Restrictive and Binding Iron-Chains of Denominationalism

covers refit, Aug. 10, den. 1 001

WHAT IS PRESENTED HERE is radical, but is an attempt to draw us back to New Testament Christianity, the very early church that was warned against DIVISIONS and the seeds of—

DENOMINATIONALISM.

“Is Christ divided?”

(Study 1 Corinthians, chapters 1 and 12.)

Why is this so important, though radical? Read on and hopefully you will see.

It is true that “water seeks its own level.” True believers who know certain or more truth, tend to seek other believers of like-mind.  If error is preached, if you know it is error, you don’t want to sit under the sound of it. So you go where you feel confident that most of what you hear will be the TRUTH OF GOD!   So these various groups get “tagged” according to their distinctive marks. This is all understandable, to to an extent perhaps acceptable. But danger lurks in the hearts of men and in human traditions.

These various groups not totally but for the most part (as many are simply false churches), have started out faithfully proclaiming some area of truth, or the truth on a number of biblical doctrines. But then traditions set in and “go to seed.” The group, by whatever name, come to look at themselves as exclusive holders of truth, even looking down with rejection on other blood-bought saints who they determine and judge as knowing LESS than “our church,” and thus they are held at arm’s length and real Christian love and fellowship is withheld.

Why can it not be that we could recognize that some areas of truth exist even outside our sectarian circles? And why can we not see that even where there is error (none are free from that culprit), even if you call the error sickness and ignorance, then that is where more help is needed! That is where the saints need to realize that we are to be compassionate enough to reach out in an attempt to help, and to be humble enough to recognize that we don’t have ALL the truth. We may need some help ourselves!

Some have tried this many times. And some still do. In rare occasions the ones hearing what is “new truth” to them, they do as those noble Bereans who told the apostle Paul that they would search out what he said from the scriptures they had, to see if what he said was so. But others, even whole churches, upon hearing some challenging truth they have not heard before, or having some ERROR or false doctrine pointed out to them, have opposed it with a vengeance, vehemently, and have said, “We do not believe that here” and you dare not try to stuff it down their throats. They don’t have a heart to receive it into their hearts! There comes a time we just have to “leave them alone,” as the Lord instructed some of His disciple that if their message was not received in a city, leave and shake the dust off your feet as you leave. To know at what point to do so, is the question sometimes.  For if any will listen, you have an obligation to faithfully proclaim the truth to them.

But this situation feeds and builds up “denominationalism,” “sectarianism,” and “the party spirit” where people come to imagine that they have all the truth they need, that they are right and that “wisdom will die with them.” They have no need to be challenged or to be taught anything not taught already by their fathers and forefathers and their traditions. After all, what errors could they possibly have?!

Picture this as each group building a fence around themselves, not letting anyone in, or letting anyone out, just like cattle. Or if not a fence, an iron chain is put around the neck, like we used to use a chain to stake our cow out to pasture, so she would not wander away.

Or picture us as trying to put God in a box, as if we have all the truth, God is with us and not with those groups who “are not of us,” who are outside our box.  We have no need of them; they have some strange doctrines. They don’t pronounce “shibboleth” like we do. What good can come out of them anyway? Just stay safe in our little or large box. This is where God is! WE are “it;” we are THE church.

But that is really not so. No one group is THE Church. The Church is the called-out, blood-bought saints in every nation, kindred and tongue. They don’t have to go by a name. They are certainly not fully contained in a fence or in a box. In fact, by the very nature of “denominationalism” and any organized named group, though part of the Church, it is a mixture; all “manner of fowl” rests in its branches. In its organized set-up, even idolizing their traditions both good and bad, they have both regenerate and those UNregenerate in their ranks. Your name on a membership roll does not mean you are part of the body of Christ, nor does it mean that you are NOT part of the body. But a mixed multitude or mixed body, even if called a “church” does not make it the redeemed bride of Christ.

Too many are high-minded and deceived, while not knowing much truth, or even if knowing much truth, when they ought not so to be.

