There are many today who believe that denominationalism is not approved by God and that it is a sign of disunity. But is this true?
Ephesians 4:3-6 (KJV)
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
From Ephesians it is evident that God desires believers to be unified, since there is really only the one body of believers in Messiah.
1 Corinthians 1:10 (KJV)
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1 Corinthians even goes as far as stating that there should be no divisions among believers and that they should be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Therefore, denominations would appear to be contradictory to the will of God. But which denomination is the correct expression of true Christianity? Which is THE CHURCH? The Baptists would say theirs is. The Methodists would say theirs is. The Eastern Orthodox would say theirs is and so on. Perhaps, becoming non-denominational is the answer. Well, the Lutherans might object to that. The Anglicans might also disagree. Perhaps ecumenism is the answer? Hmmm. I think the Old Order Mennonites might resist that attempt. The Plymouth Brethren might also find that less than acceptable.
Could a totally unified church body under one belief system really exist?
God's Word can be confusing. No matter how we try there is no way that all Christians would agree totally with one interpretation of the Bible. Although there is a core of central beliefs that clearly describe salvation, most everything else can be disected and reasoned in more than one way. Add to this the mix of all the traditions, inclinations, and perspectives of believers and it is obvious that it would be impossible to erase the vast differences between them. Perhaps we shouldn't try. Perhaps Biblical unity can exist in denominationalism.
There is also this to consider:
Revelation 13:4-8 (KJV)
And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
At some time in the future there will be a one world religion. It will not be about worshipping the true God, but rather ultimately Satan (verse 4 - the dragon). Is is possible that the world and society is quickly moving in this direction? Is Satan at work attempting to create his one world religion? Are some of the trends, even in Christianity, like ecumenism, being used by Satan to diminish the distinctives of Christianity, to pull people away from the truth, and to move towards a unity of religion far removed from Christianity? Is it possible that the cry we hear today about the need for this false unity in the Church to also be a ploy by Satan to ignore Bible truths in order to attain so-called unity?
Biblical unity is living at peace with those in the body of Messiah even if they differ in the non-essentials. Christians must stop maligning and treating with condescension other true believers in Yeshua. We must learn to recognize fellow believers and to allow them to worship as they wish. But in the essentials (and admittedly sometimes these are hard to identify) believers must not lose sight of truths that are non-negotiable. Denominations help us to do that. Creeds and statements of belief can help.
The bottom line of this discussion is that God is the one who has allowed denominations for the purpose of gathering like-minded believers together. There is nothing wrong with this unless denominations become arrogant and act like no other group has the truth. In fact, denominationalism will help us stand against the pressures of society's trend to erase Biblical differences and to come together to worship that which is not God.