Last week we noted that denominationalism doesn’t recognize the inherent division within its organization because it fails to acknowledge any other doctrine of the Christian faith as truly important and grounds for unity except belief in Jesus as the Christ. On this account, denominationalism fails to realize that there could be any distinguishing marks that identify the one true church of Christ. Hence, proponents of denominationalism criticize any who would claim to be the one true church of Christ. After all, every denomination is part of the “church of Christ,” at least, according to denominational thinking. Saying that there are ways to identify the church of Christ through scripture in essence requires that there be more tenets of unity other than mere mental acknowledgement of Jesus as Christ.
When we look into the scriptures, we find that indeed, God through Christ has left us both the teaching and the example that the church is to be found identified through a clear pattern of behavior. That is, that the church of Christ that was established by the apostles and prophets of the first century behaved in such and so a way is clear from the scriptures. Should we seek to behave in such and so a way as well, we should have clear indication that we are the church of Christ as well. The example that we find within the New Testament of what it means to be the church of Christ is available for us today and we ought to emulate that example if we want to be the church of Christ. Obviously, we are not talking about emulating things which are pointed out by the apostles and prophets to be sinful and wrong. We must avoid those things. However, in looking at the things that the apostles and prophets taught the church to be, we ought to be those things as well. This is also known as the seed principle. Luke 8:11 teaches that the seed is the word of God. In reading the context of Luke 8 and understanding the parable of the sower, one discovers that God’s word contains within it the same pattern that a seed would contain within it. When that pattern is sowed, it grows into a plant. When the plant grows in good soil, it produces fruit.
Denominationalism is not a viable Christian system because it fails to offer identifying marks of the one true church of Christ. Denominationalism is not concerned with emulating the pattern of the church as found in the New Testament. Their concern is merely with following after their own church manuals, creeds, confessions of faith, and disciplines. Denominationalism says “attend the church of your choice.” That in essence says that there is no one “church” that is specifically following what God wants them to follow. It in essence says that each “church” is just as good as another. What does that mean except that there are no real identifying characteristics of the church of the New Testament? That each “church” has the right to do what it pleases as long as it hangs onto the truth of Jesus as the Son of God? Is that really right? What would be the purpose of the New Testament if it didn’t matter what the behavior of the church was? In fact, there is no purpose of the New Testament if the only thing that matters is that Jesus is the Son of God. A large portion of the New Testament is letters sent to churches instructing them how to behave. In those letters, the apostles instructed these churches to behave in certain ways (ex. 1 Cor.16:1). In the epistles, each church was given instruction, but all churches were expected to behave in the same way in key matters (1 Cor.7:17). Such key matters include salvation, church discipline, church organization, the worship of the church, the work of the church, and future hope of the church. It is not just a good idea to teach the same things in these matters, it is commanded (1 Cor.1:10; Phil.2:2; Eph.4:1-5). Can the system of denominationalism be a valid Christian system when it frankly denies that there is a pattern for the church that is commanded and needed? It cannot.
In this series of articles, we have noted three key areas in which denominationalism cannot provide viability as a Christian system. Denominationalism cannot be viable because it promotes the doctrines of men above the word of God. Denominationalism cannot be viable because it promotes divisions instead of unity. Denominationalism cannot be viable because it fails to offer the identifying marks of the New Testament church as the New Testament expects the church to have. Dear friends and neighbors, it is time to leave the shackles of denominational Christianity. We must unite upon God’s truth, the Bible, and simply be Christians and Christians alone. Not Baptist-Christians, Methodist-Christians, Presbyterian-Christians, and etc, but simply Christians. Surely we can agree upon this. Surely we can take the word of God as our only standard of authority to accomplish this task. Surely we can unite based upon the truths therein. Surely we can read those truths and recognize the one true church that exists today. Let us work and endeavor toward the unity that God wants us to have as His children. Let us respect the wishes of our Lord Jesus in these matters. Let us seek to be the one true church of Jesus, the church that belongs to the Christ, the church of Christ today upon the earth.