I have TONS of materials I use to study the Bible. Denomination doesn’t even play a part in it. My library consists of commentaries, parallel versions, lexicons, concordances, Strong’s, and a pretty extensive collection of writings from the “church fathers”, as they are known.
That’s not to say “look at how much I study!” but rather, that I am diligent in how I learn. Why?
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.2 Timothy 2:15
If there’s anything at all we should be careful to examine, it is the Word of God. It is THE Living Word, sharper than a two-edged sword, and is completely True.
I rely on the King James Version, in spite of the debate that hovers around it. Yes, there were several English translations prior to the KJV. And yes, the KJV was partially translated from the Latin Vulgate. But that’s a story for another day.
My Recent Search for Denomination
I think a lot when I read the Bible, but lately, I’ve been thinking about something specific. Specifically, denomination. You know the ones. Apostolic, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Anglican, Lutheran, etc., etc.
But WHY are there different denominations? In my own humble, personal opinion (and, no, you don’t have to share it!), it all boils down to good old-fashioned, man-made bylaws.
Each of the denominations has its own way of “doing things” and each one thinks they are the “only” RIGHT way. Which got me to thinking… what does the Bible say about denomination?
No Mention of Denomination
It’s not surprising that you do not find the word “denomination” in the Bible. Anywhere. If we’re really supposed to follow the commandments of Jesus, and the teachings of the disciples and Apostles, why is that?
Well, my guess is that it’s because Jesus never intended for denominations in the first place!
It’s not hard to put your finger on what He said. It’s in plain black and white for everyone to see. Now, “interpretation” is quite another thing, isn’t it? That’s not always the case. But there are several things in the Word that people simply pull out of context for a specific set of traditions.
While disagreements DID happen in the New Testament church, it did NOT create new denominations based on those disagreements. Take Peter and Paul, for example…
A Dispute Between Peter and Paul
There was one particular time that Paul was not the least bit pleased with Peter. You know, “the rock”? The one on whom Jesus built the church? Take a look:
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.Galatians 2:11-12
With one group of people, Peter acted one way, and when another group of people arrived, he acted another way. Paul said this shouldn’t be so.
In essence, Peter gave in to peer pressure. He had friends who had not relinquished their firm belief in the Old Covenant and the Law that went with it. But as we know, Paul certainly had no problem with the Truth. And he made it a point to speak that truth to Peter’s face!
It doesn’t make Peter a “bad example”… it just makes him human. Like the rest of us. But it also didn’t mean that he moved on and created a whole other denomination that went along with his beliefs. He didn’t cut off, cast away, or shut anyone out.
In fact, you don’t see that throughout the entirety of the New Testament!
What DOES the Bible Say About Denomination?
Before we dive into this one, let me say something very plainly. Not because I’m calling someone out… but because I’ve been there! You cannot remove yourself from the “problem” of denominationalism by taking on the title of “non-denomination”. Believe it or not, that IS a denomination. A denomination that is as lax in its belief system as is humanly possible. That old saying, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”… well, that suits non-denominationalists perfectly.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment1 Corinthians 1:10
In Strong’s concordance, the word translated here to “divisions” literally means “splits”. Paul was saying not to let any splits happen! How in the world did we get from the New Testament church, with ONE body, ONE group of people, to this present age? With, easily, thousands of different denominations, each one thinking they’re right?
But Paul goes on…
For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?1 Corinthians 1:11-13
That’s pretty plain, I think. I mean, the Lutherans base their belief set on Martin Luther. The Wesleyans base their belief set on John Wesley. Sounds pretty plain to me that Paul’s admonishment has gone unattended by the general population.
More Proof In Scripture…
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simpleRomans 16:17-18
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.Ephesians 4:4-6
And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:Matthew 12:25
The Whole Point
It all boils down to a verse from Ecclesiastes:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.Ecclesiastes 12:13
Jesus is the Head of the church (Ephesians 5) and He gave Himself for the church. It is HE who adds to the church (Acts 2). Denomination, on the other hand, changes everything by adding or taking away from that original message preached by the Apostles.
God’s plan is unchangeable.
Luckily, we have some very plain words in the Bible for those who put their faith in their denomination. That kind of faith is always in direct contrast to the New Testament church and message.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.Galatians 1:6-9
Whose word and wisdom are we following? Whose bylaws make us complete?
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.2 John 1L9-11
Make the Right Choice
There are many other Scriptures you can find speaking to the fact that our own understanding leads to death. Man-made traditions and doctrines will get us nowhere. We MUST diligently study the entirety of the Word to make sure we are following the teachings that Jesus put into motion when He himself preached.
Jesus is coming back for “A” church, not churches, plural. No, we are not all collectively “Christians” because we are all “saved”. The salvation plan is clear in the Word and Jesus said many who would cry “Lord, Lord!…” but He would say, “Depart… I never knew you.”
What do you think that means? That was the question that surfaced in my own mind one day. And then I found a quote from Jesus that changed everything. He said, “Go, and learn what this means…”
Praise God, may His Word live on and fill the hearts of as many as will believe!