CHURCH-02 - The church of Christ is Not a Denomination
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CHURCH OF CHRIST
"I plead with you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the
same thing and that there be no divisions among you," 1 Corinthians 1:10.
The word denomination has multiple meanings. It can mean division or naming
after another. When we refer to denominations, we're talking about religious groups that
carry men's names and religious groups that cause division rather than unity in the body
of Christ. Why is it that the Lord's church must not be a denomination? As we look to
Scripture, we find a host of reasons why denominations are not acceptable to Almighty
First, denomination is division. It divides what Jesus died for and what God
planned to be united. It's contrary to the purposes of God and Christ. In John 17:20-21,
Jesus prayed to the Father, "I pray that they all may be one as you, Father, are in Me, and
I in You; that they all may be one in Us, that the world may believe You sent Me." Do you
think that the host of religious groups and denominations that exist today are fulfilling
Jesus’ prayer? Do denominations seem united as one? Of course not.
Denominationalism causes division and is contrary to the will of God and the will of Christ.
In Ephesians 4:3, the Bible says we're to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the
bond of peace. Does denominationalism promote spiritual unity? Not at all. There's so
much division today. Psalm 133:1 says, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for
brethren to dwell together in unity." What does God want? He wants unity, not division
and at its very core denominationalism causes division. This is why Paul said, "I plead
with you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the same thing
that there be no divisions among you."
Why else must Lord's church not be a denomination? Denominations are not
authorized in the Bible. Where is the authority to name the church after somebody else?
Where is the authority to divide over a certain creed book, over certain followings of men,
or over certain ideas? Denominationalism is not authorized by God's word. Now, to
understand this, we need to understand the principle of only doing what God tells us to.
In Colossians 3:17, Paul wrote to the church in Colossae and he said this,
"Whatever you do in word or in deed, do all in the name Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God
the Father through Him." To do something in the name of Jesus, according to Acts 4:7,
means to do it by His power or authority. We've got to do what we do by the authority,
approval of Jesus. Where did Jesus approve denominationalism? He didn’t. You see,
Jesus has all authority, Matthew 28:18. Jesus is the head of the church Ephesians
1:22-23. The Bible says, Mary, speaking to the servants in John 2:5, Jesus is about to
perform the miracle at the wedding in Cana and she turns to the servants and says,
"Whatever he says to you do." Where does Jesus authorize us to be divided in His name
or to be a part of a denomination? It’s not in the Bible. In Romans 4:3, Paul asked the
question, "What does the Scripture say?" Jeremiah 37:17 says, "Is there any word from
the Lord?" Where is the authority, where's the word from the Lord that promotes
denominationalism? We're not to add to or take away from the word of God according to
Revelation 22:18-19. The Bible says we're not to go beyond that which is written, 1
Corinthians 4:6. If I cannot add to or take away from the Bible then denominationalism
cannot be found in the Bible. If I'm commanded not to go beyond, you cannot find
denominationalism in the Bible, because to have that you would have to go beyond or add
to the word of God.
Why else must the Lord's church not be a denomination? It's clear we must not be
a denomination because it is plainly and explicitly forbidden in the Bible.
Denominationalism is simply, explicitly condemned in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
the Bible says, "And I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be
perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been
declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there
are contentions among you. And I say this, each of you says “I'm of Paul,” or “I'm of
Apollos,” or “I'm of Cephas,” or “I'm of Christ.” Is Christ divided, was Paul crucified for you,
were you baptized in the name of Paul?" This is a perfect parallel to what's going on
today. In 1 Corinthians 1, had you asked some of the Corinthians who were Christians
were they a part of the one church, they would have said, ‘yes, we're part of the church
Jesus died for, but we're the sect that follows Paul or we're the sect that follows Cephas or
we're the sect that follows Apollos and some are saying we're of Christ.’ The problem is
that they would say that they were part of the one church, but they followed Paul or
Apollos or Cephas. What did Paul say about that? Let there be no divisions among you.
Today if most people were asked, "Are you a part of the universal Church?" What
would they say? We're part of that, we're just a part that follows John Wesley, Methodist
doctrine, we're a part that follows Roman Catholic, papal doctrine, we're the part that
follows John Calvin, Presbyterian, or John Smith, Baptist doctrine. If it was wrong to follow
men then, what does God say today? "Let there be no divisions among you." It’s as plain
and as clear as anything in Scripture that denominationalism, that division, and that
naming a group after a man and following him, is not authorized in the Bible. The Lord's
church must not be a denomination, because denominationalism follows the teaching of
men not God.
