Old Testament Denominations

The American College Encyclopedia Dictionary defines the word denomination as “a religious sect”.  There were many groups who fit this definition during the time Jesus lived on the earth as man.  The prominent two were the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  There were many others besides these two.  One must conclude that denominationalism is not exclusively a modern day event. 

These denominations thought their beliefs were correct.  Each claimed to be following the Word of God while holding to varying and distinct views.  One would suppose that when the Christ came He would have set them straight on the evils of denominationalism.  If one had held this idea he would have been mistaken.  When Jesus came to earth He went about His Father’s business.  As he did His Father’s business he made life better for those who sought Him.  He healed the sick, raised the dead, and fed those who were hungry.  From time to time He would confront the terrible attitudes that one group or the other displayed.  All the while He went about doing His Father’s business.

There is some evidence that this background found its way into the lives of Christians for Paul described himself as having been a Pharisee.  It is beyond question that denominationalism was well ingrained in religion by the time Christ came.  Yet, we never see Jesus giving effort to condemning the sin of denominationalism.  What we see Jesus doing is going about doing His Father’s business.  Do you suppose there is a lesson in this for us His followers?

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68 Responses to Old Testament Denominations

  1. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    This post of yours surprises me greatly! Have you forgotten how Jesus handled these sects (Mark 7:1-13)? He certainly did not spend a lot of time arguing about a name, but instead when to the heart of their beliefs. He addressed the false teachings they espoused that made them a sect. For the Pharisees, Jesus addressed how they added their own traditions to the word of God.

    For the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus would address the fact that a time was coming when the Jewish way and the Samaritan way and place of worship would be no more, and instead the true worshippers would worship in spirit and in truth.

    The coming of Christ destroyed denominationalism and sectarianism. Why? Because one cannot truly follow Christ and have allegiance to a sect.

    You mention Paul’s having been a Pharisee. Well, remember Dell that he was a Pharisee, but at his writing he was one no more! Instead, he was a Christian only, and he counted the loss of all that but refuse.

    Paul taught strongly against sectarianism (1 Cor. 1:10; 3:1-4). Dividing after a certain preacher is sectarianism. Baptists are a sect because they follow the teachings of John Smith. Mormons are a sect because they follow Joseph Smith. Methodists came after Wesley, Calvin started many other groups. The list goes on. And Paul would have called this exactly what it was: carnality.

    Dell, are you now embracing denominationalism? This pains me greatly…say it ain’t so, brother.

  2. Matt, thanks for your response.
    Where shall we begin? Knee jerk reactions generally aren’t thought through well. I believe you have reacted without giving deep thought to the things that were said. Let me begin by making a couple of point blank statements.
    First, preaching against denominationalism is something that has only existed in the last couple hundred years.
    Second, preaching against denominationalism is a tool Satan is using to move us away from the real message of God.
    Third, I do not embrace denominationalism. Anything that takes us away from the message of Christ is missing the mark. Denominationalism and the preaching against denominationalism fall into the same camp, both remove us from the task of preaching Jesus. In both instances Satan smiles. Now with all that said let’s address your reaction.
    Jesus preached against the sins of the Old Testament but (NEVER) condemned the fact that they belonged to different sects. To give our time to condemning those who belong to other sects is taking time and energy away from where it needs to be placed, the preaching of Jesus as the Christ.

    You said,
    “The coming of Christ destroyed denominationalism and sectarianism. Why? Because one cannot truly follow Christ and have allegiance to a sect.”

    This sounds good on the surface. If you were raised in the church you have heard this taught most of your life. The problem is we have made this tradition equal to truths taught by God when it doesn’t belong in the same grouping as truths taught in God’s Word.

    You further said,

    You mention Paul’s having been a Pharisee. Well, remember Dell that he was a Pharisee, but at his writing he was one no more! Instead, he was a Christian only, and he counted the loss of all that but refuse.”

    Paul gave up Judaism. Paul was converted out of Judaism. Paul wasn’t standing against the fact he had been a pharisee. Paul even listed his being a Pharisee as being reason for him to boast. Paul gave all that up for something better, a belief in Jesus Christ.

    Finally you said,

    “Paul taught strongly against sectarianism (1 Cor. 1:10; 3:1-4). Dividing after a certain preacher is sectarianism. Baptists are a sect because they follow the teachings of John Smith. Mormons are a sect because they follow Joseph Smith. Methodists came after Wesley, Calvin started many other groups. The list goes on. And Paul would have called this exactly what it was: carnality.”

    Paul condemned division in 1 Corinthians. In this text Paul even condemned those who wore the name of Christ. Not because of the name they wore but because they stood divided. Division is the sin not sectarianism.

    Matt, in all due respect you need to read the article again. I am not promoting denominationalism nor am I promoting those who make their life goal preaching against it. I am promoting the preaching of Jesus. Energy spent preaching against things that niether Jesus nor the apostles condemned takes away from the real mission we are called to fill.

  3. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    My post was far from a “knee jerk” reaction. One can either embrace denominationalism, or affirm that it is error. One cannot ride the fence, because denominationalism is an assault upon the unity that Christ desires for believers (John 17:21).

    Denominationalism takes away from the glory of the Lord’s church. It belongs to Him, He bought it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). If we do not teach against it, we encourage people to worship in ways that give glory to man, rather than Christ.

    I have enjoyed your thoughtful posts in the past, Dell. But this is a surprising turn of events.

    As a side note, no, I was not raised in the church. I was raised in a denomination, and became a Christian at age 23. Having a full understanding of what it means to live in a worldly religion, I feel deeply offended by your implication that Jesus is okay with denominationalism.

    Love you, brother. Cannot agree on this in any way, however.

    in Him,

    Matt

  4. Matt,
    You aren’t listening. I have not implied that Jesus is okay with denominationalism. Jesus doesn’t condemn or condone He is simply silent. Just stand where Jesus stands. Emphasize what Jesus emphasizes, no more no less. We aren’t placing emphasis where it needs to be placed. Preach Jesus brother, emphasize Christ. Don’t let anything take you from that which God has called you. I too appreciate your articles, this is one on which we will probably continue to disagree.

  5. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    The implication that folks who preach against denominationalism are not preaching Jesus is just wrong, brother. It’s a generalization that is not correct. Certainly there are preachers out there who are unbalanced in their preaching. Too heavy on preaching against denom’s, not heavy enough on other topics. But there are also preachers who are preaching only on God’s grace, and not on His justice. And so it goes.

    But, we must stand against denominationalism. We can it in the same way Jesus did: we strike at the false teaching! Jesus struck at the sects where they were in error, which was adding to the word of God by their traditions. We must do the same thing, if we want people to recognize the purity of the Lord’s blood-bought church. It belongs to Him, and we should glorify Him by telling others about it, and not letting them sink into worldly religion.

    We probably won’t agree, if you hold to the idea that we should not speak out against denominationalism. God bless you, Dell.

  6. Matt you said,
    “The implication that folks who preach against denominationalism are not preaching Jesus is just wrong, brother.”

    Matt it isn’t the same thing. We can’t stand where Jesus never stood. I agree that we must teach truth and fight error, but we can’t invent topics to fight. Simply put Jesus stood against sin but not against the OT denominations. For us to stand where Jesus never stood is dangerous ground. God bless you my brother. In Christ, dell kimberly

  7. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    Jesus taught against the traditions of the Pharisees. That is teaching against denominationalism!

    Also, we can’t just “preach only what Christ preached,” Dell. If we did that, we would have to stop preaching against homosexuality. After all, Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. But his inspired apostles did. His inspired apostle Paul also preached against denominationalism in 1 Corinthians. You said in one post above that Paul condemned division, not sectarianism. Brother, they are the same things, born out of the same processes!

    The fact that Jesus was a member of none of these sects is also telling, is it not? Please tell me you have not arrived at your final position on this, Dell.

  8. “Jesus taught against the traditions of the Pharisees. That is teaching against denominationalism!”

    Matt that is a stretch and you know it.

    Your statement, Also, we can’t just “preach only what Christ preached,”

    That wasn’t my statement, this was my statement,”We can’t stand where Jesus never stood. I agree that we must teach truth and fight error, but we can’t invent topics to fight. Simply put Jesus stood against sin but not against the OT denominations. For us to stand where Jesus never stood is dangerous ground.”

