Please know that I do not have any ill will or animosity towards anyone in a denomination. I have many family members and friends in denominations that I love, spend time with and pray for regularly in hopes that they will learn the truth. The proof that I love them all is right here on this website, where I have these published articles. I have already endured significant verbal and written persecution for proclaiming the truth of the Bible and exposing several false teachers. I am willing to absorb this treatment for the sake of God and the truth and the hope of this information reaching good hearts willing to learn the truth.
While it is true that I disagree with the doctrines of men that are taught and preached in denominations, it does not matter what I believe; it only matters what the Bible teaches. When we align the Bible with what is taught in denominations, we see they are in great conflict and cause confusion. Nonetheless, I do not want anyone to believe me. Please study the Bible for yourself and see if what is taught here aligns with the Bible. Studying the Bible is different from reading the Bible and listening to a man preach occasionally. The Bible is very clear that we must study to show ourselves worthy of God and be able to rightly divide the Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Thus I beg you, do not take any man's word for the truth, instead study the Bible and see if what he is saying lines up with the truth. Studying the Bible is how I discovered that those teaching and preaching in denominations are not telling the whole truth, as difficult as this may be for many people to accept.
What is a denomination? Merriam Webster defines a denomination as "a religious organization whose congregations are united in their adherence to its beliefs and practices." We might think of a denomination as a division of money, such as $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. For the sake of this study, a denomination is a division of the Christian religion that has a set of beliefs that it teaches and practices.
I don't think anyone has a firm grasp on the number of different denominations there are in the world today, but suffice it to say, there are a LOT! Examples of these are Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Lutheran, Episcopal, Latter-day Saints (Mormon), Jehovah's Witness, Seventh Day Adventists, Church of God, Christian Church, Scientology, and on and on. Then there are divisions of these, such as Southern Baptist, Independent Baptist, Reformed Baptist, American Baptist, Canadian Baptist, Free-Will Baptist, etc. You get the picture; the list seems like it is never-ending.
The scary thing about having all these different denominations is that they all have, at a minimum, slightly varying doctrines and beliefs that they teach and preach. Some of the differences are major, as we will discover. Some people might suggest one or more of the following to rationalize or support so many different denominations.
- So what? What's the big deal?
- You have your faith, and I have mine.
- As long as we all believe Jesus died for our sins, we will all go to heaven.
- We are all going to heaven; we are simply going on different wagons.
- The denomination does not matter; just go to church somewhere.
I would suggest that if you hold to one or more of these thoughts, you have yet to realize the consequences of having different doctrines and beliefs.
Let's consider the following Bible passages.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
These passages confirm that God desires all men to know the truth, and He is not the author of confusion.
Why is this important? Because denominations teach different doctrines and beliefs, as we have previously defined. Many of these doctrines oppose the other, creating confusion. When one denomination teaches a doctrine opposite of what another denomination teaches, both cannot be correct and proclaim truth from the Bible. Therefore all denominations cannot be contributing to God's desire to have all men come to the knowledge of the truth. Furthermore, if they are teaching opposite doctrines, it creates confusion.
For example, the Baptists teach that baptism is by immersion in water, and once saved, always saved with no risk of losing salvation. The Methodists teach that baptism is by the sprinkling of water, and salvation can be lost. These two teachings are in direct conflict, and both cannot be true. We do not find conflicting doctrines in the Bible, and the Bible does not support both of these doctrines being true. Consider that pentecostal churches (Assembly of God, Emmanual Holiness, Church of God, etc.) teach that salvation requires Holy Spirit baptism. A member of a pentecostal church told my wife that if she were not able to speak in tongues, she would not go to heaven. The Calvinist churches (Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.) teach that God unchangeable foreordained everything that comes to pass. They teach that we have no say so in our salvation, that God had already chosen who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, and nothing we do can change our destiny. The Catholics have many differences that conflict with other denominations and the Bible. These differences only scratch the surface of all the various doctrines being taught by denominations. The Bible does not teach all of these different doctrines; most are man-made doctrines using only that part of the Bible that might give partial support to their belief, even if it requires taking verses out of context or slightly rearranging the verses.
Denominationalism has caused divisions that cause its followers to cling only to that portion of the Scriptures that appear to support their man-made doctrines or practices, not the entire Bible. They divide the Christian religion, teach doctrines of men, and believe more in their rulebooks and handbooks than the Bible. They only teach portions of the Bible and ignore other passages. They use trickery, craftiness and deceive the simple and ordinary person. The Bible confirms there will be those who cause these divisions.
Romans 16:17,18 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
2 Timothy 4:3,4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Acts 20:29,30 "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears."
