I did a quick search on Google of “How many denominations are there?” The data was not only staggering, but it was all over the place. I saw numbers ranging from 25,000 separate denominations of Christianity all the way to over 50,000 (granted some of the sites were several years old). It simply appears that no one knows for sure.
Let’s be hypothetical for a second. Let’s say we got a single representative from each of those denominations, and all of these individuals were brought to a single venue (such as a stadium), and Jesus Christ Himself was going to stand and address everyone in attendance. What do you think He might say? Do you think He would commend everyone in attendance for trying to find new and innovative ways to improve His Church? Do you think He would celebrate that Christianity had become so diversified in its beliefs?
Honestly, I struggle to even come up with an idea of what He might say. Maybe there would be no words at all, but only tears.
In as simple of terms as I know how to put it: what a mess. This is NOT what God intended!
Contrary to what many in the world believe, the Church that Christ established in the 1st century does not have denominations today. It has never had denominations, and it never will. The Church is a universally singular unit. There are no splits in it. There are no divisions. Jesus makes this point very clear several times during His time on earth.
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 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.'” [Matthew 16:17-18]
In Christ’s response to Peter’s assertion that He was the Son of God, He makes it clear that He will build HIS church. Not our church. Not Peter’s church. It will be His church. He had and has full authority to decide how that church will be structured. Christ reiterates this in Matthew 28:18 when He says “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Too many people believe that they can interject into the Church a few changes that will help to make it “better”. They believe they can add a little bit to worship, or remove a little bit from the obedience required for salvation. Once we do that, the church stops being Christ’s Church and it starts to become our own church.
The Vine and the Branches
Some people want to point to John 15:5 and say, “See, there are divisions. Christ said that He is the vine and the different denominations are the branches.” That is not what this verse is referring to. That is a classic example of taking a single verse completely out of context and putting into it a meaning that simply isn’t there. If you read the entire passage of verses 1-8, as well as the passages before and after it, it is very obvious that Christ is talking to individuals and not to institutions.
“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” [John 15:3-6]
This passage teaches that Christ is the vine, and we as individual Christians are the branches. It does not teach that denominations are the branches. Inserting that interpretation here simply does not make sense in the context of this entire passage.
The passage of I Corinthians 12:12-31 is another example where those seeking to justify denominations will try to place meaning into a passage that is taken out of context. In the first part of I Corinthians 12, Paul is trying to encourage the individual Christians. There were issues in the Church at Corinth trying to get the individual Christians to work well together because they didn’t all have the same spiritual gifts. Paul then explains how a single body is made up of many members (such as eyes, hands, feet, etc.), but they all are essential parts that work together to make up the whole.
Paul is not saying that each part is a denomination and all denominations makes up the whole body of Christ. That would not make sense to the context of the first part of I Corinthians 12. However, the most telling part comes in I Corinthians 12:27:
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.”
That pretty well sums it up. The members that Paul refers to here are the individual Christians, not different denominations.
If someone asks you what denomination you are a part of, the correct answer to should be, “I’m not part of a denomination.” If you claim to be part of a denomination, that means you claim to be part of a church that has broken away from the teachings of the Church that Christ established on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Once that happens, you no longer continue to be part of Christ’s Church. You are now part of an organization that is foreign to the teachings of Christ, and ultimately lost.
How do you know if you are part of the Church that Christ established nearly 2,000 years ago? You must look at what that church believes and practices, and then compare that to Scripture. If that church teaches things that the Bible does not teach, or if that church worships in a way different than what the Bible authorizes, or if that church creates an organizational structure that Christ did not create for His Church, then that church is a denomination and does not belong to Christ.
Rest assured that the body of Christ is not divided. The one true Church that was established by Christ does not have denominations.
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” [Galatians 1:6-10]