Which Church? New Testament Churches Had No Sectarian Title
In our day, each of the sects and denominations of Christendom bears a title to distinguish it from other groups. Some take their name from a founder, and so there are Wesleyans and Lutherans etc. Others are identified by their form of church government, and so there are Presbyterians and Episcopalians. Some are known by a particular doctrine or practice that they hold, and so there are Baptists and Pentecostals. To willingly take any name that does not include all believers is to be guilty of the sin of sectarianism that is condemned in 1 Corinthians 1:10-16. New Testament assemblies did not gather under the patronage of any sect or denomination, but they did gather in association with the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The relevant scripture is Matthew 18:20. Said the Saviour, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.
At least two things are suggested by the phrase ‘gathered in (or unto) my name’. First, Identification with the Lord Jesus. That is, the believer abandons all man-made ecclesiastical systems, and is identified with the rejected Christ. The epistle to the Hebrews urges this upon us all. “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach”, Hebrews 13:13. ‘The camp’ in that day was Judaism, and its modern equivalent is Christendom into which many of the features of Judaism have been absorbed. The believer is called upon to break his links with that, and be associated alone with the Man who is ‘outside the camp’, as one gathered to His name. Second, Subjection to Christ. When the Saviour is seen in relation to the local church, the name most frequently used by the Spirit of God is that of the LORD Jesus Christ. Most of 1 Corinthians relates to assembly matters, and in that letter there are constant references to Him by that title. So, gathering to His Name implies the acknowledgement of His authority as THE LORD Jesus. It is true that His lordship ought to affect every department of our lives, but don’t neglect it in your church life, by gathering to His Name, owning no authority but His, and no other rule-book but His Word.
So then, early Christians took no denominational title, but were happy to be known as those who were linked to Him, thus experiencing the deep joy that His presence brought.
Jump to the next post in this series.
Jump back to the first post in this series.