    Major question, “Matt did you read the article closely?”

  9. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    Is denominationalism sin?

  10. Wayne McDaniel says:

    “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” – 2 Cor. 4:5
    When we preach ourselves as The One True Church we are preaching ourselves. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” -1 Jn.1:8
    Does it seem strange that James 5:16 is rarely practiced in The One True Church?

  11. Matt Clifton says:

    Wayne,

    When we preach ourselves as The One True Church we are preaching ourselves.

    That would be true, if it were what people were doing. But to uphold the church that belongs to Jesus Christ, and not to me or you or any earthly being, is certainly not “preaching ourselves.”

  12. Matt,
    I can condemn division as sin because Jesus through His prayer for unity and His apostles through their teaching condemned division. I have no scriptural precident to condemn denominationalism as sin since no where in Scripture is it condemned. Division and denominationalism are not the same thing. To make law where Scripture makes no law is outside my zone of comfort. I can attempt to correct error which blatantly stands against God’s word regardless of the sect the sinner is in. What I cannot do is pass judgment on entire sects of people because the views held by some in those sects do not agree with me. Jesus condemned the sin in lives of the individuals in the OT denominations but absolutely NEVER the OT denominations. I feel comfortable standing in the footsteps of my savior. Thanks Matt for your thoughts. I don’t doubt your sincerity in this matter for a moment. I believe you to be a man who preaches the matters of his heart. I just do not agree with your implied conclusions. I am uncomfortable standing where Jesus never stood.

  13. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    What is division?

    What is denominationalism?

    If you read 1 Corinthians 1:10-15; 3:1-4, surely you would see that division and denominationalism are the same thing.

    Denominationalism is a word we use to describe division in the body!

    I appreciate you too, brother, but we part ways on this issue for sure. The denominations that you will not condemn preach salvation by “faith alone,” which is to say they preach one is saved by praying a prayer of faith. Do you condone that? Most deny the necessity of baptism. What about that? I find it hard to believe that you cannot see a reason to condemn a denomination that teaches a false way of salvation.

  14. Matt, denominationalism and division are not the same animal. Denominationalism may be a word you use to describe division in the body, but your use of the word in this way does not determine its meaning only your intent.

    I neither condon teaching salvation by “faith alone” nor by “baptismal formula”.

    Denominations are made up of individuals. Those individuals hold different views on various subjects. You and I are members of the same church yet we hold very different views on the subject we are discussing. We will stand before God as individuals not as a group. If God doesn’t judge and condemn as groups neither shall I. God bless

  15. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    I neither condon teaching salvation by “faith alone” nor by “baptismal formula”.

    If you teach against those things, then you are teaching against denominationalism. Denominations such as the baptists (faith alone) and the catholics (baptismal formula) teach those things you mention. In order to bring someone to Christ, you would have to teach them out of those errors, correct?

    Or can they just continue in error?

  16. Matt,

    I will always teach against error. I am just unwilling to go beyond what is written. To condemn what Scripture does not condemn is going beyond what is written. I will not intentionally go where Scripture does not go. To blatantly condemn a whole sect goes against Scripture in both what is written and implied. If you are comfortable with this then it is a matter between you and the Lord. Personally, I have repented of this action sometime ago. I hope that one day you will as well. I respect the way you feel. Yet we are miles apart on this subject. I suspect we shall be on others as well. Thanks for your thoughts I have enjoyed the discussion. You are a gentleman and a scholar. May God continue to hold you in His hand.

  17. 1 Middle Man says:

    This is a fascinating discussion. I think, to a degree, that the principle at work is in relationship…”to speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent.” I believe that we have, on many occasions, with certain passages and principles studied…not necessarily “to show ourselves approved” so much as to show myself to be right based upon what it is that I have been taught. And I am not saying that this is necessarily the case in the discussion. There is a fine line between righteousness and self-righteousness. While it is true that we can agree to disagree, there are greater matters at stake…matters of the heart. In other words, I can win all of the legal arguments and still be way off the mark spiritually…in fact, if I am having to win all of the arguments, I am probably more likely off the mark, spiritually, than not. Yet, for others, it is simply a case of approaching things from a different perspective or even philosophical world view. When simply making the case for a forthright positive principle, as has been done above, as in…”this is what Jesus stands for,” it does not necessarily call for an anti-argument. This is the mindset that we who blog have been trying to help people understand. Such matters do not have to have an equal contrasting correlative argument. They can just stand on their own. It is similar to the instrument issue. For example…some will say that because we sing, therefore the contrasting correlative is that using an instrument is wrong or a sin. This is not necessarily the case. Our bane for a too many decades has been “to speak where the Bible is silent.” The principle is “that we sing”, simply put and case closed. There does not have to be a contrasting correlation. Blessings,

    Don

  18. Wayne McDaniel says:

    “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Acts 20:21 That is Paul’s summary of what he had preached.
    Both words describe a change of heart that must occur within a person BEFORE baptism will have significance.

    The Lord still looks upon our hearts for the sincerity, humility and love of His Son. That love is poured into our hearts by His Spirit (Rom.5:5). When it speaks, it does not sound like, “God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men: or, But this multitude that knows not the law are accursed.” May the Lord help each of us to hear ourselves.

  19. Don Morrison says:

    One of our forefathers said, “we are a sect against sects.” The word “denominationalsim” means different things to us depending on our background.

    When I had taught many people on a state campus who had come from a variety of church backgrounds they rarely wanted to participate in any interdenominational events because they had feelings about their background and their decisions about church teachings. I don’t blame them and I couldn’t convince them otherwise.

    But I wasn’t against those other religious groups – they were doing good and teaching the name of Christ. On a state campus of 40,000 students – that is a good thing. I would have loved to change their thoughts on doctrines relating to baptism, but that was not possible for whole organizations.

    In practice, people make decisions in my town about which Church of Christ they will go to based upon traditions. Some go to “nondenominational” churches because they like the worship services. (BTW each of those non-denominational churches denominate themselves from the others.)

    Denominationalism isn’t a defintion it is a practice and cannot be thought of only in some doctrinal term. The first century christians denominated themselves into house churches without being divided against one another. How do you suppose they decided which one they might go to? Yet they were not what I woud think of as denominationalists, because they wern’t willing to break fellowship over such things. Perhaps we should be looking at that aspect of our discussion – that we have broken fellowship with others based upon a perspective that we are trully committed to as truth, because they are committed to another perspective. That would make us the denominationalists.

    Paul did in fact consider himself a pharisee (present tense) when he was on trial before going to Rome. And a jew as well. He did not see either of those as conflicting with his belief that Jesus is Messiah. I don’t recall Jesus ever condemning Pharisaism or Saduceeism, or Essenism etc. Rather his teaching challenged every religious group…then and now to repent and turn to God. That is what we should all be doing today and tomorrow regardless of our “affiliation.”

    P.S. Did you ever hear the joke about the man who was walking on a bridge and saw another about to jump to certain death? He called out, “don’t jump.” and began to talk to the man. Soon they realize they are both members of the Church of Christ and the good samaritan says, “wow, that’s amazing. At our church we have no drinking fountain for doctrinal reasons.” and the jumper replies, “we don;t either.”

    The GS says, “We don’t let women pass the plates at our church.” and the jumper agrees. “We do support an orphan’s home.” “So do we!” “We don’t use instruments.” “Neither do we.”

    The jumper is getting more comfortable and it seems that he may climb down and continue. The jumper finally says, “And we have a kitchen downstairs in the basement of our church.” and the GS replies in disgust, “Oh, go ahead and jump.”

    Are those divisions any less denominationalism?

  20. The trap we so often fall into in “preaching against denominationalism” is the tendency to label, condemn and avoid.

    We label everyone who worships at a Mormon assembly – for instance – then assume that they have heard and are on board with everything taught in that religion and write them off as unreachable with the simple message of Christ. They are all heretics and we must avoid them.

    That conveniently “lets us off the hook” of our responsibility to preach Christ to anyone and everyone who will listen. It turns His commandment from “go and teach” to “stay away from and excoriate.”