We've already noted that following men is not right. In denominational teaching
many times, in creed books, in confessions of faith, in denominational authority and
practice, denominationalism often follows men instead of God. In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus
sternly rebuked these people for that. Jesus said, "Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy
about you saying, 'these people draw near to me with their mouth, they honor me with
their lips, but their heart is far from me', why Lord, in vain do they worship me, listen,
teaching as doctrine the commandments of men." Can we put men's ideas, men's
opinions, creed books, and those kind of things, in and that be okay? Denominationalism
follows the teaching of man not God. “Whoever transgresses and goes beyond the
doctrine of Christ does not have God as his Father,” 2 John 9. Remember don't add to;
don't take away, Revelation 22:18-19. Remember we're not to go beyond that which is
written, 1 Corinthians 4:6. “Do not add to His words lest He rebuke you and you be found
I've heard Billy Graham and Franklin Graham go around the country and proclaim
as a way of salvation to say the sinners’ prayer, "Dear Lord Jesus, I recognize you as
Savior. I accept you into my heart. Come and save me now. In Jesus name, amen."
where do you find that in this book? Here's what's amazing: that's a denominational
teaching. You cannot, in one place, find the sinners prayer as they have promoted
anywhere in this book. You can read from Genesis to Revelation and you'll never find it.
That's just one example of denominational teaching and there's a host that can be looked
Denominationalism is sinful, because it follows the teaching of men not the
teaching of our God. The church must not be a denomination because denominationalism
creates unnecessary confusion and doubt among the world. That's not what God's about.
In 1 Corinthians 14:33, the Bible says that God is not the author of confusion. In an
average town, if there were 50 denominations all teaching something different, would that
promote unity would that draw people closer to God's truth? Of course not, that creates
confusion in mass amounts, so we must realize denominationalism causes confusion and
doubt. Will someone know the truth? No, they've got to get out the Bible and search and
examine and see. That doesn't bring the unity that God wants and that our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ prayed for.
Some specific Scriptures clearly teach denominationalism is wrong. In Ephesians
chapter 4:4, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your
calling one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all that is above all and
through all and in you all.” Denominationalism is contrary to the will of God, because the
Bible says there's only one church. How many gods are there? One. How many Lords?
One. How many Holy Spirits? One. These are one in every way. How many bodies are
there? There is one body. Now the next natural question is, what is the body that Paul
speaking about there? Paul has already defined that for us in Ephesians 1:22-23, "And
He, God put all things under his Jesus' feet, gave Him to be head over all things to the
church, which is His body the fullness of Him who fills all in all." Here's what we learned,
there's one body. The church is the body therefore how many churches are there? God
only ever intended to build one church. Paul said it emphatically in 1 Corinthians 12:20,
"There are many members yet but one body." What's wrong with denominationalism?
What Scriptures teach that it's not right with God? The passages like Ephesians 4:4,
Ephesians 1:22-23, 1 Corinthians 12:20 plainly teach the oneness of the church. That's
diametrically opposed to the idea of denominationalism.
Now maybe this is a new idea to you. Maybe you were raised in denominational
thinking or maybe you've always thought that was right. All we’re asking of you is to
simply get out your Bible and see if the things we're saying come from the Bible. If they
do, make changes and I will promise you those changes demand that denominationalism
is not according to the will of God.
When we think about what's wrong with denominationalism, what Scriptures teach
that it's clearly contrary to the will of God? An understanding about who is the scriptural
head of the church helps us with that. In Ephesians 1:22-23 the Bible says, "And He put
all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church which is his
body the fullness of him who fills all in all." Who does the Bible say there is the head of the
church? God put Christ as the head of the church. How is denominationalism opposed to
that? Here's how many modern denominations have a head. The Lord's church has not
been decapitated. Jesus is still the head of the church, Ephesians 1:22-23. He is reigning
in Heaven at the right hand of God, Hebrews 1:4, and God's truth is already settled,
"Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven." Is the Pope the head of the church
today? He can't be. Jesus is still the head of the church and, if you study most
denominations, many at least will have a head over that religious group. That's not what
the Bible teaches. Jesus is still the head of the church. We don't need an infallible, sinful
man ruling over the Lord's church. We've got the sinless Hebrews 4:15, the perfect 1
Peter 1:22, Son of God who has our best interest at heart still ruling over the Lord's
Another set of Scriptures clearly teach that the church cannot be a denomination
that it is contrary denominationalism is contrary to the will of God. In Acts 20:28, Paul is
speaking to the elders of the church of Ephesus, he says to them, "Take heed to yourself
and to the church of God to the flock church of God which he purchased with his own
blood." When you think about the church, who is the scriptural founder of that church?
Many times, a religious history book will say that the founder of this church was some man
1500 or 1000 years ago. Who's the founder of the Lord's church? Jesus said, “I
purchased it with my own blood,” 1 Corinthians 3:11, "No other foundation can any man
lay except that which is laid which is Jesus Christ." Who's the founder who's the
foundation of it? Christ. If therefore it has as its head or has as its founder some man,
that's contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. Here's what's great about the Lord's
church: we don't claim any human head today. Jesus is still the head of the church of
Christ. He's still the founder of it. He's the owner of it. In our name, in our organization, in
our respect for authority, we want to give God and Christ absolute honor in everything that
we say and do.
