“Neither pray I for these [disciples] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (Jesus, John 17:21-22)
It goes without saying that many people assume that any church that believes in Jesus must have been started by Jesus. Our society thinks that Baptist, Methodist, Mormons, etc., are all part of Christ’s Church. But there are serious questions that must be asked and answered in light of the New Testament teachings if one holds this position. Let’s look at a few necessary questions in this short article.
Does Jesus endorse division and confusion among His followers? No one can deny that Pentecostals, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. have serious disagreements concerning their worship practices and teachings. Can anyone seriously think Jesus is OK with a Pope who claims to have as much authority as He does? Can anyone seriously think that Jesus is OK with religious groups who replace baptism (submersion in water) with sprinkling or pouring? Can any seriously think that Jesus is OK with preachers “baptizing” babies who don’t know their left hand from the right hand? Is Jesus pleased with these groups following the handbooks and disciplines created in the minds of men instead of the Bible created in the mind of God? (Matthew 15:9-13).
The answer “yes” cannot be the answer to these questions and honest Bible readers will soon find this out for themselves. Kind reader, Jesus is not pleased with any kind of division among those who call on His name. Consider that Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one just as He and the Father are one (John 17:21-23). Since professing believers in Jesus have divided into “denominations” today, it certainly cannot be said they are answering the prayer of Jesus for unity.
Jesus had perfect agreement with the Father. We, too, must have perfect harmony with the Father in order to walk with Him in fellowship: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). People should be ashamed to be a part of religious division! And have not doubt about it, all religious division works against the will of God and Jesus’ prayer for unity. Those who sincerely love the Lord should be willing to take a deep dive into His word and search out His will in the New Testament (Acts 17:11). Our respect for God’s word should be such that we desire to speak only where God has spoken and not to speak where He has been silent. “If any man speak, let him speak the oracles of God…” (1st Peter 4:11).
Jesus did not start the system of religious division or denominationalism we observe in our society today, for such would contradict His own prayer for unity! The Gardendale church of Christ desires to be one as Jesus and the Father are one (John 17:20-23). We seek to please Jesus by working for unity in all we believe, in all we practice in worship, and in what we teach (1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; Colossians 3:17). We extend a warm welcome for you to come study the Bible with us!
—Michael R. Baggett