Why Denominationalism is wrong and condemned in the Bible

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. (1 Corinthians 1:10). KJV

The great challenge confronting the church is denominationalism which is an endorsement of religious division. According to one account, there are more than 38,000 different denominations in the world as at today! These different religious organizations are hindering, rather than increasing, the spread of the gospel.

But what is denominationalism?

DENOMINATIONALISM is the tendency to separate into strict adherence to a religious denomination; sectarianism. For the purpose in this post, we will be applying the term to any approval of the denominational division which exists today.

Many think that denominationalism started with the Protestant reformation (1517 AD). However, properly understood, it confronted the church early on; its origins can be traced to the second century AD (cf. Acts 20:28-30; 1 Corinthians 1:11-13).

A denomination is a united group of congregations all wearing the same distinctive name. They are joined together under a common faith and organized under a single administrative hierarchy. By their common name and tie to a governing body above the local congregation, they are "denominated" from all other congregations that do not submit to the same authority.

Some examples of Denominational Groups:

The Roman Catholic Church is a denomination made up of those churches that submit to the pope in Rome.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is a denomination made up of those churches that submit to the patriarch of Constantinople.

The Anglican Church of England is a denomination made up of those churches that submit to the archbishop of Canterbury.

The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) is made up of those churches that submit to the synod in Missouri.

Many in denominations today are not all that devoted to their denominational principles or interests. But by membership in a denomination they implicitly advocate separation into religious denominations.

Some consider DENOMINATIONALISM as a blessing: e.g., "Join the church of your choice!" But from a Biblical perspective, we should consider WHY IT IS WRONG!



That is, it is without Scriptural support. There is no basis in the Bible for local churches being divided up into various denominational bodies. There is no denomination that can go to the Bible and say, "See that passage? There is our church (denomination)!"

In the New Testament local congregations were independent, autonomous (self-governing). Church organization was limited to within the local congregation. Each local group had their own elders (also known as pastors, bishops, overseers, presbyters) appointed to oversee only the congregation of which they were members (cf. Ac 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-2).

The only authority above the local church in the New Testament was Christ and His apostles. Once the church began, apostles were not replaced after they died (cf. Acts 12:1-3). But through the Word of God, the authority of Christ and His apostles continues.

Individuals, synods, conferences, etc., that presume to usurp authority over local churches today do so without Scriptural authority.



Not only is it without scriptural support, but it is also contrary to what the Bible teaches. It is contrary to the prayer of Jesus for unity among His believers (READ John 17:20-23).

It is condemned by Paul in his epistle to the church at Corinth. There are to be no divisions among believers (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Sectarianism is a sign of carnality (1 Corinthians 3:3-4). It opposes the efforts of Christ on the cross! (Ephesians 2:14-16). Jesus died to break down the wall of division. Jesus died to reconcile man to God in ONE body. Just as our sin works against the efforts of Christ on the cross (for He died to put away sin), so does denominational division!



Jesus knew that unity among His disciples would be the final apologetic, “that the world may believe" (John 17:21). In view of Jesus' words, we should not be surprised when unbelievers are slow to accept the gospel coming from a divided church.

Many point to the divided condition of those professing to follow Christ. Atheists and agnostics use religious division as an excuse not to believe in God. Muslims, Jews, etc. often use denominationalism for reasons not to believe in Christ.

Denominationalism has also given support and encouragement to the cults. Mormonism started in reaction to the denominationalism of Joseph Smith's day. Those who call themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses" use religious division to encourage people to follow their own strictly-controlled organization. How can any true disciple of Christ support such a harmful concept?

Others Who Viewed Denominationalism As Wrong:

Martin Luther, a leader of the Reformation Movement said, ..."I ask that men make no reference to my name, and call themselves not Lutherans, but Christians. What is Luther? My doctrine, I am sure, is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone… let us abolish all party names, and call ourselves Christians after Him Whose doctrine we have."

John Wesley, another reformation leader, among whose followers are Methodists, Wesleyans, etc. said, "Would to God that all party names, and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world, were forgotten and that the very name [Methodist] might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion."

Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest Baptist preachers who ever lived said, "I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living! I hope that the Baptist name will soon perish, but let Christ's name last forever.

Note well that these individuals were bemoaning the use of denominational titles, not organizational ties per se. But it is organizational ties above the local church that leads to denominationalism. Once local churches are organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy, denominational names soon follow! And so it is that denominationalism with its religious division continues to grow! If local churches are to successfully confront the challenge of denominationalism, they must remain independent, autonomous (self-governing) congregations. They must refrain from using denominational names for their churches.

Churches that succeed in avoiding denominationalism are simply local churches of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19). They are Christians who simply seek to follow Jesus as His disciples. They answer the prayer of our Lord for unity among believers (cf. John 17:20-21). We love you with the love of the Lord.

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