Are Denominations Dividing the Church?
How did today’s church get so divided – Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Mennonites, Orthodox, Mormons, to list just a few? Is it an abomination before the Lord? How do we figure out which group is following God’s truth?
One day, Jesus turned to one of His most faithful disciples, fisherman Simon Bar-Jonah, and gave him a new name. God had only done that a few times before – Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, then a few years later, Saul to Paul. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus not only re-named Simon, but told him: “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
“This was an extraordinary thing for Jesus to do,” writes Christian attorney John Salza, “because ‘rock’ was not even a name in Jesus’ time. Jesus did this, not to give Simon a strange name, but to identify his new status among the apostles. When God changes a person’s name, He changes their status.” Indeed, Peter would have a unique role in founding the church.
The Gospel records that Jesus "built one church and that all saved people were in that church,” writes David Pratt. “He prayed for unity and rebuked division.” In 1 Corinthians 1:10, the Apostle Paul pleaded “let there be no divisions among you!”
So, how did today’s church get so divided – Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Mennonites, Orthodox, Mormons, to list just a few?
“Today, hundreds of denominations exist in the name of Christianity,” notes Pratt, “claiming to be Christian. They are divided and contradict one another.” Sometimes their theological differences are puzzling. In order to receive eternal salvation, Southern Baptists believe we must hear the Gospel, believe Jesus is Lord, confess that belief before others and repent of our sins, then having achieved salvation, we must be baptized in obedience to Christ's example. The Churches of Christ/Christian Churches teach exactly the same thing – except for the sequence: salvation results after, but never before, the final step – baptism. Then the Southern Baptists believe a true Christian cannot lose his salvation; the Churches of Christ disagree – a believer can “backslide” and end up in Hell just like anybody else.