  21. Matt Clifton says:

    Keith,

    The trap we so often fall into in “preaching against denominationalism” is the tendency to label, condemn and avoid.

    And the opposite trap is to say they are all okay, to condone denominationalism. People are losing their souls every day to their teachings. How can we not address the issue?

    Now, you do not know my, but I am not talking about hobby preachers who preach nothing but anti-denominational blather. They are out there, but the majority of preachers who are preaching against denominationalism are doing so because they love Christ and His church, and want people to be saved. Perhaps you guys should find some of them, and get to know them. Not every “conservative” preacher is what some of you are describing. 🙂

  22. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Dell made the point that Jesus did not condemn the various sects of the Jews, but went about doing his Father’s will, and suggested that we should do the same. Please listen,
    “He spoke also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were rightous, and SET ALL OTHERS AT NOUGHT: God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men…”

  23. 1 Middle Man says:

    With all due respect to what is being said, I think that this is at the core of what has set us apart…in a negative way…from many other groups. This principle is why many have left our fellowship — good people who care about positive principles, but who grow so weary of wrangling over words and concepts. People may not know what we, as a group of Christians, stand for in our many of our churches…but they certainly know what we stand against. I have been preaching for 20+ years and one of the significant things that turns me off is to hear negative preaching or teaching. I don’t care what or who people are against…I want to know what they stand for. We don’t have to define and promote the negative in order to affirm the positive — it simply is not necessary. And I am not saying there is not a time or place for a productive contrasting illustration, but it should be wisely used, wisely stated. If we spend more of our time positively preaching Christ, building “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”, we have no problem letting the chips fall where they may with regard to the negatives…to the things that just do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Also, we are truly going to be able to live with the Fruit of the Spirit of peace and joy, knowing that we are striving to be like Christ and NOT like someone else. I just think that we spend way too much time focusing on the things that we shouldn’t be — Paul calls the overly scrupulous “the weak brother” — and not enough time focusing on the things that we should — whom Paul defines as “the strong.” People want to be fed positives…they grow tired and weary of negative preaching…don’t do this, don’t be like them, don’t think this way, don’t, don’t, don’t…let’s just be doers! Blessings, Don

  24. Matt Clifton says:

    Wayne,

    You are taking a passage out of context and applying it to a situation on which is does not have much bearing. Jesus was giving a teaching about personal righteousness and hypocrisy in the passage you mention. He was talking about how two different men presented themselves before God: one with an honest, repentant heart, the other with a selfish, hypocritical, vain and conceited heart.

    But, you are using the passage in a different way. You are trying to make it say that Christians should not preach against the falseness of denominationalism, a practice that is stealing the souls of men and women every day.

    If you are condoning denominationlism with all its false teachings on salvation, you are saying that you’re content with allowing them to go to hell without hearing the truth.

    Here’s what Jesus said about the manner in which the denomination of the Pharisees taught:

    Mat 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

    This is what denominations who teach a false salvation are doing.

    How do you feel about that, Wayne?

  25. Matt Clifton says:

    Don,

    People want to be fed positives…they grow tired and weary of negative preaching…don’t do this, don’t be like them, don’t think this way, don’t, don’t, don’t…let’s just be doers!

    Shades of 2 Tim. 4:3, perhaps?

    We cannot simply preach the positive only, and still be like Jesus. Our Lord preached on negatives quite a bit, did He not? He wasn’t too positive when He cleared the temple with a whip. He wasn’t too positive in Matt. 7:13-14, when He said the majority of people will be lost, or when He said in Matt. 7:21 that not everyone who claims to follow Him will go to heaven. He certainly was not too positive when He told the Pharisees what their hearts were really like in Matt. chapters 24 and 25.

    But He also balanced His preaching. We must do the same thing. I am teaching on the “sermon on the mount” on Wednesday nights, and it is full of positive admonitions, but negative ones as well.

    If we preach only positives, we will end up like the willowy, ineffectual “non-denominational” congregations that float in and out of existence daily.

    Our preaching cannot be all negative, nor can it be all positive. It must be balanced in order to feed the people what is needed for true spiritual growth.

    Matt

  26. Clint P. says:

    I may be way off here but, denomination when broken down means something like “group of a name” or a group that shares a name. If we preach against denominationalism rather than division we are actually preaching against being of one name such as Baptist, Methodist, or Church of Christ.

  27. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Matt, You did not hear the point that Keith made: not everyone in other churches believes all that is taught there.
    Moreover, your words suggest you think being a child of God depends upon holding certain views, rather than trusting Jesus to forgive us our sins. Setting others at nought keeps us diverted from examining ourselves, and seeing how far short we still are of the humility of Jesus.

  28. Matt Clifton says:

    Clint,

    I may be way off here but, denomination when broken down means something like “group of a name” or a group that shares a name. If we preach against denominationalism rather than division we are actually preaching against being of one name such as Baptist, Methodist, or Church of Christ.

    That may be a dictionary definition, but a religious denomination is a group that has set itself apart (by the will of man) because its teaching differ from those of other Christians.

    God has set the church apart from the world. This was not man’s doing, but Jesus purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). The word of God calls the church the churches of Christ (He bought it) or the church of God (still shows who owns it). No man has a right to create his own group, especially if it teaches something different than what is found in the scriptures.

    Denominationalism IS division, Clint. And if you accuse the Lord’s church of being a denomination, you are saying God created something divisive. We know that is not true.

    Thanks Clint, and God bless you!

    Matt

  29. Matt Clifton says:

    Wayne,

    Matt, You did not hear the point that Keith made: not everyone in other churches believes all that is taught there.

    That would be good. They should be encouraged to leave that group, then. That can only be done if we teach them the truth.

    Moreover, your words suggest you think being a child of God depends upon holding certain views, rather than trusting Jesus to forgive us our sins. Setting others at nought keeps us diverted from examining ourselves, and seeing how far short we still are of the humility of Jesus.

    Wayne, certainly there are certain views we must hold in order to be a child of God. Just trusting Jesus to forgive our sins is not enough to save. We must trust Him enough to believe and practice His word. It is by His word that we will be judged (John 12:48), not our opinions.

    Again, you throw out “setting other at nought” as if that passage was referring to this situation. You did not address the fact that you are pulling that passage out of context.

    It also needs to be understood that we can teach the truth about the Lord’s church and examine ourselves at the same time. When we preach against denominationalism, we are not exalting ourselves, but rather the Lord’s church. We are putting ourselves in submission to God, and recognizing that we all fall short (Rom. 3:23) and must come to repentance (Acts 17:30). ALL of us!

  30. 1 Middle Man says:

    Hi Matt,

    I appreciate your argumentation…even though I may not agree with all of it. I am thankful for this forum, Dell, where we can discuss. As I have shared, I believe that there is an appropriate time and place for a contrast. We need to keep in mind is that…while we are to strive to Christ-like, we are not Him. In other words, I think that we need to consider the psychological and cultural contexts of the people and audience in our day and time as it stands in relationship to when Jesus shared. I believe that Jesus spent the majority of His time affirming the positive in people and not dwelling on the negative. There were certainly times when he was blunt with the Scribes and Pharisees or the disciples for a reason. We need to remember his pulpit was not always a podium in a building with stained glass. We deal with people…this is a constant. We may have need for giving admonition in relationship to people that we know and love…whether on an individual level or collectively as in an assembly context, but I believe that it can and should be handled positively. For example, there was a time when the fire and brimstone message was acceptable for a certain cultural time and place, even in the previous century…it is not so now. This does not mean that we are tickling itching easy or giving a squishy, mushy message very Sunday. All messages need to be well studied, have a point and be shared with conviction, but our mood and tone goes a long way toward whether the message is accepted and assimilated or not. Blessings, Don

  31. Jan says:

    This kind of discussion could go on forever! The bottom line is to preach Christ and Him crucified. It is also VERY important for EVERYONE to study for themselves! And the hardest part–to study without preconcieved ideas. When we study with an open and honest heart, the Holy Spirit guides us in truth. Our humility to humble ourself before God is one the hardest concepts to grasp! I am thankful that God knows my heart. He sees my faults and loves me anyway–as long as I am walking in the light grace makes up the difference! Thanks Dell, for making me think!

