Listen: 73 Question 2

It is a shame and dishonor to the Lord that there are so many denominations.  There is only one church, which is the body of Christ as we read in Ephesians 1:22-23, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”  In the Lord’s prayer in the garden before going to the cross, the Lord prayed four times concerning his followers being one.  In John 17:11 Christ said, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.”  Then, he continues in John 17:21-23, “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 hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”  We are, in truth, one as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…”  Ephesians 4:4 says, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.”

The spirit of division and denominationalism began early in the church.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, “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?”  Is it possible for the entire body of Christ to be of the same mind and the same judgment?  While it may seem impossible, we realize that the Holy Spirit will not teach anything that is contrary to the scriptures.  John 16:13 says, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”  The Spirit teaches us by giving us understanding of the Word of God.  He teaches truth, so if all were sensitive to the leading of the Spirit in the reading of God’s Word, we would indeed be in the same mind.  We can accomplish this because of 1 Corinthians 2:16 which says, “…we have the mind of Christ.”

So, we see that divisions began when believers were not all of the same mind.  It appears they began to separate themselves and begin to identify themselves by their favorite teachers.  Some said they were of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.  Some said they were of Apollos, a man known for his oratory skills.  Some said they were of Cephas, who is Peter, a leader in the early church.  Some said they were of Christ, as if they were the only ones who were of Christ, to the exclusion of others.  Paul condemned this behavior as being carnal as we read in 1 Corinthians 3:3-7, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?   For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”  This behavior continues today as different groups of believers name themselves after their favorite teacher or system of church government.  Some say I am of John the Baptist.  Some say I am of Charles Wesley.  Some say I am of Martin Luther.  Some say I am of Methodism or of the Episcopal thought.

So, which one is right?  Perhaps we would be wise to pray the prayer of King David in Psalms 25:5, “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”  It is not wise counsel to encourage believers to attend the church of their choice.  People attend different church groups for many different reasons; many of which have nothing to do with honoring the Lord.  Listen to the prayer of the newly converted Saul in Acts 9:6, “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”  What does the Lord want us to do?  Where would He have us to go for fellowship?  He would lead you in His truth to a gathering of true believers where the principles of scripture are used…a gathering that recognizes that all believers are members of the body of Christ; a gathering that seeks to learn and obey the scriptures; a gathering that acknowledges Christ as head and gathers to His name alone according to Matthew 18:20; a gathering that practices the priesthood of all believers as we have in 1 Peter 2:5-9; a gathering that believes in the principle of separation of all things that dishonor the Lord.

May our hearts cry to the Lord as the psalmist prayed in Psalms 86:11, “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth…”

I’m reminded of the words of an old hymn:

Many are we now, and one, we who Jesus have put on;

There is neither bond nor free, male nor female, Lord, in thee.

Love, like death, hath all destroyed, rendered all distinctions void;

Names and sects and parties fall; thou, O Christ, art all in all!  (73.2)