This is a question that deserves our attention. It is one that is frequently asked. Young people ask it. Some of those that have been members of the church for a long time also ask it. We are convinced that when such an inquiry comes from a sincere heart that is searching for truth, then it deserves a Bible answer.
Are There Christians In Denominations?: -- The correct standard by which we should answer such a question is not our personal feelings, what we have always believed, what we hope is true, or what the majority of people beleive on the matter. Like any other question that pertains to spiritual matters, we ought to "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4: 11) when answering it.
Fact: There Were No Christians In Denominations In The First Century:
-- There were no denominations, as we know them today, that existed at that time, so it was impossible for Christians to be members of them. That means, of course, that there is no such thing in the Bible as "a denominational Christian." Humans may use such terminology, but those that do so need to realize they are not using Bible language when they do.
Fact: All Saved People In The Christian Era (Beginning At The Cross Of Christ) Are In Christ:
-- The Bible speaks of "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom.
24) and "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:10). Only those who have obeyed the Gospel by being into Christ have been set free from their sins and enjoy newness of life (Rom. 6:3,4,17,18). Yes, the saved are in Christ. (Gal. 3:26, 27).
Fact: All Saved People Are In The Kingdom Or Church Of Our Lord:
-- But, wait a minute. Did we not just show that saved people are in Christ? If that be true, then how can it be that saved people are in the kingdom or church? First of all, the Bible says that after the establishment of the church, "...the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). Make no mistake about it, God added saved people to His church, and no one else. There is not a person alive today nor that has lived prior to today that can prove from the Bible that the Lord ever under any circumstance added a saved person to any man-made denomination!
In the second place, the Bible teaches that Jesus "is the Savior of the of the body, the church" (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18). Since the body is the same as the church, when the Bible declares that Jesus is the Savior of the body, that is the same as saying that Jesus is the Savior of the church. Thus, saved people are added by the Lord to HIS church and He only has ONE church (Eph. 4:1-6).
In the third place, biblically speaking, to be in Christ and to be in His kingdom/church are one and the same. We learn this from Col. 1:13,14. In vs. 13 it speaks of the saints in Colosse having been translated, by the Lord, into the kingdom of His Dear Son. The next verse speaks of them being in Christ and enjoying the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ. Where were those Christians at Colosse? According to Col. 1:13, they were in the kingdom or church of Christ. This denies the teaching of premillennialism that teaches that the kingdom of Christ has not yet come and that it will not come until He returns to the earth. If this be so, how is it that God translated the Colossian Christians, living in the first century, into the kingdom of the Son of His Love? No one can be in Christ without being in His church that He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
Fact: In The New Testament, The Word "Christian" Refers To One That Is A Member Of The Church Of The Lord:
-- That word "Christian," which is used a total of three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16), literally means "a follower of Christ" (Thayer's Greek- English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 672, word no. 5546). When the word "Christian" appears in the Bible, the immediate and general contexts clearly show that those identified as "Christians" were members of the body of Christ.
Look closely at the text of 1 Pet. 4:16 - 5:2 and notice the different words or expressions that refer to the same group of people, "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (or in this name). For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the Will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. The elders...Feed the flock of God which is among you..."
In this passage, we see that "a Christian" is one that is in "the house of God." The "house of God" is the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15). Our text in 1 Pet. also shows that Christians are those that have obeyed the Gospel, are righteous, and constitute "the flock of God," which is His church (Acts 20:28). Clearly, in the Bible "Christian" was applied to those that were in the family of God, meaning that they were members of the Lord's church.
Look further at Acts 11:26, where it is written, "...And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch". Which people were called Christians? The disciples. But the word "disciples" in this passage refers to the church. Consider also the fact that Saul of Tarsus had "made havoc of the church" (Acts 8:3). Acts 9:1,2 shows that Saul was persecuting "the disciples of the Lord." Thus, since Saul was only persecuting one group of people, then "the disciples of the Lord" and "the church of the Lord" are one and the same. It follows then, because the disciples are called Christians, that Christians were members of the church. Put another way, "disciples of the Lord" were the same ones that were calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 9:1,13,14). Those that call on the name of the Lord are saved (Acts 2:21). So, disciples are saved. But, again, to what does the Lord add the saved? Answer: to His church (Acts 2;47; Col. 1:13,14). Since disciples are those that have been saved by calling on the name of the Lord, and since disciples are also called Christians, then it follows that Christians are those that have been saved by calling on the Lord's name. God adds them to His church. Yes, biblically speaking "Christian" applies to a member of the Lord's church and no one else.
Fact: If It Is Possible For A Person To Be Pleasing To God While Being A Member Of Any Man-made Group, I.E. A Denomination, Then Devastating Consequences Follow: --
1. A denomination would be just as good in God's sight as the church which Jesus purchased with His own blood. There is no way that any man-made group can be as precious as the church for which the Master shed His precious blood! (Acts 20:28).
2. It is acceptable to the Almighty to be a part of something that He has not authorized. Denominations are unauthorized by the God of heaven (Matt. 21:25), and thus "shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:13). How could it be acceptable in the Lord's sight to be a part of, endorse, financially support, and work to build up, something that the Lord Himself will eventually root up?
3. It is acceptable to God to be a part of something that is in competition
with the Lord's church. Mark it down. Whether they realize it or not, and whether
they intentionally do it or not, denominations are in competition with the Lord's
church. They would love to see every "non-believer" join
them, and they would love to have our members join them as well. Those that oppose the Lord's chruch are, in reality, opposing the Lord (Acts 9:4,5).
It is time for some closing thoughts. First, is it possible that there are members of the church in denominations? Yes. It is possible that some have truly obeyed the Gospel and been added by the Lord to His church, then at a later time, either through ignorance or weakness, joined a denomination. They were members of Christ's church before ever becoming members of a denomination, or, it may be the case that one was a member of a denomination, came out of it when learning the truth, obeyed the Gospel, but later returned to that same denomination or a different one. It is not possible, however, for one to remain in a denomination and be pleasing in the Lord's sight.
Some say, "But denominational members have been baptized. Doesn't that make them Christians?" According to the Bible, when a person obeys the Gospel, which includes being baptized for the remission of sins, the Lord adds that person to His church. Afterwards, if a person becomes a member of a man-made denomination, the Lord has nothing to do with it! Biblically speaking, there is no way one can be baptized and have that baptism make him both a member of a denomination and the Lord's church at the same time.
If I ask a person the question: "When you were baptized, what church did that make you a member of?" If the answer is "Brand X denomination," then it is obvius their baptism was not a Scriptural baptism. Scriptural baptism makes one a member of God's church and no other!
Let me emphasize one final truth. One does not become a member of Jesus' church by being baptized into a denominational body, then at some later point praying into the Lord's church. People do not enter the Lord's church via prayer: never have, and never will. Cornelius was a praying man, but he had to send to Joppa to fetch Peter to tell him what he must do in order to be saved. What Peter told him included that he and his family must be baptized in water for the remission of their sins. Read, (Acts chapters 10,11).
Adapted from an article by Roger D. Campbell via The Sower, Vol. 51, No 4, July/August 2006.Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /
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