  32. Wayne McDaniel says:

    “But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, thru which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Matt, you may exalt “the Lord’s church”, if you wish.

    What is lacking in churches everywhere is prayer, authentic prayer that admits sin, and asks for forgiveness. We all may be healed by heeding the words below, spoken nearly 15 years ago, to about 4,000 people:

    “Prayer, after all, involves exposing our weaknesses and our hurts and ours sins, before the Lord and each other. It involves risk and surrender. It involves facing up to sins that we cherish, and letting go of securities that we lean upon. It involves intimacy, vulnerability. Its hard to protect yourself, or hide your sin when you pray regularly and fervently with another person, especially your wife or husband. And its hard to protect yourself from God. As I see more clearly now, I had allowed Satan to erect a stronghold in that realm of my life.” – Leonard Allen, May 1994

  33. Dennis says:

    Well, I turn my head for a second and a discussion breaks out. It has been an interesting discussion between honorable people (I believe).
    One of the things that has frustrated me about the Church of Christ for many years is the desire of the leadership (or of some group in “the church”) to control the members of the congregation as far as what is acceptable to believe. Dissent and/or questioning long held beliefs is not generally condoned. At best the dissenters are relegated to second class status. At worst they are run out on a rail. There is often this presumption that he who speaks the loudest or with the most righteous indignation or the most traditionally is obviously correct in their interpretation of the word and others just need to study a little harder to come to “the truth.”
    I’ve asked quite a few people “Who gets to decide who is right in our doctrinal beliefs (especially when there is disagreement in the leadership)?” And I’ve asked “If each congregation is supposed to be autonomous, then why does one congregation condemn another when they do things a little differently?” I never get good answers to these questions.
    The truth is that each and every congregation is 100% full of people who are in error in their beliefs. We are all wrong. So should we all go to hell? Actually, yes we should. But thanks be to God that he loved us enough to send his son to die in our stead so that we (as individuals) can be saved by his grace through faith in him.
    Knowing that I’m in error helps me to look at the word with less confidence in my own understanding and it also helps me to be more reluctant to condemn others–especially wholesale groups of others. I know that in just about every group are seekers who are searching for the truth. Some of those people are truly filled with love (and as you know “Love covers a multitude of sins,” possibly even sins of doctrinal error).
    I’ve made a personal decision to quit condemning most groups. I don’t agree with or justify much of what I think they teach. And I continue to teach what I believe to be the way more accurately. But my ultimate responsibility is to love them and my responsibility is approach them with humility and respect and to leave the judging up to God. In my fifty seven years I don’t recall ever seeing a positive response to the act of condemning other groups. On the other hand, I’ve seen a great deal of chest pounding and self-righteousness and I’ve seen many innocent bystanders driven away by the practice.
    So I guess we must ask the question, Do we want results? or do we want to feel like we’ve covered our responsibility (in spite of the negative downside to doing so)?
    I’m tired of our failings. I am ready for us to put down the stones.
    dennis

  34. Brad says:

    Good thoughts, Dennis. I agree. Now, just wait patiently and someone will be along to tell you what’s wrong with that way of thinking…lol. 🙂

  35. Matt Clifton says:

    Wayne,

    “But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, thru which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Matt, you may exalt “the Lord’s church”, if you wish.

    What is lacking in churches everywhere is prayer, authentic prayer that admits sin, and asks for forgiveness. We all may be healed by heeding the words below, spoken nearly 15 years ago, to about 4,000 people:

    “Prayer, after all, involves exposing our weaknesses and our hurts and ours sins, before the Lord and each other. It involves risk and surrender. It involves facing up to sins that we cherish, and letting go of securities that we lean upon. It involves intimacy, vulnerability. Its hard to protect yourself, or hide your sin when you pray regularly and fervently with another person, especially your wife or husband. And its hard to protect yourself from God. As I see more clearly now, I had allowed Satan to erect a stronghold in that realm of my life.” – Leonard Allen, May 1994

    I strongly disagree that we can be healed by some words a man spoke 15 years ago.

    Jesus said, about 2000 years ago, that you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). The Bible also says it is by His stripes we are healed (1 Peter 2:24).

    The Lord’s church, Wayne, is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). It is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). Those that defend the Lord’s church are exalting Christ, my friend. Do not play into the postmodern view of “gimme Jesus, but not the church.” He died for the church, and if it is important to Him, it should be important to us.

  36. Matt Clifton says:

    Brad,

    Good thoughts, Dennis. I agree. Now, just wait patiently and someone will be along to tell you what’s wrong with that way of thinking…lol.

    Now, why would anyone do that? After all, there is no possible way he could be wrong. Right?

    Right?

  37. Brad says:

    Why yes, Dennis could very definitely could be wrong. So could Wayne. So could I. So could you, Matt. So could anyone posting to this or any other blog. That’s my point…I can say that; but those who trust in their understanding of scripture as the only way to salvation cannot.

  38. Brad says:

    By the way, not to put words in his mouth, but it seems to me Dennis was not tearing down the church in his response, but commenting about those individuals who use the term as a backhanded way of saying ‘only the group who call themselves the church of Christ.’ But I could be wrong.

  39. Dennis says:

    You are exactly right Brad. I was reflecting on how the term “the Church” has been used most of my life—“only members of the Church of Christ.” I’ve since come to believe that everyone who believes that Jesus is the son of God (and those things in 1 Cor 15:1-8) and has confessed his name and put their trust in him and have been baptized for the remission of sins have been added to the church. Only God knows who all that includes and it is not contingent on their total agreement with my interpretation of scripture. And it is not contingent on them being “members” of the congregation with the name “Church of Christ” on the building.
    Like some of our forefathers said, “Christians only, but not the only Christians.”

  40. Matt Clifton says:

    Brad,

    Thanks for your reply. 🙂

    Why yes, Dennis could very definitely could be wrong. So could Wayne. So could I. So could you, Matt. So could anyone posting to this or any other blog. That’s my point…I can say that; but those who trust in their understanding of scripture as the only way to salvation cannot.

    So, what do you think about denominationalism, Brad. Is it right or wrong, according to scripture?

  41. Matt Clifton says:

    Dennis,

    I’ve since come to believe that everyone who believes that Jesus is the son of God (and those things in 1 Cor 15:1-8) and has confessed his name and put their trust in him and have been baptized for the remission of sins have been added to the church.

    This is the only biblical sound definition of what it means to be a member of the Lord’s church. People who have obeyed the scriptural way of salvation are members of the church of Christ, whether they call themselves that or not.

    But, do you believe there is such a thing as a Christian who has gone into error?

  42. Matt,
    Let me answer this one. I believe those who trust in a perfect intellectual understanding and application of Scripture for salvation are in error. So yes those in Christ can leave their relationship with God when they put their trust in places other than Jesus Christ.

  43. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    Let me answer this one. I believe those who trust in a perfect intellectual understanding and application of Scripture for salvation are in error. So yes those in Christ can leave their relationship with God when they put their trust in places other than Jesus Christ.

    Who are these people of whom you speak, that trust in “perfect intellectual understanding and application of Scripture for salvation?”

    Can you introduce me to some of them, or identify them in some way?

  44. Matt,
    Far too many of those who fill the pulpits and pews in our churches fill this catagory. Most who come from our schools of preaching fall into this catagory. Both Arizona and Arkansas are full of them. In my last post on identity they came out of the woodwork to e-mail me. Not enough courage to answer online but certainly bold enough to complain through email. Read my last post, too many fall into that catagory. It is indeed a shame. Jesus dies to establish a new covenant and all we want is an improved version of Moses Law. I don’t mean to leave a negative tone but sadly this is where too many in our fellowship find their identity and it ought not be.