Another scripture that clearly teaches denominationalism is contrary to the will of
God would be the biblical plan of salvation. Acts 18:8 sums it up in a nutshell, "Many of the
Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized." If a group is teaching a plan of salvation
that you can't find in the Bible or that is contrary to the plan of salvation you find in the New
Testament, that's against what the Scriptures teach. As I've already mentioned, the
sinner's prayer is not in the Bible. You don't find that anywhere in Scripture and yet a host
of denominations have promoted that. Here's what you do find: men and women are told
to hear the word. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” We're told to
believe in Jesus. "Unless you believe I am he, you'll die in your sins." Jesus said in John
8:24, "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish." In Luke 13:3 Jesus clearly taught us
to confess his name before men. Romans 10:10 “with the heart one believes resulting in
righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” And then just as
plain as those Scriptures, the Bible teaches you must be baptized to be saved. In Mark
16:16 Jesus said, "He that believes and is baptized will be saved he that does not believe
shall be condemned.” In John 3:5 Jesus said, "Unless a man is born of water and the spirit
he cannot enter the kingdom of God." On the great day of Pentecost Acts 2:38 says,
"Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins." And Peter said it so plainly in 1 Peter
3:21, "Baptism does now also save us." Now let's relate that to the lesson. What makes
denominationalism against Scripture? Many are teaching things that you don't find in
God's plan of salvation or are leaving things out.
For example, we noted that Jesus said baptism was necessary in order to be
saved. We noticed it was for the forgiveness of sins. We noticed it was something
essential be a part of the kingdom of God. Did you know most modern denominations will
tell you, yes you should be baptized, yes that's something good to do, but it's not essential
to salvation? Can that be God's church if they're teaching something other than what
Christ teaches on the plan of salvation? These Scriptures clearly illustrate one should not
be a part of a denomination and that the Lord's church cannot be denominational in its
Why is it the case? Let's say that you've looked in your Bible. You see some of
these things. You want to study them further and you're wondering why one should leave
denominationalism. What would cause me to leave a denomination? Denominationalism
is actually the way of error and the way of Satan. The Bible says that those who left the
Lord's church and went into error left truth; that they have gone back into that which is
unholy and unclean. They have returned as a sow after her washing to its wallowing in the
mud again or the grotesque image of a dog returning to his own vomit. What do those
images portray? You've got to leave denominational error and never go back to it
because it's not the way of truth. Matthew 7:13-14 says there only two paths. There is the
broad, wide path which leads to destruction and there is the narrow, difficult way which
leads to eternal life. The Lord's church that you find in the Bible is striving to stay on that
right path and denominational teachings that you don't find in the Bible are leading down
the path of error to destruction. One must leave denominationalism because the Bible
teaches that man-made religious organizations will be destroyed and will not stand on the
last day. In Matthew 15:13 Jesus said, "Every plant which my heavenly father has not
planted will be cut down and thrown into the fire." Now I know Jesus wasn't talking about
gardening, weeds, or trees because He goes on to say, "They are blind leaders of the
blind. If the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch." What was Jesus talking
about? What are these plants? What are these blind leaders of the blind? The people who
were teaching things in Jesus' day that were contrary to the will of God. Jesus said they
won't stand. Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Zealots, that's not God's will. Denominations
that are started by man, which are teaching things contrary to God’s will, it's not God's
way. When we think about why one must leave denominationalism, understand there is a
dire need to leave it because you cannot find all spiritual blessings in denominationalism.
Where are those blessings? The Bible says in Ephesians 1:3, "Every spiritual blessing is
ours in Christ." If Christ's body is the church, if we're baptized into Christ, Galatians 3:27;
Ephesians 1:22-23. Then that's where those blessings are. You can't have those outside
of the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We encourage you today; remember our aim is to speak God's truth in love. Maybe
some of things we said are different, maybe they're challenging, maybe they're new to
you. We just simply ask that you get your Bible and see if the things that we've said today
are true to the word and will of God. If they are, all we ask of you is to obey your Bible and
to do what God says. If that's the case I can promise you that you will not be
denominational in what you do, what you say, and what you're a part of.
Have you obeyed the gospel of Christ? If not we encourage you to. Won't you be
immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins, Acts 2:38? In so doing the Bible says the
Lord will add you to his church.
Study Questions for: “The church of Christ is Not a Denomination”
1. What did Paul plead with the people about in 1 Corinthians 1:10?
2. What did Jesus pray for in John 17:20-21?
3. According to Psalm 133:1, how good and pleasant it is for the brethren
to do what?
4. According to Colossians 3:17, how should we do all things?
5. Revelation 22:18-19 warns us not to what?
6. According to Ephesians 1:22-23, who is the head of the church?
7. What is the result of not believing in Jesus, according to John 8:24?
8. According to Acts 2:38, what must we do to receive the gift of the Holy
9. According to Matthew 7:13-14, which path should we take?
10. Where are our spiritual blessings found, according to Ephesians 1:3?