When God gave His law by Moses to Israel, He made no
provision for the division of His people into sects and parties.
But by the time Jesus came into the world, division was well
entrenched. There were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the
Essenes, and doubtless others. It was assumed that all who were
serious about religion would be associated with one of these.
But to which of these parties did Jesus belong? Of course,
He belonged to none of them. He maintained His independent,
non-sectarian relationship with God to the very end. For this
reason, they all opposed Him.
Jesus did not provide for His followers to be divided into
sects and parties. Rather He desired that they might be united.
After praying for His apostles, He then prayed that all His
disciples may be one as He and the Father are one (John
Through the years, however, divisions have developed and has
been perpetuated by the writing of creeds and the formation of
denominational organizations. The result is that now among
professed followers of Jesus there are many bodies
(denominations), many faiths (creeds), and many baptisms.
How different the present situation from the unity
described in the New Testament. The apostle declared, "There is
one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of
your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and
Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you
all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Many today regret the division among believers and wish it
did not exist. They desire the uniting of all the denominations
and work diligently to that end. But they assume that until
this is accomplished, there is nothing an individual can do but
join one of the existing divisions and maintain a kind and
tolerant spirit. Nothing in the teaching or practice of Jesus
supports this approach to unity.
Jesus did not undertake to convene an ecumenical conference
designed to effect a merger of Pharisees, Sadducees, and
Essenes into one super sect. Neither did He pray that His
disciples might be united into one super denomination. He prayed
rather that individual believers might be united in Himself and
in the Father. His teaching was designed to turn individuals
from the doctrines and traditions of men to the simple word of
In the first century the church was simply composed of all
who were saved by Jesus Christ through repentance and baptism,
and it continued to grow as others were saved (Acts 2:38-47).
Groups of these saved people met in various cities and each
group was a church. Though united in Christ, they were
independent of any human association or federation. Christ
directed them through His inspired apostles, teaching them how
they were to worship and work together.
If we obey the same instructions given through the Lord's
apostles, repenting of our sins and being baptized in the name
of Jesus Christ, we too will be saved. When we are saved, the
Lord will add us to His church as He added them. They joined no
other religious organization; neither should we. In Christ, we
are united with all others who are in Him.
As members of the Lord's church, we must then study
carefully the New Testament's description of that church and
the instructions given to it. This is found in the book of Acts
and in the letters which follow it. Since the apostles were
guided by the Holy Spirit, we can be sure that the churches
under their instruction were exactly what Jesus wanted them to
be. If we duplicate these early churches the Lord will be
pleased with us.