We have a booklet called, “Come Out of Arminian Churches.” Why? Because they are not preaching the true Gospel, but a man-centered, man-exalting, work-centered gospel. And we don’t hesitate to say the Roman Catholic system is a false church, teaching for truth the traditional errors and false doctrines of their forefathers. Also, they hold the Arminian system of salvation based on what a man does in nature to enter the kingdom of God.

But in better groups, even Baptists and Presbyterians, and Reformed groups, you still have a “Duke’s Mixture” of doctrines. Even in the founding of Methodism, you had John Wesley with his views of Arminianism, and George Whitefield who was a preacher of God’s sovereign and electing grace, one of the best-known of all sound and grace preachers.  That great “prince of preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, an admitted “Calvinist,” once said that if he were allowed to have a model, it would be  Whitefield.

But as good and wonderful as “Baptists” and “Presbyterians” have been, both groups now are highly divided among themselves between “Arminianism” and “Calvinism,” so you have formerly basically sound denominations that used to believe more or less as one within their own groups, have divided and sub-divided so that each group, each fence, each “box,” has become its own smaller box. What was once a large box in any one group has sub-divided so that now each of the one may be 15, 25, or more. Splits and splinters!

Sometimes the dividing process has been in order to separate itself from an error or false doctrine that has crept in; other divisions occur simply because truth is not accepted or due to personal reasons, men’s  opinions and personalities. As Paul would say, “Is Christ divided?”

But just because someone, or some book, or whatever, is not endorsed by  YOUR denomination, does that mean it has no truth worth looking into? Do we throw out the baby with the bath-water?  Just because a group does not pronounce “shibboleth” just like we do, can’t we “throw out the bones” they may have but look to see it they might have been taught something by God Himself? Or are ALL the gifts that God gave the Church contained in your church or denomination alone? Does He not possibly have some “gifts to the Church” in other groups as well, that just MAY see more into some aspects of truth than you do? Is not God’s TRUTH so great, so bountiful, and so expansive that it CANNOT be contained in any one box? Oh! If you had to move all of God’s truth from one place to another, could you get it into ONE box for the moving truck? Indeed, could you even find enough moving trucks to contain it all? No, you could not. So why think your one group has it all??? And if not, why be satisfied with yourself that you don’t need to look into ANY other boxes?

Don’t you know that this element, this aspect, this alone will restrict your growth in Christ? It can even STOP your growth. It can even cause spiritual deadness. It certainly  does not lead to walking in fullness of Spirit, or walking in the Spirit. Are you crying out to God to teach you more and more truth, wherever it might lead, whatever effort it might take. Are you praying for Him to reveal to you a fuller measure of truth, whoever He chooses to show it to you? Or do you want to keep on your denomination “horse-blinders,” and keep your “tunnel-vision”?

May God have mercy and deliver us, for Christ’s sake and for the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen .


Even a true Christian who is trying  to obey the Lord’s leading, can find himself rejected and even persecuted by fellow professing Christians. The lack of extended fellowship can even force him to worship the Lord “outside the camp,” not because he loves it there, but because the fellowship he craves is not reciprocal. And that very probably because some had rather hold to their traditions and unscriptural practices than to seek out the mind of the Lord.—Glen Berry

“We  use  the  theological  justification  of  a  ‘local  church’ doctrine to maintain space between family members. This division keeps us weaker and is a poor witness to the community around us. We cannot really change the situation we find ourselves in now, but justifying it with false distinctions doesn’t help our cause and will lead us down an even more dysfunctional path.”

Neil Cole, in Organic Leadership

“All the people of God quickened into spiritual life have faith, the weakest as well as the strongest; the babe of yesterday as well as the saint of fifty years’ profession. To embrace all the living family, and to reject all dead professors. We must make no hollow truces, no false treaties, no rotten alliances; and give no quarter to any faith that stands not in the power of God the Holy Ghost. We must allow none to have a grain of real religion who possess it not. My conscience would condemn me if I did not contend earnestly, but my conscience would equally condemn me if I were to contend for it bitterly. . . .”

