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Eddie was a clerk in a hardware store. He made a name for himself as the most inefficient and contentious salesman ever. The atmosphere when he was absent one day was like the tranquil beauty of summer weather after a bad thunderstorm. One regular customer remarked on the difference. "Eddie ain't just away for the day", said the proprietor, "He don't work here no more".
"Do you have anyone in mind for the vacancy?" asked the customer. "Nope", said the proprietor cheerfully, "Eddie didn't leave no vacancy".
This little story reminds us of some folks in the church. It is so seldom that they attend services that no one really misses them when they are absent. They are such that no great loss is felt if they move to another city. Like Eddie, they leave no vacancy. Others can be absent for only one or two services and they are missed. Why? Because they are dependable. When their seat is vacant people take notice.
Church attendance is not the only matter of importance in the life of a Christian. However, it is a pretty good index to the temperature of one's fervor for the Lord. Non-attending members are usually non-participating in other aspects of the Lord's work. One must fill a place, render needed service, and be a participant before he can leave a vacancy.
Concerning the church at Sardis the Lord said, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead" (Revelation 3:1). Now think, where did they get that "name"?
"Name" is here used in the sense of reputation the popular opinion. But the smallness and insignificance of the cause of Christ in the world at that time negates any suggestion that this was a "name" in the world's Hall of Fame. The world couldn't care less. Yet, someone had to give them that name, and give it such general acceptance as to warrant significance. The Lord certainly did not sanction this appraisal; so we are forced to conclude that their peers, or social circle, gave them their "name".
Other churches, others of their professed "kind", must have talked of their "good works", "wonderful spirit", "liberal contributions" or whatever that generation considered great. It is apparent that brethren of that age were no more qualified judges of what God approves than their current counterparts. Doesn't it shake you? They had a good reputation they got it from their own brethren and it did not amount to a hill of beans (when beans were cheap). No wonder Paul said those who "measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves, are not wise".
For the Lord said of Sardis, that Big Name church, "thou art dead". What remained was "ready to die". The "few names in Sardis" who had not defiled their garments must have stood out from the rest like a sore thumb - a few cranks or "fanatics" who would not line up with the majority. Perhaps those "on the march" wished them gone, so as to remove that source of criticism and embarrassment, not realizing that they were the last bit of salt in the whole stinking mess.
The majority "had a name" - and it seems the "name" was more valued than the truth. Well, we all have a name - of some sort - with both God and man. Our concern for what men think often blinds us to what God thinks of us - and that's what I'd call real near-sightedness. Man, a good reputation is not enough. We've got to consider who gives us our "name".
How do you define a religious "denomination"? We use the term frequently, but we seldom stop to really consider what it means. Think about it this way:
A denomination is something bigger than a single, local congregation. Typically, a denomination consists of many smaller local groups that are scattered over a large geographical area. Many are "nationwide" and some of the best known denominations are "worldwide" in scope. So, a religious denomination is an organization that is obviously larger than a local church.
Now then, ask someone who is a member of a popular denomination this question: Do you think that all "Christians" are members of your particular denomination? His answer will be, with few exceptions, "No!" Clearly then, most denominationalists believe that their denomination is smaller than the sum total of all "Christians" in the world. This "sum total of all Christians" is what we normally refer to as the "universal" church.
If these observations are accurate, then we have a strong argument against denominationalism by definition. A denomination is bigger than a local church, but smaller than the universal church, and the Bible never depicts such a thing. It never describes any organizational unit of the church that is larger than a local congregation. The local church is organized with elders, deacons and saints (Philippians 1:1). Furthermore, beyond the local congregation, it never denotes any association of Christians that is smaller than the universal church. The universal church's only organization is in the headship of Christ (Colossians 1:18). The Scriptures do not define any worldly structure for the universal church.
Therefore, we must conclude that religious denominations have no place in God's plan.Download the PDF Back to the archives...
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