The Oneness Of Christ's Church
The Bible pictures the Lord's Church as a united institution, with one faith, not divided into sects. People in our part of the world generally think of the Church in terms of scores of denominations, planted by men. Therefore, we present for your careful thought the Bible picture of the oneness of our Lord's Church.
I. The Old Testament Prophesied One Church. In Isaiah 2:2 we find: "And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established --." In 3:14-15 we read: "These things write I unto thee... that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Isaiah predicts the establishment of the house of God. Paul tells Timothy that the house of God is the church. Hence, Isaiah's prophecy was necessarily one of the establishment of the church.
But note that the prophecy predicts one, not many. God always does exactly and precisely what He predicts that He will do. If God had a hand in establishing the many religious parties, called churches, today, then this prophecy goes wrong. But in Heb. 6:18 we are told that "it is impossible for God to lie." Hence, He did not lie by establishing a multitude of churches, but told the exact truth in establishing one and the only one that He promised to build.
II. Christ Prophesied And Promised One Church. In John 10:16 He said: "And they shall become one flock, one shepherd." By reading the paragraph where this statement is found, you can see that Christ prophesies the uniting of Jews and Gentiles into one body. That body could be only the church, the Jews and Gentiles are one body in Christ today, where they are members of the New Testament Church and not in various sects and denominations.
Then, in Matt. 16:18 our Lord said: "Upon this rock I will build my church." How many did He promise to build? One, because He said "my church" — singular , not plural. If modern denominationalism is acceptable to God, in order to tell the truth Christ would have said: "Upon this rock I will build all of my churches." But He did not say that. So, in these two passages the second proposition is read, that Christ prophesied and promised one Church.
III. Christ Prayed For One Church. Hear our anxious Lord as in John 17:20-21, He prays: "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word, that they may all be one, even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me." The expression, "neither for these only," refers to the apostles. The rest of the passage shows that he refers to "all who believe on me through their" the apostles-- "word". Therefore, all who believe on Christ today, and through all ages until the end, are included in this prayer. And the prayer is for their oneness.
Then, Christ gave the purpose of that unity: "That the world may believe." Now here is where modern preaching often deliberately seeks to improve on God's way. Those who justify a system today of people being divided into sects and parties, all of which started after the New Testament Church began, will say: "Division is better. People can then join the church of their choice, which is better for people of different tastes, talent, temperaments, training, etc. Too, more people can be reached and converted to Christ." Now, isn't that just about the way they defend prevailing conditions? All of which flatly contradicts what Jesus said and prayed. Men say: "Division makes more believers, reaches more people." Christ prayed for unity "that the world might believe. Christ's point was that more would be converted if all believers were one. Good people should not place their trust in that preaching today that defends the very thing against which Christ prayed.
IV. Christ's Blood Purchased One Church. In proof of this proposition, let us read Acts 20:28: "The church of the Lord, which he purchased with his own blood" (Am. Stan. Ver.) Let us ask the Christian, "Lord, how many churches did you purchase?" His answer, through the Spirit-guided Paul, is: "The church of the Lord." Is that in the singular or plural form " "The church of the Lord." It does not say: "All the churches of the Lord." Hence, what scriptural reason can you have for believing that you can receive any of the benefits of the blood of Christ in a church founded by men? Those churches have good people in them of course. No one denies that there are good people in Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Holiness, and all other modern religious parties. But they all started after the New Testament Church started, after Acts 2, after that first Pentecost day following the resurrection of Christ. They were all started by men. Then, how could they claim to be bought by the blood of Christ?
V. New Testament Epistles Reveal The Existence Of Only One Church. In Rom. 12:5 we find: "So we, who are many, are one body in Christ." What is the "one body?" Answer is given in Eph.1:22-23: "The church, which is his body." Hence, the church of Jesus Christ is designated as His body. If there is only one body of Christ, there could be only one church of Christ, the body and church being one and the same. The New Testament even goes so far as to say that they were "all baptized into one body." (1 Cor. 12:13) Today we are told that people in our own country can be baptized into over two hundred different bodies! How different is the New Testament picture.
