Summary: God’s word calls the church to high standards. Division and denominationalism should be unacceptable based on what the Bible clearly teaches.
What makes a certain food your favorite food? 1. You like its taste. 2. It satisfies your hunger. 3. It has all the vitamines and nutrients that you need for good health.
What makes a certain church right for you? 1. You like its taste. 2. It satisfies your spiritual hunger. 3. It has all the doctrines and teachings you need for spiritual health.
Hartford Institute for Religious Research says that there were 217 denominations listed in the 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. But there may well be other groups that function as a denomination but do not regard themselves as such. These all denominational groups claim to best represent what God wants for His people. Christianity Today reported that worldwide: According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world. This statistic takes into consideration cultural distinctions of denominations in different countries, so there is overlapping of many denominations.
But even with only 217, that’s quite a smorgasbord of choices, is it not? We also see that within a given name brand or denomination, there are a variety of distinctions that are noticeable and sometimes even stark in contrast.
Division within the church is not new. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1:10-13)
10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
God’s word nowhere supports the idea of denominational division in the body of Christ. Does that mean that all churches are good and equally acceptable to God? Not at all!
God’s word clearly supports unity, but that unity must be founded on Jesus Christ and His teachings, not on whatever feels good or tastes good or appeals to my fleshly nature or excuses my sinful desires. Church unity in Christ is based on following the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the scriptures.
Listen to Galatians 1:6-12
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Then Paul gives this assurance:
11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Church people must seek God! His gospel, His grace, His glory.
17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Church people must seek God! His purpose, His pattern, His peace.
4 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.