by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: I Timothy 4:1-11
I. Christ founded but one church - Matthew 16:18
A. It belongs solely to him. It is not a democracy - Matthew 28:18
1. He is the head of the church - Ephesians 1:22-23
2. We must keep the commandments because he is the only Sovereign - I Timothy 6:13-16
B. It is Christ’s desire that his followers be united - John 17:20-21
1. The Scriptures teach that the Godhead is composed of three beings: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; yet, they are united in purpose, work and nature such that there is a complete oneness about them.
2. It is a oneness that husbands and wives strive to emulate - Matthew 19:6
C. The church promised by Christ was fulfilled
1. Some would see the kingdom, the church, come in their lifetime - Mark 9:1
2. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem - Acts 1:3-8
3. They received power from God on the day of Pentecost, which Peter said fulfilled Joel’s prophecy - Acts 2:16-21
4. People were baptized and added to the church - Acts 2:37-41,46-47
D. But that harmony sought by Christ is not seen in modern times
1. Would you suppose that the Father is a Pentecostal, the Son a Lutheran, and the Spirit a Mormon? Would that be one?
2. Could we imagine Paul establishing the Methodist Church while Peter began the Baptist Church?
3. People wish to claim unity, not because it exists, but because they ignore the differences
a. Such division does not come from God! - I Corinthians 14:33
b. It is only by being one that the world will be converted - John 17:21
c. If unity promotes belief, then what does division create?
II. The history
A. In the beginning there were no denominations.
1. In whatever town you went, the church was the same
2. Oh, the problems in each church varied, but when you entered a town, you did not have 75 denominations to choose from
a. A large city might have more than one church meeting in its borders, but those churches were the same kind of church
3. They followed the same creed, recorded in the pages of the Bible
4. The foundation of their faith was in this teaching - Romans 10:17
5. For the first few hundred years the only authority for faith was the Bible, though there were often many arguments about what the Bible actually said about various matters.
B. Beginning of creeds
1. In the 2nd century a man named Marcion started teaching that there were two Gods. He thought the Old Testament referred to a tyrannical God who created a flawed world. He believed that Jesus revealed a good God of love and mercy.
2. The Old Roman Creed was developed to counter Marcion’s followers and was intended to be recited at baptism.
a. It was lightly modified and began being called the Apostles’ Creed around AD 390 because a belief developed that the apostles each wrote a line of the creed before leaving Jerusalem.
3. But earlier, in the late 4th century, a man named Arius started teaching that the Christ was not divine, that he was not God incarnate (God inhabiting human flesh). This caused a major controversy among Christians.
4. About this time Constantine was the Roman Emperor and he was sympathetic toward Christians, unlike prior emperors
a. He invited church leaders to meet at Nice in A.D. 325 to settle this dispute.
b. After much discussion and study, they came to an agreement that the Bible did indeed teach that Jesus was God in the flesh.
c. As a result, they wrote the Nicene Creed, which was bound on the believers at that time
5. Until this point, a believer’s faith rested in the Bible, but now documents written by men were made equal to the Bible.
a. Thus, began the apostasy predicted by the writers of the New Testament - I Timothy 4:1-4; II Thessalonians 2:3
C. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches
1. In A.D. 380 the Roman Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the state religion.
a. A drastic switch from when Christians were persecuted by Romans and died for their faith.
b. The church grew rapidly, but people were often not truly converted. Instead, they brought into the church their pagan practices.
2. Due to competition between the bishops of Rome and Constantinople regarding who has highest authority in the church, both took on the title of Universal Bishop in A.D. 606. The following year, Boniface III took on the title of Pope and Universal Father.
a. This disagreement festered until it eventually led to a split that formed the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches in A.D. 1054
b. They each had a set of documents that formed the traditions which defined their different beliefs
c. Catholic Catechism and Orthodox Liturgical Rites
3. The Roman Catholics try to bolster their claim to be the head of the church by claiming a succession of popes prior to A.D. 606, starting with Peter as the first pope.
a. The problem is that historically there were no popes before.