  45. Dennis says:

    Matt,
    I do believe Christians have gone into error. In Galatians, Paul talked about the Christians falling away from grace. It wasn’t until a few years ago that it dawned on me that he was telling that to the most religious and devout members who were trying to make obedience to laws their basis for salvation. They were trying to make it a Christ plus works salvation. Paul told them it was a “free gift, not by works, so that none could boast.”
    As far as those in doctrinal error, in 1st Corinthians 8, Paul was responding to a question the members had about eating food offered to idols (a very important doctrinal topic of the time). If you read carefully you can see that he introduced the subject and then switched subjects. He changed over into “knowledge puffs up but love builds up”. He then went back to the original topic. He was telling them that I’m about to give you the correct answer to your question but if you respond unlovingly to your erring brethren then you are just as wrong as they are. He didn’t call the erring brethren false teachers. He called them erring or weak brothers.
    If you go through the NT you will find that the only time anyone was “kicked out of the church” was when they denied that Jesus was the son of God (1 Cor 15:1-8 principles), lived blatantly sinful lives (“the acts of the sinful nature are obvious”) or tried to be justified by their obedience to the laws rather than by God’s grace through faith. All the others were just called weak brothers (but still brothers).
    Notice in Romans 14 that those who demanded their own way (like many in the conservative Churches of Christ) were called weak brethren, while those more tolerant of others were considered strong. Usually those weak brethren consider themselves the strong “defenders of the faith.”
    We are all weak and sinful. I’m so thankful that God, in spite of my sinfulness and weakness, still loved me enough to send his precious son to die for me. My response to him is to try to live for him, not so that I will be saved, but because I have been saved.
    Because of all of this, I just don’t want to focus on condemning demonimations. I’ve just never seen it do anything but make legalistic brethren (of which I was one) feel justified. It just seems unsavory to me personally (but I know that I could be wrong in this approach.)
    God Bless, Dennis

  46. Brad says:

    (disclaimer: when I use the term ‘church of Christ’, I am referring to the group that marks its buildings with this specific name, and not necessary THE church of Christ, that is, the church that is made up of all Christians from everywhere and every time)

    Courtesy of the American Heritage Dictionary, DENOMINATION is defined as follows:

    1. A large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name and organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy.

    2. One of a series of kinds, values, or sizes, as in a system of currency or weights.

    3. A name or designation, especially for a class or group.

    #1 could be the churches of Christ if you leave out the ‘single administrative and legal hierarchy.’ Although the case could be made that it still defines us, with the Godhead as the single administrative and legal hierarchy.

    #2 does not apply in this case.

    #3 definitely describes us (and every other group as well).

    Now before you go into a speech about how the churches of Christ are not a denomination, about how they’re the original (a laughable statement, like calling ourselves un-denominational instead of non-denominational), about how the others split from ‘us,’ please don’t; I’ve heard it all.

    You can argue about being the original all you want, but the fact that there is a denomination at all inherently MAKES us just as much a denomination as anyone else, whether we want that or not (and I don’t; I personally hate to give people so concerned already with ways they can split and divide one another, such as gender or race or social status or economic status, yet one more way to pigeonhole you or me). The things that define our group and make us different from another group denominate us from them.

    What’s funny (not really I guess; it’s truly sad) is that we pride ourselves on immediately baptizing those who come forward, confess Jesus as the Christ, repent of their sins, and seek baptism for the remission of their sins, but too many don’t consider that enough – you’ve got to know what’s right about this and what’s wrong about that.

    If someone must have perfect knowledge of what makes ‘us’ different from ‘them,’ and of everything the churches of Christ teach, then we would NEVER EVER have an immediate baptism. Heaven forbid someone come forward to be baptized because they want Christ as their Savior and be baptized into Him without realizing they’ve been taught by those demonic people down the street and need to be de-programmed first. I can’t find that in scripture anywhere. But I digress.

    If being in the church of Christ means we have to all know the exact same things and teach the exact same things and believe the exact same things, then each and every congregation would have to sit down each time it meets and make sure everyone was still on the same page before they shook one another’s hand and called them ‘brother’ (a practice I hate to write down, because I know there are some who just might try to institute it next Sunday).

    Just to make sure I’m clear about it, I’ll re-write what I wrote above to show how I personally feel about denominations: I personally hate to give people so concerned already with ways they can split and divide one another, such as gender or race or social status or economic status, yet one more way to pigeonhole you or me. And that’s whether you’re talking Baptist or Methodist or the like, or whether you mean the denominations we have created inside the churches of Christ: like conservative or liberal or progressive or traditional.

    As concerning the Biblical side of things, I agree completely with Dell’s original post. The only time something even vaguely resembling what someone today might call ‘denominationalism’ comes up is when it becomes a problem not between men, but between man and God.

    And before anyone starts spouting off Eph 4 (which DOES NOT speak about denominationism as we know it because the problem didn’t exist yet as we know it), remember I said it was between man and God (i.e., not up to man to judge). I hope this answers your question, Matt. I didn’t intend it to be mean or snarky, so if it comes across that way, I apologize deeply. I always enjoy a good back and forth; I think it’s necessary to sharpen one another. 🙂

  47. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    Far too many of those who fill the pulpits and pews in our churches fill this catagory. Most who come from our schools of preaching fall into this catagory. Both Arizona and Arkansas are full of them. In my last post on identity they came out of the woodwork to e-mail me. Not enough courage to answer online but certainly bold enough to complain through email. Read my last post, too many fall into that catagory. It is indeed a shame. Jesus dies to establish a new covenant and all we want is an improved version of Moses Law. I don’t mean to leave a negative tone but sadly this is where too many in our fellowship find their identity and it ought not be.

    I know many people on both sides of the “fence,” so to speak. I have yet to find even one person who thinks salvation comes by trusting in perfect application of scriptures. Not a single person! And I do not believe you could come up with one, either.

    Instead, what you are falling prey to is the same thing progressives accuse conservatives of: stereotyping!

    Now, there are men who believe we must understand the truth as God has revealed in His word in order to be saved. But not a single one of them will say their application of scriptures is what they trust in. They will say that because Jesus spoke (Heb. 1:1-2), and because His words will judge us in the last day (John 12:48), and because He says if we love Him we will keep His commandments (John 14:15), that their views on obedience to Jesus is all about trusting Him. To trust Him is to trust His word. Can you see this as a possibility, Dell?

  48. Matt,
    I have an e-mail inbox full of preachers who hold to just the doctrine you say does not exist. This false doctrine is alive and dominate in the church. I wish it weren’t so but it is.

  49. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    I have an e-mail inbox full of preachers who hold to just the doctrine you say does not exist. This false doctrine is alive and dominate in the church. I wish it weren’t so but it is.

    To be absolutely clear, what you are telling me is that you have emails from preachers who are telling you they do not have to trust Jesus for their salvation, but instead they only have to trust their abilities to perfectly follow the commands of the Bible.

    Is this what you are telling me?

  50. Matt Clifton says:

    Dennis,

    Because of all of this, I just don’t want to focus on condemning demonimations. I’ve just never seen it do anything but make legalistic brethren (of which I was one) feel justified. It just seems unsavory to me personally (but I know that I could be wrong in this approach.)

    Do you believe the “faith only” way of salvation that most denominations preach is false? Do you believe baptism is necessary for the remission of sins?

    I don’t believe in “focusing” on condemning denominations. And that’s another stereotype of conservative preachers, that all they do is sit around writing or stand around preaching against denominations. But in my opinion, speaking out against false teaching is a must. If we do not, we are not doing our fellowman any good by letting them remain in error, especially when the error is a false response to the gospel of Christ.

  51. Matt Clifton says:

    Brad,

    Courtesy of the American Heritage Dictionary, DENOMINATION is defined as follows:

    1. A large group of religious congregations united under a common faith and name and organized under a single administrative and legal hierarchy.

    2. One of a series of kinds, values, or sizes, as in a system of currency or weights.

    3. A name or designation, especially for a class or group.

    #1 could be the churches of Christ if you leave out the ’single administrative and legal hierarchy.’ Although the case could be made that it still defines us, with the Godhead as the single administrative and legal hierarchy.

    #2 does not apply in this case.

    #3 definitely describes us (and every other group as well).

    Just to be proper, entry 1 is referring to religious organizations. Entry 3 is referring to some other kinds of groups. But, it does not matter. Denominational people have tried to label those who only want to be Christians as a denomination for years, but that does not make it so.

