This past week I read an article written by a minister of a well-known denomination. The first statement of the article read as follows, “When the church age began during the Lord’s earthly ministry, there was only the church Jesus built.” Questions for the minister who wrote the article, and all of us, to consider include, “Does the one church Jesus built exist today? If Jesus only built one church, why are there so many churches today? Who made the change? If Jesus only built one church, who built these other churches? And does any of this really matter?”
A denomination can be defined as “a large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name, usually organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy.” Friends, I must say with all kindness yet with all truthfulness to God’s word, denominationalism is completely incompatible with and foreign to the scriptures. Notice the following from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: “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 judgment. 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 1:10-13) Men may accept, even applaud, the division that exists in the religious world today, but God never has and never will.
Denominations are of human origin. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus said He would build His church, singular. All denominations exist without New Testament authority, New Testament example or Christ’s approval.
Why does any of this really matter? The inspired apostle Paul taught that Christ’s church and Christ’s body are one and the same. (Ephesians 1:22-23) He went on to teach that there is only one body, therefore there must be only one church. (Ephesians 4:4) Later in his same letter to the church at Ephesus he taught that Christ is the savior of the body. (Ephesians 5:23) What can we conclude from all this? Christ is the savior of the one church that He built!
Peter told those present on the Day of Pentecost to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) When these people were saved by believing the gospel, repenting of their sins, confessing their faith in Jesus Christ and being baptized to receive the forgiveness of their sins, how did the Lord respond? He added them to the one church that He built. (Acts 2:47) He did not add them to a denomination, for there were no denominations in existence!
The church that Jesus built still exists today, just as it did in the first century. It has no earthly head. It has no legal hierarchy. It follows no manmade creeds, practices, manuals or handbooks. It simply follows the New Testament pattern for the church. Its congregations are autonomous and are overseen by elders who have authority only over their particular congregation. (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5; I Peter 5:1-3) Its members meet on the first day of every week to worship, including partaking of the communion. (Acts 20:7) Its members worship God through acapella singing, just as the early church of the first century did. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) Its members pray and study the Bible together. (Acts 2:42) Its members hear preaching together and give financially on the first day of the week. (I Corinthians 16:1-2)
Can a person be saved from his sins today and be a member of Christ’s one church without being a member of any denomination? Yes! He not only can, he must in order to please God. How can a person do this? He must believe the good news, or gospel, concerning Jesus Christ. (John 3:16) He must repent of his sins (Acts 17:30-31) He must confess his faith in Jesus Christ. (Acts 8:37) He must then be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of his sins. (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16) When he does this, the Lord will add him to the one church that he, Jesus Christ, purchased with his blood. (Acts 2:47; Acts 20:28)
Friends, it is not my intention to be unkind. Rather, it is my desire to expose the clear teaching of the scriptures concerning Christ and His church. Search the scriptures and see whether these things are so! (Acts 17:11)
“The churches of Christ salute you.” (Romans 16:16)