Six Sins Of Denominationalism
Denominations are not in the Bible
When the church was originally established, there was no such thing as a “denomination.” The Lord added those who were being saved to “the church” (Acts 2:47). “The church” is an important term because Jesus promised to build only one church, which is His church (Matt. 16:18). Thus, in the New Testament we can only read about one, universal church or local congregations of God’s people (Eph. 1:22, 23; 1 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:2; etc.). There is no organization smaller than the universal church and larger than a local church in the Bible. Therefore, denominations are sinful.
Denominational organizations are not found in the Bible
Similar to the above, but worth a brief explanation, is the fact that various forms of denominational organizations are not in God’s word. In the New Testament we read of the body of Christ being the church over which Jesus is Head (Eph. 1:22, 23). One Head and one body only (Eph. 2:16; 4:5). Put another way, He is the King over the Kingdom (1 Tim. 6:15; Col. 1:13). The Roman Catholic Church has a second head in the pope. Many denominations have governing bodies that rule over the religious group like dioceses, conventions, synods, councils, etc., none of which are in God’s word.
Denominational leadership is not in the Bible
Denominations often have a local organizational structure that is not found in the New Testament. God’s word reveals local churches are to have local leadership, leaders that are a part of that congregation. For instance, the church at Ephesus had elders that were to shepherd the church of God among them (Acts 20:17, 28). Since these men were to shepherd, that means they were pastors. They are also described as bishops (presbyters) in the New Testament (Phil. 1:1). These men are to be appointed based on specific qualifications revealed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Too, there is always a plurality of men serving in the office of pastor (elder, bishop) over a local church (Acts 14:23; 15:6; Phil. 1:1; James 5:14).
Denominations often have a single pastor overseeing the work of the local church. He may or may not be married and may or may not have faithful children, both of which are required to be a shepherd (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-7). Too, it might be a woman, whereas the Bible states men are to be pastors. Male leadership is the Biblical model, but denominations have rejected it in favor of the ways of men (Titus 1:6; cf. 1 Tim. 2:11, 12).
Denominational names are not in the Bible
Denominations mostly use names given by men. Designations like Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Mormon, Catholic, and so on are all man-made names. These are not in the word of God and, therefore, outside the doctrine of Christ and sinful (2 Jn. 9-11). The New Testament reveals names like church of Christ, body of Christ, church of God, and kingdom of God when referring to the universal church (Rom. 16:16; Eph. 1:22, 23; 1 Cor. 1:2; Col. 4:11). It uses terms like disciples, Christians, brethren, and saints when identifying individual followers of Christ (Acts 6:7; 11:26; Eph. 6:10; Phil. 1:1).
Denominational doctrine is not in the Bible
A very popular and cancerous denominational doctrine is “saved by faith alone.” The doctrine was espoused by Reformation leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin and widely accepted by mainline denominations. The idea is that a person only needs to have faith in Jesus as the Christ to be saved from his or her sins. However, the only place the New Testament mentions faith only is in James 2:24 where it states, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” To reiterate, we are NOT saved by faith alone. Rather, the Bible teaches we are saved by faith that leads to repentance, confession of Jesus as Christ, and submission to baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-38; 8:36-39; Rom. 6:3, 4; 10:9, 10). None of these (faith, repentance, confession, baptism) earn salvation. Rather, they are the result of accepting and submitting to God’s commands. Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9).
Many, many more denominational doctrines are not in God’s word. And that makes sense because if there were many false teachers in the 1st century, there surely are many more in the 21st century (1 Jn. 4:1; 2 Pet. 2:1).
Denominational worship is not in the Bible
Denominational churches give an appearance of godliness in worship, but pervert the truth and render their worship vain (cf. Matt. 15:7-9). One aspect, perhaps more than any other, makes this apparent; the use of instrumental music in worship.
The New Testament teaches musical worship is singing.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16).
Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).
Yet, men presume to add instruments to this command. In doing so, they change the command from “sing” to “play” (or “sing and play”).
Consider this illustration to understand the problem with adding to God’s command.
In the Old Testament, priests were to be appointed from the tribe of Levi (Deut. 18:1; Num. 1:50-53; 3:5-13). The Hebrew writer makes note that God specified priests from Levi and was silent on any other tribe (Heb. 7:12-14). He cites this to make the point that if Jesus was under the Old Law, He could not serve as a priest. Why? Because the Law was silent on priests from the tribe of Judah. Thus, silence did not permit, but condemn. Likewise, when God specifies singing for musical worship, and is silent on any other form of musical worship, the use of instruments is condemned.
Why It Matters
It is clear that the religions of men, including denominations that claim to serve Jesus Christ, do not respect the authority of the New Testament of Jesus Christ. These groups follow the teachings and traditions of uninspired men. While the intent of many in these churches is for good, the reality is they are condemned by the word of God (Matt. 7:21-23).
It is our hope men and women will open their hearts to the truth of the gospel, setting aside the man-made teachings and practices they have learned, and sincerely study God’s word. Jesus promised if we “will to do His will,” we can know the truth (Jn. 7:17). That truth will set us free from sin and Satan (Jn. 8:32). Until then, we are his slaves and doomed to eternal torment. However, forgiveness and freedom await all who will fully embrace the faith and these will have the hope of everlasting life (cf. Acts 6:7; Rom. 6:22).
Newton church of Christ
This information is provided by the Newton church of Christ in Newton, NC. We are a group of Christians striving to be a church that belongs to and honors Christ by following the New Testament alone as our rule of faith and practice. We are not above correction or criticism. If there is something presented here that is not according to the word of God, please bring it to our attention so we can study together. If you would like to study God’s word in more detail or have questions, please reach out to us. You may contact us in the following ways.