b. In Roman Catholicism, priests and popes are unmarried; yet, Peter was married - Matthew 8:14
4. The Orthodox churches divided by region
a. Four main groups are the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Eastern Catholic church
b. Their beliefs and practices differ
1. When we get to the middle ages, the Romans Catholic church had grown very corrupt and powerful.
a. Thousands were put to death for disagreeing with the church, or for simply owning a Bible.
b. From this grew oppositions to the church
2. One famous protest against the church was lead by Martin Luther. He had studied to be a priest, but he tried to reform the church and was met by opposition.
a. He wrote his objections and nailed them to the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany, in 1517.
b. For that he was excommunicated in 1520
c. This lead to the formation of the Lutheran Church in 1530
d. Luther actually begged his followers not to use his name, but they persisted.
e. His teachings were formalized into what is called “Luther’s Catechism”
3. Luther’s opposition did eventually cause reforms to take place in the Roman Catholic church
4. However, his opposition to the Roman Catholic ideas of salvation by works caused him to go too the other extreme and he taught salvation by faith alone.
a. Faith is a major element of salvation, but the Bible teaches that we are saved by an obedient faith - Romans 16:26-27
b. Specifically, the Bible says we are NOT saved by faith alone - James 2:24
1. In the same era, Henry VIII was king of England. He was married to Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his older brother and daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (who financed Columbus’ voyage).
a. She produced no male heirs to the throne, so Henry wanted out of the marriage.
b. He petitioned the Pope for an annulment, but Catherine’s nephew, Charles V, was now the Holy Roman Emperor and he advised the Pope not to grant the annulment.
c. Meanwhile Henry met Anne Boleyn. Tired of waiting, Henry broke off from the Roman Catholic church and set up his own church with himself being the head. Now he could do as he wish.
d. He ended up marrying six times and beheaded four of his wives.
2. The new church is called the Church of England and to clarify its beliefs, it has the Book of Common Prayer, first written in 1549.
a. As it spread to other countries, it became known as the Anglican Church
b. Except in the United States, where there was so much hatred for the British after the Revolutionary War, that the group here changed its name to the Episcopal Church.
3. Because it wasn’t started because of differences in religious beliefs, the Anglican Church retained many Roman Catholic practices and beliefs.
1. Meanwhile, John Calvin lead a reformation in Switzerland. Like Luther, the initial attempt was to reform the Roman Catholic Church. When it failed, a new church was formed.
2. The Presbyterian Church used Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536)
3. Calvinism is based on the idea of God’s complete sovereignty - to the extent that God predestined some people to be saved while others are lost.
a. In a sense, Calvin believed that all of our lives were pre-programmed by God.
b. This doesn’t match the Bible. Consider Jeremiah 7:31. If God didn’t think of it, then how could it be predestined?
c. Also, this contradicts the idea of free will - John 7:17
4. Of course, a new denomination needs a document defining it, which for the Presbyterians is the Westminster Confession of Faith
1. For a long while there were groups in England and Europe abandoning Roman Catholicism for simple worship as found in the Bible
a. Among many beliefs, these groups rejected the idea of infant baptism, insisting that baptism is for adults based on faith.
(1) In a world influenced by Roman Catholicism, that was seen as condemning children to hell because of the belief that children are born sinful.
b. They also practiced baptism by immersion, even though everyone else was using sprinkling or pouring at the time - Acts 8:38-39
2. John Smythe is usually cited as the founder of the Baptist Church, but it can be shown he was actually withdrawn from by the church he was associated with and he died in 1612 unable to join any group because of his belief in successionist baptism.
3. Rather, the Baptists were a liberal element of these earlier groups that gradually strayed; traced back to the early to mid-1600's.
a. “The Baptist movement was born in the midst of the ferment and evolution of the English Church in the seventeenth century. Originally a collection of hole-in-the wall dissenters who were easily confused with Seekers, Ranters, Quakers, and political anarchists, Baptists rose to positions of prominence and respectability by 1700 in England and Wales.” [“A People Called Baptists”, Christianity Today].
b. “By 1624, there were five known General Baptist churches and by 1650 they numbered at least 47.” [Chris Traffanstedt, “A Primer on Baptist History”].