J. C. Philpot, England

“Must you know what sect or party I am of? I am against all sects and dividing parties. . . .

I am a Christian, a mere Christian,

of no other religion.”

—Richard Baxter

“Do Christ this one favor for all His love to you—love His poor saints and churches, the most despised, the smallest, the weakest,

notwithstanding any difference of judgment, they are engraved on His heart as the names of the children of Israel on Aaron’s

breastplate (Exodus 28:29).

Let them be so on yours.”

—Thomas Willcox (1621-1687)

“ ‘One Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (not of water, for by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body), one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all,’ is sufficient rule for us to hold communion by . . . I am bold to hold communion with visible saints as afore, because God hath communion with them, whose example we are strictly commanded to follow: ‘Receive ye one another, as Christ hath received you, to the glory of God.’ . . . To  exclude Christians, and to debar them their heaven-born privileges, for want [lack] of that which yet God never made the wall of division betwixt us; this looks too like a spirit of persecution. . . .”

—John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress

Jude does not say, Contend for  church order, though a good thing in its place; nor for doctrines, though true and valuable; nor for your own reputations, though personally dear; but “for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” Because it has made us each according to our measure, new creatures, wrought an effect on our souls. And upon the possession of it hang our hopes of eternity; because it is the grand turning point between sinner and saint, between life and death. All the people of God quickened into spiritual life have faith, the weakest as well as the strongest; the babe of yesterday as well as the saint of fifty years’ profession. Their faith differs in measure but not in kind. To embrace all the living family, and reject all dead professors. We must make no hollow truces, no false treaties, no rotten alliances; and give no quarter to any faith that stands not in the power of God the Holy Ghost. My conscience would condemn me if I did not contend for it earnestly, but my conscience would equally condemn me if I were to contend for it bitterly.—J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)

Unless we are blinded by a false zeal, there is “no bar to communion”  among true Christians. How can we possibly reject one of God’s elect? We have been “received” by the grace and mercy of God into “Christ’s Church,” so we must of necessity be “received” by each other. God can and does “discipline” His own, and that we are assured of: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).—W. F. Bell

Seen on an e-mail:

“You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I’ve ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They’re slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act with  anything less than a spirit of love.

. . . No wait—I’m thinking of golden retrievers!”

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

—The  Head of the Church

“Be true to truth, but not turbulent and scornful. Restore such as are fallen; help them up again with all the bowels of Christ. Set the broken disjointed bones with the grace of the gospel. . . . Despise not weak saints.”

“Remember Christ’s time of love when you were naked, and then He chose you. . . . Remember whose arms supported you from sinking and delivered you from the lowest hell. . . .”—Thomas Willcox, (1621-1687)

“I cannot be so narrow in my principles of church communion as  many are, that are so much for a liturgy, or so much against it, so much for ceremonies, or so much against them, that they can hold communion with no church which is not of their mind and way. If I were among the Greeks, the Lutherans, the independents,  yea, the Anabaptists, that own no heresy, nor set themselves against charity and peace, I would hold, sometimes, occasional communion with them as Christians, if they will give me leave, without forcing me to any sinful subscription or action; though my most usual communion should be with that society which I thought most agreeable to the word of God, if I were free to  choose.  . .”

“I am more and more sensible that most controversies have more need of right stating than of debating; and, if my skill be increased in any thing, it is in that, in narrowing controversies by explication, and separating the real from the verbal, and proving to many contenders, that they differ less than they think they do.”

“I am more solicitous than I have been about my duty to God, and less solicitous about His dealings with me, as being assured that He will do all things well; and as acknowledging the goodness of all the declarations of His holiness, even in the punishment of man. . . .”—Richard Baxter

“We often sing, “Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth,” but in practice we seem to work hard to deny it. Divisions among Christians have sadly splintered the body of Christ on earth.”—Glen Berry

“We Christians have a kinship with all others who believe, and from that bond of faith and love a mutual strength receive.”—Hess

“. . . Everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.”—1 John 5:1

“If you have been taken out of the belly of hell into Christ’s bosom, and made to sit among the princes in the household of God, oh, how you should live a pattern of mercy!”

