ADVANCED BIBLE COURSE - LESSON 21

"A GREAT RETURN TO THE BIBLE" by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)

LESSON 21
DIVISION UNDERMINES CHURCH UNITY


CONTENTS
  • Introduction
  • Its Foundation
  • Its Source of Authority
  • Its Names
  • Its Purposes
  • Its Requirements for Membership
  • Its Organization
  • Its Worship
  • Student Instructions


  • THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION "Is Christ Divided?" I Cor. 1:13

    Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak thesame thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement. 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 your 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? (I Cor. 1:10-13)



    Introduction

    Just as many non-Christians of the world think of Christianity only in terms of Catholicism which they may have viewed with disapproval, many more look upon Christianity as a religion of mass confusion wherein many denominations and sects exist teaching diverse and varied doctrines. This is DENOMINATIONALISM -- something which the Bible not only fails to support, but also expressly condemns.

    Therefore, it will be the avowed purpose of this study to point out how denominationalism, just like Catholicism, is a non-Biblical concept.

    While Catholicism is dogmatic and militant in making certain that every doctrine practiced in that religion is carried out to the letter, denominationalism on the other hand is considerably less rigid. If a person had to describe denominationalism in one phrase he could not go wrong by selecting -- IT Doesn't MATTER!!! And, it is precisely at this point wherein true Christianity and denominationalism differ. Let us examine the ways in which they disagree in order that we may understand clearly why denominationalism which divides is non-Biblical, and undermines the unity of the church.


    Its Foundation

    Nearly every denomination claims to have been founded on Christ.

    What is the Foundation?

    CHURCH IN THE BIBLE SAYS:DENOMINATIONS SAY:
    * Jesus: "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18).
    * Paul: "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Christ" (I Cor. 3:11).
    * Foundation laid: Pentecost -- 33 A.D. (Acts 2).
    * All churches (denominations) are "Christian" regardless of who started them, or when and where they were started. As long as they teach the Bible and believe in Christ, IT DOESN'T MATTER.
    * Foundation laid: 1521, 1535, 1536, 1607, etc.

    Consider: Christ built his church, laying the foundation on Himself. Men through the years, ignoring that fact, have built others churches, at a much later date and upon the sands of human opinion and ideas. It does matter upon whom and when the church was begun, if it is to be Christ's church.


    Its Source of Authority

    Nearly every denomination asserts that it follows the Bible to some degree but when it's doctrine and practices are compared to the Bible, the differences are easily detected. See also Lesson 18 for the result of the creeds upon the Reformation Movement.

    What is its Source of Authority?

    CHURCH IN THE BIBLE SAYS:DENOMINATIONS SAY:
    * "All Scripture is inspired of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect thoroughly furnished unto every good work" (II Tim. 3:16-17).
    * "The Scripture is able to make us wise unto salvation (II Tim. 3:15).
    * He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes (Matt. 7:29).
    * See also: Matt. 28:20.
    * The Bible plus something else.
  • BIBLE +Tradition + Pope =Catholic
  • Bible + Westminister Confession of Faith = Presbyterian
  • Bible + 39 Articles of Faith = Episcopalian
  • Bible + Discipline = Methodist
  • Bible + Catechism = Lutheran
  • Bible + Philadelphia Confession of Faith = Baptist
  • Bible + Book of Mormon = Mormon
  • Bible + Writings of Mrs. E.G. White = Seventh Day Adventist
  • Bible + feelings = Pentecostals and many others
    It really doesn't matter as long as you are Christians!!!

  • Consider: The authoritative source for Christianity is the word of Christ and His apostles as given in the New Testament. Denominationalism ignores the principle of the "producing seed" as outlined by Jesus (Luke 8:4-15) wherein the Christian may grow strong.

    Seeds produce only after their kind, or in their likeness (Gen. 1:11-25). The Word of God is the seed Jesus explained (Luke 8:11), which when planted in the hearts of people would produce fruit -- but only after its kind. In the first century the Word of God (the seed) produced Christians and Christians only. See Acts 11:26; 26:28; I Peter 4:16. It will do the same in any generation because the seed is always the same. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). His word remains constant, never changing. Thus the seed is the same.

    The problem with denominationalism is: The sources of authority are different, and consequently the end results of the teaching is different kinds of fruit.

    THE PRODUCING SEED: GOD'S WORD(THE SEED) (ACTS 11:26; 26:28; 1 PETER 4:16) PRODUCES CHRISTIANS!

    In the first century the Word of God made people Christians and Christians only -- not any kind of Christians, just Christians. It takes the Word of God -- the Bible -- plus something to make certain kinds of Christians.

