Are You A Christian and Christian Only?
Down through history, uninspired men have penned various writings, outspoken against the religious error of their day. They stated in these writings where they disagreed with the “status quo” of their day, and in so doing, issued what they thought and understood to be correct. In doing this, another new “church” was born, with a differing name. History bears this out. Followers of these men came to label or call themselves after their leaders. Martin Luther, for example, had followers who agreed with his views, and they began to call themselves “Lutherans.”
Others who wrote strongly on a particular doctrine from the Bible wrote statements of (their) faith/believe on that subject, and all who agreed with their statements would sometimes adopt the name of that particular belief, such as was done by the followers of John Smythe, on the belief that baptism should only be administered to adult believers, not to infants, as was being advocated in the 1600s. Strongly disagreeing with the teachings of the Catholic church in his day, he wrote what he believed was the truth on the matter, and his convictions on baptism (and other issues) were adopted by others. They came to be called “Baptists,” and thus, another new church was born, differing from Martin Luther’s followers (“Lutherans”) on what the Bible taught.
Down through time, these statements of faith have been upheld as binding and authoritative as the word of God itself. People not agreeing with one another and parting ways, starting new and different churches as they so desired, have long been the norm. Is God pleased with this? Even the recognized founders of modern-day denominations condemned such attitudes and behaviors. They pleaded in their writings for this trend of disagreeing and dividing to cease. They wanted people to sit down and reason together, reuniting in their beliefs on God’s word. Here are some examples of such pleas:
Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church, said, “I pray you to leave my name alone, and not call yourselves ‘Lutherans,’ but ‘Christians.’ Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. St. Paul would not permit that any should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ. How, then, does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with them all; let us call ourselves only ‘Christians’ after him from whom our doctrine comes” (Life of Luther by Stork, p. 289).
Albert Barnes, a Presbyterian, condemned denominationalism with the following language: “The existence of sects, and denominations, and contentions may be traced to the following causes: (1) The love of power, and they who have control of the consciences of men and of their religious feeling and opinions can control them altogether; (2) Showing more respect to religious teachers than to Christ; (3) The multiplication of tests, and the enlargement of creeds and confessions of faith. The consequence is that every new doctrine that is incorporated into a creed gives cause for those to separate who cannot accord with it; (4) The passions of men — their pride, and ambition, and bigotry, and unenlightened zeal.”
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, condemned denominationalism with the following language: “Would to God that all party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world were forgot; that we might all agree to sit down together as humble, loving disciples at the feet of a common Master, to hear his word, to imbibe his Spirit, and to transcribe his life into our own” (Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons, Volume V, p. 60).
Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist preacher, said, “I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone. I hope the ‘Baptist’ name will soon perish, but let Christ’s name last forever” (Spurgeon Memorial Library, Volume 1, p. 168).
The above quotations express the sentiment of some leading denominationalists. Others could be given, but these are sufficient to show that denominationalism is self-condemned. Consider the plea of Jesus and the exhortations of others in and out of the Bible to come to gather and study that we might agree upon the only inspired writing common to us all — the Bible. The only reason we are divided today is because the seed (i.e., the word of God (Luke 8.11)) has been mixed with uninspired writings of men down through history. Let us recognize and unite under a common authority in religion — the Bible alone.
God purposed for believers to be united in Christ. Our Bibles all read the same. Jesus Christ did not die for his followers to be divided (John 17.20-21).