THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS NOT A DENOMINATION
By Bob Myhan
The church of Christ is just that – the church belonging to Christ.
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:13-18)
On this occasion Jesus stated that, upon the rock of truth that Peter had just confessed—"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"—He would build His church.
We sailed from there, and the next day came opposite Chios. The following day we arrived at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium. The next day we came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost. From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you... I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:15-18, 27-28.
Paul said that Jesus “purchased [the church] with His own blood.” Was any man-made denomination purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ? Certainly not! By the way, John the Baptist without a doubt shed a great deal of blood in his death [he was beheaded] but not one drop of his blood went toward the purchase of the Lord’s church! Why, then, should it wear his name?
The Bible says that God “put all things under [Jesus’] feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). Which church is this? Surely, it is His. He is “head over all things to the church,” in that He has the last word as regards all of its activities. Whatever the church does, “in word or deed,” it must do “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17), because “all authority … in heaven and on earth” has been given to Him (Matt. 28:18).
Answer this question, please. Does any denomination on earth consider all saved people its members? According to God’s word, “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). What church was this? Certainly, it was His church. Who did the Lord say will be saved? “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Therefore, “He who believes and is baptized” will be “added to the church.” If this is not the case, why is it not?
There was a time when at least some denominational leaders recognized the above. Consider the following quote.
“It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but ‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,’ and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, ‘baptism was the door into the church.’ Now it is different.” (Edward T. Hiscox: The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, page 22)
Who says it is different now? Since the Lord “shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34), there is no reason to conclude that the Lord does not, in the twenty-first century, add to the church daily “such as are being saved,” just as He did in the first century. Surely, “in every [generation] whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” If this is not the case, why is it not?
Shortly before He died on the cross, Jesus prayed that all believers would be united as He and the Father are united.
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me” (John 17:20-21).
A denomination is “a religious group, usually including many local churches” (Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary). Since no denomination even claims to include all local churches, denominationalism [“the tendency to divide into denominations or sects”] is inconsistent with the prayer of the Lord for unity. The scriptures condemn the very type of division that would ultimately lead to denominationalism.
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. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that 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? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1:10-13)
The scriptures also give a divine platform for unity.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were 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. (Eph. 4:1-6)
Notice that the unity of believers is not something that is to be achieved but something that is to be kept. The Lord put all Christians in “one body” and expects them to stay in it. Denominationalism, on the other hand, teaches that one is not even in a religious body until he is in a denomination. In teaching thus it presents the Lord’s church as a monstrosity with one head and a multitude of bodies. &
GOD HAS SPOKEN
By Gilbert Alexander
Rejection of divine instruction is not a new trend, nor is the consequence of it any different today than it has been in the past. After the death of Joshua, Israel failed to complete the task of expelling the tribal peoples from Canaan as God had commanded them (Judges 2). Israel soon forsook the Lord and went after the sensual idolatry all around them, so the anger of the Lord was hot against them (Judges 2:14). This cyclical problem continued for about four hundred and fifty years until the days of Samuel (Acts 13:20). In Samuel's days, Israel rejected the leadership and kingship of God, demanding a king, to be like all the nations (I Sam. 8). Their excuse was that Samuel was old, and his sons were disobedient to God, but God said, "They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them" (I Sam. 8:7).
The nations of the world in the past ages came to ignorance of God because they rejected the knowledge of God (Romans 1:21-32). The result of their choice was the practice of every imaginable evil. Assyria and Babylon had opportunity to know God's ways, but they gloried instead in their own accomplishments (Jonah; Daniel 2-5). Even so today, the world has access to the knowledge of God, perhaps with more facility than ever before; and yet people choose to deny God and refuse to follow His direction in conduct. The result is the deplorable ignorance and wickedness that prevails in our land and abroad. That rejection of the revelation of God is the root of the secularist movement with its corrupting influence, the Islamic war against all "Christians," the humanistic philosophy of the exaltation of mankind and human wisdom, and the growing violence and lawlessness all over the world as well as in our own nation.
Shall we then become critical and disrespectful of the Bible, scorning its righteousness through our own unbelief, and challenging the wisdom of the ways of God? Shall we attempt to rewrite history or presume to rewrite the Bible with women authoring it? Will the saints of God be swallowed up by the sea of evil by which we are buffeted? May it never be! (Isa. 55:8, 9; Heb. 12:1-29) &