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DENOMINATIONALISM: WHY PEOPLE WILL NOT LEAVE
Victor M. Eskew
A. Denominationalism is simply “the divided state of those who profess to be Christians.”
B. The number of denominations in the United States is staggering.
1. Christianity Today: 38,000
2. World Christian Encyclopedia: 33,830
C. The division that exists among those who call themselves Christians is not authorized in the New Testament.
1. Jesus prayed for oneness among His followers (John 17:20-21).
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me.
2. The apostle Paul condemned the division that existed under one roof in the church at Corinth (I Cor. 1:10-13).
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
D. These things are definitely the teachings of God’s Word. If so, why do so many people continue to remain in the denominations that exist?
A. Many individuals are ignorant of what the Bible really teaches about unity, division, the oneness of the church, and the sin of denominationalism.
B. They may read the Bible, but they do not truly study God’s Word in its context. Several questions can be asked that people cannot answer correctly that help us to understand why people remain in denominations.
1. Did a church exist in the first century?
a. First, the concept of “the first century” is foreign to them.
b. Second, they have never thought about a church existing 2000 years ago.
2. If a church existed, what church was it?
3. Did denominations exist in the first century?
4. Where did all the denominations come from?
C. The Bible teaches that ignorance destroys (Hos. 4:6).
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
II. FALSE BELIEFS
A. Satan is extremely active in our world.
1. He knows truth exists in the form of the Word of God (John 17:17).
2. He does not want individuals to accept the truth.
3. The way he keeps men from the truth is to fill their minds with falsehoods (Rev. 12:9).
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels with him.
B. There are several false beliefs that Satan has created that keep people in denominations.
1. The church one belongs to is not important.
2. The church has nothing to do with salvation.
3. As long as a person is sincere, he is acceptable to God.
4. Truth is relative, that is, truth is determined by each individual.
5. There are many acceptable interpretations of God’s Word.
C. The only way to destroy false beliefs is to confront them with truth.
a. Peter confronted the Jews with the risen Christ in Acts 2.
b. Paul confronted the Athenians with the living God in Acts 17.
2. Passages that teach us to withstand false beliefs.
a. II Corinthians 10:4-5
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
b. II Timothy 4:2-4
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
A. Pride is defined as “arrogance, swelling, elation, loftiness, exultation, haughtiness, and to be inflated with self-conceit.”
B. Man’s pride often keeps him in denominations.
1. I don’t care what God says about this matter.
2. I refuse to admit that I am wrong.
C. The Bible warns against pride.
1. Proverbs 16:18
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
2. Proverbs 29:23
A man’s pride shall bring him low…
A. Self-will is closely connected to a man’s pride.
B. Individuals often want what they desire instead of what God desires for them.
1. They are the opposite of Jesus who said: “Not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). They said: “Not thy will, but mine be done.”
a. Naaman desired the clean waters of Damascus instead of the muddy waters of the Jordan River (II Kings 5:12).
Are not the Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
b. Jeroboam wanted his power and dominion instead of a nation that faithfully followed the Lord (I Kings 12:26-33).
C. What people desire today:
a. The casual, come as you are, look
b. Entertainment that appeals to the flesh
c. Positive, uplifting lessons with no condemnation
d. A false sense of hope and peace
e. Blessings with little, or no, responsibility
f. The promise of prosperity and no talk of sin
D. Two applicable passages of Scripture:
1. Isaiah 30:10
Which say unto the seers, See not, and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophecy deceits.
2. Jeremiah 5:31
The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priest bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so…
E. Man must come to realize that it is not about us. It is about doing the will of God.
V. TIES AND TRADITIONS
A. When individuals are members of an organization, there are two things that lock them into that organization.
a. Belonging: friendships with others of like-minds
b. Involvement: the ability to freely use one’s talents and abilities
a. There is family tradition, that is, a long history of family participation in the organization.
b. There is the tradition of practice. Things are done in certain ways and at certain times that people enjoy and are secure in.
B. Giving up ties and traditions is extremely difficult.
1. The Jews of Jesus’ day (John 12:42)
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.
2. The Jews of Paul’s day (Acts 15:5)
But there arose up a certain sect of the Pharisees, which believed, saying, that it was necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
C. What has to happen is that individuals must come to see the vanity of human ties and traditions and the value of divine traditions and ties to the spiritual family of God.
1. Matthew 12:49-50
And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
2. Matthew 15:9
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
VI. CONDEMNATION OF RELATIVES
A. When some come to see the truth, they are deeply concerned about their relatives both living and those who have passed on.
B. Some will say: “If I obey the gospel, I will be condemning them.”
C. Two thoughts:
1. Individuals are not judged based upon another’s decision to obey the gospel. Individuals are going to be judged based upon their own decisions and actions.
a. One’s obedience to the gospel does not condemn one’s relatives.
b. One’s refusal to obey the gospel does not save them.
2. The story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31)
a. The rich man died and awoke in torments (Luke 16:22-23).
b. It was not a place that he desired for any of his brothers to be (Luke 16:27-28).
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
c. No one who is in torment today wants any of his/her relatives in that place.
A. Denominationalism is a work of Satan that has
1. Deceived the masses
2. Disrupted the unity of the people of God
3. Destroyed millions and millions of souls
B. Individuals need to GET OUT OF IT!!!
C. All men need to unite in the one body of Christ (Eph. 4:4), wherein salvation is found (Eph. 5:23). To become a member of this body, one must be baptized in Christ (I Cor. 12:13).