Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Denominational Church

Written a couple of years ago on the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo!Groups email list.


dan best wrote:

To Shawn
You said,
"Contrary to popular belief, the Messiah’s ekklesia is inclusive of what some refer to as “denominations".
How did you determine this? This is a question that has been debated for many years. Since there are no mention of denominations or its sub groups in the New Testament it seems to me that this is an unanswerable question from God at this time. Now it is evident to me that a disciple can be considered by God as a member of the ekklesia without any involvement in denominations or their sub group.

Kent replied:

According to merriam-webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/denomination), the definition of "denomination" is:

1: an act of denominating
: a value or size of a series of values or sizes (as of money)
: name, designation ; especially : a general name for a category
4: a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices

Looking especially at definition #3, we see the church leaders in Acts 21 specifying two categories of members of the Messiah's ekklesia using general names:

1) "Jews ... who have believed" - verse 20
2) "Gentiles who have believed" - verse 25

Furthermore, each group had its own distinctive set of beliefs and practices: the Jews were "zealous for the law" (v. 20), whereas the Gentiles had "no greater burden [concerning the law] ... than [a few] necessary things" (15:28 & 21:25).

Take a synagogue of Jewish Christians from the mid-first century and a Gentile assembly from the same time period, and plop them down side-by-side on Main Street USA, and I daresay that although both wore the name "Ekklesia of the Messiah" on the Sign Out Front, everyone would refer to the two groups as different denominations. Even if you don't apply the term "denomination" to these groups, they are definitely "sub groups" within the church.

Furthermore, we have a very clear-cut case of "denominations" in 1 Cor 1:10ff; Paul did not approve of these denominational divisions, but he did testify to their existence, and considered their factional members as "brothers" and "God's church" and "saints".

So it seems to me that there IS mention of denominations or sub-groups of the church in the New Testament, sometimes approved and sometimes not, depending on the circumstances.

My two cents.

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