A Question I Was Asked:

Does God Worry About the Denominations?

Occasionally I hear some preacher saying things like, 'It pains God to see so many Christian denominations and He would like to see full Christian unity.' How about that? Couldn't God cause Denominationalism to end if He so wishes?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Actually I worry when I hear things like that. Why? Well I question the level of understanding. The denominations, I believe, are irrelevant to God. He is fully able to look down and see His own people wherever they may be. God was - and is - fully aware that denominations, though sometimes regrettable, were inevitable. In fact, Paul the Apostle clearly shows that God has allowed us broad parameters of Christian worship and proselytization - not a 'closed shop' approach at all. Indeed, even before we get to Paul we should note what Jesus said about this:

"Master," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:49-50).

In this one comment Jesus showed there would be no exclusivity rights for the Gospel and that God could raise up people at any place and any time to do His work. This, of course, immediately calls into serious question the traditional Catholic understanding ('we are the one true Church'). Later on, Paul backs up this same approach:

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body - whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 6: 3-31).

So the presence of several - or many - Christian organisations was obviously divinely expected and in no way hinders or impedes the following essential principle:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4: 4-6).

All of this shows that where Jesus is being preached we should be happy to assume that the Holy Spirit is at work (until we find strong evidence to the contrary, that is: that a cult or heresy is at work).

So denominations may well be unfortunate - demonstrating a past disagreement - but we should not fret about them too much. Our God is well able to look beyond them. He has allowed for differences of Christian administration at the present time. Now it is true that the age of the denominations has probably now just about past, but there are other administrations and organisations (and you, the reader, are on the website of one right now).

I actually worry when people start talking about 'bringing the denominations together under one umbrella,' because I find a spirit of compromise is always at work. Usually it is a pro-Catholic movement which is more concerned with a compromised human-level "unity" than with true spiritual unity in God's sight and - for that part - we don't need to worry.

Robin A. Brace. March 23rd, 2015.