This Biblical Christianity website encourages people to know and to live, God’s Word; thus enabling us to live now as God intended for us to live, and preparing us for eternal life in God’s kingdom.
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How did various Christian groups and denominations get started? Let’s examine a few passages of Scripture for a clue as to how this happened, and, if it should have happened.
Before we look at these passages, we need to know a little about the man God used to reveal the important truths concerning the Church and how it should be constructed and function; the Unger's Bible Dictionary has this to say about this man called the apostle Paul.
However, with the Pauline epistles we are given the theological exposition of what the finished work of Christ and the consequent giving of the Holy Spirit purchased for men. "Hidden in God" (Eph. 3:9) was the revelation given to the apostle, consisting first of the fact that the interval of time between the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ and His return in glory was unrevealed; second, that during this era the out-calling of the ecclesia, the church, which is Christ's Body, was to occur. The Lord prophetically announces the church in Matt. 16, but leaves unrevealed its formation, its call, its position, its relationships, its privileges, and its duties. In the Upper Room discourse in John 14-17, the Lord gives preliminary teaching concerning this future entity, principally with regard to the work of the Holy Spirit, who would come at Pentecost. With the coming of the Holy Spirit the church was formed and began its existence. However, all through the book of Acts the precise doctrine that would govern the church was unrevealed. Neither Peter nor any of the other disciples was given the revelation distinctively concerning the church.
Two periods in the life of the apostle after his conversion are passed over in silence. One is his sojourn in Arabia, from which he came forth in full possession of the gospel revelation as set forth in Galatians and Romans. In the two silent years in prison at Caesarea between his arrest in the Temple at Jerusalem and his deportation to Rome he likely received other revelation. At any rate, the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the church appear in his writings alone. This was given to him by divine revelation. In his epistles to seven Gentile churches (Thessalonica, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Rome) the "mystery which for ages has been hidden in God" (Eph. 3:9) is fully set forth. These letters give full instructions concerning the unique place of the church in this age and in the counsels and purposes of God.
The central message of the apostle is the church as one body (1 Cor. 12:13) formed by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. This ministry of the Holy Spirit of baptizing, which was prophetic in the gospels with John the Baptist (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5), became historic in Acts 2 and in the experience of the church in the book of Acts, and was given its doctrinal exposition through the revelation of Paul in the epistles.
The baptism of the Spirit, according to Paul, places one "in Christ." This vital organic oneness of the people of this age with Christ and with one another in Him (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:8-10) forms the central core of the Pauline revelation. This "in Christ" position wrought by the giving of the Holy Spirit subsequent to the ascension of Christ makes real in the believer all that Christ purchased for him on the cross. Thus Paul becomes the expositor theologically of the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Although all centers in the new entity, the church, the mystery hid in God, and the connection of this new entity with the present age, to Paul was also committed the unfolding of the doctrines of grace that were latent in the teachings of Jesus Christ. To Paul was given the revelation concerning the precise relationship and purpose of the law to the new entity, the church. He unfolds the believer's justification, sanctification, and glory. He is distinctively the witness to a glorified Christ, head over all things to the church, which is Christ's Body. He thus places in his theological approach the believer in closest union with Christ, identified with Him by the Spirit's baptizing work in death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coming glory.
The mystery "hidden in God" according to the Pauline revelation was a divine purpose to make of Jew and Gentile a wholly new thing, the church, which is Christ's Body, formed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13) in which the earthly distinction of Jew and Gentile disappears (Eph. 2:14-16). The revelation of this mystery, which was foretold by our Lord (Matt. 16:18), was revealed to Paul. Failure to see the apostle's distinctive revelation and to enter into his differentiation between law and grace, the church and Israel, the present age as distinguished from other ages, and the present purpose of God in distinction to His OT purpose for His yet-future kingdom purpose have caused untold confusion in the Christian world.
So we see that it is from the apostle Paul’s writing that we should look to find the information we are seeking, and that since God has revealed this directly unto him, we should hold tightly to them and not be diverted to something else. Unger reminds us in the last paragraph above, about the confusion that comes about when we don’t grasp the significance of Paul’s writings and hold to them; as we shall see, this is the major cause for the establishment of diverging groups and denominations.