    Now before you go into a speech about how the churches of Christ are not a denomination, about how they’re the original (a laughable statement, like calling ourselves un-denominational instead of non-denominational), about how the others split from ‘us,’ please don’t; I’ve heard it all.

    You can argue about being the original all you want, but the fact that there is a denomination at all inherently MAKES us just as much a denomination as anyone else, whether we want that or not (and I don’t; I personally hate to give people so concerned already with ways they can split and divide one another, such as gender or race or social status or economic status, yet one more way to pigeonhole you or me). The things that define our group and make us different from another group denominate us from them.

    Do you believe there has been a church of Christ in existence since Pentecost? If you do, then you must admit that there were no denominations at first. If there were no denoms at first, they must have split off or morphed out of the church of Christ or the church of God, whichever biblical name you want to call the church that belongs to our Lord.

    To say that we are “the original” makes it seem like someone is making a claim that their great-great-great-great (etc.) grandfather worshipped in Ephesus in the first century. I’m sure you know that is not what is being discussed. What IS being discussed is that there is a spiritual body of Christ, to which the Lord Himself adds those who obey Him.

    Because of the love I have for Christ and appreciation for what He has done for me, I do not take this subject lightly. I do not appreciate people who make light of the Lord’s church or ridicule the attempt to be Christians only. People like Mike Cope who make fun of the worship of the church, and others who ridicule the church the Lord bought with His own blood really make me wonder what things are coming to.

    What’s funny (not really I guess; it’s truly sad) is that we pride ourselves on immediately baptizing those who come forward, confess Jesus as the Christ, repent of their sins, and seek baptism for the remission of their sins, but too many don’t consider that enough – you’ve got to know what’s right about this and what’s wrong about that.

    If someone must have perfect knowledge of what makes ‘us’ different from ‘them,’ and of everything the churches of Christ teach, then we would NEVER EVER have an immediate baptism. Heaven forbid someone come forward to be baptized because they want Christ as their Savior and be baptized into Him without realizing they’ve been taught by those demonic people down the street and need to be de-programmed first. I can’t find that in scripture anywhere. But I digress.

    I’ve never heard anyone say a person has to have perfect knowledge before they can be baptized. I think that is a straw man, and one easily beaten down. Dell keeps talking about these people who don’t trust Christ for salvation, but instead trust their perfect understanding and application of God’s word. I’ve never met or heard about any of these people, and I’ve been around.

    If people had to have a perfect understanding of all things in order to be baptized into Christ, then there would be no room for growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, as Peter encourages us to do.

    Now, I’m a little dense, and I value directness. Can you answer the following two questions “yes” or “no?” Thanks!

    1. Is denominationalism wrong?

    2. Is baptism necessary for salvation?

  52. Dennis says:

    Matt,
    I cannot in good conscience tell someone that he will be saved without baptism. Every time I teach someone, I teach them to be baptized for the remission of sin. At the same time, I’m totally aware that it is God who will make the ultimate decision on who he saves. It is not the baptism that is doing the saving. It is God who saves by grace through faith.
    I also know that the word specifically says “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

    It also says, Galatians 5:13,14 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” and

    Gal. 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

    You asked me “Do you believe the “faith only” way of salvation that most denominations preach is false?” The answer is yes I do believe that it is false.

    If I am required to condemn every group that preaches something false then no one will be left standing, because we all preach things that are false. Look back at our history to see how many things we have bound on others in their day. We see now that they were false.

    Where I grew up we almost had a church split over whether or not we could put a water fountain in the foyer. How foolish is that?

    Some of the things we are doing today will eventually be made clear to us that we had been wrong about. I hope no one condemns me for that false doctrine for which I am currently clueless. I’m still finding my way on this path.

    Regarding denominations, my thought is that we should approach them as if our number one goal in life is to actually reach them with the truth in such a way that they will be won over–not justifiably condemned. It’s been my experience that we’ve generally used denominations as a whipping boy for our own people to look down on for their error. He who is without sin should cast the first stone.
    Paul said “I am chief of sinners.” The primary enemy of the early teachings was when religious people tried to force their understanding down the throats of others and to condemn those who would not agree with their understanding. I don’t want to be in those shoes. I dropped my rock. People seem to listen to me more now. They seem more open to what I teach. They can tell I’m pulling for them and not pushing against them. I’m feeling a lot more peace than I did back in the old days in the old ways.

    Think about what I’ve been saying, Matt. You are obviously a very conscientious person. You are obviously very articulate and knowledgeable. Your effectiveness will be enhanced if you drop the rock. Just prayerfully consider it.
    God Bless, Dennis

  53. Brad says:

    Matt, to give you your simple answers:

    1. Yes. I wrote it twice in the above comment, but I’ll include it again here.

    Just to make sure I’m clear about it, I’ll re-write what I wrote above to show how I personally feel about denominations: I personally hate to give people so concerned already with ways they can split and divide one another, such as gender or race or social status or economic status, yet one more way to pigeonhole you or me. And that’s whether you’re talking Baptist or Methodist or the like, or whether you mean the denominations we have created inside the churches of Christ: like conservative or liberal or progressive or traditional.

    But to answer the question you are really asking, no, the Bible says absolutely nothing about denominationalism as we know it; just the Pharisee vs. Saducee (not just the only two, I know) type of denominationalism. Hmmm, Jews divided over their understanding of Scripture, but nobody saying the other wasn’t a Jew. You, know, like people who throw around terms like ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ today. We cannot dare bark about denominations without our individual bodies when we have created so many within our own.

    2. Yes.

    First of all, you never asked #2 of me at any point, and I don’t think anyone is calling that fact into question.

    “Denominational people have tried to label those who only want to be Christians as a denomination for years, but that does not make it so.”

    …um…but seriously, most denominational people could care less, really…don’t know about you, but when I was a part of the denominational community, I had little to no idea a group calling itself the churches of Christ even existing. Let’s be honest, our group – and this argument – isn’t even a blip on their radar, for the most part.

    Of course the church of Christ has been in existence since Pentecost. I take issue with the idea that without question in any way the group that names themselves that on their buildings is always one and the same (i.e., the only part) with that church. You must have missed my disclaimer at the top of my comment. Of course there were no denominations when the church began. That’s like saying you have to admit there were no people before God created them. It’s also true that there was no Bible as we have it today. Does that mean it is scripturally wrong as well?

    I hope you’re not suggesting I’m making light of or mocking the church for which Christ died.

    As for your ‘straw man’, I don’t think Dell is being untruthful (I’ll put it kindly like that) about the emails he says he has. And honestly, it seems to me that your whole argument with Dell about this from the beginning is that they are chock full of nothing but false teaching. Go back and tell me no one is judging someone else based on what they assume the other are teaching. How do you know what they’re teaching, Matt? Have you been to their services lately to see (I remember you saying elsewhere that you came from a denominational background – as did I)? If you haven’t, then who is stereotyping who?

    Look, no one is implying they want to see the body of Christ splintered into a million pieces. My aim is unity, just as I’m sure your’s and Dell’s and everyone else’s is. The overriding point has been that you or I or anyone else cannot judge what’s going on in the heart of another individual – what they believe, what they know concerning Christ or the Bible, etc.

    I can’t even truthfully tell if you’re in Christ, Matt, because only God can see and judge the heart. I take on faith that you are who and what you say you are, and the people at the congregation where you serve do the same, as well as seeing the fruits that grow from your life and ministry. I know you afford me and many others on this blog the same courtesy.

    So if we, who both claim to be a part of the same group, have to take on faith that each is truly a Christian as we see it, how can we look at other groups – full of people who I assure you who search the scriptures and attempt to live the Christian life and grow closer to Christ in their understanding just as diligently as you and I – and make broad judgment calls about them?

