The Lord’s Undenominational Church by Frank Walton

Every religious practice must first pass this acid test that Jesus asked: “Where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matt 21:25). What is the origin of denominational churches?

The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches admitted, “In the apostolic age…no differing denominations existed” (Hiscox, p.22). Yet, “… now it is different.” Why? A newspaper’s “church page” lists many denominational churches and exhorts, “Attend the church of your choice this week.” However, where is the church of the Lord’s choice?

The Episcopal church had its inception from 1531-1539, almost 15 centuries after Jesus declared, “I will build My church” (Matt 16:18). Jesus promised to build only one church. King Henry VIII desperately wanted to divorce Catherine to marry Ann Boleyn. Yet, the Pope wouldn’t annul his marriage. Enraged, he severed ties with Rome and founded the Church of England, so he could legitimize his divorce and remarriage. Is this denomination’s origin from heaven or from men?

“It is noteworthy that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism…made legal arrangements before his death for the formation of the Methodist denomination, but chose himself to remain within the Church of England and was buried in the clerical garb of that church” (The Story of Methodism, p. 178). Why form another sect for others while remaining in the one founded by King Henry VIII?

1. The Problem: Denominationalism Endorses Human Religious Division. A dictionary says a denomination is the “act of naming; a class designation; a part of a whole; a religious sect.” The religious concept is a humanly organized group of churches less than the universal church. This endorses religious division and loyalty to human tradition.

When men say all the different churches are good, allowing men religion which suits themselves, I hear the earnest prayer of Jesus under the shadow of the cross: “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jn 17:21). Imagine skeptical Thomas blurting out, “Are you crazy? It’ll never work!” Or Peter scornfully laughing, “They’ll never be one in your church!. Let people join whatever church suits them” What an irreverent thought!

Yet, the nightmare has come true. The division of hundreds of man-made denominational churches ignores Jesus’ impassioned plea, giving the world an excuse to not believe! Dr. Edwin Blum of Dallas Theological Seminary candidly wrote, “Admittedly the divided church is in many ways a scandal” (Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 333).

Loyalty to human sectarianism diminishes the power of the cross. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (Jn 12:32). If truly converted to the crucified Christ by obedience to the pure gospel, Christians “will hear My voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). Denominationalism distorts Jesus’ voice and scatters His flock to follow sectarian traditions. Denominationalism sets “aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition” (Mk 7:9).

This loyalty to human sectarianism is expressly forbidden by the apostle Paul. “Now 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….Each of you says, `I am of Paul,’ or `I am of Apollos,’ or `I am of Cephas,’ or `I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided?…” (1 Cor 1:10-13). . The division at carnal Corinth is today’s human denominationalism, which is contrary to Christ’s plan for unity (Jn 17:20-26)

2. The Solution: Be Simply Christians, Members Only of Christ’s One Church. If you simply obey the gospel in penitent faith to become a Christian (Mk 16:16, Acts 2:38, 22:16), to what denomination do you belong? The same one Peter, Paul, and the other early Christians belonged – none! “In obeying the truth” (1 Pet 1:22), the Lord adds you to His church, the one body of the saved (Acts 2:47, 1 Cor 10:13). Now, suppose you told your neighbors and friends and some then obeyed the same gospel. Since you’re all simply Christians, suppose you worship in your home and work as the early Christians did as a congregation (Acts 2:42, 20:7; Rom 16:5). To what denomination would this congregation belong? None!

“One can believe all truth and obey every commandment of God without belonging to any denomination….Since one can be a Christian without joining any denomination, then why join one? Would it not be wrong to join one, since denominationalism is division and division is wrong (1 Cor 1:10-13; Rom 16:17)? What then does it take to make one a member of a denomination? Believing truth will not make one a member of a denomination, because he can obey God on the outside….Since believing all truth and obeying all God’s commands will not put one in a denomination, then he must believe something different from the truth and do something that God had not commanded or leave off something that He has commanded, in order to become a member of a denomination” (Harris Dark, Gospel Sermons at the Mosque, pp. 159-160).

Jesus is “the head of the body, the church” (Col 1:18). There is only “one body” (Eph 4:4), not thousands of denominated bodies acceptable to God. Man-made religious division repudiates the New Testament ideal of undenominational devotion to Christ (2 Jn 9). Religious bodies not planted by God “will be uprooted” (Matt 15:13).

Even bitter racial hostility between Jew and Gentile didn’t excuse them to denominate into two separate churches, for Jesus’ death on the cross “made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division” (Eph 2:14-16). This striving for the divine ideal enabled first century Christians to unite upon truth and overcome difficult differences. No excuse is good enough to perpetuate the way of man-made denominations. “Through your precepts I gain understanding, therefore I hate every false way” (Psa 119:104).

3. Seeking the Undenominational Way of Christ. Jesus calls us to hear His voice in the New Testament and to follow Him as simply Christians in His one flock, His undenominational church (Jn 10:16, 27). The Lord requires Christians to always be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). This ideal undenominational Christianity is appealing to sincere Bible students. Charles Spurgeon, noted Baptist preacher: “I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ’s name last forever.” Martin Luther, religious reformer: “I pray you to leave my name alone; and not call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians….Cease …to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with all; and let us call ourselves only Christians after him from whom our doctrine comes.”

Today, like the early “churches of Christ” (Rom 16:16), we can be part of a local church “striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Will you follow Jesus as a Christian only, being only a member of His one “glorious church” (Eph 5:27)? Our eternal destiny depends upon it (Matt 7:21-23; 15:14).

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