1 TIMOTHY 1:1-7; 18-20.... Paul, an apostle (special messenger) of Christ Jesus by appointment and command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus (the Messiah), our Hope, to Timothy, my true son in the faith: Grace (spiritual blessing and favor), mercy, and [heart] peace [be yours] from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3As I urged you when I was on my way to Macedonia, stay on where you are at Ephesus in order that you may warn and admonish and charge certain individuals not to teach any different doctrine, nor to give importance to or occupy themselves with legends (fables, myths) and endless genealogies, which foster and promote useless speculations and questionings rather than acceptance in faith of God's administration and the divine training that is in faith ( in that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence) – whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from a pure heart and a good (clear) conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith. But certain individuals have missed the mark on this very matter [and] have wandered away into vain arguments and discussions and purposeless talk. They are ambitious to be doctors of the Law (teachers of the Mosaic ritual), but they have no understanding either of the words and terms they use or of the subjects about which they make [such] dogmatic assertions. . . . 18This charge and admonition I commit in trust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with prophetic intimations which I formerly received concerning you, so that inspired and aided by them you may wage the good warfare, holding fast to faith ( that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence) and having a good (clear) conscience. By rejecting and thrusting from them [their conscience], some individuals have made shipwreck of their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan in order that they may be disciplined [by punishment and learn] not to blaspheme.
It is very significant that the first thing that Paul mentions is the importance of Biblical doctrine, and the need to warn, admonish and charge the people not to teach anything contrary to what he had delivered unto them. The "certain individuals" that Paul mentions in verses 3, 5 and 6 that are "ambitious to be doctors of the Law" are like the intellectuals and professors of our day who have rejected the Word of God and rely upon the foolish wisdom of this world that has produced the teachings and beliefs that are so very hostile and opposed to God’s Word; to follow them, as Paul warned, can lead to their faith becoming shipwrecked or destroyed. Whereas, and in contrast, the objective of Paul’s instructions have four very important qualitites: (1) love; (2) a pure heart; (3) a clear conscience; and (4) true and genuine faith. We are to concentrate upon God’s administration and divine training in regards to faith or trusting God in and for everything; Paul knew how important these things are, and had warned the Ephesian church of the dangers involved and the need to be watchful against them the last time he had seen them, as recorded below.
ACTS 20:16-36.... For Paul had determined to sail on past Ephesus, lest he might have to spend time [unnecessarily] in [the province of] Asia; for he was hastening on so that he might reach Jerusalem, if at all possible, by the day of Pentecost. However, from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church [to come to him there].
18And when they arrived he said to them: You yourselves are well acquainted with my manner of living among you from the first day that I set foot in [the province of] Asia, and how I continued afterward, serving the Lord with all humility in tears and in the midst of adversity (affliction and trials) which befell me, due to the plots of the Jews [against me]; how I did not shrink from telling you anything that was for your benefit and teaching you in public meetings and from house to house, but constantly and earnestly I bore testimony both to Jews and Greeks, urging them to turn in repentance [that is due] to God and to have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ [that is due Him].
22And now, you see, I am going to Jerusalem, bound by the [Holy] Spirit and obligated and compelled by the [convictions of my own] spirit, not knowing what will befall me there – except that the Holy Spirit clearly and emphatically affirms to me in city after city that imprisonment and suffering await me. But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, if only I may finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have obtained from [which was entrusted to me by] the Lord Jesus, faithfully to attest to the good news (Gospel) of God's grace (His unmerited favor, spiritual blessing, and mercy).
25And now, observe, I perceive that all of you, among whom I have gone in and out proclaiming the kingdom, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify and protest to you on this [our parting] day that I am clean and innocent and not responsible for the blood of any of you. For I never shrank or kept back or fell short from declaring to you the whole purpose and plan and counsel of God.
28Take care and be on guard for yourselves and the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you bishops and guardians, to shepherd (tend and feed and guide) the church of the Lord or of God which He obtained for Himself [buying it and saving it for Himself] with His own blood. I know that after I am gone, ferocious wolves will get in among you, not sparing the flock; even from among your own selves men will come to the front who, by saying perverse (distorted and corrupt) things, will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them [to their own party]. Therefore be always alert and on your guard, being mindful that for three years I never stopped night or day seriously to admonish and advise and exhort you one by one with tears.
32And now [brethren], I commit you to God [I deposit you in His charge, entrusting you to His protection and care]. And I commend you to the Word of His grace [to the commands and counsels and promises of His unmerited favor]. It is able to build you up and to give you [your rightful] inheritance among all God's set-apart ones (those consecrated, purified, and transformed of soul).
