Denomination in Christianity
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Denomination in Christianity
 
 
Paul  Wong

 

The First Christian Church that began in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost was one united Body of Christ. 

 

“Now when the Day of Pentecost has fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. . . . And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

 

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:42-44) 

 

“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.  Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:31-33)  

 

 

Division  in  the

Corinthian  Church

 

The apostle Paul planted the Church in Corinth but he discovered there was division amongst its members.  He wrote to them (1 Cor. 1:10-13)

 

10     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.

11     For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.

12     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.’

13     Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

 

The division within the Corinthian Church was caused by members forming various groups that followed different ministers.  Today there are also many divisions within Christianity that are formed by Christians who follow various ministers that teach diverse theologies and doctrines.  They do not abide by the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The word that is used for the various divisions within Christianity is “denomination”.  Although this word is not found in the Holy Bible it is a terminology that is used to denote any religious group that has its own particular form of worship, doctrines, practices, rituals or sacraments, system of organization and administration.

 

 

Christian  Denominations

in  History

 

In the New Testament we find "the Church of God" written in the singular form (1 Cor. 10:32), but we also find the "churches of God" written in the plural form (1 Thes. 2:14).  How has this unity become a plurality?   How has the Church which is essentially one become many?  The one Church of God has been divided into several churches.  This is a historical fact.

 

The seven churches in Asia referred to in the Book of Revelation are  distinct from one another not only on the basis of locality but also in their form of worship, doctrines, practices, rituals or sacraments, system of organization and administration (Revelation chapters 2 and 3).  Denominationalism in Christianity had already begun in the First Century.

 

 Even in the days of the apostles there were signs that the Church was moving in the direction of apostasy (Acts 20:29 30; III Jn. 9-10).  After the deaths of the apostles, this apostasy moved forward unchecked and with ever-increasing momentum.

 

During the first period of post-apostolic church history the early Christians were greatly persecuted by the Roman government.  These persecutions would continue intermittently throughout the Second and Third Centuries but would finally be brought to an end by the Edict of Milan which was issued by Emperor Constantine in 313 A.D.  Nevertheless, this was also a period of drastic changes in the day and form of worship, theology, doctrines and practices. 

 

In 1054 A.D. Christendom was affected by the "Great Schism" between the Western Church and the Eastern Church.  From that point onward there were two large branches of Christianity, which came to be known as the Catholic Church (in the West) and the Orthodox Church (in the East).

 

The next major division occurred in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation.”   The Reformation was famously sparked when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses in 1517 A.D.

 

With its emphasis on individual interpretation of scripture and a measure of religious freedom, the Reformation marked not only a break between Protestantism and Catholicism, but the beginning of denominationalism as we know it today. This historical perspective is perhaps the best way to make sense of the initially astounding variety of Christian denominations.

 

 

Major  Christian  Denominations

in  the  World

 

Not counting the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthordox churches there are seven major Christian denominations in the world; some are historic Protestant Churches while others belong to the modern evangelical movement.

 

1.      Lutheran Church   The symbolic beginning of the Reformation occurred on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses.   Luther's ideas are generally held to have been a major foundation of the Protestant movement.  Lutherans have about 70 million members worldwide.

 

2.      Presbyterian Church    historically subscribed to the teachings of John Calvin (from the Reformed churches).  Presbyterianism traces its institutional roots back to the Scottish Reformation, especially as led by John Knox.   Its name is derived from the Greek word “Presbyterios” which means “elder”.   Presbyterians have a worldwide membership of about 75 million.

 

3.      Anglican Church  was established in 1534 when England's King Henry VIII broke from the authority of the Pope, and became the Episcopal Church in America.  The Anglican Church is one of the largest Christian denominations in the world, with approximately 73 million members.

 

4.      Methodist Church  is based on the teachings of John Wesley and it also has its roots in Anglicanism.   It originated in 18th century Britain, and due to vigorous missionary activity spread throughout the British Empire, the United States, and beyond. Originally it appealed especially to workers, poor farmers, and slaves.  Theologically it is Arminian, emphasizing that all people can be saved, and low church in liturgy.   By 2006 it claimed some 75 million members worldwide.

 

5.      Baptist Church is often regarded as an Evangelical Protestant denomination originating from the English Puritan movement with Anabaptist influences.  They emphasize a believer's baptism by full immersion, which is performed on non-infants after a profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  There are over 90 million Baptists worldwide in nearly 300,000 congregations, with an estimated 47 million members in the United States.

 

6.      Adventist Church  was officially established in 1863, grew out of the Millerite movement in the United States during the middle part of the 19th century.  Seventh-day Adventists are most well known for their teaching that Saturday, the seventh day of the week, is the Sabbath.  They are also known for their teachings regarding diet and health.