    The only experience I can tell you about is my own, and I can tell you for a fact that after twenty odd years in a basically Baptist background, 99.5% of what I believed as an individual did not change in the least. The only reason I was baptized at that point was because I had gone forward at twelve not fully knowing what I was doing – because a friend had done it and I thought ‘now is my turn.’ I sat through classes at a brotherhood college, barely able to contain my hysterical laughter when the professor in a ‘Religions in America’ class read things written almost two hundred years ago as if they were taught book, chapter and verse every Sunday in every Baptist church – things I had never heard in my life, and wouldn’t have believed if I had. Matt, people in denominations who are searching with an open heart can be pointed to a fuller understanding of truth by what they learn. But if we come at them with the attitude it seems you are presenting in this manner, you’re wasting your time. Believe me, some ‘church-of-Christers’ tried this with me at first and it was all I could do not to feed them their teeth (not exactly a Christian reaction, I know, but we all have our moments).

    This is rambling, I’m tired, and my wife and I have a dinner date to keep. Again, Matt, apologies for any rude sounding comments. Hope your worship and ministry goes well this weekend.

  54. Wayne McDaniel says:

    Dell made the indisputable point that Jesus did not condemn the various sects of the Jews. We read of Jesus calling people to follow him, and that his days were made up of calling upon the Father, and going about doing good (A. 10:38). Trying to DISTINGUISH OURSELVES from other sinners by various propositions we entertain a few hours a week, expresses a self-righteousness that brings to mind the embarrassing odor of a polluted garment. (Isa. 64:6)

  55. Matt Clifton says:

    Dennis,

    You asked me “Do you believe the “faith only” way of salvation that most denominations preach is false?” The answer is yes I do believe that it is false.

    Then this is a crucial point. How can we fellowship with or approve in any way of a group that is teaching error that will lead someone to be lost?

    If I am required to condemn every group that preaches something false then no one will be left standing, because we all preach things that are false. Look back at our history to see how many things we have bound on others in their day. We see now that they were false.

    Where I grew up we almost had a church split over whether or not we could put a water fountain in the foyer. How foolish is that?

    Very foolish, indeed. But can we not discern the difference between teaching falsely about a water fountain, and teaching falsely about how to be saved? BIG difference, I should say. 🙂

    Regarding denominations, my thought is that we should approach them as if our number one goal in life is to actually reach them with the truth in such a way that they will be won over–not justifiably condemned.

    I agree, and this is the way I minister.

    Think about what I’ve been saying, Matt. You are obviously a very conscientious person. You are obviously very articulate and knowledgeable. Your effectiveness will be enhanced if you drop the rock. Just prayerfully consider it.

    Thank you, I appreciate the kind words. But how do you know I carry a stone?

    Perhaps we have not defined fully what we mean by “preaching against denominationalism.” This would be a good point to do that.

    What you may be thinking of is standing in the pulpit shouting about the errors of the baptists to a roomful of members of the church. That, IMO, is cowardly, when it is not followed up by my understanding of preaching against denominationalism.

    What I think of when I say preaching and teaching against it is getting to know members and preachers in denominations and having open, honest conversations with them about the issues.

    We do little good preaching to one another about denominations. We’ve got to do personal teaching with those in denominations to have any effect. When we do it from the pulpit, we are usually wasting our time, and depriving the congregation of teaching and edification.

    Anyway, thanks for your comments, Dennis. It’s good to talk to you, brother.

  56. Clint P. says:

    A very prominent member of our congregation told me that if he go to heaven and their were Baptists there he would turn around and walk out. Sadly I think that this man, though he would never say so himself, actually believes that right practice in worship equals righteousness. So yes there are people trust their abilities more than they trust God’s grace.

  57. Matt Clifton says:

    Brad,

    When I asked if denominationalism is wrong, you said:

    1. Yes. I wrote it twice in the above comment, but I’ll include it again here.

    Good. We agree that it is wrong.

    But to answer the question you are really asking, no, the Bible says absolutely nothing about denominationalism as we know it;

    Then why is it wrong?

    2. Yes.

    Good, we agree again.

    First of all, you never asked #2 of me at any point, and I don’t think anyone is calling that fact into question.

    No, I did not ask you this previously. I ask because it has a bearing on denominationalism and whether we should oppose it. Why would we NOT oppose a group that teaches people they are saved, when they are really not?

    What do you think? 2,000 words or less, please. 🙂

  58. Matt Clifton says:

    Wayne,

    Dell made the indisputable point that Jesus did not condemn the various sects of the Jews.

    Far from indisputable! Just saying so doesn’t make it true. Jesus opposed the teachings of the Pharisees and confronted them in the streets. He told them they practiced traditions of men, and made their proselytes more of a son of hell than they were. I think that is preaching against them, don’t you?

    We read of Jesus calling people to follow him, and that his days were made up of calling upon the Father, and going about doing good (A. 10:38). Trying to DISTINGUISH OURSELVES from other sinners by various propositions we entertain a few hours a week, expresses a self-righteousness that brings to mind the embarrassing odor of a polluted garment. (Isa. 64:6)

    There is no reason these things cannot be done, and still teach against the errors that denominations are pushing. If we are content to allow people to go to hell because they are following the false “salvation by sinner’s prayer” that is pushed in denoms, then we will be accountable for it before God in the day of judgment.

  59. Matt Clifton says:

    Clint P.,

    A very prominent member of our congregation told me that if he go to heaven and their were Baptists there he would turn around and walk out.

    That’s a foolish position to hold, indeed. I would be overjoyed if there were baptists there.

    Sadly I think that this man, though he would never say so himself, actually believes that right practice in worship equals righteousness. So yes there are people trust their abilities more than they trust God’s grace.

    Yes, there are some. There are also those on the other extreme, who think God’s grace will cover their lack of obedience.

  60. Matt Clifton says:

    Brad,

    As for your ’straw man’, I don’t think Dell is being untruthful (I’ll put it kindly like that) about the emails he says he has.

    I did not say, nor mean to imply, that Dell was being untruthful in any way. What I was getting at is that assuming that a person who has a very high view of obedience is “trusting in their own perfect understanding and application of scripture” for salvation instead of Jesus is a straw man, because that is not what they think. As I said, folks like that think they are holding the words of God and Christ in very high esteem, and valuing His word above human institutions and personalities.

    Can you not see any merit there, friends and brothers?

  61. Dennis says:

    Matt,
    The disagreements we’ve had in the past over water fountains, kitchen in the church, helping orphans homes, family life centers, failing to attend 3 times per week, etc., have all been used to condemn others. At times they have all been matters of fellowship and salvation. Last year a brother of mine told me he could not fellowship with me because the church (of Christ) I attend will help non-Christians financially out of the church funds. He said that is unauthorized, but that we could do so as individual Christians. It rises to the level of water fountains in my mind, but it rises to a much higher level in his mind.
    Though I believe that I must teach that baptism is required for salvation, I don’t believe that I must withhold fellowship from an individual who disagrees with me on that point. He is not disagreeing to be rebellious to God. He just sees it a little differently than me. I think he’s wrong. But he’s sincere in his belief and his search. He’s a seeker.
    Awhile back I put together a list of all the scriptures that indicated we can be saved by believing (the ones that did not include baptism in the verses). ( I recommend you do that.) Until I did that I did not realize how many times baptism is not written. I don’t think that removes the requirement of baptism, but it did help me to see how someone, who was raised in an environment different from my own, could believe it was not as important as I did. And if it was his dad, who has now passed on who taught him that, he has a lot to overcome before he can accept that as error.
    And, they make a pretty good case about baptism is a work that you do after you believe and we are not saved by works. Therefore baptism is not critical for salvation. Though I think they are a little bit off on that point, I can see how someone who is seeking the truth could believe that. And I can also see how someone could tighten their grip on that point if they become defensive because of my lack of diplomacy.
    In Corinth (chap 8), although there was really nothing wrong with eating meat offered to idols Paul did not demand that the erring brother immediately drop his errant position. And he did tell the brethren who had the correct understanding to be conscious of their behavior toward the erring brethren so that they would not be destroyed.
    Thanks for the clarification about how you meet with preachers of the denominations rather than shout it from the pulpit. Maybe you don’t have a stone, or at least it is smaller than I had originally errantly believed.
    I may be wrong in the way I have decided to approach things but I decided a couple of years ago that if someone tells me he is a Christian I accept him as a brother. He may not really be my brother, but God will make that decision–not me. My job is just to love him. And, from that position we can study together without being adversarial and perhaps we can both grow in the word and into a more perfect understanding of God’s will.
    I just know that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the evil one. In this world of rampant sin I would rather have a billion Baptists than human secularists and all those non believing ists.
    I appreciate your respectful and thoughtful discussion. You truly are a loving brother. God Bless, Dennis

  62. Matt,
    I was called out of town this afternoon. You asked a question and you deserve an answer. You asked,
    _____________________________________________
    To be absolutely clear, what you are telling me is that you have emails from preachers who are telling you they do not have to trust Jesus for their salvation, but instead they only have to trust their abilities to perfectly follow the commands of the Bible.

