Unbelievable

Just suppose you were walking through a grape arbor, and suddenly, you come upon a most amazing thing. You look, and you are astonished, because what you see is this: a perfectly formed grape vine — only one branch is producing apples, another is producing oranges, another – pears, another – figs, another – bananas, and yet another – pomegranates. You are flabbergasted; left utterly speechless. You’ve never seen anything like this before — never in your entire life! You exclaim — UNBELIEVABLE!!! And you would be correct! Such a plant would be unbelievable. In fact, it is an impossibility. Such a plant WILL NOT be seen in the physical world, or in the spiritual world.
Quite often, we hear someone say:  “Jesus talks about the vine and the branches, and that means that all the different churches are alright with God.  So, just attend the church of your choice. After all, you can serve God acceptably in ANY church!” In effect, what these people are saying is that this sort of plant DOES, in fact, exist in the world today. Yes, Jesus talks about the vine and the branches, but He does NOT say that the branches are churches. Let us look at the passage of Scripture which mentions the vine and the branches. In John 15:5-8, Jesus states: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.”
Now, let me ask a question. Does this passage really teach that all churches are the branches?  I submit to you that it does not teach this idea!  When Jesus says: “He that abideth in Me, and I in him,” He is not talking about any church, but a person. The same is true with the phrases: “YE are the branches” (verse 5); and “If a MAN abide not in Me, HE is cast forth as a branch” (verse 6). These two verses go along with verse 7, which states: “If YE abide in Me, and MY words abide in YOU.” In no way can this simple passage of Scripture be construed in such a way as to get churches into it.  Churches just are not there. The Lord is talking about people! He is saying that If we (as individuals) will learn His will, which is revealed through the gospel, the Word of God, and then do it, He will abide with us. In fact, He goes on to say that IF people will do this (learn the will of God and OBEY it) then the Father is glorified in that, and other people will know that we are disciples (followers) of Christ  (verse 8). And in truth, this is what we should WANT to do, IF we truly love the Lord. Remember, Jesus plainly states: “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will Manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).  We show our love for the Lord when we keep His commandments, ALL of His commandments, which is stated very clearly in John 14:9-10.
Religious division (which is what we are talking about) is wrong according to the Scriptures. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth, and said: “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 1:10). The Lord doesn’t want religious division! He wants everyone to believe the same thing — teach the same thing — and practice the same things! Paul asks this question in 1 Corinthians 1:13: “Is Christ divided?” By the looks of the religious world, the answer to this question would have to be YES! And that is contrary to the Lord’s expressed will. Abiding by what God’s Word says would mean that we all could be acceptable to the Lord.
James Strickland

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Can the Church be divided?

There is a sense in which the Lord’s church never divides. Expressions like, “the Lord’s church divided over…” are at best badly worded and at worst unscriptural. The body of Christ is the church of Jesus the Christ (Eph. 1:22-23) and there is only ONE (Eph. 4:4). The apostle Paul asked rhetorically, in 1 Cor. 1:13, “Is Christ divided?”. The answer was obvious; No!
Paul, on another occasion, indicated that he worshiped God according to the way his opponents called a “sect” (Acts 24:14); but they were unbelievers. I have occasionally been called “pastor” or “reverend” by an outsider, because I receive my living of the gospel, but I would not term myself such, for I know the difference. Just as I can understand outsiders misunderstanding the true meaning of pastor and reverend, so likewise the non-denominational nature of the church. But when it is insiders, my own brethren calling us a sect or denomination, saying we are one among many, something is not right!
If someone interjects that a dictionary simply defines denomination as a group of religious congregations, a sort of amalgamation of churches, then I still say that Christ’s church is non-denominational and undivided. The New Testament nowhere teaches a sisterhood of congregations; only a brotherhood of believers. Robert Turner wrote, “The universal body of Christ–the church which is his bride, and for which He died, is made up of all saints. It is a brother-hood, not a church-hood; i.e., the units or parts of this “one body” are individuals, not congregations. (1Cor. 12:12-f Jn. 15:1-6).” To this I only add, “Amen.”
When the public asks, “What faith are you?”, there choice of words shows their ignorance of there being only one faith (Eph. 4:5). What do you say, my dear brother in Christ? Do you believe what the Scripture says? One dictionary uses faith as a synonym of denomination. Man says there are many faiths or denominations, all acceptable to the Lord. The Bible says otherwise. By the way, the same text teaches one God, Lord, Spirit and hope. Now if there can be more than one faith, body (church) or baptism, why not more than one of these others?
The church belonging to Jesus Christ is comprised of all those who have believed the gospel, repented of their sins, confessed Christ as Lord, and been immersed into Christ’s body so that they might receive forgiveness of sins. This eliminates from the one true church, the vast majority of those in denominational circles, even before we begin discussing whether they are faithfully observing all that Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:19-20).
Finally, let me grant that congregations may divide. The Bible refers to such often, although usually in a condemnatory way. You might even see a sect (denomination) called the “Church of Christ” or “Church of God” result from a party – spirit mentality. Though the uninformed may call us a denomination, Christians should know better. The church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is ONE and can never be divided into equal parts, each acceptable to God.

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The Church Of The Bible

The Bible speaks of only one church. Jesus said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). That church established the first congregation in Jerusalem in 30 A.D. But it was not long before persecution came upon that congregation  “and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). As they left Jerusalem, they started establishing congregations everywhere they went. After the gospel was given to the Gentiles (Acts 10), congregations started appearing in cities all over the world including Ephesus, Philippi, Rome, Corinth, and Athens to name a few. There were many local congregations, yet there was still one body, one church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). How could this be? We read the secret in Acts 2:42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship.”
Today there are MANY “churches.” Can all be the ONE church of the Bible? Of course not; if all the churches that exist today were the ONE church of the Bible, then God would be the author of confusion, which He is not (1 Corinthians 14:33). So how can a person KNOW the ONE church of the Bible? The answer is simple; compare that “church” to the apostles’ teaching, which is found only in the Bible.
Perhaps an example is in order. You will never find a church in the Bible with an organization reporting to an earthly head. If you see a church today with local churches reporting to a regional headquarters; and regional headquarters reporting to a national headquarters; and a national headquarters reporting to world headquarters with an earthly head; that is NOT the church of the Bible. You will never find such an organization in the Bible. Each local congregation in the New Testament was self-governed (they reported to no higher earthly organization); all of them together had one and only one SPIRITUAL head–Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:23).
Why would a church do something different from what is in the Bible? Simply put, THAT church wants to continue in MAN’S teachings and NOT God’s teachings. Those “churches” might as well put a sign in front of their buildings that says, “The Church of Man.” The sign in front of our building says, “The Church of Christ” (Romans 16:16). We want to belong to Christ. We want to continue in the apostles’ teaching–the Bible teaching. What church do you want to belong to, God’s or man’s?

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