The Sin Of Denominations

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

And after they had held their peace, James answered saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called saith the Lord who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Acts 15:13-18

I am going to explain why that denominationalism is wrong. That does not mean that denominations do no good, nor does it mean that there are not good people who are part of a denomination. I am sure that denominations do some good, but that does not change the fact that they are not a part of what God intended for the church.

There are four sins committed by denominationalism.

1. Denominationalism is a sin of idolatry.

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Colossians 1:18

Jesus is the head or the boss of the church. With that in mind, let me make four observations.

(1) Jesus is the head of the church.

(2) Anything in His place is an idol.

(3) There is no such thing as a good denomination.

(4) When an outside influence controls any segment of a church, it becomes an idol.

Consider some examples.

Literature. When you control the literature of a church you pretty well control that church. When a convention publishes its Sunday school literature, it is exerting outside influence on the local churches and is doing what God is supposed to do. That is one reason why I write all of the Sunday school lessons at the First Baptist Church of Hammond. There is no place in the Bible where God gives anybody outside of the church the right to exert authority over the church.

Accreditation. Nobody has a right to accredit the institution that Jesus heads.

Government. When the Government supports a Christian school, the Government is not through with that school. When the Government supports a church, they are not through with that church. Once you have submitted yourself to outside influence, you are in trouble. Every church is a local, individual, autonomous, indigenous body. It is sin for anybody to control a New Testament church from outside that church, including the government.

Missionaries. When I was in the Southern Baptist Convention, we sent money to what they called the Cooperative Program. That money was divided and distributed at the discretion of the denominational bosses. They decide how much of that money goes to questionable schools. They decide what missionaries to support and how much to send those missionaries. The local churches have no say in where the missionary money goes. When anybody outside the church tells the church what to do, it ceases to be a New Testament Baptist church.

Ordination. It is not a denomination's business to ordain our preachers. That is the local church's job. Jesus is the head of the church. Anybody or anything that comes in between the church and Jesus is taking His place and is guilty of idolatry.

A pastor went to Portland, Oregon, area and bought some property to build a denominational church. He refused to do everything the denomination wanted, so they took his property. He raised that money. They had nothing to do with it, but they took his property and he had to move. He now is meeting in a rented building because an unscriptural denomination took his property.

2. Denominationalism removes your promise of divine perpetuity. Jesus said, . .. upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. God has promised that a local, New Testament, independent, indigenous, Baptist church never has to die. We may choose to die, but we do not have to die. If a school is not started by a church, it does not have the promise of divine perpetuity. If the church starts the school, then the school is under the church which is under Jesus. Jesus promised divine perpetuity to the church, so if the school is operated by the church, the school has a right to claim the promise of divine perpetuity.

A school started by a group of churches does not have that. When a group of churches start a school, a church is not operating that school, so it does not have the promise of divine perpetuity. That is given to the church. Anything that comes between Jesus and the church or anything not under the canopy of the local church does not have God's promise of divine perpetuity. I thank God that all across this nation churches are starting Christian schools and colleges.

A denomination cannot start a New Testament church. If a denomination starts a church, then that church is under the control of that denomination. God does not promise divine perpetuity to a denomination. The fact that the denomination starts the church means that they are intervening and are the head of it. If they are the head, Jesus is not the head. If a church is answerable to a denomination, it is not answerable only to Jesus; consequently, it is not a true church and has no claim on divine perpetuity.

3. Denominations cause the sin of muzzling the ox.

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. I Timothy 5:17-19

Italy is a country with its own government. Inside Italy there is the Vatican City which has its own government. That is a perfect picture of a preacher and a church. The pastor rules that pulpit and what is preached there. The people have the rule over the buildings borrowing money, etc., but they have no vote about what goes on behind the pulpit. If anybody gets inside that domain and takes over, they are guilty of muzzling the ox. The Bible says that we are not supposed to muzzle the ox.

No church flourishes unless the pastor rules that little domain inside the big domain. The Bible says you are not supposed to muzzle the ox. I am not the head of my church, but I am in charge of the pulpit. I am under Christ in my pulpit, and we are all under Him as the church. I have no power, but the power of influence. I stand up and preach, trying to influence people as to how they should live, but I have no power over them, nor do they have any power over my preaching. My empire is inside the empire of the New Testament church. No church can be a New Testament church if the ox is muzzled.

To belong to a denomination means that the denomination ordains the preachers and gives them their papers. If they can give them their papers, they can take away their papers, so the denomination can decide at will if and when it wants to muzzle the ox.

4. Denominations cannot be of God because the church cannot build it. The only thing that can be of God in God's work is something which is built by a church. A church cannot build a denomination. You cannot put a denomination under a church. The church goes under the denomination. There are some things that a church does not build, but do some good. The grocery store does much good, but the grocery store cannot be promised divine perpetuity. The barber shop does much good, but it is not promised divine perpetuity. A denomination may do much good, but it is no better than a grocery store or barber shop as far as God's promise of divine perpetuity is concerned. It must be under the canopy of the church.

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