Why is Christianity fragmented? Are some churches right, and some wrong? Does it really make a difference?
Most every denominational organization and sect that claims a Christian purpose calls itself a “church.” The Bible introduces the church, but also clearly depicts it to be a single, unified organism. The Bible, which traces the Divine church through prophecy and its founding, should also be the one authority for the church’s organization, pattern of worship, and doctrine today.
Denominational churches contradict each other. A few of these groups may, on the surface, seem to be preaching doctrines that are about alike, but the teachings of some are in direct opposition to those of others. Two opposites, each claiming to be the truth, cannot both be correct.
NEVERTHELESS, WHAT SAYS THE SCRIPTURE?
There is only one place to go for answers about the church. The Bible, the word of God, tells all about God’s church, and it clearly presents only one church! From the very first of the Bible, we find God’s oneness stressed, and the unity of His followers taught. The harmony of God’s creation is revealed in Genesis 1:31 “…it was very good.” God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Deuteronomy 6:4 is one of many passages which teach the oneness of God. Genesis 2:24 reveals the beginning of marriage and says the man and wife:…shall be one flesh.” An inspired apostle, Paul uses the divine institution of marriage to illustrate the nature of the church, which is his body (Eph 1:22,23 f; Col 1:18). Paul culminates the comparison by saying,”…I speak in regard of Christ and of the church” (Eph. 5:32). The Bible says “There is one body,…one Spirit,…one hope,…one Lord,…one faith,…one baptism,…one God…: (Eph.4:4-6). Jesus prayed for the unity of his people, “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).
For further identification of that one church, we look briefly to Old Testament prophecies: Both Isaiah and Micah speak of a special kingdom (future) and describe it as “the mountain of Jehovah’s house” (Isa 2:2,3 f; Micah 4:1,2). These predictions designated the beginning place as Zion, or Jerusalem, and a message called “the word of Jehovah.” Jesus said the Kingdom would come during his generation, and that it would come with power (Mk 9:1). The day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 fulfills all of these predictions, and from that time forward the New Testament speaks of the church as being in existence (Acts 2:46,47 cf; 20:28 f; 1 Cor. 16:19). Matthew 16:18,19 and Acts 20:25-28 uses interchangeably the terms “kingdom” and “church.” The first letter to Timothy (3:15) calls the church “the house of God.”
None would deny God’s relationship to the church, but in a very special sense, it is Christ’s church. Jesus said, “…I will build my church;” (Matt. 16:18). The word “church” is singular. The passage in Acts 20:28 says the Lord purchased the church “with his own blood,” and Ephesians 1:23 calls it “his body.” The church is a living organism with Christ the head and Christians members of that body (1 Cor 12:27).
So undenominational was that original church that it was sometimes spoken of simply as “the Way” (Acts 9:2). The New Testament pictures one universal church with one common message: “And he said unto them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieves shall be condemned” (Mk 16:15,16). The members of this one body, or way, were scattered everywhere and as they met in their local geographic locations they were called “churches of Christ” (Rom 16:16).
WE MUST BE MEMBERS OF CHRIST’S CHURCH
What is wrong with selecting the church of your choice? As free, moral agents we do have the capacity to choose, but our “choosing” can be wrong. In the case of the church, Christ built it, purchased it, and is the head of it. Those who respond to the Lord’s invitation, on His terms, will be added to it (Acts 2:41). Acts 2:47 states that the Lord added those that were being saved. He is the author of eternal salvation “…unto all them that obey him” (Heb 5:9). He is the savior of the body, his church (Eph. 5:23). Proverbs 14:12 warns: “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Jesus himself said there would be those who professed the name of the Lord and who did works in his name, who would be lost. He said only those who did the will of his Father who is in heaven would enter heaven (Matt. 7:21-23).
A legal will, or a testament of man, is strictly honored by the courts. As we prepare for final judgment and eternal life we must make certain we are members of Christ’s church (the one described in the New Testament) having complied with the Lord’s will, and having been obedient to His commandments. On this basis we all shall be judged (Jn 12:48).