Vol.II No.XII Pg.5
January 1966

"...Isms" Among Brethren

Robert F. Turner

The Lord's church s neither denominational nor sectarian. It is simply the aggregate of God's people -- the "saved" (people) -- the (people) called out of darkness by the gospel (ACT.2:47; 1PE.2:9; 2TH.2:14).

Baptism is not a "church ordinance" for it does not depend upon a church for its authority (MAT.28:18-f) nor for administration (ACT.8:35-38). We are baptized into Christ (GAL.3:27) -- not into a local church. When one is "joined unto" Christ he becomes a member of Christ's church (EPH.5:23-f), a part of that "body" joined unto the Lord. This "universal" church is an organism, a relationship of individuals unto Christ, not a functional organization. Christians are citizens in Christ's kingdom in the same sense that they were once citizens in the kingdom of Satan (COL.1:13).

The scriptures do recognize an organizational structure among saints -- the overseers and servants of a local church; (PHI.1:1) but God-approved organization "begins and ends" with a local church (ACT.14:23; 1PE.5:1). Further, the "rule" and standard for the Lord's church is of divine origin (2CO.10:12-f; ACT.2:42). It is not the traditions or "majority opinions" of the members.

Denominationalism and sectarianism arise when the principles of the past paragraph are ignored. Single, independent congregations can never form a denomination. With such an arrangement the "brotherhood" remains a hood of brethren -- the units being individuals. We open the door to denominationalism when we change "brother" to "church"-hood; and think of the body of Christ as consisting of "sister" churches. Failure to emphasize this point has made "our" brethren ripe for denominational developments. Sectarianism puts its foot in the door if we fail to "prove all things" by God's word. A peculiar characteristic of sectarianism is its ability to make folk think they have proved a matter if they have "always" done it that way, or if "big" preachers or papers approve it. The sectarian spirit is manifested in an unwillingness to fairly examine one's practices in the light of God's word; with name calling and "marking" of any who dare to differ with us. The sectarian thinks all who question his practices or leave his place of assembly have "left the church". Poor fellow!!

Today denominationalism and sectarianism run riot among many who claim to be followers of Christ and members of His church (Some even speak of themselves as "church-of-Christers" -- and rightly so. This is not the language of a simple New Testament Christian.). These folk do not like "Plain Talk" -- they will likely fire this issue back at us, marked; "Refused!" or worse. But they will not change their sectarian attitude; they will not hear our plea for fair open Bible study of all problems.

What can we do about denominationalism and sectarianism among brethren? The same thing we do about it among those who have never known the truth! We love them, teat them fairly, try to teach them the truth both by plain speech and Christ-like example.