    Is this what you are telling me?
    _______________________________________________

    I have e-mails from preachers who are telling me that unless you understand and adhere to Scripture exactly as it is written you cannot be saved. My conclusion from their conversation is that they believe what they are saying, ie salvation depends on their understanding and adhereing to Scripture exactly as it is written or they will be lost. This is what I am telling you. This is exactly what I am saying, I don’t want to be misunderstood. To put it plainly Matt, they believe unless they understand and adhere to Scripture exactly as it is written Jesus is of no value to them in regard to their salvation.

    Matt you tell me, where are they putting their trust if it isn’t in their own intellectual abilities?

    Unfortunately I do not believe they are an exception to the rule. I believe they constitute an extremely large segment of our fellowship. Otherwise our understanding of Scripture would not be the standard by which we judge all others.

  63. Brad says:

    Don’t have but a minute here. Matt, I answered your questions three times over. If you aren’t happy with what I said, then it’s not my problem.

    Just wanted to point out something you said in reply to Dennis:

    “Very foolish, indeed. But can we not discern the difference between teaching falsely about a water fountain, and teaching falsely about how to be saved? BIG difference, I should say.”

    So you’re saying you can decide what false teaching is damning and what false teaching isn’t? Well, Matt, why haven’t you solved this problem for the church at large already? False teaching IS false teaching, after all.

    I am tiring of all this; not one thing being said here is accomplishing anything for the kingdom. I’ve got real work to do.

  64. Matt Clifton says:

    Brad,

    Don’t have but a minute here. Matt, I answered your questions three times over. If you aren’t happy with what I said, then it’s not my problem.

    I am very sorry that you have become angry. If there was something about my tone or questions that caused you to feel this way, I am sorry.

    What I do not apologize for is the point I am trying to make. The reasoning I am presenting you with is sound. This is what I feel like you are avoiding:

    First, you say denominationalism is wrong. Then, you say the Bible says nothing about denominationalism.

    I simply asked you to clarify why you think it is wrong, if the Bible says nothing about it. Valid question, I am sorry if it makes you angry. Anger was not the reaction I was hoping for.

    Just wanted to point out something you said in reply to Dennis:

    “Very foolish, indeed. But can we not discern the difference between teaching falsely about a water fountain, and teaching falsely about how to be saved? BIG difference, I should say.”

    So you’re saying you can decide what false teaching is damning and what false teaching isn’t? Well, Matt, why haven’t you solved this problem for the church at large already? False teaching IS false teaching, after all.

    Do you believe teaching on baptism for the remission of sins is in the same category with how we decorate a church building? If you can see the difference, then we are in agreement. If not, well…

    I am tiring of all this; not one thing being said here is accomplishing anything for the kingdom. I’ve got real work to do.

    Anytime His word is discussed with the goal of coming to a better understanding of His will, good is being done.

    May God bless you and keep you, brother.

    Matt

  65. Matt Clifton says:

    Dell,

    I have e-mails from preachers who are telling me that unless you understand and adhere to Scripture exactly as it is written you cannot be saved. My conclusion from their conversation is that they believe what they are saying, ie salvation depends on their understanding and adhereing to Scripture exactly as it is written or they will be lost. This is what I am telling you. This is exactly what I am saying, I don’t want to be misunderstood. To put it plainly Matt, they believe unless they understand and adhere to Scripture exactly as it is written Jesus is of no value to them in regard to their salvation.

    Well, I’ve never met anyone who said you had to apply and understand EVERYTHING perfectly in order to be saved. None of us could make it on those terms.

    What the Bible does talk about is pressing toward the mark, disciplining ourselves, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and walking in the light. We definitely have sin, every one of us, and if we say we don’t, we are in much worse shape than we imagine.

    On the flipside, there are clear instructions in the Bible that man CAN understand. Sometimes we do not do these things because we are selfish. Sometimes we know to do right, but do not do it, and that is sin.

    Somewhere between “grace covers everything, we don’t have to do anything” and “we have to perform perfectly” lies the truth.

    Matt you tell me, where are they putting their trust if it isn’t in their own intellectual abilities?

    If they say, “I don’t need Jesus,” then they are lost.

    If they believe they are doing what Jesus wants them to do, and therefore trusting that they are obeying His word (John 14:15), you can’t really say they are trusting their own intellects, in my opinion. They are using what God gave them to try to understand fully what God wants of them.

    Unfortunately I do not believe they are an exception to the rule. I believe they constitute an extremely large segment of our fellowship. Otherwise our understanding of Scripture would not be the standard by which we judge all others.

    WARNING! This is my opinion. The ultra-conservatives and the ultra-progressives are squeaky wheels. The bulk of the church is middle of the road, sticking to biblical principles. The loud talkers are making a lot of noise, and making it seem like there are a lot more of them than one would think. Again, my opinion, take it for what it’s worth, speaking as one from the front lines.

  66. Matt you said,

    “WARNING! This is my opinion. The ultra-conservatives and the ultra-progressives are squeaky wheels. The bulk of the church is middle of the road, sticking to biblical principles. The loud talkers are making a lot of noise, and making it seem like there are a lot more of them than one would think. Again, my opinion, take it for what it’s worth, speaking as one from the front lines.”
    ————————————————————————
    Matt, As one who has been on the front lines for more than 32 years, for the sake of the church, I certainly hope you are right. dell

  67. 1 Middle Man says:

    Friends,

    Well…I am sorry I have missed out on all of the fun…left at 32, back at 66. 🙂 Fascinating points of view…excellent discussion — what should be taking place on the blog network.

    Observations…I do not think that self-righteousness is easily detectable. Humility often disguises itself as false humility…even while having the appearance of the former. In relationship to another individual in a similar discussion in which I have participated, I have said, we are not so much betrayed by what we say, but in how we say it. I have certainly been guilty of being reactive and emotive rather than proactive and reasonable.

    To the point…so much of what we call “reasoning”…as in trying to discern or determine “what denominationalism is” or “is not” is more a revelation and exercise not only in semantics, but is a reflection of an attitude of the heart. What IS revealed is our attitude toward others…as to whether we are really being Christ-like or not. It is easy to say…I love other “believers” including those who are different from me, but if I am set against “how they live, move and breathe” within their religious framework, I have already sat in judgment of them — and therefore am not going to be capable of loving them sincerely and fully? At the least, I am going to be displaying pity, rather than showing “love” or some other of the fruit of the Spirit. The forest is not as easy to see when we are facing some individual trees on a regular basis — and I have been and still am guilty of this, depending upon the argument. I think that when we are so cocksure of our argumentation, then we are likely staring at the trees. There is room for all argumentation, but, I am likely going to be persuaded by those who have taken the panoramic spiritual journey.

    There are many individuals in our brotherhood who do not believe in unity, but uniformity, as Dennis, Dell and others have shared. Any deviation for the uniform norm is met with consternation, at least…and condemnation, generally. This IS trust in self-rightousness and in our own understanding, rather than living “grace through faith.” The believe system is born out in how such individuals treat their fellow brethren and others. They may talk about being loving, etc., but the proof really is in the pudding…and those who have a realistically practical view of salvation by right doctrine, are some of the most judgmental, unloving people in the church. That is because the theological, spiritual focus IS in the wrong place. Faith broadens our scope, spirit and understanding, without making any doctrinal sacrifices. We need to allow ourselves to be stretched and shaped. It is easy to argue in order to defend “what I already believe,” but not so easy to approach matters and issues without pretense or prejudice. Blessings,

    Don

  68. Dell Kimberly says:

    Reblogged this on Who Told You That.

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