everyone, to make it to heaven. God hates division!
A Name Isn’t Everything
Although a name isn’t everything, a name still matters. And it matters a lot! If you belong to a certain denomination of people, or if you take part in the activities of a certain religious denomination, who’s name, does that denomination give credit to? Does it honor the name of Paul, or Apollos? Does it give honor to Martin Luther, or to John Wesley, or maybe to John the Baptist?
Or maybe a denomination might give it’s honor to a specific practice that it believes in, like the Baptists who believe in baptism. They don’t believe that baptism washes away your sins, like the bible teaches in Acts 22, verse 16, when it says; “And now, why do you delay? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on HIS NAME.”
As a matter of fact, they don’t believe that baptism has ANYTHING to do with salvation. They simply practice it as a means of admitting someone into “their church”. They believe, and teach, that baptism should be your first act of obedience, AFTER you’ve been saved, and that it grants you admission into the BAPTIST church. What about admission into CHRIST’S church? And if baptism was, the first act of obedience AFTER you were saved, then how could you be saved in the first place, BEFORE you wash your sins away? “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on HIS name.” No one else’s name, but HIS name!
Any way you cut it, if the name doesn’t give honor to Christ, and to Christ alone, then it’s the wrong name to begin with, and you’re starting off on the wrong foot, and going down the wrong road.
It Matters What We Teach
Now as I said, a name isn’t everything, but it’s certainly a major “something”. But what about the beliefs that a denomination holds? Like the belief that baptism has nothing to do with salvation, when the bible says that baptism is the very way that we get into Christ! That’s how we become a “part” of Christ, a part of the vine. Salvation is IN Christ, and only IN Christ. Galatians 3, verse 27 says; “For all of us who have been baptized INTO Christ, have PUT ON Christ.” We’ve clothed ourselves with Christ. What could possibly have MORE to do with salvation that that?
2 John verse 9 says; “Anyone who goes too far, and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, does NOT have God!” It doesn’t get any plainer that that. “The one who ABIDES in the teaching of Christ, has both the Father AND the Son.” Same verse.
Any change in the teachings of the bible, will cause one to be divided from Christ’s body. It doesn’t matter if it’s the teachings of the Nicolaitans, or the Presbyterians, or the Roman Catholics, or you name it. There is only ONE body. If you hold to a teaching different from the bible, you haven’t become a denomination that’s a PART of the one body, but instead, you’ve divided yourself FROM the body. You’re no longer any part of the church, because you’ve “gone too far” as the scriptures say. And when you’ve “gone too far”, you no longer have God.
That’s a hard thing for people to accept. That just because they change their name, or change even one teaching of the bible, that they’ve completely lost their fellowship with God. But that’s what the bible says.
“Anyone who goes too far, and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does NOT have God.” The bible is full of the teachings of Christ. Which teaching do you have to NOT abide in, to NOT have God? I think the answer would obviously be; ANY teaching that we don’t abide in, will cause us to NOT have God.
How do Denominations Begin ?
But that’s exactly how denominations come into being. First a teaching is changed, then another, and then maybe even another. Then, in order to allow others to KNOW, that you HAVE these different teachings, you have to change your name, to identify yourself with your teachings. Then you’re no longer a congregation of Christ, but you’re now a congregation of whomever it is that began the new teachings. If it’s Martin Luther, who’s teachings you follow, you become a Lutheran. If it’s John Wesley’s teachings, then you become a Wesleyan. And so on.
But the point is, when this happens, you’re no longer a follower of Christ. You’ve divided yourself from Christ. And as Jesus himself said; “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
I urge you to study the bible, and ABIDE in the teachings of Christ. Then, and only then, will you have both the Father and the Son. Otherwise, you can do nothing!