So often as a Christian, and especially going to a Christian university, I hear about the different sects and denominations within our beliefs. Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Church of God, Anglican, Presbyterian, and the list goes on and on. Going to a school directly affiliated with the Church of God as well as attending a COG my entire life, I tend to know what the beliefs inside the denomination is. When a fellow believer asks me what denomination I am and I say Church of God, they have questions concerning my beliefs about the denomination. Because of the way the Bible is read and interpreted differently by different believers, we have these different denominations. The beliefs in these different churches aren’t necessarily wrong; but I think it may be time to reconsider some things.
A particular convicting passage of Scripture I read the past week comes from 1 Corinthians, the book I’ve been in the past couple of days. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 is titled “Sectarianism is Sin” from my NKJV but from the ESV it’s titled “Divisions in the Church.” I’ll let the Word speak for itself, starting with 1:10: “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 judgement.” In my Bible I have “that you all speak the same thing” and “that there be no divisions among you” underlined. What a verse! Is it possible that we associate with our church denomination before the name of Jesus itself in our beliefs? I don’t want to be a believer who sells myself out for a sect or denomination of the church but forgets the Gospel. We need to be speaking the same thing! What are we to speak? Perhaps you already know the answer, but just to make sure, Paul tells us later on.
1 Corinthians 1:22-23 says, “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” I quoted this verse and the one I’m about to use in an earlier blog, but it’s simplicity astounds me. The Jews are looking for a sign, whereas the Greeks are seeking after wisdom, but the power of preaching Christ crucified and only Christ crucified is what’s key. Two verses down Paul writes an exclamation point on this previous verse, saying in 1:25, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” No matter how smart we are, the foolishness of god is still wiser than our brains could ever imagine. Paul opens up the next chapter by proclaiming, “And I…did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Sounding smart and articulating your speech isn’t important to Paul. Neither is wisdom, when declaring the testimony of God. Paul wants to know one thing, and nothing else in this world: it’s to know Christ crucified. And this is the unity that, if not already is, NEEDS to be, the center of the church. It’s preaching Jesus crucified.
The second part I underlined in 1 Corinthians 1:10 reads, “that there be no divisions among you.” As clear cut as this sounds, the body of Christ needs to be unified, and it starts with believing the same thing: preaching Christ crucified. I love the urgency of Colossians 3:5, which states we are to “put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” So much in our culture we are taught to live free. I see this seeping in to the cloud of believers. Paul doesn’t say we should “abstain” or “refrain” from these things. We must “flee from idolatry,” (1 Corinthians 10:14). He says, literally, to “put to death” these things that hold us back from becoming the new creation in Christ. What is the new creation in Christ? Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” How do we make sure there are no divisions among us as a body of believers? It’s rooted in bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and most importantly (Matthew 5:44, John 13:34) loving one another. “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1). But preaching the gospel isn’t enough. 1 Corinthians 9:14 says, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” Let us not only preach the gospel but live by the gospel; our actions, our conduct, and our mindset.
I believe for revival to break out in America, it starts with a unified church. By believing and preaching Christ crucified and bearing one another’s burdens, we allow the Lord to use us in ways we can’t even imagine. I’m not saying all churchgoers that go to a church with a particular affiliation need to jump ship to a nondenominational church-even nondenominational is still a church “denomination.” But let’s remember the message and the conduct that binds every single believer together. The world is messed up and dis-configured enough; shouldn’t the church stand together as one?