Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 25, 1957
NUMBER 12, PAGE 7,13b

Our Attitude Toward Denominationalism

Gordon Wilson, Henderson, Nevada

In the eighth chapter of First Samuel is found an account of the request of the children of Israel to Samuel, to "give us a king that we may be like the other nations." God had arranged a system of judges over the people, and that was the form of government at that period in Jewish history. But the people were not satisfied with the rule of the judges, and demanded "a king to judge us." When they made this request to Samuel he went to God about the matter. God told Samuel, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." So in rejecting Samuel and his sons, the people were rejecting God as their ruler. It was not only displeasure with the judges that caused the children of Israel to desire a change. Rather, it was displeasure with God and His ordained law.

It has always been contrary to the will of God for His people to desire to be like those around them. He wanted Israel to maintain a distinct government. Not only was that true of national Israel, but it is a fact that the Lord wants His people today to remain apart from those around them.

Turning to 2 Cor. 6:14-17, we learn how God feels about this matter: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness ? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ?

Notice: righteousness has no fellowship with unrighteousness. A believer has no part with an unbeliever. The temple of God, the church of Christ, has no agreement with other temples. Well, what are the people of God to do? "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord."

Peter wrote along the same lines in the second chapter of his first epistle. "But ye are a chosen generation. a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a PECULIAR PEOPLE; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." From this verse we get the idea that we are a "peculiar people" — a peculiar church, with no desire to be like the churches around us. Such a desire on the part of Israel caused her to overthrow the rule of God. Such a desire on the part of the church today will cause her to lose her peculiarity, and to become just another denomination. But we should be proud to be a peculiar people.

Now there may be a misunderstanding in the minds of some about the meaning of the word peculiar. Peculiar does not mean odd. It does not mean radical, backward, or fanatical. The Bible sense of the word peculiar is simply separate or distinct. Then we are a separate people, distinctive in every characteristic.

Sometimes we are asked, "What relationship does the church of Christ bear to other denominations?" The answer is that the church of Christ is not one of the denominations. She is not a sect. We are peculiar. We are separate from denominationalism altogether. Let us always keep in mind that the word of God strongly condemns sectarianism, therefore condemns every denomination in existence. There is a clear-cut difference between churches, and "the church."

The question raises itself for discussion: what attitude ought we to have toward denominationalism? What should be our stand concerning the denominations? We stand apart from them, but what should be our attitude toward them? Let us see what the word of God says about it.

In Ephesians 5, beginning at verse 11, Paul deals with our question. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them . . But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: For whatsoever doth make manifest is light."

These verses instruct us to have no fellowship with those who walk not in the light. All who are not in the light are included in "works of darkness." The light is the light of the Gospel of Christ, (2 Cor. 4:4). To walk in the light is to walk according to the Gospel. Therefore, to walk not in the Gospel is to be among the works of darkness. Such is true of denominations. Paul says not to fellowship them. Get the argument:

1. We must not fellowship the works of darkness.

2. The denominations are among the works of darkness.

3. Therefore, we must not fellowship the denominations. We cannot do so.

I am asked in most places where I labor why I do not join the Ministerial Alliance, and why I do not promote union meetings with the preachers of the other churches in town. My reason is clear to me, if it is not to my brethren. I am forbidden by divine injunction to fellowship the unfruitful works of darkness. The men who stand in denominational pulpits, be they ever so high-powered and high-salaried, are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To promote union with them would be to promote union with the works of darkness. I cannot enter into their meeting to bring about fellowship. I may associate with members of denominations to teach them the truth, but I cannot fellowship them religiously. I can have no concourse with error.

Paul not only tells us not to fellowship works of darkness, but, he says, "rather reprove them." Lots of folks think it is enough to refuse to fellowship the sects. But that is not enough. We must reprove them. Reprove means to rebuke them, to reprimand them, to censure them. It means to point out to them their error and condemn them. That is what Paul means for us to do.

Reproving necessitates some negative preaching. Pretty often some member of the church will tell me that I should not preach negatively; that I should just preach positive sermons. And when I do, the same member will say I am too positive! The Bible says to reprove. That is negative preaching, I guess, but we can be quite positive that it is so. Timothy was told to "reprove, rebuke, exhort." You see, two parts negative and one part positive is the formula given here. Also, Titus 2: 11, 12 tells us to deny certain things. When we reprove the works of darkness we are to reprove them by the light, which is the Gospel.

Listen very carefully to this: "But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light." We are supposed to "make manifest" what we reprove. That means to expose them by the light and to the light. We expose as well as reprove. Ephesians 5 sums up very well the attitude we should have toward denominationalism. One, have no fellowship with them. Two, reprove them. Three, expose them. This passage gives the Gospel preacher a proof-text by which to defend his right to expose and condemn the denominations. Not only is this the right of the preacher of the Gospel, but it is his duty. Duty should not be shirked.