c. It is important to note this because Baptist often wish to claim other earlier groups as being Baptist, even though the teachings were different
4. This group became influenced by Calvin’s teachings. For example, believing that once a person is saved, he cannot be lost.
a. “We believe the Scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish” [Hiscox, Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p. 67].
b. “The way a man lives has nothing to do with the salvation of his soul” [Sam Morris, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Stamford, Texas, “A Discussion which Involves a Subject Pertinent to All Men,” p. 1-2].
c. Compare this to John 15:1-6 and Hebrews 3:12
5. They also eventually changed their minds about baptism
a. “It is most likely that in the Apostolic Age when there was but ‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,’ and no differing denominations existed ... ‘baptism was the door into the church.’ Now it is different ... The churches therefore have candidates ... give their ‘experience,’ and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members.” [Hiscox, Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p. 22].
b. Why should it be different?
1. In 1729, Charles Wesley was dissatisfied with the formal ritualism of the Church of England. He formed the “Holy Club” with fellow students at Oxford. His brother, John, joined the club.
a. They established a set of rules to follow each day to improve their spiritual lives.
b. Fellow students taunted them, calling them Methodists, for following methods (rules) daily.
2. That list of rules became a book called, “The Methodist Discipline”
a. “We have therefore expected that the DISCIPLINE would be administered, not merely as a legal document, but as a revelation of the Holy Spirit working in and through our people.”[The Methodist Discipline, 1964, p. 1]
b. Thus, they place this man-made document on the same level as the Bible
3. Initially a sect within the Church of England, it gradually separated into its own denomination by the late 1700's to early 1800's.
1. Around 1827, Joseph Smith claimed an angel revealed golden plates to him containing the message of the Book of Mormon.
2. This lead to the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints in 1830. It is popularly know as the Mormon Church.
3. Other books were added to the Book of Mormon, including Doctrines and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
4. Among its many strange teachings:
a. “In 1876, section 101 from the 1835 edition (and subsequent printings) was removed. Section 101 was a "Statement on Marriage" as adopted by an 1835 conference of the church, and contained the following text:
(1) “Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.
(2) “This section was removed because it had been superseded by section 132 of the modern LDS edition, recorded in 1843, which contains a revelation received by Joseph Smith on eternal marriage and plural marriage, the principles of which can be dated to as early as 1831.” [Wikipedia]
(3) Section 132 basically states that unless one practices polygamy, there is no hope of obtaining the highest reward in heaven.
(4) Of course, this contradicts the Bible - Matthew 19:4-6
b. They also teach that Adam is now God of our world and that men can rise to become gods in other worlds.
(1) “He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the father? He is the first of the human family. Jesus, our eldest brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character who was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in heaven.” [Journal of Discourses, V. 1, pp. 50-51]
(a) Notice that this would make Mary an adulteress.
(2) The Bible teaches that God is Spirit - John 4:24
(3) Spirit does not have flesh and bone - Luke 24:39
(4) Plus the fact that God pre-existed the creation of the world
5. Fantastic claims
a. Smith claimed that the Garden of Eden had been located in Jackson Country, Missouri, and that he and others had visited the altar that Adam had built at Spring Hill, Daviess Country, Missouri, on May 19, 1838 [Mormon Doctrine, pp. 20-21].
6. Failed prophecies
a. Joseph Smith prophesied that Oliver Cowdery (an early disciple of Smith) "shall continue in bearing my name before the world," even "to the end" [Doctrine and Covenants 24:10]. Cowdery was excommunicated in 1838 [History of the Church, III, p.16].
b. Smith also prophesied in February, 1835, that those ordained to the ministry would "go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh -- even fifty-six years should wind up the scene" (History of the Church, II, p. 182; also Doctrine and Covenants 130:13-16). This means that the end was prophesied to come in 1891, which obviously did not happen.
c. Biblically this means Joseph Smith is a false prophet - Deuteronomy 18:20-22
J. Seventh-Day Adventists
1. In 1844, William Miller claimed that Jesus would return that year. Many people sold their property to be ready for his coming. Some assembled on hills or climbed trees to be ready at the appointed hour. But Jesus did not appear and many left discouraged.
