by Richard Mansel
If we look at the hopelessly entangled denominational world and then go to Scripture to see what the Bible says about the church, we face a very real danger that we will project what we have seen onto the pages of God’s Word.
To say that the church we are in is the Lord’s church and all others are outside Christ and lost certainly seems arrogant from a pluralistic standpoint. However, pluralism is not God’s plan, so it should not be ours, either. The Lord says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, [n]or are your ways My ways,” (Isaiah 55:8, NKJV). The church that Christ built is not ecumenical, it is exclusive.
There is a marked contrast between God’s and man’s ways. Man says, “One church is as good as another,” or “Select the church of your choice.” “In its strongest sense, religious pluralism holds that no single religion can claim absolute authority to teach absolute truth.”/1 The Center for Progressive Christianity professes that they “are repelled by exclusivist beliefs. They reject the concept that [any] branch of religion has the entire monopoly on truth, and that all other spiritual paths are in error.”/2
This mindset will always be opposed to the Scriptural doctrine of the Lord’s church. It reads man’s errors back into Scripture by accepting as normal gridlocked religious division. It places denominationalism in God’s hands as his chosen path, despite its scriptural authority being nonexistent. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find even a hint of denominationalism. In fact, if this were God’s plan he would have sent his apostles out to each start their own. Instead, Christ started the only authorized church (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus started his church and that is the only one mentioned in the New Testament. There are separate congregations but only one body. Within some of the congregations in the New Testament, people disagreed. However, they were still within the same body. They were not separate bodies with their own hierarchy and creed.
Jesus prayed that Christians would all be united (John 17:11). Paul wrote that there was “one body” (Ephesians 4:4) and a divergence from this plan would only come with apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:1-8). Will we pattern ourselves after God’s original plan or an apostate system abhorred by God? Paul writes, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
If we realize that we must be completely submissive before Christ and that it is his church and his absolute authority, then we will be able to answer this question. Subsequently, we must accept that there is one church and that to be outside of it is to be lost, as was true of the ark (Genesis 7:23).
The question can then be altered to ask, “Will only members of the Lord’s church be saved?” In the Christian age, only those within the Church will enter heaven. There cannot possibly be anyone saved outside of the body of Christ, except for those who die as little children or are mentally deficient. There are no other Churches but Christ’s from which to be saved.
Who benefits the most from denominationalism? It is Satan, because as long as “Christians” are divided and fighting each other, they are not fighting him. In summary, God abhors division and Satan approves of it. This puts it all in perspective.
by Richard Mansel