When people ask me what I am religiously, I usually reply, “I’m just a Christian, not a part of any denomination.” I believe the religion of the New Testament can correctly be called “nondenominational Christianity.” What is “nondenominational Christianity”?
“Christianity” is not a term used in the Bible. It means “the religion of Christians.” (Webster. 400) Christians are disciples of Christ (Acts 11:25-26), followers and learners of Jesus Christ. Christians are “in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:3-12; 2 Timothy 2:10) To get into Christ, one must be “buried with Him through baptism into death” (Romans 6:3-4) “from the heart” (Romans 6:17-18), i.e., with sincerity and understanding (Ephesians 6:5-8; Matthew 13:15-16). Baptism is unto the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Thus, those and only those people who have with sincerity and understanding been immersed unto the remission of sins are Christians. Therefore, “nondenominational Christianity,” is limited to those who have been scripturally baptized.
Nor is the word “denomination” found in the Bible. However, the New Testament mentions denominations a number of times under a different name. The Jews in the days of the Lord and His apostles were divided into “sects.” (Acts 5:17; 15:5). A “sect” is “a division or group based upon different doctrinal opinions and/or loyalties.” (Louw & Nida. 11.50) The sects of the Jews believed and taught doctrines at variance with each other and wore party names as an indication of sectarian loyalty (Acts 23:6-8). The Jews even considered Christians to be a sect of Judaism (Acts 24:5; 28:22) and derisively called them “Nazarenes.” (Acts 24:5) Paul implied Christians were not a sect (Acts 24:14).
The same Greek word rendered “sect” is also translated “factions” (1 Corinthians 11:19) and “heresies.” (Galatians 5:20; 2 Peter 2:1) The word primarily means
a choosing, choice…; then, that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects…. (Vine. 2:217).
Everyone has opinions, things he thinks are true but cannot prove by the Bible. If he treats his opinions as if they were divine revelation, by teaching them as divine truth and/or insisting that others follow them, he becomes an heretic (Titus 3:10-11, King James Version) or “divisive man” (New King James Version), and must be rejected (Ibid). Heresies (sectarianism) is a work of the flesh that will keep one from inheriting the kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:19-21).
The brethren at Corinth were dividing into factions (1 Corinthians 1:11). This was a reflection of carnality (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), which will cause one to be lost (Romans 8:5-8). They had sectarian loyalties demonstrated by their sectarian names (1 Corinthians 1:12). The apostle rebuked their sectarianism (1 Corinthians 1:13). He urged them:
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 judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
This verse contains the keys to being nondenominational. We must speak the same thing, have no divisions, and have the same mind and judgment. Doctrine does matter. Those who go beyond the doctrine of Christ lose fellowship with God and His people (2 John 9-11). The “doctrine of Christ” is not limited to the truth about the nature of Christ Jesus (verse 7). It includes all divine truth (verse 4). To be nondenominational, our faith, teaching and practice must be limited to those things clearly authorized by the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17).
If we believe, practice and teach things unauthorized by the New Testament, we are sectarian (denominational). If we make our opinions, whether formalized as creeds or catechisms or unwritten, the standard by which we determine fellowship, we are sectarian.
Furthermore, we must not be guilty of sectarian loyalty as reflected by party names (1 Corinthians 1:12). As individuals, we may be called “believers” (Acts 5:14), “disciples” (Acts 9:1), “saints” (Acts 9:13), “Christians” (Acts 11:25-26) or “members” (1 Corinthians 11:27). As a group, whether local or universal, we may be called “the church” (Acts 8:3), “the Way” (Acts 9:1-2), the church of Christ (Romans 16:16), “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2), “the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:14-15), or “the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23-24, plural, indicating membership). All these names are used to include all scripturally baptized believers in their relationship to Christ and God.
If we have loyalty to a religious party, a group larger than a local church and smaller than the universal body of the saved, we are denominational viagra il faut. This party loyalty is reflected by party names. Sectarian names include the various denominational names (Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, etc.) but also names of less formal parties (Conservative, Liberal, etc.). We can also show sectarianism by insisting on only one divinely authorized name for God’s people, whether as individuals or as a group, to the exclusion of others. Those who claimed, “I am of Christ,” were also a party (1 Corinthians 1:12).
We must truly be practicing nondenominational Christianity. Anything else is sectarian and sinful.