Some have wondered
why there are so many different denominations scattered across the world
today. They each have their own names and doctrines. They worship differently
and have differing goals. Most also have many things in common, but the
question is why are there such differences that they are compelled to divide
into distinct groupings of congregations? More importantly, is this what Jesus
“That they May Be One”
“...that they may be perfected in unity ."
By Jon W. Quinn
One denominational preacher, in seeking to justify this condition, illustrated
the "wisdom" of having so many denominations. He said that it was a lot like a
lady buying a hat. What suits one lady fine may not suit another, so stores
provide plenty of different types of hats from which to choose. That way, the
lady who prefers a hat bedecked with imitation fruit can buy it; and the lady
who prefers flowers can buy that one instead.
Now then, I can see the wisdom of having a choice in hats (well, most hats
anyway). And there is also wisdom in a system of government that allows people
a choice of religion or even to choose no religion at all. You cannot force a
change of heart and the Lord has never been pleased with worshipers just going
through the motions. There must be a true conversion of heart. It will not
serve the Lord's purpose to try and force others to become what they do not
want to be.
So, consider the question "Is it so bad to have a thousand different
denominations rather than just one body of believers?" From a social or
political standpoint, it may arguably be good to have the civil freedom to
have as many denominations as our hearts' desire. But we are going to answer
the question from another perspective: "Just because Jesus wants us to have
freedom of choice and use it to choose Him, does that mean He is pleased with
whatever our choice may be?”
Jesus Wants A Specific Unity Among His Disciples
So, how important is unity among believers to Jesus? It was part of His prayer
on the way to Gethsemane where He would be arrested:
"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me
through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me
and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that
You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they
may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be
perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved
them, even as You have loved Me. “
Now note this: Jesus desired for unity to exist between disciples just as it
does between the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son have the same
intent and purpose. They are in absolute agreement about what constitutes
holiness, morality and righteousness. There are no contradictions between
them. There is no conflict. None. That is exactly what Jesus desires in His
The fact that there are a thousand denominations simply shows that something
which Jesus wanted never to happen has happened at least a thousand times. And
people claiming to be disciples caused it to happen every one of those times!
Whatever good feelings may exist between these different groups is fine; we
ought to have good will toward all men. But Jesus prayed for a unity much
deeper than that.
The New Testament and Unity
The Corinthians were having many problems with overcoming their carnality.
They had begun to split and divide into smaller groups. Each group had begun
to have differing attitudes and judgments and to designate itself by a
different name (see I Corinthians 1:10-13).
Paul ordered the church at Corinth to make correction. And yet, throughout
history, the exact same thing has occurred bringing about division after
division. In fact, the very word "denomination" means "division". Paul did not
commend their divisions by suggesting that it was much like buying a hat.
Instead, he reminded them of the authority of the Lord Jesus. He has already
told us what kind of "hat" to wear; so to speak.
The New Testament stresses the unity of the church. It is "one body". Jesus
had promised, "I will
build My church" and never suggested
that He would build “churches” as in
differing denominations (Matthew 16:16-18; Ephesians 4:3,4; 1:22,23).
In fact, the Bible not only urges unity of mind and voice among disciples of
Jesus, it gives instruction on how that can be accomplished. It does not
appeal to our opinions or likes or dislikes. That is fine to do if you are
looking to buy a hat, but it is not the way to please the Lord. Instead, it
appeals to the mind of Christ. When all will honestly say, "I will put away my
opinions forever and accept fully the will of Christ"
then we shall have taken
a giant and needed step toward the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed
The Cause of Denominationalism
The cause of there being so many denominations has always been the improper
pride of men and women who are willing to change God's written law (I
Corinthians 4:6). Just like at Corinth, a group will form a denomination by
selecting a particular name by which to identify themselves and at the same
time distinguish themselves from others (1 Corinthians 1:12). Then,
representatives from the group will vote on various rules and regulations that
the group will hold in common. These will then be put into a creed book. These
rules of men are subject to change (what is immoral this year may not be after
next year's vote!). Is that what Jesus wants? (Matthew 15:9).
One can try on different denominations the way a woman might try on different
hats, never asking the question, "Is this church doing what the Bible
Is that what Jesus wants? Maybe instead of looking for the church of
choice, we ought to consider what Jesus' choice would be. To honor Christ is
to honor His desire. He desires that we come together in unity; a unity of
mind and purpose as we submit to His will. True unity calls for humble hearts
before God and loving, trusting submission to His only creed; the standard of
His holy word.
From The Bradley Banner 6/14/2009
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway