I find it difficult to understand why anyone would choose to identify themselves with a denomination. Is not Christ alone sufficient? Jesus Christ and his Word are enough for me. This does not mean that I interpret the Bible my own way. It means I believe every word of my Bible and do not seek to interpret my own way. The Holy Ghost helps aid in scripture understanding to a believer and unity among believers testifies of that. Divisions in the church are always the result of a human being and their particular, private interpretation of the Bible. And therein lies the problem. Scripture is clear on this point:
2 Peter 1:19-21 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
The number of Christian denominations today is staggering. Almost as much as the number of bible versions...or what pass for bibles. Just the fact that so many speak of Christ's church and his word, the Bible, in the plural is alarming. Such things completely contradict scripture. How many churches did Christ create? (One.) How many Bibles did he write? (One.) Yet there are scads of church sects and bible versions - no wonder so many people are confused!
I believe that all we need to know concerning Christ and his church, God spoke to us in his Word. The simplicity of the truth contained in the epistles about the church is so marvelous, so pure, so easy to understand it is mind-boggling how so many people are blinded to its truth. God (through Apostle Paul) rebuked, encouraged, exhorted and expounded on every single issue that we have need of today. It's all there and it's all covered.
Let's take the issue of denominations as it is clearly and consisely addressed by Paul:
1 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.
I find that declaration to be staggeringly clear.
No divisions among you. Check.
Speak the same thing. Got it.
Be perfectly joined together. Ten-four.
1 Cor 1: 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
So again - CRYSTAL CLEAR.
How can SO many people miss this? There are to be NO divisions. But we look at Christianity and see almost nothing BUT divisions. Assemblies of God, Vineyards, Nazerenes, Methodists, Calvanists, 3-point Calvinists, 5-point Calvanists, Reformationists, Armenians, Lutheran, Pre-Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, Independent, Four Squares, Fundamentalists. Are they not reading the Bible which they claim to believe?
To be clear, there is a definite distinction between denominations within the body of Christ and the non-Christian cults and false religions. Presbyterians and Lutherans are examples of Christian denominations. Mormons, Roman Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses are examples of cults (groups claiming to be Christian but denying one or more of the essentials of the Christian faith). Islam and Buddhism are entirely separate religions. It's important not to confuse these false religions with the Body of Christ.
If the dischord among all those who claim the same Lord is paradoxical to us, it must be really confusing to those outside the faith. What kind of witness is this to those who are in darkness?
Denominations exist because of disputes over the interpretation of scripture because the people involved in these disputes have neglected very important things. Firstly, the body of Christ is marked by unity.
Ephesians 4:3-6 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.
Secondly, the scriptures can NOT be privately interpreted.
2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Thirdly, God's word is the final authority on every subject. Period. In the book of Revelation, God delivers this blistering warning about tampering with His written Word:
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of this prophesy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
The Apostle Paul tells us what to do with those who teach doctrines contrary to God's written Word:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches decieve the hearts of the simple." Romans 16:17-18
Paul admonishes true believers to avoid anyone who teaches doctrines contrary to the written Scriptures. He also reveals the consequences of believing such false teachings:
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8
Then Paul immediately repeats himself:
"As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have recieved, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:9
When we stand before the Lord, we'll be standing alone, so "study to shew thyself approved unto God". Don't follow religion, follow God. Don't believe men, believe God. Don't associate yourself with a denomination, cling to Christ alone. When I read the word of God and pray for wisdom to understand what I read, I'm amazed at how it differs from what denominations teach.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:6-8