33I coveted no man's silver or gold or [costly] garments. You yourselves know personally that these hands ministered to my own needs and those [of the persons] who were with me. In everything I have pointed out to you [by example] that, by working diligently in this manner, we ought to assist the weak, being mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed (makes one happier and more to be envied) to give than to receive.
36Having spoken thus, he knelt down with them all and prayed.
From chapters 1-4 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we can find out how divisions develop, and from chapters 11-14 of the same letter we could find information about the administration of God (mentioned by Paul to Timothy in 1 Tim. 1:4) if we took the time and space to explore it.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-31.... But I urge and entreat you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in perfect harmony and full agreement in what you say, and that there be no dissensions or factions or divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your common understanding and in your opinions and judgments. For it has been made clear to me, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions and wrangling and factions among you.
12What I mean is this, that each one of you [either] says, I belong to Paul, or I belong to Apollos, or I belong to Cephas (Peter), or I belong to Christ. Is Christ (the Messiah) divided into parts? Was Paul crucified on behalf of you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I baptized in my own name. [Yes] I did baptize the household of Stephanas also. More than these, I do not remember that I baptized anyone. For Christ (the Messiah) sent me out not to baptize but [to evangelize by] preaching the glad tidings (the Gospel), and that not with verbal eloquence, lest the cross of Christ should be deprived of force and emptied of its power and rendered vain (fruitless, void of value, and of no effect).
18For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God. For it is written, I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosophers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning; I will frustrate and nullify [them] and bring [them] to nothing. [Isa. 29:14] Where is the wise man (the philosopher)? Where is the scribe (the scholar)? Where is the investigator (the logician, the debater) of this present time and age? Has not God shown up the nonsense and the folly of this world's wisdom? For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to perceive and recognize and know God by means of its own philosophy, God in His wisdom was pleased through the foolishness of preaching [salvation, procured by Christ and to be had through Him], to save those who believed (who clung to and trusted in and relied on Him). For while Jews [demandingly] ask for signs and miracles and Greeks pursue philosophy and wisdom, we preach Christ (the Messiah) crucified, [preaching which] to the Jews is a scandal and an offensive stumbling block [that springs a snare or trap], and to the Gentiles it is absurd and utterly unphilosophical nonsense. But to those who are called, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile), Christ [is] the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.
25[This is] because the foolish thing [that has its source in] God is wiser than men, and the weak thing [that springs] from God is stronger than men. For [simply] consider your own call, brethren; not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth. [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame. And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are, so that no mortal man should [have pretense for glorying and] boast in the presence of God.
30But it is from Him that you have your life in Christ Jesus, Whom God made our Wisdom from God, [revealed to us a knowledge of the divine plan of salvation previously hidden, manifesting itself as] our Righteousness [thus making us upright and putting us in right standing with God], and our Consecration [making us pure and holy], and our Redemption [providing our ransom from eternal penalty for sin]. So then, as it is written, Let him who boasts and proudly rejoices and glories, boast and proudly rejoice and glory in the Lord. [Jer. 9:24]
1 CORINTHIANS 2:1-16.... As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God [concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men] in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom; for I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified. And I was in ( passed into a state of) weakness and fear (dread) and great trembling [after I had come] among you. And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and power [a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them], so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God.
6Yet when we are among the full-grown (spiritually mature Christians who are ripe in understanding), we do impart a [higher] wisdom (the knowledge of the divine plan previously hidden); but it is indeed not a wisdom of this present age or of this world nor of the leaders and rulers of this age, who are being brought to nothing and are doomed to pass away. But rather what we are setting forth is a wisdom of God once hidden [from the human understanding] and now revealed to us by God--[that wisdom] which God devised and decreed before the ages for our glorification [to lift us into the glory of His presence]. None of the rulers of this age or world perceived and recognized and understood this, for if they had, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. But, on the contrary, as the Scripture says, What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed]. [Isa. 64:4; 65:17]
10Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man's scrutiny]. For what person perceives (knows and understands) what passes through a man's thoughts except the man's own spirit within him? Just so no one discerns (comes to know and comprehend) the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit [that belongs to] the world, but the [Holy] Spirit Who is from God, [given to us] that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts [of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly] bestowed on us by God. And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit].