 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, which baptises around 2,000 members a day, is one of the world's fastest-growing organizations, primarily due to increases in membership in the Third World. Depending on how the data was measured, it is said that church membership reached 1 million between 1955 and 1961, and hit 5 million in 1986. At the turn of the 21st Century the church had 10,782,042 members which grew to 14,487,989 members at the end of 2004. It is believed that around 25 million worship in churches every Saturday and the church operates in 203 out of 228 countries recognised by the United Nations.

 

7.      Pentecostal Church is more accurately called the Pentecostal Movement within Protestant Christianity.   It places special emphasis on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking with tongues.  It also encourages gifts of the Holy Spirit, as shown in the Biblical account of the Day of Pentecost.  When the Pentecostal Movement began at the beginning of the Twentieth Century believers  separated themselves from the mainstream church.   In the Charismatic Movement the believers are encouraged to stay in their churches.

 

          Estimated numbers of Pentecostals vary widely.  Christianity Today reported in an article titled World Growth at 19 Million a Year.  Pentecostalism was estimated to number around 115 million followers worldwide in 2000; lower estimates place the figure near to 22 million (eg. Cambridge Encyclopedia), while the highest estimates apparently place the figure between 400 and 600 million.

 

 

Reformation  and

Denominationalism

 

Most significant non-Catholic and non-Orthodox Christian denominations have formally taught that at some point in history, the original teachings and practices of the primitive or original Christian church were greatly altered.  

 

The most important thing about the Reformation is that God has used it to restore much of the vital truths that are essential for salvation.  There are five “Solas” (means “only or alone” in Latin) in the Reformation.

 

1       Sola Scriptura -  It does mean that the Scriptures are our only ultimate and infallible authority for faith and practice.   All other authorities, even though equally as valid, are subordinate to the Scriptures and are fallible (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

2.      Sola Christus -  Salvation is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and in no one and nothing else.  He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn. 14:6; ref. Acts 4:10-12; 16:30-31; 1 Tim. 2:5; ). 

3.      Sola Gratia -  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 3:4-7) 

4.      Sola Fide -  The doctrine of  Faith Alone asserts that it is on the basis of God's grace through the believer's faith alone that they are forgiven their transgressions of the Law of God, rather than on the basis of any good works, which is called Legalism (Rom. 1:17; 4:13-25; Gal. 3:11).

5.      Soli Deo Gloria – It means “Glory to God alone”. Acknowledge the sovereignty of God over every aspect of the believer's life. All of life is to be lived to the glory of God.  To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Eph. 3:21).  “Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever.” (Rev. 7:12)

 

One needs to distinguish between the Reformation and Denominationalism. The Reformation is good because it restores the truths that have been lost over the centuries. Denominationalism is bad because it divides and fragments Christianity.

 

Every denomination considers its own teachings as major corrections of the errors of the state of Christianity preceding it. For this reason it believes that its separated continuation, especially outside of the Catholic/Orthodox communion, is not only justifiable, but a necessary measure.   Unfortunately this wrong attitude fosters exclusivity and separatism amongst denominations.

 

It must be understood that each denomination has only a portion of the truth and not the whole truth, therefore each one needs to work with the others to fulfill the Lord Jesus Christ's prayer for unity and completion of God's universal plan of salvation for mankind.  

 

Denominationalism  is

not  good  for  Christianity 

 

1.  Denominationalism is carnal

 

No matter how theologians define the meaning of “denomination” it is nothing but plain division within the Church.  Division is carnal and not in the will of God.  Here is what the apostle Paul wrote (1 Cor. 3:1-4).

 

1       And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

2       I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;

3       for you are still carnal.  For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

4       For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?

 

 

The word “carnal” in the Scriptures mean “belonging to the flesh” which is the opposite of the word “spiritual” (Rom. 7:14; Gal 5:16-26).

 

 

2.      Denominationalism  cannot  please  God

 

Denominationalism is another word for division within Christianity, and according to the Word of God it is carnal in nature and works against the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:5-8).

 

5       For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

6       For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

7       Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

8       So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 

There are two categories of Christians -  the carnal and the spiritual.  The carnal are those who let themselves be controlled by their sinful natures.  They are the ones who cause division in the Church.  The word of God teaches “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” (1 Cor. 12:25)  The spiritual are those who are “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3)  They let the Holy Spirit guide, teach and control their lives according to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior we must only follow Him because His way  brings love, joy, peace, unity and harmony amongst Christians.

 

Please go to this Link  -  Why Denominationalism is wrong?

http://www.justthetruth.net/Denominationalism.htm 

 

The  Lord  Jesus  Christ

prayed  for  Christian  Unity

 

 

From the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ we can find three basic principles for Christian unity.

