Hugh’s News & Views (Denominational Status)




(Part 1)

The Lord promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18), and did what He promised to do (Acts 2). The church was purchased (redeemed) with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). It is His spiritual body of which He alone is the head (Ephesians 1:22-23). This body is comprised of all who have been saved from their sins by obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:47). Christ “is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23), and outside of this “one body” (Ephesians 4:4), there is no promise of salvation. Local assemblies/congregations of this “one body” are designated as churches of Christ (Romans 16:16), along with other biblical descriptors.

In New Testament times and for several centuries thereafter there were no different denominations. Shortly after the close of the New Testament, however, a falling away from the apostolic standard began to take place, resulting eventually in the Catholic Church. Catholicism held sway over the lives of most professing Christians for almost 1000 years until the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in the 1400s. It was called “Protestant” because it protested the corrupt doctrines and practices that had come to characterize the Catholic Church, and the movement was designed to reform the church. Protestantism failed in this undertaking, and instead resulted in the establishment of a multiplicity of denominational bodies.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s another movement arose that had as its aim, not the reformation of the Catholic Church, but the restoration of the church of which we read in the New Testament, the very church that Christ Himself had established. Men in various denominations began to urge a “restoration of the ancient order of things” (meaning a return to the doctrine and practice of the New Testament). They did not have in mind, nor did they intend to start, another denomination. Rather they sought a return to apostolic ground. Churches/congregations of Christ exist today as the result of going back to the New Testament as the sole authority and guide in religious matters, speaking where it speaks and remaining silent where it is silent.

Sadly, with the passing of time, some have come to misunderstand the restoration plea (if indeed they ever understood it in the first place). Others apparently are ashamed of the plea and seem to be embarrassed by it. In their view, to claim to be a member of the church (body) of Christ but not a member of a denomination is an affront to their denominational friends and neighbors, their social peers, their professional associates, and the scholarly community of the denominational world. Thus, by imposing a humanly devised sociological definition of “denomination” on the church (which is not the standard by which to identify and/or characterize the church of the New Testament!), and by adopting denominational theology, denominational patterns of thought, and denominational patterns of speech, the progressives among us seek to move the church to denominational status. Such a move will put the church on an equal footing with “the other denominations,” and remove what, to the progressives, is the stigma of narrow-mindedness and exclusiveness.

The enemies of the early church viewed it as a Jewish sect (a denomination, if you please) (Acts 24:5, 14; 28:22), but the apostles and early Christians never viewed it as such. Tragically, today, it is some of the professed friends of the church who want to turn it into a denomination of human origin. Those who love and respect the word of God will not sit in silence while such a deceptive and revisionist agenda is pursued. (To be continued next week, D. V.)

Hugh Fulford

October 8, 2013