14But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated. But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him]. For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart. [Isa. 40:13]
1 CORINTHIANS 3:1-23.... However, Brethren, I could not talk to you as to spiritual [men], but as to nonspiritual [men of the flesh, in whom the carnal nature predominates], as to mere infants [in the new life] in Christ [unable to talk yet!] I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not yet strong enough [to be ready for it]; but even yet you are not strong enough [to be ready for it], for you are still [unspiritual, having the nature] of the flesh [under the control of ordinary impulses]. For as long as [there are] envying and jealousy and wrangling and factions among you, are you not unspiritual and of the flesh, behaving yourselves after a human standard and like mere (unchanged) men? For when one says, I belong to Paul, and another, I belong to Apollos, are you not [proving yourselves] ordinary (unchanged) men?
5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Ministering servants [not heads of parties] through whom you believed, even as the Lord appointed to each his task: I planted, Apollos watered, but God [all the while] was making it grow and [He] gave the increase. So neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but [only] God Who makes it grow and become greater. He who plants and he who waters are equal (one in aim, of the same importance and esteem), yet each shall receive his own reward (wages), according to his own labor. For we are fellow workmen (joint promoters, laborers together) with and for God; you are God's garden and vineyard and field under cultivation, [you are] God's building. [Isa. 61:3] According to the grace (the special endowment for my task) of God bestowed on me, like a skillful architect and master builder I laid [the] foundation, and now another [man] is building upon it. But let each [man] be careful how he builds upon it, for no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed one).
12But if anyone builds upon the Foundation, whether it be with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, the work of each [one] will become [plainly, openly] known (shown for what it is); for the day [of Christ] will disclose and declare it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test and critically appraise the character and worth of the work each person has done. If the work which any person has built on this Foundation [any product of his efforts whatever] survives [this test], he will get his reward. But if any person's work is burned up [under the test], he will suffer the loss [of it all, losing his reward], though he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has passed] through fire. [Job 23:10]
16Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God's temple (His sanctuary), and that God's Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]? If anyone does hurt to God's temple or corrupts it [with false doctrines] or destroys it, God will do hurt to him and bring him to the corruption of death and destroy him. For the temple of God is holy (sacred to Him) and that [temple] you [the believing church and its individual believers] are. Let no person deceive himself. If anyone among you supposes that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool [let him discard his worldly discernment and recognize himself as dull, stupid, and foolish, without true learning and scholarship], that he may become [really] wise. [Isa. 5:21] For this world's wisdom is foolishness (absurdity and stupidity) with God, for it is written, He lays hold of the wise in their [own] craftiness; [Job 5:13] and again, The Lord knows the thoughts and reasonings of the [humanly] wise and recognizes how futile they are. [Ps. 94:11] So let no one exult proudly concerning men [boasting of having this or that man as a leader], for all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas (Peter), or the universe or life or death, or the immediate and threatening present or the [subsequent and uncertain] future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
1 CORINTHIANS 4:1-6.... So Then, let us [apostles] be looked upon as ministering servants of Christ and stewards (trustees) of the mysteries (the secret purposes) of God. Moreover, it is [essentially] required of stewards that a man should be found faithful [proving himself worthy of trust]. But [as for me personally] it matters very little to me that I should be put on trial by you [on this point], and that you or any other human tribunal should investigate and question and cross-question me. I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself. I am not conscious of anything against myself, and I feel blameless; but I am not vindicated and acquitted before God on that account. It is the Lord [Himself] Who examines and judges me. So do not make any hasty or premature judgments before the time when the Lord comes [again], for He will both bring to light the secret things that are [now hidden] in darkness and disclose and expose the [secret] aims (motives and purposes) of hearts. Then every man will receive his [due] commendation from God. Now I have applied all this [about parties and factions] to myself and Apollos for your sakes, brethren, so that from what I have said of us [as illustrations], you may learn [to think of men in accordance with Scripture and] not to go beyond that which is written, that none of you may be puffed up and inflated with pride and boast in favor of one [minister and teacher] against another.
Whenever and wherever men look upon themselves or any others as more than just faithful servants of Christ and stewards of God’s Word, there exists the likelihood of the divisions that threatened the Corinthian church when Paul stated unto them, "For as long as [there are] envying and jealousy and wrangling and factions among you, are you not unspiritual and of the flesh, behaving yourselves after a human standard and like mere (unchanged) men? For when one says, I belong to Paul, and another, I belong to Apollos, are you not [proving yourselves] ordinary (unchanged) men?" Their focus had become diverted from Christ and His Word to themselves, and the result of this has been the development of numerous "Christian" groups, actually thousands of them.
If the Church had followed the Scriptural guidelines laid down by the apostle Paul, there would have been no reason or need for the various so-called Christian groups or denominations, and there would be less diverse groups and more true unity.