O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day… (Dan. 9:7)
If there is one overriding characteristic of modern day Christianity, or “the church at large,” it would have to be simply, confusion.
If one studies the tenets of the more than a thousand denominations large and small it is possible to find contradictory teachings regarding nearly any and every doctrine one can think of.
There are those who teach “eternal security” and those who teach that one can lose salvation. There are those who teach that salvation is by faith alone and those who teach that salvation is by water baptism only. Some believe in a future Rapture of the church, others say that will never happen. Some deny the basic concept of a future 1,000 year kingdom of Christ on earth, while for others it is the centerpiece of their doctrine. Some denominations “sprinkle” infants into the kingdom, while others reserve water baptism for adult converts, and still others deny that water baptism is for the church age at all.
With the advent of the “Charismatic renewal,” a host of new doctrinal issues regarding the origin and purpose of “spiritual gifts” and “signs and wonders” have been added to the previous theological debates regarding the nature of the Trinity, transubstantiation, election and predestination, and so on. Some are convinced that “speaking in tongues” is “evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” while others denounce the practice as demonic.
We could go on and on and on giving examples of doctrinal differences that exist among professed believers today, whether it be regarding the nature and purpose of the Lord’s Supper, the proper organization and governing of “the church,” or the scriptural role of women and their suitability for “ministry” in the church. But you can probably come up with your own list of the doctrinal issues with which you have found yourself at odds with another believer.
How does this square with Paul’s exhortation in I Corinthians 1:10?
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
The answer is simple. It does not. No more than the existence of more than 1,000 denominations (divisions) of Christians complies with Paul’s exhortation to unity:
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (I Cor. 3:3-4)
How is it then that “denominationalism” is held in such high regard by so many who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and claim the scriptures, including the writings of Paul, to be their “final and ultimate authority?”
Let us be absolutely clear about the origin of denominations. In James 3:16 the apostle says, “Where envy and strife exist, there is confusion.” This is confirmation of Paul’s observation in I Cor. 3:3. The New Testament explicitly teaches that all division in the Body of Christ (other than divisions imposed by space and time) are the result of the flesh, or as Paul says, all division in the Body of Christ is carnal. We cannot state this strongly enough. There is no division in the Body of Christ that is spiritual in origin, and certainly none that is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who believes that his or her “denomination” has its roots and origin in a movement of the Holy Spirit could not be more wrong.
Each and every “denomination” (and remember that denomination is nothing more or less than a “division”) is the end result of a work of the flesh. It is a sign and token of carnality and not spirituality. And this is not an opinion. It is a stated fact according to the New Testament. If you do not yet understand this, please stop and reread this article from the beginning.
Part of the “confusion” that exists is that we do not even have a good working definition of “church” or “the Body.” I am always amused when “spiritual leaders” talk of a recent meeting of all of the “pastors” in the city and consider that a “coming together” of the “Body.” From this kind of statement it is clear that these men (and women) consider the Body to be nothing more or less than the sum total of all of the congregations and denominations of Christian churches in a given locality.
Does anyone understand that “the Body” is an organism—that is, it is a living thing. The church, or the Body of Christ, is not an organization. It is not an institution. It is not a hierarchy or a bureaucracy. It involves no buildings or property, no parking lots or nurseries. It is the sum total of every man, woman, and child who has trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior and received the gift of eternal life through the agency of the new birth as a result. And according to the New Testament, they are not to form cliques, parties, associations, or denominations that result in one group of believers separating themselves or distinguishing themselves from other believers.
Nothing in the New Testament could be clearer than this. And yet, denominationalism is excepted by the vast majority of Christians today as being “par for the course.”
This confusion then is the direct result of the sin of denying the truth of scripture.
We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God. (Jer. 3:25)
Do they provoke me to anger? saith the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? (Jer. 7:19)
But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. (Jer. 20:11)
O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. (Dan. 9:7)
O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. (Dan. 9:8)
Christians of every denominational stripe need to come to grip with the fact that to the unbelieving world, the main characteristic of Christianity is it’s disunity and confusion, as even Christians cannot agree on most matters of faith and practice. We must further realize that this confusion is the result of carnality and sin, not the result of our exceptional spirituality.
We tend to blame the divisions on the differences, or on the confusion, but it may well be that the confusion is the result of the divisions and not the cause. That is to say, perhaps the confusion is what the Bible says it is, the result of sinning against God by allowing strife and enmity to cause division between brother and brother in the Body of Christ.
Perhaps your first reaction to such a statement is, “I don’t think so… the existence of denominations is not that bad of a thing that God should punish the entire Body of Christ.” If that is your reaction, it simply shows that you have not taken to heart one thing the New Testament teaches in regards to the unity of Body of Christ.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph. 4:1-6)
“Endeavoring” is a reference to “working hard” to maintain unity “in the bond of peace.” What have you done lately that could be considered an effort to overcome division, encourage unity, and dispel the confusion?
As has been noted, true believers are becoming increasingly uninterested in denominational bickering as the Day of the Lord and the Marriage of the Lamb draw nearer and nearer. Eventually, the denominations will be emptied of true believers and will continue to exist with memberships consisting of only those who have a stak