2 Corinthians 11:13,14 "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works."
Jesus warns of false teachers, explaining it is one reason why so many will follow the broad path to destruction.
Matthew 7:13-15 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
Some might suggest that these warnings are for the drastically different denominations such as Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, Scientology, or non-Christian religions such as Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Consider the previous Scripture and ask yourself if these denominations I just mentioned appear in sheep's clothing, as Jesus warned? I think not; they are vastly different than the majority of the mainstream Christian denominations. The denominations to concern ourselves with are the ones who have false teachers using "smooth and flattering speech" and appear to be "an angel of light" and "transform themselves into ministers of righteousness." They are very difficult to expose because they use the Bible, preach and teach some truth mixed with lies, and have millions of followers. Having this many followers causes their followers to believe they can't be false teachers because the majority of people follow them, just like Jesus said they would. Their followers are not checking to make sure what is preached to them is from the Bible.
Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Their followers do not study the Bible to show themselves approved and cannot rightly divide the truth, so they believe a lie.
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
The Bible tells us that God turns their followers over to these false teachers because they don't bother to study, don't want to hear the truth, and have no love for the truth. These words may seem harsh, but it is what the Bible clearly explains to us.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Think about this "strong delusion," what can that be? If you are tangled up listening to "smooth words and flattering speech" by the "lying wonders" of the world, you may become very emotional. Your emotions have over-taken you to an almost uncontrollable point, and you "feel" like the Holy Spirit is leading you. It's nothing more than a strong delusion. Emotions cannot play on our conscience and influence our decisions. Paul had this same problem, as he persecuted Christians with a good conscience, but we know he was wrong in what he was doing. Paul was having Christians killed.
Acts 23:1 "Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day."
We have to love the truth enough to get away from these false teachers playing on our emotions. We cannot allow our conscience to be our guide to the truth. Studying the Bible must be our guide.
When Paul heard there were divisions in the church, he had something to say about it.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
If Paul were living today, he would say, "Now I say this, that each of you says, 'I am a Baptist,' or 'I am a Methodist,' or 'I am a Catholic' or 'I am of Christ.' Is Christ divided?"
Paul pleaded that they "all speak the same thing." So I ask, do denominations believe this does not apply to them? Paul pleaded that they "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." So I ask, do denominations believe this does not apply to them? Paul pleaded, "that there be no divisions" among them. So I ask again, do denominations believe they are exempt from this plea? Denominations must ignore this Scripture because it is in direct conflict with their divisions, and they can't be of the same mind, same judgment, and speak the same things.
Many preachers have preached their false doctrines for so many years that they have come to believe in them. Because of false teachings, long-time traditions of men, old habits, and pride, men have wrestled with the Scriptures to satisfy themselves and their congregations instead of God. Many are sincere but cannot let go of the false traditions and pride. They stand to lose too much and fear persecution.
Think about it... a preacher that has preached to a congregation for several years will have to stand up before his congregation and tell them that he has misled them for all these years. He will have to admit that what he has been preaching is not the whole truth, and in fact, much of what he has taught is false. He will have to tell them that they are not saved according to the Bible. It would be overwhelming for that preacher to do such a thing... although it would undoubtedly be the right thing to do.
Jeremiah 6:16 Thus says the LORD: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'
Many people will say that they cannot accept this truth because their parents, grandparents, or close relatives believed the way their preacher teaches today. Yes, it is unfortunate, and to some, it is hard to accept, but it is true. Many people have current family and best friends that would persecute them, which would be too much for them to withstand. They believe it would be admitting that quite possibly some of their family members who have passed away might not have been saved. It is extremely difficult to choose God over family. Jesus said the family would divide because of Him.
Matthew 10:34-39 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW'; and 'A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THOSE OF HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
Sadly, denominations have created these situations where we have to make tough decisions to either follow God or follow family.
If you have a chance to study the history of denominations, you will learn that the Catholic Church was formed in the 500s. The first Protestant denominations began in the early 1500s. Most major denominations got their start in the 1500s and 1600s. Of course, in the last 100 years, we have had numerous other denominations creep into our society. Nearly every one of these denominations has different beliefs, doctrines, and ways of worship, along with various creeds, handbooks, and rulebooks to support their man-made doctrines.
You may ask, "Well, Mr. Sonnie, just what are we supposed to do? Are not all churches a denomination? Where are we supposed to worship?"
These are excellent questions, and the Bible gives us the answers.
Most importantly, we have to start studying the Bible to know the truth. If we don't know the truth, how can we know what is being preached to us is the truth? How can we identify false teachers if we have not studied the Bible? It is difficult to emphasize enough the importance of good Bible study. Remember the Bereans that were mentioned in Acts 17?
Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
We may believe that a particular preacher is a really good man, and we may believe he is truly sincere, but we must ask ourselves, is he preaching and teaching the truth?
Once we learn the truth, we need to expose those who are not teaching the truth, just as I have done here in this study. The Bible tells us to expose them.
Ephesians 5:6-11 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
There is a church that is NOT a denomination. You might see churches that claim to be non-denominational, but in reality, they are multi-denominational. They welcome people from all denominations and claim to be non-denominational. Don't be fooled; they mix and match the various doctrines of many denominations. There is only one church that is truly non-denominational, and that is the church that Christ built, and we read about in Matthew chapter 16, when Jesus said, "upon this rock I will build my church."
So, where is this church? This church is the same church that started on the day of Pentecost when Peter used the keys to open the door of the church that Jesus built.
Matthew 16:18,19 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Acts 2:41-47 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
What church were they added to? The Lord's church, the church that Christ built.
Doesn't that church have to be one of these denominations? No... it does not.
I want to take an illustration from the late brother Grover Stevens who wrote "Why I Left The Baptist Church" to help answer where we will find this church. The illustration has been adapted for this study.
The Baptist church, and most denominations, believe the church that Christ built is considered the "invisible church," while the denominations are the "visible church." The Bible does not teach anything about a visible or invisible church, but for the sake of this illustration, we'll go along with what the denominations believe. Most denominations will say that once a person is saved, they become a Christian and are added to the invisible church. The person is later added to the denominational church once the congregation votes on the person's membership. I cannot say that all denominations vote on their members, but most have some method of a saved person becoming a member of their sect. To clarify, denominations believe that once a person prays the sinner's prayer or simply confesses faith in Jesus and believes they are saved, they are then Christians and added to the New Testament church that Jesus built, which the denominations label as the invisible church. Therefore, there is no argument from the denominations that a person is a saved Christian before being a member of a denomination.
Keeping all of the above in mind, if the sinner's prayer could save a person, or confessing faith and believing in Jesus could save a person, that person could do either of these from home or another location of their choice. It is not required that either of these acts be performed at a church building. Thus, a person can be saved Christian and then decide what denomination they want to join. Make sense?
Let's suppose that three denominations, the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, come together in one giant coliseum for a revival. Out of the thousands that attend, 400 of those attending did whatever they had to do to become a member of the New Testament church, the invisible church. I disagree (as does the Bible) with their method of becoming a Christian and a member of the New Testament church, but we'll continue to oblige to make the point. Once the revival is over, the 400 that the denominations consider saved Christians are told to go and join the denomination of their choice. 100 decide to join the Baptist denomination, 100 join the Methodist, and 100 join the Presbyterian, leaving 100 undecided. What made the first 100 Baptists? According to these denominations, they were already members of the Lord's church; then, they joined the Baptist church. What was it that made them Baptists? It was their acknowledgment of the doctrines peculiar to the Baptist church. If the doctrines don't measure up to the Baptist church requirements, it's not the Baptist church; it's some other church. Thus, in the eyes of the denominations, a Christian plus the peculiarities of the Baptist church make a Baptist. A Christian plus the peculiarities of the Methodist church make a Methodist and the same for Presbyterian. It's always a Christian first, then whatever doctrinal peculiarities the Christian wants to follow will determine the second (visible) church they wish to join and thus give them their denominational name (i.e., Baptist, Methodist, Catholic). Make no mistake about it; according to the denominations, you are becoming a member of two churches, one visible and one invisible. But why become a member of the second church? Why become a member of a denomination? The Bible does not teach anything remotely resembling becoming a member of two churches. Remember in Acts 2:47, "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
So what about the other 100 people who were saved that night? They couldn't make up their mind which denomination they wanted to join. After they studied the Bible, they realized they were already Christians. They realized they were already members of the New Testament church. They get together and decide that they want to find a gathering place to meet on the first day of each week and not be a member of any denomination. Is there anything in the Bible that says they can't do this? No... the Bible actually commands them to assemble. They choose to simply be Christians and not join any denomination. They choose not to wear any other name other than Christian.
Acts 4:12 "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
This church (assembly of these 100 saved Christians) is the church we want to be a member of... the one that is free from all denominations. All denominations teach that you do not have to be a member of any denomination to be a saved Christian. When we teach this, they don't like it because they want everyone to be a part of a denomination. They want everyone to be a member of two churches. However, the Bible teaches there is only one church and that we can be members of that one church without being a part of any denomination. The BIBLE is the only handbook, rule book, or doctrine that we need. The infallible, inspired, imperishable, incorruptible Word of God!