    For example, after about 606 A.D., there were some people who accepted the Bible, but they also believed in the traditions of their church and the authority of their earthly head, the pope. So, they took the Bible, plus tradition, and created the first denomination -- Roman Catholicism. It takes the Bible plus traditions to make Catholics. But, Catholics say, "We are Christians," yes, but what kind of Christians? The answer -- Catholic Christians. Question: How did they become Catholic Christians? They could have become just Christians, but preferring to become Catholic Christians, they took the Word of God plus something.

    There were some other people, later on, who accepted the Bible as the Word of God, but they also bound themselves to a written creed book -- the Discipline. So, they took the Bible plus the Discipline and another denomination was born -- Methodism. It takes the Bible plus the Discipline to make Methodists. No person can be a member of that denomination unless he adheres to these two sources of authority. Of course, all Methodists insist that they are Christians, but what kind of Christians? The answer: Methodist Christians. Question: How did they become Methodist Christians? They could have become just Christians, but preferring to become Methodist Christians, they took the Word of God plus something.

    In succession, one after the other, denominations have been established, all teaching the Bible plus something. The fact that Protestantism is divided is mute testimony that the sources of authority are different, otherwise there would be only Christians.

    The sectarian says, "What difference does it make as long as we are Christian?" According to Jesus, it does matter. He said: "Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he that doeth the will of my Father..." (Matt. 7:21). True Christianity knows no creed but Christ and His gospel. The New Testament is the only guide.


    Its Names

    It was the introduction of the creeds and the party names which stopped the reformation of Catholicism - Lesson 18.

    Are Names Important?

    CHURCH IN THE BIBLE SAYS:DENOMINATIONS SAY:
    * "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (Acts 11:26).
    * "If any man suffer as a Christian; let him glorify God in this name" (I Peter 4:16)
    * "Neither is there salvation in any other : for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
    * "Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17).
    * "There's nothing in a name. "
    * "A rose by any name would be as sweet."
    * "We're all Christians."
    * "It doesn't matter which name we wear as long as we give Christ the honor."
    * Let's be charitable and not argue about such unimportant things."

    Consider: There is only one proper name given to the followers of Christ in the New Testament -- Christians. The ian on the end of this beautiful name means "belonging to". Christians belong to Christ. In the New Testament, Christians were variously referred to as "brethren", "saints", "disciples", etc., but by no other proper name than Christian. However, gradually different names were introduced and accepted, by which professed followers of Christ chose to be identified. The result -- division -- another word for denominationalism. Thus, people who should have been content to call themselves Christians only, began calling themselves Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Adventist, etc. These names are not found in the Bible and are a major factor in a religious world divided asunder. The irony of it all
    is that many of the religious leaders pleaded with their followers not to adopt another name but Christian.

    "Do not call yourselves Lutherans" (Luther).
    "I would to God all party names were forgotten" (Wesley).
    "Abandon all party names and take the name Christian" (Campbell).



    Its Purposes

    Denominationalism is forced to defend division by the very nature of its purpose. A denomination is a part of a whole -- a division and to claim to be a denomination is an admission of being only a part or piece of the whole.

    Is the Unity of All Believers Important?

    CHURCH IN THE BIBLE SAYS:DENOMINATIONS SAY:
    * Jesus prayed, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one ... that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 7:20-21).
    * There is one sheepfold (John 10:16).
    * There is one body -- the church (Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23).
    * Jesus said: I am the vine, ye (individuals) are the branches (John 15:5).
    * Division is condemned (I Cor. 1:10-13).
    * "One church is as good as another" (which is true when referring to denominations).
    * "Join the church of your choice".
    * "Attend the church of your choice."
    * "They are just different roads leading to the same place."
    * The various denominations are only "branches" of the one church.

    Consider: True Christianity proposes oneness. Denominationalism promotes division. True Christianity requires unity. Denominationalism settles for union.

    The original group to accept Christ as Saviour honored Jesus' prayer for unity. Of them it was said, "all that believed were together and had all things common" (Acts 2:44). "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul..." (Acts 4:32).

    The apostle Paul warned the early Christians about allowing themselves to be divided, saying, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which we have learned. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good works and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:17,18). "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" (I Cor. 1:10).

    Completely different from the divided state of those who call themselves Christians today was the church in the beginning it was one body -- the church (Eph. 4:4; 1:22-24). And, as it grew in numbers, it continued to be Christ's will that it not be divided. "But now are they many members, yet but one body ... there should be no schism in the body ... Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular" (I Cor. 12:20,25,27). The same is true for the church in every day and age.