Paul says, in Eph. 4:4: "There is one body and one Spirit." If "one Spirit" means one, and only one, why doesn't "one body" (church) also mean one, and only one, church? If some Bible teacher tells you that we do have one body and that the different denominations are simply over two hundred smaller bodies in the one big one, then it would be just as sensible to say that we can have one Holy Spirit and then over two hundred smaller Holy Spirits in the one big one!
"But," says one, "Rom. 16:16 says, 'All the churches of Christ salute you"' Surely it does, but "churches" in that passage has reference to congregations, and not denominations. Even the scholars of all the religious groups admit that. In the New Testament the word "church" is used in the sense of the whole church, or as congregations in one city or a district.
Someone else suggests this: "We do have one big church, but all the denominations are simply branches of that great church." Now, friend, let me ask, just where did you get that idea? From the Bible? Have you read anything like that in the Bible? Someone may be ready to reply that Jesus said: "I am the vine, ye are the branches." (Jno. 15:5) I confess that this passage is the one on which they rely to prove that the sects are branches of the one church of Christ. But if you will look closely you will see that Christ ruined that argument, for in verse 6 He said: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch." Who are the branches? Your preacher may tell you that the branches are the denominations. Your Christ has already told you that the branches are men, people, individuals, disciples--not groups, sects, parties, denominations. That is another evidence of preachers telling you one thing and Christ another. You had best forsake the preacher and follow Christ.
VI. The New Testament Condemns Division. It is admitted on all sides that denominations divide those who try to follow Christ into different, contradictory and competing groups. But in 1 Cor.1:10 we find: "That there be no divisions among you." And Rom. 16:17 even goes so far as to command that we mark and turn away from things that cause division. IF DENOMINATIONALISM CAUSES DIVISION, THEN GOD COMMANDS YOU TO MARK IT AND TURN AWAY FROM IT. If you persist in staying in it, you do so in open rebellion against the word of God. Further, Christ in Matt.15:13, said: "Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not shall be rooted up." Christ did not have anything to do with planting a system of humanly devised churches that divide and that started after Christ built His Church,
Hence, the six propositions show that God intended to build one church, that Christ intended to build one, that God and Christ wanted oneness, that Christ bought one, that they built one, and that they ordered us to have nothing to do with any others, because others are divisive.
Now, let us address ourselves to this point. Someone says: "I can see that the Bible teaches one church, and only one, and condemns the present system of sectarian division. But isn't the church of which you are a member, the Church of Christ, a denomination?" That is a fair question. We respectfully answer: No, the Church of Christ is not a denomination, but is the New Testament church. Now, how can that be?
As a religious people, we have this aim: to "make all things according to the pattern." (Heb. 8:5) We seek, too, to follow I Pet. 4:11: "If any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God." In those affairs wherein Christ has legislated, then, we proclaim that we speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent." The pattern given us for the church is the New Testament, for there we find that institution founded and described. Thus, we call Bible things Bible names. We worship as the New Testament church worshipped. We have no articles of faith, no rule of faith and practice except the Bible. We wear no religious names except those authorized in the New Testament. Our church government is as in that book — independent congregations, overseen by elders, bishops, pastors; shepherds, overseers, the presbytery. (Acts 20:17, 28; Phil. 1:1; Eph. 4:11, 1 Pet. 5:1-3; 1 Tim. 4:14) So with baptism by burial (Rom. 6;4), the "one baptism" (Eph. 4:5), which is "into Christ." (Rom.6:3; Ga1.3:27) In short, we engage to answer Christ's prayer for unity by exactly reproducing the New Testament pattern for the church.
To be a denomination we would have to have something that we do not find in the New Testament pattern. Here is a fair proposition: come and observe our worship; inspect the plan of our work take a look at our congregational government; search the religious names that we wear; see what we do when people enter the congregation--and see if you can find one thing that you cannot read in so many words, books, chapters, and verse, in the New Testament. It can't be done. That is why we affirm that the church of Christ of your community is the New Testament church of that community.
Why should you want to be more than Christian? How can you afford to be in a denomination when the system is anti-New Testament and soul-destroying? (Matt. 15:13) We ask you simply to be a member of the church of Christ of the New Testament.