WHAT ABOUT DENOMINATIONALISM?
WRITTEN BY GEORGE W. BAILEY
“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter ). “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” (2 John 9, 10). “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians ). “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew -15).
Is denominationalism a solution to religious problems, or is it a part of the problem? In light of the scriptures, let us study this matter very carefully.
Denominationalism Is Prompted
By a Spirit of Separation
Its very name implies such. Webster defines “denomination” as “the act of naming, a name, an appellation.”
The only two senses in which the word “church” is used in the New Testament is in the “local sense” and the “aggregate sense.” A denomination is larger than the local congregation, and yet smaller than the church in the aggregate sense. The very name “denomination,” therefore, suggests separation.
Denominationalism Gives Sanction To the Way of One’s Choice
is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jerermiah ). “There
In 2 Kings 5, Naaman couldn’t understand why
he could not choose the river in which to dip himself that he might be cleansed
of his leprosy. He believed that Pharpar and Abana were just as
good as the River Jordan. Was he
right? Far from it. It had to be the
How different from Naaman and Rehoboam are people today who say, “Attend the church of your choice.” Where lies the difference in the following: “The river of your choice,” “The god of your choice,” or “The church of your choice.”
The New Testament knows but one church. For centuries people were members of but one church. Denominationalism has changed the picture. Where God has spoken, does man have a right to choose some other thing?
Denominationalism Is Built Upon Sincerity Alone
To worship acceptably, man must be
sincere. Without sincerity, forms and
ritualism mean nothing at all. Is
sincerity alone enough? What about Saul
Denominationalism Ignores the
Divine Standard of Unity
Jesus prayed that the believers might be one, even as he and God are one (John17). How were they One? Did the Father teach something in opposition to the Son, or did the practice of the Son contradict the Father? Surely they were in agreement as to teaching (John 17:4; 10; John ). Jesus wanted to glorify God, but how did he glorify him? In John 17:1, 4, we are told that he accomplished what the Father had given him to do. “All things that are thine, are mine, and all that are mine are thine.” Being one, they were in perfect agreement. In Romans 15:5, 8, we are told that we glorify God by being of the “same mind according to Jesus Christ, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In 1 Corinthians , the Holy Spirit beseeches all of us to “speak the same thing, that there be no divisions among us.” We cannot conceive of Paul’s being a member of one church and Peter of another, and Cephas of another.
The advocates of denominationalism often say that we are all reading from the same Bible, and that we are all going to the same place. Perhaps the following illustration will help us: Five farmers bought a sack of seed and agreed to plant their respective fields with the seed that came from that bag. The seed was supposed to have been pure. After some weeks had passed these farmers came together to report their yield. The first report was, “The seed that I took from that bag produced some of the finest rice that I have ever seen.” Somewhat chagrined, the second said, “That’s odd, for the seed I took out of that bag produced fine-staple cotton.” Then, the third spoke, “This is most peculiar, indeed. The seed I took from that bag yielded turnips.” The fourth replied, “My seed yielded lettuce.” The fifth report was, “The seed that I took from that bag produced wheat.” Can you imagine a thing of that kind? Suppose such really happened, how would you explain it? There would be one of four explanations:
(1) Perhaps the seed was impure. (2) Maybe the fields had been previously sown with some other seed that choked out the seed that was taken from the bag. (3) Maybe they misnamed their products—that is, the fellow who produced rice really produced cotton, and thought it was rice, or the man who produced turnips had cotton and thought it was turnips.
(4) If one of the former three things were true, these men surely did not all plant the seed that came from the same bag.
Do we not have the same predicament religiously? How could one teach that there is nothing to the virgin birth, and another one teach from the same book that the virgin birth is upheld in the Bible? Could both of these men be preaching from the same Bible? How “can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). We cannot differ and both be right. Both may be wrong, but both cannot be right, if their teaching is contradictory.
May we restudy the problem of denominationalism, and, in light of the Scriptures, see if it be the problem, or the answer to the problem. The Bible is right, and by it one can come to know exactly what God desires. Denominationalism ignores the divine standard of unity. Its name suggests division.
The Making of Laws Where
God Has Not Made Them
The Lord speaks of baptism as a burial. Denominations have sanctioned sprinkling and pouring as substitutes for this burial. Which is right?
Faith in the Church
It causes man to believe that the church is not very important. Its advocates believe that one can be a member of any church, or none and be perfectly all right. Is one church really as good as another? Can a man build a church as good as the one the Lord built? That one cost the blood of Christ (Acts ). To it God adds the saved (Acts ). In it we are reconciled to God (Ephesians -16). When one says, “You do not have to be a member of the church to be saved,” surely he isn’t speaking of the Lord’s church, for the Lord’s church is composed of the saved (Acts ). In fact, the Bible gives great emphasis to the church of the Lord.
Man’s Personal Desire
Above That of the Lord
What you think, and what I think, is insignificant, compared to what the Bible specifically says. The Lord has all authority, “both in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). What about denominationalism? Is it founded upon the Bible? Does it have the Bible as its authority, or is it governed by the thinking of men? The Bible is truth. In it there are no contradictions. When two people follow this Guide, there will be unity between them.
May the Lord bless you in your search for the way of righteousness.