—Thomas Willcox (1621-1687—Richard Baxter


Expressions from J. C. Philpot

Letter to Thomas Goodwin, Oct. 29, 1861

“. . . I am sure that, except the breaking out of error or of evil in a church, there is nothing to be so much dreaded as a party spirit. It is the death of all that is good; it sours the mind, hardens the heart, embitters the spirit, defiles the conscience, and brings with it nothing but misery, confusion, and death. It hardly seems to matter which side is, in the first instance, right or wrong, for as the party spirit goes on, it inflames both sides alike until each is full of bitterness and enmity. How Satan does rejoice in separating chief friends, and what darkness and death are brought into the soul under his suggestions! It seems at times almost to shut both my heart and mouth, and to put into my hand rather a ROD than to fill my soul with the spirit of MEEKNESS.”—JCP

Letter to Mr. Crane, Sept. 19, 1861

“. . . There are not many, speaking comparatively, with whom I have a real union of spirit, but where it has once been formed, it is not with me lightly broken. Of course lack of communion will to a certain extent diminish, but it never will break asunder a union which the Spirit has once created, and at my time of life new friends are not easily made, nor new friendships entered into. I hope among the evidences which I possess of being a partaker of the grace of God, is love to those who love the Lord, and opposed as I am by so many enemies, I feel to cleave all the more earnestly to real friends. I have long felt that, with all the minor differences which often divide the living family of God, that their union is far deeper than any circumstances  which  can  arise  to  cause  disunion.  No doubt Satan is continually at work to separate even chief friends by working upon the corruptions of our nature, and filling the mind either with suspicion or stirring up miserable jealousies. May we have grace to resist Satan in this matter, and to cleave in affection to those with whom we have felt any spiritual union, or with whose religion we have found any inward satisfaction!”—JCP

Letter to Thomas Goodwin, Oct. 29, 1861

“. . . I am sure that, except the breaking out of error or of evil in a church, there is nothing to be so much dreaded as a party spirit. It is the death of all that is good; it sours the mind, hardens the heart, embitters the spirit, defiles the conscience, and brings with it nothing but misery, confusion, and death. It hardly seems to matter which side is, in the first instance, right or wrong, for as the party spirit goes on, it inflames both sides alike until each is full of bitterness and enmity. How Satan does rejoice in separating chief friends, and what darkness and death are brought into the soul under his suggestions! It seems at times almost to shut both my heart and mouth, and to put into my hand rather a ROD than to fill my soul with the spirit of MEEKNESS.”—JCP


The beloved Chinese church leader and martyr Watchman Nee was once affiliated with the Methodist denomination. Even though he suffered as a Christian martyr, we know he was not free of error. Yet we cannot question his zeal and faithfulness in leading other saints according to the light he had. Unlike most of us, he did suffer unto blood by being a martyr in the cause of Christ.

At one time, as a Methodist,  he became convicted of meeting and going by any name other than Jesus Christ. So he told the denomination that he had nothing against them but from henceforth he wanted to be known by no other name but Christian. He wanted his followers to be called by nothing else. And like the early Christians, what the followers were called was a name tagged on them by others.

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (See First Corinthians 12.)

If you belong to a denominational church,  that does NOT mean it makes you a member of the body and bride of Christ, nor does it mean you are not one of His redeemed. If washed in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are part of His bride, no matter where you are in your membership, or whether you even have a membership in an organized denominational church.

But if you ARE a member of a denomination, or exclusive man-named group,  we pray you will at least recognize WHAT  the true Church is, and that it far exceeds the borders of any one church group or denomination. And your love and fellowship should and must reach beyond those borders also! How much freedom do you have to reach out and associate with others that are not members of your group?

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