Does God want Christians to leave their denominations?

Last updated on October 10th, 2019

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Denominations
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What is the church? When we say church today, we often think of a triangular shaped building with a cross on top of it, but that doesn’t appear to be what the church is according to Scripture. Let’s observe the following scriptures. Colossians 1:18 “He (Jesus) is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Ephesians 1:22-23 “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His (Jesus) body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 4:4 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;” So what can be the conclusions that seem apparent in these verses on the church? The church is the body of Christ, and there is one body of Christ which people become a part of upon salvation. So in the middle of us being a part of one Body of Christ, where did all these denominations come from?

I’m no expert on all of the history because there’s a lot of depth behind the history of denominations, but to give you the main highlight from what I’ve dug up from different sources, there was no distinction of denominations until 110 a.d. in a letter written by St. Ignatieus to the Smyrnaens acknowledging the Catholic Church. Skip ahead to the 11th century, there was a great schism that occurred, and there became a distinction between the western Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. From there, I guess to make a very long story short, eventually dozens of denominations began splitting and forming to everything that we have today. The Protestant Reformation occurred in the 16th century, and this began the majority of the denominations many of us are most familiar with today such as Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and all the other ones you might be familiar with.

So why did these denominations come about? Well, in large part due to disagreements in doctrine and also hierarchical differences. As we all may or may not know, Catholics believe that the pope is an intermediary between God and man, and they believe that Peter was the first pope that began the list of popes up to the present-day one, Pope Francis. During the Protestant Reformation, you had people standing up and saying that all the authority granted to the Pope and the Catholic Church was wrong, and that ultimately authority should not be granted to man, but to God through the scripture. So you had your people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and all these other people deciding to start their own thing, but at the same time, seemingly introducing their own spin on things, essentially following their own man-made traditions over scriptural doctrine.

So arguably, all denominations are man-made traditions. Consider this, you may have grown up with a religious upbringing that taught you fasting was necessary for salvation, or that you had to speak in tongues in order to be a Christian, but none of these things appear to be true according to Scripture. To identify with a denomination more strongly than identifying with the original Church that Christ said he would build in Matthew 16:18, is to perhaps be idolizing man-made traditions over God-inspired scriptural truth. Essentially what the Pharisees seemed to be doing in Matthew 15:8-9 as Jesus stated, “8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. 9 “But in vain do they worship Me,Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

It’s arguably accurate to state, that all denominations are not acceptable to God, and all denominations are not Christian. While that statement might sound extreme, consider how often those who’ve self-identified as Christians, perhaps yourself included, have viewed other denominations to be not Christian and therefore not acceptable to God according to scripture. For example, a majority of self-identified Christians tend to view Mormonism as not Christian, and many also conclude that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians. One believes that Jesus is related to the devil, and the other believes Jesus isn’t the son of God. Those who’ve read Scripture know that those two things are inconsistent with what Scripture states. So mainstream Christianity says the fringe groups of men who’ve created their own set of traditions are not Christian, but yet the history of all denominations were groups of men who created their own set of traditions. I imagine one question that might be arising right now is what are you suggesting? Don’t go to any church?

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I’m concluding that it’s essential to ask ourselves questions about what we’ve always been taught to believe and do, and whether we can find what we’ve been taught in scripture, or if what we’ve been taught has been taken out of context to support a tradition concocted by man. And if we can’t or if it has been, then perhaps we might need to make a change, because God appears to desire authentic worshipers in Him and not ones that worship Him in vain and follow the precepts of Men as scriptural doctrine. It used to surprise me how much people make up their own ideas of the Christian faith and people believed those ideas because they sounded “wise”, or because the words stirred up an emotional response inside. It surprised me how often many people just run wild with one verse and make up a whole doctrine off of it. Though when you study history, it’s not really that surprising given how many times it’s been done before with all the denominations created on the basis of man-made ideas that were proclaimed to be Christian. It would seem unless whatever anyone speaks of the faith comes from a contextual understanding of the things stated in Scripture, it’s all false teaching, false doctrine, and not Christian. I’d like to leave these two verses for us to ponder over in conclusion, and as always, thoughts, comments, and questions are welcome for increased understanding between one another.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.”

