This is a confession of my own sin. For some time I have been convicted and corrected by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) in relation to the sin of denominationalism (John 17:20-22). In 1987 I became a believer in Jesus Christ as my savior. Listening carefully to men who called themselves preachers, pastors, teachers et cetera was educational. They all quoted the Bible and emphasized certain things contained in Scripture.
These men represented various denominations and systems of theology. Among them were Fundamentalist, Reformed, Baptist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and so on. They often criticized other denominations and theological positions. Each claimed to be teaching the truth according to the Bible.
Under their influence, I briefly fell into the trap of bigotry. Bigotry is defined as obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices. None of these men were evil. They were all products of their various teachers, mentors, and biases. In part we all are.
The thing that helped save me from this bigotry was the audio version of the Bible. Working in an isolated room and doing routine work made it easy to listen to the Bible many times. The overall theme of the Bible settled into my mind better than hearing a sermon on Sunday.
As a new Christian, I began questioning more learned men. This often resulted in feelings of being let down. It was like talking to a politician who obfuscated or talked around a subject. Not all the time but often enough. This only increased my curiosity.
One day I met a man with a Ph.D. who gave detailed and direct answers. He seemed to like questions and my sincere curiosity. That man became a friend and mentor. He was also an author of multiple books and led a small congregation.
He was patient and explained things in great detail. Bob never ducked a question. He was happy to take follow on questions. Sometimes he would give me a reading assignment and we would follow up with a discussion the next time we got together.
His theological bent was Calvinism but the congregation was non-denominational. Bob always invited me to his round table discussions with a half dozen other men. I was the only one without a master’s or Ph.D. in theology in the group.
It was at those meetings that I understood good men had different views. However, the bond of brotherhood was found in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the centrality of our faith.
It is OK to have strong opinions about a lot of what the Biblical authors meant to convey. However, it is not OK to have a different view of who Jesus Christ is. It is not OK to disparage others for their sincerely held views. If Jesus can forgive our sins He can forgive our ignorance and mistakes. God will judge.
1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
5But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” a 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11For God does not show favoritism.
Good and Godly men (by human standards Luke 18:19) differ. In the past, wicked men tortured or executed heretics for their beliefs. Today we usually dismiss, disparage, and show disdain towards Christian people of different particular beliefs. This too is sinful behavior.
I plan to go over many of the areas where Christian people differ. Things like Communion and Transubstantiationism, Predestination, Free Will, Baptism, Gifts of the Spirit, and many others will be discussed.
To me, it is a sliding scale in relation to how strongly I believe a particular Bible interpretation or theological issue. Many things are still a mystery to me. We should always discuss these differences with love towards one another. If Christ is at the center of our lives we will love one another.
At some point in my life, I learned to boil things down to the basics. Remember to not make assumptions about people and to ask sincere questions. Questions not of others only but of ourselves. It is easy to spot the flaws in others yet Jesus taught us to look at ourselves first. Matthew 7:5.
As previously mentioned in the Post titled “What or Who is the Church?” we briefly touched on the “unity” of the Church. Since the “Church” is the body of believers and not a building or denomination how are we to understand the unity of the body of Christ?
First, we should all understand what the Bible itself teaches about denominations or sectarianism. Here is a link to 100 verses from the Old and New Testaments that speak to the unity of believers. Below are just a couple of main points.
John 17 Jesus Prays for All Believers
20“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
1 Corinthians 10 thru 17
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree together, so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be united in mind and conviction. 11My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: Individuals among you are saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” (Peter) a or “I follow Christ.”
13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that I do not remember if I baptized anyone else. 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with words of wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
For those who hold to denominationalism, they must contend with Jesus, Peter, Paul, Jude, and Old Testament authors.
One other passage that is very interesting to me is found in Luke 9:49-50. This passage shows that Jesus told his disciples how to act when encountering differences. What was the man doing? He was driving out demons in the name of Jesus. Who would want to prevent that?
Just because we differ with someone does not imply that God is not using that person to achieve His goals. It is not about you or me, it is about Jesus. This is where the sin of denominationalism comes from. It is when we make it about us rather than God, we have gone astray.