Today we began our study of 1 and 2 Corinthians as we looked at 1 Corinthians 1-4. These chapters cover Paul’s response to what was a major problem within the church at Corinth – disunity. The church was supposed to be the unified Body of Christ but was beginning to resemble the disunified world.
During our class discussion the question was asked, “How does God feel about there being so many Christian denomination”? Denominations are not in the Bible. They came about as a result of the Protestant Reformation, the movement to “reform” the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century. The Bible is very clear that as believers, we must be of “one mind” (the mind of Christ) on the essentials of the faith, but beyond that there is latitude in how Christians are to worship in a corporate setting. This latitude is what causes so many different “flavors” of Christianity. It’s important to draw a distinction between Christian denominations and cults. Baptists, Methodists, and Lutherans are examples of Christian denominations whereas Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are examples of cults. A Christian church will always see Jesus Christ as the head of the church (Colossians 1:18); always teach about the responsibility Christians have to love one another (1 John 4:11-12); and ultimately be united as one in Christ (John 17:21-22).
Yes, there is the potential for much harm to the universal Body of Christ with denominationalism. Disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture when taken personally can become points of contention. This leads to arguments which can damage the witness of the church. Denominations have been misused for self-interest by those promoting personal agendas, leading to apostasy. Despite these concerns, the Bible tells us that we are expected to assemble with other believers to worship in spirit and in truth. We should select a church in which to do that, not based on a denomination, but on the basis of its relationship to Christ, it’s reliance upon the working of the Holy Spirit, and it’s adherence to the Word of God.
God cares most about our individual relationship with Him through our faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ. There are certain basic doctrines in which we must believe, but the methods and styles by which we serve and worship Him can be diverse; it’s this diversity that is the only good reason for denominations. Diversity allows us to be individuals in Christ, disunity however divides and destroys.
Please note that next Sunday, March 11, we will continue our study of 1 & 2 Corinthians with a focus on 1 Corinthians, chapters 5-6 in which the Apostle Paul calls upon the church in Corinth to repent of its worldliness.