And what about the church of Christ established in the first
century, was it a denomination? There were those who lived at
that time who thought of it in that manner. When the Apostle
Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome to be tried in the court
of Caesar, he remained for two years in his hired house under
house arrest (Acts 28:16-31). It was during that period of time
that he had opportunity to proclaim to some Jews about the spiritual
kingdom, which is the church. These chief Jews who had been
invited by Paul to his house responded, by saying unto him,
“But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for
as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken
against” (Acts 28:22). The very fact that they called
the church a sect shows that these Jews thought of it as having
been broken off of Judaism. But, of course, this is not true!
The Jewish religion was no longer in effect; it had been nailed
to the cross (Colossians 2:14-17).
One definition of the word “denomination,” as
given by Thorndike Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary, is
a religious group or sect. This same dictionary gives a meaning
for the word “sect” as being a religious group separated
from an established church. But the church of the first century
was not “broken off” of an existing church or religion.
It was established on the first Pentecost after the resurrection
of Christ (Acts, chapter 2). There was not a single denomination
that existed in the first century A. D. Some congregations of
the church, such as the one at Corinth, had some factions within
it that were condemned by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).
However, it was still the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2).
Among the seven churches of Asia, at least two, were drifting
away from the truth and were in danger of being rejected by
the Lord (Revelation 2:5; 3:3). There were warnings in Biblical
times that some would depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1-3;
2 Thessalonians 2:1-10).
How do we determine in modern times if a church is a denomination
or the same church that we read about in the New Testament?
Church succession is not the answer since there were warnings
about those who would depart from the faith. It might prove
that a religious group developed from some who had already digressed.
The seed of the kingdom is the Word of God (Luke 8:11). And
the spiritual kingdom is the church (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians
1:13). Thus, if we plant the seed of the spiritual kingdom of
our Lord, rather than the doctrines and creeds of men, then
there will exist the same church established by Him through
the inspired teachings of the apostles (1 Peter 1:23; Galatians
1:6-9; Romans 1:16).
As to whether or not the church of Christ in our time is the
New Testament church or just another man-made denomination can
be determined by what is taught in the Bible concerning the
redeemed. We invite you to study with us concerning this matter.
Let us compare it and other churches with what is taught in
the Bible about the church.