Author: Otto Bolds
Denominationalism – My Last Message to the Church : Sept 4, 1919
What has denominationalism done for the world?
Before I answer, let me explain that there is a difference between the spirit of denominationalism, and true Christians who are actively working within the confines of denominations.
It is true that Christianity is the most civilizing power in the world. This power, when exercised through saved individuals working in connection with denominationalism, has caused credit to be given to it which it not rightfully its own.
Now back to the initial question:
Denominationalism has so flooded the world with different doctrines, all labeled “Christian,” that every person who has any tendency toward becoming a Christian may find a faith that suits him. Any and all of these faiths hold out to the person who embraces them the hope that if he will faithfully adhere to them he will gain a home in heaven.
There is but one Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 8:6) who is the only Mediator between God and men. (I Tim. 2:5). This Christ has given us one faith (Eph. 4:5): this faith is contained in the gospel. (Phil. 1:27). Therefore, every faith other than the gospel which Jesus Christ authored is a counterfeit
The faith of the gospel teaches that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). Many church members, under the influence of some of these false and deceptive faiths, have been led into a profession of Christianity without even learning that it is necessary to be born again. They have merely been catechized and confirmed into some religious faith.
Multitudes of others who have learned more about an experience of salvation through conversion, but have not learned that salvation saves and keeps them from sin and enables them to live a sin-free life, soon become a prey to their own weakness or surrounding influences, and their religion becomes a mere form.
Thus the world is flooded with lifeless formal professors who instead of showing the benefits of the Christian religion, drag its banner into the dust of worldliness, gloominess, grumbling, sensuality, pride, division, etc., until multitudes who make no profession of religion have lost confidence in the Christian faith.
Among the sins of denominationalism there is no greater than the sin of division and sect making. What right has any man or set of men to establish a religious faith differing from the New Testament which offers the souls of men a hope of heaven by conforming to that faith?
Where, when, and by whom did that kind of work begin?
Most Bible students know that the first proposition of the serpent after opening his conversation with Eve was to call in question the Word of God, offering a substitute instead. He is still at that kind of business today and uses human beings to accomplish his work.
Just as Christ and those who are born of Him (His Church), constitute the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), so also every religious body established upon false doctrine (doctrine that denies the Word of God or any portion of it), is the seed of the serpent.
There is and always has been, (since the time of God’s declaration recorded in Genesis 3:15), and will be (until the time when the beast and false prophet and those that worshiped his image are cast into a lake of fire burning with brimstone Rev. 19:20), enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
Besides flooding the world with false doctrines and lifeless professors, denominationalism has divided Christians into hundreds of divisional bodies so that they can not practice the unity taught by Jesus Christ.
Even the few religious bodies which embrace the doctrine of holiness can not live it in their sectarian denominations because holiness, as an attribute of God, contains within itself the elements of unity and will not admit division. All who are filled with the holiness of God must see and flow together. As the early Church was a unit, all of one heart and of one soul, so must the gathered Church in the evening time be the same.
No humanly organized denomination can stand upon the Word of God; it must have a creed of its own. That creed must offer some future hope to those who conform to it, otherwise there is nothing to induce people to subscribe to it. And when people are offered a future hope of heaven by subscribing to a creed, that creed is offered as a substitute for the Word of God and thus becomes the enemy of the Word of God.
Denominationalism can not endorse the whole Word of God without destroying itself, because the Word of God teaches holiness and unity, which destroys denominationalism. Neither can the Church of God acknowledge denominationalism as being scriptural without bringing destruction upon itself.
Remember, God has placed enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, and as above stated, all false religion is the seed of the serpent, as the true Church of God is the seed of the woman.
It is true that Christ directly is the seed of the woman, but all who are in Him are heirs with Him and share with Him the glorious triumph over the serpent. As He Himself said to His disciples, “Satan shall be bruised under your feet shortly,” referring to the coming of the Holy Ghost which would make them more than conquerors. Also, Jesus said to His Father, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them.” Thus the body of Christ, the Church, constitutes with Him the seed of the woman.
I will here quote the words of D. S. Warner from the book The Cleansing of the Sanctuary, page 265, topic “Exclusiveness.”
“The use of this term conveys the idea that all who are not in the Church that Jesus founded are excluded from salvation and the Christian’s hope. If any person is not disposed to comply with the conditions of membership in God’s Church he cannot turn aside and join some other church that presents a wider door; for there is no other.
“There is but one Saviour for all men: ‘There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.’ But all who are saved by Him are ‘baptized [or inducted] by one Spirit into one body;’ so all who are outside of this one body are excluded from the grace of God.
“Christ is an exclusive Christ; there is none other beside Him. The faith that He gave us is an exclusive faith; no other saves the soul. The truth of God is exclusive in its nature; everything contrary to it is false. The kingdom of Christ is exclusive. It is a stone that breaks everything else to pieces. The one Church which Jesus founded and named, and which is His own body, is also exclusive, for there is only ‘one body in Christ.’
“During the reign of pagan persecution the rulers offered to stop the bloody martyrdom and allow the Christians to worship God in freedom if they would confess that the pagan idols were also real Gods. This they could not do, but chose rather to die. And on this very point of exclusiveness is the present offense of the cross. People would not seriously object to God’s ministers setting forth the Church as contained in the Scriptures if we would recognize their earth-born institutions as being also God’s Churches. But this we cannot do and be honest before God and faithful to His Word. There is but one household of faith. Christ does not have a plurality of wives. He has but one bride, and she has no sisters. Thus saith her husband, ‘My dove, my undefiled is but one: she is the only one of her mother.’ (Song of Sol. Song 6:9).
“It is true there is in these last days a large sisterhood of Protestant bodies calling themselves churches, but the Lamb’s wife owns no kin to them. They are of an entirely different family. Their mother is ‘Mystery Babylon, the mother of harlots.’ ”
As “God is not the author of confusion,” His Church can not be a split-up and confused lot of rival institutions. He recognizes no sisterhood of churches. If, therefore, there is but one Church that emanated from God, whence come the rest? Martin Luther would answer, “Whatever is not of God is of the Devil.” Men come to us and say just what the Devil besought of Christ. “Let us alone.” “Go on and preach what you believe, but let everybody else alone.” This is great blindness.
The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness can not jointly flourish, nor even coexist in the same heart. No man can preach the truth without knocking down error, any more than darkness can yet hold sway after light has come. “So likewise, the Church of the living God which is the pillar and ground of the truth” must utterly exclude every counterfeit church.
God’s Church is exclusive like Himself. He who is not willing to commit himself exclusively to God and to the Church that Jesus purchased with His own blood is not fit for the kingdom.
While men have held a place both in God’s Church and man’s creeds through ignorance, yet when the true light comes they have no cloak for their ignorance and must cut loose from the one or the other. If they then refuse to walk in the light, “it shall be taken away from them that which they have.” Or if they only have a form, only seem to be religious, that which they “seem to have shall be taken away.”
The spirit of this age is to place Christ and Belial on an equality; to call everything religious “God’s Church,” and thus try to palm off upon the Almighty the corrupt works of the Devil. This insults His holiness by classifying with His heaven-born seed those who are yet sinful, though accepted in the various branches of denominationalism. But “the Lord knoweth them that are His.”
In the work of the salvation of sinners God seeks to save all who are lost, and He wants us to join Him to that endeavor in other words, work with Him to accomplish that end. But in the work of gathering His people out of sectism He only seeks to gather those who are truly His. All the rest must come by the way of the cross or the way of salvation. His sheep, using a scriptural term, will hear the call and obey, but the goats will rebel, then we can preach salvation to them. May God give us clear vision and grace to do the work of today.