1 Corinthians 1:10-14 “10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized [e]in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius.”

 

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19 thoughts on “Does God want Christians to leave their denominations?

  1. Well said, and I couldn’t agree more that we are too concerned about man-made rules. For the record, when Yeshua (Jesus) said that ‘they honor me with their lips’ in Matthew, He wasn’t talking about Himself; rather, he was quoting what the Father said through Isiah, in Isiah 29:13. It is important to remember that there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant writings, and everything that Jesus taught is found first in the Tanakh, the “Jewish” bible because that was the only “Word of God” that existed. There was no New Covenant when Jesus taught.

    1. Hi Steven R. Bruck. Thank you for your comment. Yes, Jesus was citing Isaiah 29:13 which the Father was stating, and the rest of your statements seem to follow with what Jesus stated in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” He reiterated Old Testament teachings through His new teachings, such as looking at a woman with lust constituting committing adultery. And yes, Old Testament scripture was the Word of God in written existence at the time Jesus was teaching. Definitely something important to consider when one is reading certain verses and better understanding their meaning.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  2. Thank you, excellent article. I have been wondering for quite awhile how to explain that Christ’s Church is not a building or the Pastor, minister or Priest. Church is the People, Jesus made that very plain. Also, however, if Christ’s Church is the people, I would ask, how do Christians think that those people get together unless we gather together somewhere, which is why we have Church Buildings. In earlier times Christians gathered in peoples homes until there were too many people. The Apostles gathered together on Sundays, and that was what Jesus taught. They picked Sundays because the beginning apostles were Jewish and kept the Sabbath sacred as they had done all their lives. So, I keep wondering, and this is more of a question, not a judgement, how do Christians think they can be part of Christ’s Church if they never gather together? How do they continue learning about their religion, whichever one they have chosen? Also, just to point out, Jesus taught us about the Holy Eucharist and eating His Body and Drinking his blood at the Last Supper. The Catholic Church has 2000 years of research, teaching, learning and tradition. I just read this quote from a Catholic named James Fee, “Catholicism offers a strong intellectual and philosophical foundation to ground people in values, It’s a set of principles, a natural law to support society.” If someone is wondering which church? The Catholic Church is a great place to start. Check out Catholic.com I think it is. What ever religion a person decides on, be sure you can say the same thing about that religion as James said about his. It is not only scripture that guides us, It is also Traditions that are as old as the Apostles that taught those Traditions long before Scripture was written. God bless you all. And again, excellent article. I would have had no idea where to start writing like that. Great research. Thank you, Connie

    1. Hi Connie. Thank you for your comment. Very true about people needing to remember the Christian believers are the church, and also true that the first Christians did gather in houses, as Paul notes in Romans 16 if I’m not mistaken. I wrote an interesting post regarding Sunday and Sabbath you might enjoy (https://www.christianityunfiltered.com/sabbath-or-sunday/). With regards to traditions older than scripture and as old as the Apostles, what specific traditions are you referring to? And thank you very much for all the kind words Connie.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