    The platform for unity is given in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:3-6. There must be oneness in these seven particulars:

    ONE body - unity of organization
    ONE spirit - unity in life and revelation
    ONE hope - unity in plan and desire
    ONE Lord - unity in authority
    ONE faith - unity of message and doctrine
    ONE baptism - unity of practice
    ONE God - unity of worship

    Objection: Some contend that we can have spiritual unity (union) but not organic unity in order to justify the existence of denominations. However, I Cor. 1:10-13 dismisses that idea. Paul called for unity at the local church (organic) level.


    Its Requirements for Membership

    Revise Lesson 8.

    The ways and means of obtaining admission to the church is another major difference, together with the relative importance of the church in God's plan.

    Must a Person Be a Member of the Church to be Saved?

    CHURCH IN THE BIBLE SAYS:DENOMINATIONS SAY:
    * "The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).
    * Those who:
  • Heard (Rom. 10:13-17)
  • Believed (John 8:24)
  • Repented (Acts 2:38-41)
  • Confessed (Rom. 10:10)
  • Were baptized (Acts 2:38; 2:41)
    were saved and were added to the church.
    * Baptism places us "in Christ and in the "church". Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-6; I Cor. 12:13
    Thus: We become members of the church by virtue of our obedient faith in Christ.
    * Paul says that Christ is "the Saviour of the body" (Eph. 5:23).
    * Therefore, if Christ saves the church, in order to be a part of the "saved" we must be "in" that which is saved, "the church".
  • * Many teach, "Accept Christ as your personal Saviour, believing in Him, and you will be saved."
    * "You don't have to be baptized to be saved."
    * "You don't have to be a member of the church to be saved."

    Consider: The Bible teaches that "the saved" are in the church and that these saved persons gather together for the purpose of worship and work in local congregations referred to as "churches of Christ" (Rom. 16:16).

    Denominationalism teaches that faith alone saves a person, making him a member of the universal body of Christ. But the person must then receive some manner of baptism prescribed in order to become a member of the denomination, which he does not have to join to be saved because most denominations believe that all the good people in all denominations will be saved. Thus, their attitude is: It doesn't matter! Question: Is the church of Christ important? The answer: It was important enough for Christ to die and shed is blood for it (Acts 20:28). And, this is where Christianity and denominationalism are separated.

    The church of Christ was bought with blood (Acts 20:28). No one is a member of the church who is not saved by the blood of Christ; and no responsible person is saved by the blood of Christ who is not a member of the church.

    No denomination can claim that their church was purchased with His blood and yet insist that one can be saved without being a member of their sect. If the denominations are "blood bought" and one can be saved without being a member, the blood of Christ was wasted.

    Denominationalism is no part of Christ's church.


    Its Organization

    Revise again Lesson 8.

    How Is the Church to be Organised?

    CHURCH IN THE BIBLE SAYS:DENOMINATIONS SAY:
    * Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23).
    * No denominational organization of churches.
    * No centralized power, or authority.
    * No organization larger than the local congregation.
    * Each church had its own leaders (bishops), deacons, and evangelists, functioning in their own areas of work. Note: plurality of elders. See Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:5; and Acts 14:23.
    * Consists of:
  • Elders
  • Deacons
  • Evangelists
  • Members
  • * The Bible has not given us a specific pattern to follow. We use our own discretion.
    * It was organized in that fashion then, but today it is different.
    * It doesn't matter!
    * Consists of:
  • Popes, cardinals, arch-bishops
  • Presiding elders, ruling elders, teaching elders
  • Conventions, conferences, episcopacies


  • Its Worship

    Lesson 8 has a synopsis of worship according to the New Testament pattern.

    Does It Matter How We Worship or What We Do in Worship?

    CHURCH IN THE BIBLE SAYS:DENOMINATIONS SAY:
    * Early Christians:
  • "Met upon the first day of the week to break bread (Lord's Supper) (Acts 20:7).
  • Contributed of their money upon the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:1-2).
  • Sang (Eph. 5:19) (without instrument).
  • Studied the Word of God (Acts 17:11 and II Tim. 3:16-17).
  • Prayed (Eph, 6:18 and I Cor, 14:15).
    * "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).
  • * God has not given us a prescribed pattern of worship and therefore, we are free to choose our own manner of worship.
    * Some say, "it doesn't matter how often one partakes of the Lord's Supper. If you partake too often, it destroys the meaningfulness of it."
    * Others say, "Worship in song with musical accompaniment is all right."

    Consider: We, cannot accept instruments of music in the worship service and still respect the "silence" of the Scriptures. The Bible tells us that we are to "speak" to ourselves "in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). We are to speak (vocal) and make melody (vocal) in our hearts (not through instruments). The fact that its acceptance (hundreds of years after Christ) caused so much strife in the Catholic Church plus the fact that several of the Reformers spoke out so decisively against it, should cause men to investigate.