2. But Ellen G. White rallied the disciples of Miller and became the new leader of the Adventists.
a. Later she claimed to have a vision of the Ten Commandments with a halo around the fourth – “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”
b. She concluded that for most of Christian history people were in error for worshiping on the first day of the week rather than on the Sabbath.
3. Her book, The Great Controversy, became the definitive document for the Seventh Day Adventist Church, started in 1846.
4. But the New Testament teaches that the Old Law, which includes the Ten Commandments, were nailed to the cross. We are not to be judged by laws of the Old Testament - Colossians 2:14-17
a. It was replaced with a better law - II Corinthians 3:5-11
b. Christians met on the first day of the week - Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:1-2
5. The usual reply is that Paul went into the synagogues on the Sabbath
a. But if a person is going to teach the Jews, the best place to find them is in a synagogue on the Sabbath
b. This doesn’t mean this is when and where Christians met for worship
K. Salvation Army
1. In the 1860's, a Methodist minister named, William Booth, began working in the slums of London’s East End. He established a mission to the poverty-striken masses.
2. It took on the same of Salvation Army in 1878
a. The mission stations became corps and its members were organized along military lines with the head being the General.
3. It is know for its relief work in disasters, but it is also a religious denomination promising its followers salvation.
a. Their creed book (I have the l969 edition) says on page 6, the Salvation Army is an integral part of the new Israel, the church.
b. "2. The salvation soldier must clearly understand that the Salvation Army Articles of Faith follow the main outline of historic Christian teaching as derived from the Scriptures" [Chosen to Be a Soldier (Orders and Regulations for Soldiers of the Salvation Army Articles of Faith, p. 21]
c. The Salvation Army teaches those they help that salvation is at the point of faith. Their creed book, Handbook of Doctrine, devotes nine whole pages, trying to prove baptism is not essential to salvation (pp. 180-188). Page 188 of their creed book teaches baptism and the Lord's supper should not be practiced at all today. Their members are not to speak against those religions, which practice baptism and the Lord's supper, unless those religions teach these are essential.
(1) Of course the Bible states that baptism is for remission of sins - Acts 2:38. Perhaps they don’t think remission of sins is essential.
(2) And we are told to observe the Lord’s Supper until Christ’s return - I Corinthians 11:24-26.
d. This denomination teaches others they are born sinners. Article 5 of Handbook of Doctrine says all men are totally depraved, and have become sinners as a consequence of Adam and Eve's fall. Page 83 states man is a sinner by inheritance. Page 85 teaches man is born a sinner.
(1) The Bible teaches people left the truth - Romans 3:12. God does not say, "They are born out of the way."
L. Church of Christ, Scientist
1. In 1875, Mary Baker Eddy started a group whose members are called Christian Scientists.
2. The Church of Christ, Scientist, believes that pain and death do not exist – they are imaginary and just a product of incorrect thinking
a. As a result, they do not visit doctors or have their children vaccinated
b. If they get sick, they see a Christian Science Practitioner who helps them get their thinking back on the right track
3. Their creed is Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures written by Mary Baker Eddy
a. The Manual of the Mother Church (Boston) also defines this denomination. . In this Manual, No. XVIII, "No more communion... The Mother Church of Christ, Scientist, shall observe no more Communion seasons."
b. Thus Mrs. Eddy discards the important memorial of the Lord’ death - Matthew 26:28
c. The church does not practice baptism, either.
M. Jehovah’s Witnesses
1. Charles Taze Russell started a Bible study group in 1879 where he made many prophecies. The group was originally called the Millennial Dawn Bible Students Association.
2. Later it became called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and the churches are called Jehovah’s Witnesses
a. This group published its own version of the Bible, called The New World Translation, with many changes to match Russell’s teachings.