    2. i used to think the same exact thing & as a non catholic always wanted to be catholic. i assumed incorrectly that it was the very 1st church of messianics. i still think like any denomination they have great followers devoted to christ(& the pope?) jaw dropping magnificent cathedrals. & a long tradition, however i was wrong and please no I’m not saying this Inna judgy or judgmental way especially since every other denomination is a branch of Roman Catholicism and got most of its tradition from it which is the second Church but the churches paul peter & james built on the teachings they learned from christ himself was in the 1st century & Constantine & rome along with scattered messianic jews(jews being hebrew or gentiles under christs sacrifice) just imagine if the u.s. government took a small growing religion and decided to make that the US official religion and tied in that religions Authority with the state or government. First out that just sounds like a bad idea but also since you’re going to basically make every other religion illegal you have to have a conversion Grace period or something to ease the transition. So on a lot of things the state AKA Church met the pagans halfway on a lot of things idolatry being one a lot of their holidays just has Jesus stamped on it when they’re really Sun worship. Can the Emperor who used to be the god of the state retain that power and status Buy saying he’s the go-between Christ and the people which is completely non scriptural. Think about it the pope to this day still rules the holy city. The pope wears the exact fish hat philistine priest that worship the ancient false deity Dagon around the time of Samson. I’m not saying that they do these things intentional lie I’m sure it’s just a few of the not so great traditions that they have. But you are correct they have thousands of years of information on Christianity that they keep so close to the chest literally Underground protected by security that they don’t just let anybody read. At one point it was actually illegal to have a Bible in the Roman Church’s early stages. my personal opinion on what would be the best Church to go to would be not a church but any synagogue that wouldn’t allow you to come in while still accepting Christ as the mashiach or the rare Jewish Messianic congregation. But again that’s just kind of my opinion based on years of research seeking in figure out which is the best Church to go to that Christ himself would be proud of. But praise yah & may Elohim bless u bro

  3. I appreciated your comment that denominations are essentially man-made traditions. Any tradition which fails to lay hold of the poverty of spirit which Jesus counts to the blessed in Matthew 5, is merely a distraction. It is his kingdom we seek First.

    1. Hi aner327. Thank you for your comment. Completely agree. Hopefully more people in the future will no longer attach themselves so strongly with denominations.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  4. I agree with your main point here, but perhaps there are not really “33,000 to 41,000 denominations in existence today”. I researched this matter (a href=”https://theway21stcentury.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/how-many-christian-denominations-worldwide/”>How many christian denominations worldwide?), and I think this is a mistake. There are this many christian organisations, but the majority of these are individual churches, which are hardly “denominations”. It would be like saying there are thousands of football codes because we can count thousands of clubs.

    The tendency to divisiveness in christendom is a matter of great regret, but the number of denominations, meaning separate and distinct doctrines, is way less than that number, and very dependent on how “denomination” is defined. The important thing, surely, is to pray to be guided by God to the place where he wants us to minister and fellowship. Which I think is what you are saying too.

    1. Hi Eric. Thank you for your comment. I must admit I never actually looked into the source nor the criteria used to formulate this number. I’m guessing I merely took the first number range I saw from what I may have thought was a credible website. Uncharacteristically sloppy research on my part. I appreciate that you brought this to my attention to look into, and based on further research, I’ve decided to edit this number out of my post as of this comment. Glad we agree on the main point of this post.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  5. What a great list of comments. I apply a new devotional most days, for the benefit of all believers in Jesus Christ. As a Biblical Baptist, I’ve thrown out most of the ‘new’ shallow thinking of ‘feeling good services with no real message. Instead, we focus intently on what scripture says, effective fervent prayer. I’m aqlso a Christian author with books coming up on many of the above topics. Bless you all as you turn to Christ.

    1. Hi fictionbypalmer. Thank you for your comment. That’s great your church focuses on scripture and living according to that. I hope through your church’s example and perhaps your writing other followers of Christ will focus more on scripture as well.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

      1. I detect an awakening of sorts, where people find that they no longer want to continue with the consequences of an evil way. Yet many of the ‘traditional’ brands do less that fill the need. I hope and pray that those who are looking will find, and the Way, the Truth, and the Life will be open and found by them.

    1. Thank you mycreatorscreation. I do my best to be thorough in researching and contemplating these things so I feel confident when I click that publish button.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  6. I grew up in a denomination that taught against sectism but eventually became a sect themselves. I think the basis of Christian unity is that we are all bought by the blood of Christ, so we have the same spiritual family. We are redeemed and we should leave it at that. In John 17:11 Jesus prayed that we may be one in spirit and that’s what we should focus on. Good post.

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