Please erase from your mind what the denominations teach on how to become a saved Christian, and look only to the Bible for those instructions. There is no reason to believe any of the nonsense that men in denominations have created over the last 4-500 years on how to be saved. Jesus and the apostles taught how we are saved, and it is clearly laid out in the Bible. See the navigation menu to the right of this article and read How To Become A Christian, which includes all of the Scriptures that fully explain salvation.
Next, I would like to address this fallacy that there are two churches, one invisible and one visible. The one visible church the denominations refer to is not really one; but you choose one from many different denominational churches. They are anything but one; they are many. As previously stated, this is not taught in the Bible. In fact, the Bible teaches the exact opposite, that there is only one church, which is the church that belongs to Christ.
It is essential to understand that the Bible uses the words "church" and "body" interchangeably. Consider the following, which can also be found within the study in the navigation menu to the right, The History Of The Church.
Colossians 1:24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
Ephesians 1:22,23 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Here we learn that His body, the "body" of Christ, is the church. Thus, body and church are the same. Now consider the following passages that explain there is only one body, which means there is only one church.
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
1 Corinthians 12:11,12 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
There is only one body, which is the body of Christ, and His body is the church. This church belongs to Christ, and He is the head of this church.
Romans 12:4,5 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.
1 Corinthians 12:18-20 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
Consider all of these passages that explain these essential facts...
- The church is the body.
- The body is the church.
- The church is His body, the body belonging to Christ.
- There is only one body.
- The body is one.
- There is one body in Christ.
- Christians are the body of Christ, and if the body is the church, then Christians are the church of Christ.
How did the members (Christians) become part of the body? As shown in 1 Corinthians 12, we are "baptized into the one body."
Now to answer the question, where can we find the church where we should worship? We find this church in the Bible. You see, we don't "go to church"... we are the church. The church is NOT the building! The church is the people inside the building, provided they are saved. Once we are saved, we are added to the church; thus, all saved people are the church, whether in the building or not. The church members are the called out. They are called out of the world and into Christ by obedience to the gospel. The Greek word for "church" is "ecclesia," which means those "called out," or "the saved," and previous verses show that the saved make up the church... the saved are the called out.
From above, we know the church belongs to Christ... it is the "church of Christ." To help better illustrate this ownership, I own a gun; the gun belongs to me; thus, it is the "gun of Sonnie." Make sense? So when we say the "church of Christ," this represents the church that belongs to Christ. Even the denominations agree that anyone saved is a member of the one church that belongs to Christ. It's what they call the invisible church. However, the church of Christ, the church that encompasses all of the saved, is anything but invisible. All of the various churches mentioned in the Bible met on the first day of the week; they prayed, sang, had communion (Lord's Supper), gave of their means, and heard the Word preached. They were never any part of a denomination... and neither do we need to be a part of any denomination. We can be a Christian, be called a Christian, and there is no reason to be a part of any denomination and be called any other name other than Christian. We are simply the church of Christ, the church of the saints, the church that belongs to Christ.
The conclusion here is to find a congregation of the Lord's church (with no denominational ties) where they meet and worship on the first day of each week as the Bible has commanded. The Bible speaks of the church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, the church at Galatia, and it specifically mentions the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16), which represents the congregations that are composed of the saved. Look for a congregation that wears a Biblical name, and most are going to include the phrase "church of Christ." My wife and I currently worship at the Siloam church of Christ. We often visit the Sasser church of Christ and know many brothers and sisters in Christ at the Luverne church of Christ, the Walnut Street church of Christ, the Panama Street church of Christ, and many other churches of Christ. We understand denominations will say derogatory things about us because we call them out, we expose their false teaching. Those that were exposed by Jesus and the apostles were not happy about being called out.
Yes, denominations think that a "church of Christ" is nothing more than another denomination, and in some cases, they are because some denominations have taken on the name to deceive people. They want Christians to think they are a church of Christ, but when you visit them, you quickly learn they do not practice New Testament worship. You have to choose carefully. You have to study the Bible to know the pattern of worship commanded and how the church is to be organized. There is a study in the menu to the right, What is True Worship? This study gives Bible proof of how we are to worship God. It all boils down to how well you study the Bible and how much you desire to know the truth. If you are struggling to understand a subject, it's time to dig deep into the Bible and find the truth. The Bible and these studies contained on this website can help you learn the truth.
2 John 1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
For God's sake and your own soul... study the Scriptures and "FIND" the "TRUTH" and make absolutely sure you have "ETERNAL LIFE."
It is what the Holy Scriptures prove... please read the evidence for yourself.
God bless you!