    In Conclusion Let It Be Remembered:

    * Denominationalism is not necessary.
    * No denominations existed in the first century, ONLY the churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16).
    * Back of the year 1521, when the Lutheran denomination came into existence, there was NOT ONE OF THE DENOMINATIONS NOW IN EXISTENCE, EXCEPT THE CATHOLIC, the origin of which has already been seen. We cannot find a trace of any of them anywhere either from sacred or secular sources. Therefore, if it were possible (to have one church, without any denominations) then, it is also possible now.
    * People were not members of denominations in the first century. They became just Christians, and Christians only.
    * THUS, SINCE GOD DOES NOT REQUIRE THEM, AND SPECIFICALLY TEACHES AGAINST THEM, WHY HAVE THEM? Or, to put it more directly, DO WE DARE HAVE THEM?



    BIBLIOGRAPHY
    Cogdill, Roy, The New Testament Church, Roy E. Cogdill Pub. Co., Lufkin, Texas.
    Crawford, C.C., The Restoration Plea. Dehoff Publications, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 1956.
    Howard, V.E., Gospel Radio Sermons
    Maynard, Zeke, The Church of Christ


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    I. Put TRUE or FALSE before each of the following statements. (Example: True -- Denominationalism is not necessary.)

    1. Regarding its source of authority, denominationalism recognizes the principle that "seed produces only after its kind"

    2. Denominations differ from each other because they have different sources of authority.

    3. It takes the Bible plus something else to make a certain kind of Christian.

    4. It takes the Bible only to make a Christian only.

    5. In order to impress us with the importance of following His will, Jesus said, "lf you love me, keep my commandments"

    6. The name we wear religiously can either honour or dishonour Christ.

    7. Denominations are forced to defend division because they themselves are divided.

    8. "Christian unity" condemns division.

    9. "Denominational union" condemns division.

    10. The Christian's "platform for unity" consists of seven (7) ONES.

    11. According to the Bible, church unity is not possible.

    12. A person must be a member of a denomination to be saved, according to denominational teachings.

    13. According to the Bible, a person must be a member of Christ's church in order to be saved.

    14. When sources of authority are different, the results are different kinds of fruit.

    15. The church was so important to Christ that He shed his blood for it.

    16. God's "silence" is not respected by those who use instruments of music in worship.

    II. Complete the following statements by choosing the proper word or phrase. (Example: The Bible recognizes only one kind of music: vocal.)

    17. The foundations of denominations and the foundation of the true church of Christ differ in the following way, or ways:
    founded at a different time
    founded at a different place
    founded on a different person (other than Christ)
    all of these

    18. True Christianity differs from denominationalism in:
    believing in Christ
    believing in the Holy Spirit
    believing in the Bible
    none of these

    19. Religious leaders who pleaded with their followers to call themselves only after the name of Christ were:
    Campbell
    Luther
    Calvin
    all of these

    20. Most denominations usually require (baptism; faith only; church membership; none of these) in order for people to be saved according to their doctrine.
    baptism
    faith only
    church membership
    none of these

    21. The organization of the true church of Christ differs from that of denominations on the following way, or ways:
    has its own church leaders
    has no central authority or ruling body
    has a plurality of elders
    all of these

    22. The worship of the true church of Christ differs from that of denominations in the following way, or ways:
    Lord Supper observed weekly
    sings without instruments
    has a prescribed pattern of worship
    all of these

    III. Match the religious system below with the correct belief by placing the proper letter in the blank to the left.
    A. Denominationalism
    B. Christianity
    C. Catholicism

    23. Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus

    24. It doesn't matter

    25. There's nothing in a name

    26. Upon this rock I will build my church ...

    27. One church is as good as another

    28. ... that there be no divisions among you

    29. Keep the letter of the law

    30. Select popes, cardinals, and arch-bishops

    31. You don't have to be baptized to be saved

    32. Baptism puts a person "in Christ" and in the church

    IV. Match the church below with the correct creed by placing the proper letter in the blank to the left.
    A. Episcopal
    B. Baptist
    C. Methodist
    D. Church of Christ
    E. Roman Catholic
    F. S.D. Adventist
    G. Presbyterian
    H. Mormon

    33. Westminister Confession of Faith

    34. Philadelphia Confession of Faith

    35. 39 Articles of Faith

    36. Discipline

    37. Bible only

    38. Tradition and the pope

    39. Writings of Mrs. E.G. White

    40. Book of Mormon and writings of Joe Smith

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