Acts 11:26 “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught a great many people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
It is NOT my intention to “get into it” with any brother or sister in Christ about the why’s of denominational distinctions. I think I understand and even appreciate the reasons behind the “here’s who we are and what we believe” statements of faith. We have one at our home church. Every local church does. Even those who want nothing to do with the “organized church” have one. But I am of the opinion that the body of Christ is getting all labelled out and because of this, the world no longer takes us seriously.
For example, there are Calvinistic Baptists, Arminian Baptists, American Baptists (can Italians join? Just kidding), Liberal Baptists, Conservative Baptists, KJV only Baptists. I have to stop, I am hyperventilating. Same is true of Presbyterians, Methodists etc. Within each one of these groups, there is a line drawn in the proverbial sand that separates “them” from “us”. Each one of these groups has their own conferences and philosophy of dress, music used in worship, (or not used). But when we differ on issues that are lesser than necessary for salvation, the gloves come off. We have debates. Let’s show “those other” groups who REALLY interprets the Bible correctly. YES, I believe in biblical doctrinal absolutes as well as moral absolutes. I do not believe that we are free to be “loose canons” or spiritual Lone Rangers, who “in the Name of Jesus” are so anti-church – who needs Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses to oppose the body of Christ when these people are around?
There are certain orthodox, fundamental beliefs of Scripture that must be embraced to be a Christian, like the doctrine of the Trinity, The Deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Birth, the gift of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, not of works lest any man should boast to name a few. Can we not not agree that in many other matters of faith and practice, we still see through a glass darkly? Do we not have a plethora of contemporary Romans 14 issues that split churches and divide the brethren?
I truly believe that among all born again, Spirit-filled, evangelical Bible believers, we hold much more in common than those things that we differ on. There is the witness of The Spirit and the testimony of Jesus Christ that transcends cultural and denominational lines. Our differences of opinion on peripheral issues should not be interpreted to mean a different God. Different methods or styles of presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ does not mean that one is preaching a different gospel or a different Jesus. I’ll admit that locking into any one denominational bent gives me spiritual claustrophobia. God delights in coloring outside of our systems of theology, including mine. Simply read the appendix of any denomination’s textbooks and read how they have to explain or explain away “difficult passages.” I.e., ones that don’t jive with their view. I fall into this pit as much as any other pastor for sure.
The Holy Spirit recognizes only one body of Christ on earth. He is not the Author of division, contention or sectarianism. Just read 1 Corinthians 1.11-13; 3.1-7; and the original meanings of the deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5 like seditions and heresies BEFORE imposing your predisposed views to determine who they are. I love my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ who worship God in Spirit and in truth within a denominational framework. There is a beauty in these distinctions, for sure. For me, I am content bring a Spirit-filled, born again follower of Jesus Christ who is content being called a Christian. After all, isn’t that who we are?