3. They teach that Christ is neither eternal or divine, but a created being who was known as Michael, the archangel in the Old Testament.
a. Compare with John 1:1-3 (which is altered in the New World Translation
4. They deny that baptism is not connected with salvation. "What, then, does Christian baptism signify? It is not a washing away of one's sins, because cleansing from sin comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:7)." [The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, p. 183].
a. Compare with Acts 22:16
5. The organization publicly declared that the end of the world may times:
a. In 1876 Russell, perhaps influenced by Seventh Day Adventist preachers, said that Jesus’ presence had began to be seen in 1874, which would climax in the gather of the flock in 1878.
b. He revised his prediction, "the light upon our pathway still shines and is more and more glorious" and that since 1878 the light had glowed stronger. The timing of their translation to heaven seemed nearer, he wrote: "We know not the day or hour, but expect it during 1881, possibly near the autumn where the parallels show the favor to Zion complete and due to end, the door to the marriage to shut, and the high calling to be the bride of Christ, to cease." ["Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence", Zion's Watch Tower, February 1881]
(1) “After 1881 physical death was defined as one of the ways in which some of the saints might undergo their translation.” [Wikipedia])
c. Russell’s Studies in the Scriptures said that the rule of the Gentile nations would end in October, 1914.
(1) When it didn’t happen, he claimed, “Some of us were quite strongly convinced that the Harvest would be ended by now, but our expectations must not be allowed to weigh anything as against the facts ... We see no reason for doubting, therefore, that the Times of the Gentiles ended in October 1914; and that a few more years will witness their utter collapse and the full establishment of God's Kingdom in the hands of Messiah.” ["The Harvest is Not Ended", The Watch Tower, September 1, 1916].
d. 1918 became the new date for the end of the world. “The evidence is very conclusive that it is true, then we have only a few months in which to labor before the great night settles down when no man can work” ["The Concluding Work of the Harvest", The Watch Tower, October 1, 1917, pg 6148-6149].
(1) When it didn’t happen R. F. Rutherford, the new leader of the Watch Tower, refined 1918 as the time Christ entered the temple for the purpose of judgment. [Jehovah's Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1959, page 101.]
e. Also predicted was that various biblical personalities would be raised from the dead in 1925 and begin to rule in the world.
(1) Various Bible notables were named. "... A resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones ... we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel form the condition of death and fully restored to perfect humanity and made the visible, legal representatives of the new order of things on the earth" [Millions Now Living Will Never Die, p. 88].
(2) They built a house in San Diego, CA, for these dignitaries' residence. The house was finally sold as, for some reason, these men did not take up residence there.
f. In 1966 the Watchtower Society began hinting that 1975 would bring about Armageddon. However, they learned their lesson and filled their predictions with “maybe”s.
(1) “Does it mean that Armageddon is going to be finished ... by 1975? It could! It could! All things are possible with God. Does it mean that Babylon the Great is going to go down by 1975? It could ... But we are not saying” ["Rejoicing over God's Sons of Liberty Spiritual Feast", The Watchtower, October 15, 1966, pg 631].
(2) When this did not happen, various explanations were given to soften the significance of a false prophecy, including blaming their own members for being too eager to believe.
g. The latest attempt was to claim that the end would happen before 2000.
6. As Moses said, they are false prophets - Deuteronomy 18:21-22
N. Pentecostal and Holiness churches
1. In the late 1800's to the early 1900's there was a movement centered on a shared belief that miracles continued today, such as speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, and even handling poisonous snakes in some groups.
a. From this arose
(1) The Assemblies of God
(2) The Church of God
(3) The Pentecostal Holiness Church
(4) The Church of God in Christ
(5) The United Pentecostals
b. Compare with I Corinthians 13:8-10.
2. A common belief is salvation by faith only. “We believe, teach and firmly maintain the Scriptural doctrine of justification by faith alone (Romans 5:1...)" [Discipline of the Pentecostal Holiness Church].
a. Compare with James 2:24
b. Though they cite Romans 5:1, they added “only” to this verse
III. We could go on with hundreds of other groups, but these illustrate how the religious world that claims to follow Christ became so divided.
A. In every case books are added to the Bible, written by men, to define how their group is different from all the rest.
1. Some claim that their books are from God, but if they were, they would not contradict the Bible or each other - I Corinthians 14:33
2. Truth does not contradict itself - John 17:17
B. As Jesus told the Pharisees - Matthew 15:9
1. Following such teachings is a waste of time because they will not lead you to God and to heaven.
[Based on “If Christ Built Only One, Where Did They All Come From? By Jefferson David Tant]