 

1.    Unity in God’s Name   “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You.  Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name.  Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (Jn. 17:11-12)

 

       The Father’s eternal name is “YAHWEH” – “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14-15).  God’s name “I AM” – “YAH” is to be praised (Psm. 68:4).  The Lord Jesus Christ said He came in His Father’s name (Jn. 5:43).  “YAHSHUA” is the name to be used for salvation (Isa. 12:2).  The international name of “YAHSHUA” is “JESUS” (Mt. 1:21).  “JESUS”  is the only “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

 

2.    Unity of all Christians in One Spirit   “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 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. 17:20-21)

 

       The Lord Jesus Christ was praying not only for the Christians who had lived during His time on the earth, but also for all Christians who believe in Him through their word, which is for all ages including the present time and the future.  The reason for Christian unity is to witness to the world that Jesus Christ is sent by the Father.

 

The Lord’s prayer for the unity of the Christians does not mean they only agree amongst themselves, but more importantly they must be in complete agreement with the will of the heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is divine unity.

 

3.    Unity for the glory and love of God   “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (Jn. 17:22-23)

 

The Lord’s prayer for the unity of His Disciples was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when God poured out of His Spirit to establish the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4).

 

“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47).

 

 

Unity  may  be  achieved

amongst  the  Christians

 

On the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God was poured out on the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ there was only one church.  According to the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2002," there are 34,000 separate Christian groups in the world today. "Over half of them are independent churches that are not interested in linking with the big denominations." 

 

The "Encyclopedia of American Religions" lists 1,588 religious denominations, sects, faith groups, organizations, etc. Some are currently operating in North America; others are defunct but have been recently active. The vast majority of them consider themselves to be Christian.  Many of these groups believe that they are the only true Christian church and do not consider having fellowship with other groups, thus making it extremely difficult to achieve unity of any kind.

 

In His prayer for the unity of His disciples our Lord also prayed to the heavenly Father: “Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (Jn. 17:16-19)

 

One thing is certain and that is the Lord Jesus Christ is returning for His Church.  He wants to “sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:26-27)

 

The prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ will certainly be fulfilled.  There will be a church that meets His requirements when He returns.  The word of God gives us a very clear direction as to how Christians can achieve unity, and that is to be sanctified by the truth.

 

Unity  of  the  Spirit

in  the  Bond  of  Peace

 

There are seven essential truths to be kept by all Christians in order to achieve unity (Eph. 4:3-6)

 

1.    “There is one body” (v 4)

2.    “and one Spirit,” (v 4)

3.    “just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (v 4)

4.    “one Lord” (v 5)

5.    “one faith” (v 5)

6.    “one baptism” (v 5)

7.    “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (v 6)

 

Most Christian churches believe and accept these seven essential truths, but they differ in their interpretation of the “one faith” and the “one baptism”. 

 

“One faith” refers to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles.  “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)  “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)

 

“One baptism” is briefly described in Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38 and Romans 6:3-8. 

 

Throughout the centuries several good Christian men have made attempts to unite the Church of God and all of them have a common purpose, direction and goal.

 

In essential things have unity,

In doubtful things have liberty,

In all things have charity (love).

 

We can certainly use this slogan in our efforts to have unity with all other Christians.

 

Unity  of  the  One  Church

in  the  End  Time

 

Referring to the workers in the End Time the Lord Jesus Christ said: “So the last shall be first, and the first last, for many are called, but few chosen.” (Mt. 20:16)  Just like the Church in the First Century the condition of the Church in the End Time is described as having equal opportunity of salvation and God's blessings for all the people of the world (Gal. 3:26-29)

 

26.    For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

27.    For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

28.    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

29.    And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

 

Actions   that   True

Christians   should   take

 

        Follow only the Lord Jesus Christ and no one else (Jn. 14:6; Rev. 14:4-5).

 

        Seek the heavenly Father and worship Him in Spirit and Truth (Jn. 4:23-24).

 

        Get out of denominationalism which is confusion (Rev. 18:1-5).

 

        Do not start a new denomination which adds confusion (Rev. 3:18-26).

 

        Join a Christ-centered, Bible-believing, loving, friendly, non-racial and non-denominational church, congregation, mission or ministry (Rev. 3:7-13).

 

        Fellowship and work with Spirit-filled Christians "who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12; 1 Jn. 3:24).

 

        Wait earnestly for the Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (Tit. 2:13).

 

May God bless you

  

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A sermon based on this article was preached by Paul Wong

to a Congregation in Houston, Texas on July 22, 2006

This article was published on this Website on August 4, 2009

 

For comments please write first to: arkpw@sbcglobal.net

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