Is One Church As Good as Another?
By: John H. Banister
“Is one church as good as another?” This question is frequently asked by sincere, honest people seeking the truth. There are many good people who believe one church is as good as another, and that all churches are equally good and scriptural, and we can be saved in any one of them, or in none of them. In the religious world, there are many churches. Both Protestantism and Catholicism are divided and sub-divided into different denominations, each one of which is characterized by a distinctive name, a particular creed, a body of doctrine, a form of organization, and a type of worship peculiar to itself and different from all other denominations.
However there are many good people in the religious world who do not believe one church is as good as another. They believe that modern denominationalism with all of its division, conflicting creeds and practices is out of harmony with the bible and cannot be justified by scripture. Many believe that, while one denomination is as good as another, no denomination established by man can be compared to the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a fact, both from the Bible and history that the church of Jesus Christ was established and existed in the world for several centuries before Catholicism or Protestantism were known, and before the followers of Christ divided into various denominations with conflicting creeds, doctrines, and practices.
In answer to our question, “Is one church as good as another?” We emphasize the very important fact. There is but one church. This is what the New Testament teaches. This is an unpopular doctrine but it is nevertheless true. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He did not promise to build denominations but only one church. This is the universal body of Christ. It is to exist in all the world and include all the saved. Christ did not establish denominationalism, but he did build his church. In Acts 2:47 we read, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Here we have the first account of people being added to the church. On Pentecost these people heard the gospel, came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, repented of their sins, and were baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). When they thus accepted the terms of salvation, they enjoyed the remission of sins and the Lord added them to the church.
Note from this passage that the Lord did not add them to just any church or denomination. There was only one church then. No denomination existed in that day. Note also that they did not join the church of their choice, because there was no choice then, since there was but one church. Today, when people obey the gospel, as did the people on Pentecost, they are added, not to some human denomination but, to the original church of Christ. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” Notice here that all are baptized into one body. This is the Church (Ephesians 1:23). There is one body, therefore there is one church. It is according to New Testament teaching and the original plan of the Lord that all people be in one body or church. The same baptism that puts us into Christ, where salvation is, also puts us into the one body, or church (Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
In Ephesians 2:16 we read, “And that he [Christ] might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross.” Here we learn that Jesus by his death on the cross unites both Jews and Gentiles in Himself, and reconciles them “in one body.” We are neither baptized into many churches nor reconciled in many bodies. The New Testament teaches that we are baptized and reconciled in one body. In Colossians 3:15 Paul further says that we are “called in one body.” Notice in these expression that there is but one body. In harmony with this, Paul informs us in Ephesians 4:4, “There is one body, and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
In asking the question, “Is one church as good as another?” We might also as the question, “Is one God as good as another?” “Is one Lord as good as another?” The same passage that teaches there is but one God, one Lord, one Spirit, and one faith also declares there is but one body. In Ephesians 3:6 Paul teaches that it is the will of God that all redeemed people, both Jews and Gentiles, should be members of the “same body.” The Lord did not establish different churches with conflicting creeds, doctrines, and forms of worship. Nor did he intend that his followers join different denominations. These things came into being centuries after the New Testament era and were the result of departures from the teaching of the Bible and the practice of the apostolic church.
The fact that there is but one church is proved by Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12. Here he liken the church to the physical body. He argues that in the physical realm there is one head, one body, and many members. In the spiritual realm, Christ is the head, the body is the church, and Christians are the members. If there is more than one church, then Christ has more than one body, for the body is the church. We have one human body, one head, and many members. One head, one body, and many members – this is the plan in the physical realm, and it is the Lord’s plan in the spiritual realm. Denominations cannot be branches of the true church, since each one claims to be a distinct body within itself. Paul very definitely tells us that there is but one body. To argue that there is more than one church, or that one church is as good as another is to violate this argument. It would be a monstrosity, in the physical realm, if a person had several heads on one body, or several bodies with one head. In the spiritual realm there is only one head of the church. The church is not divided into segments, denominations, and parties. Denominations are not parts of the church, but rather individual Christians are the members, who compose the one body. The one body is the church universal. The church of our Lord then is one. It is neither Catholic nor Protestant, since it existed long before either of these religious movements in history.
Not only does the Bible teach there is but one church, but it declares that all are to be in this one body, or church. Salvation is in the one body. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” The Lord adds us to the church when we are saved, and because we are saved. In Ephesians 2:16 Paul teaches that we are reconciled in one body. If we have been reconciled to God we are in the one body. The one body is the church. Therefore, if we are reconciled we are in the one church. If we are not in that one body it is because we are not reconciled to God! Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that we are baptized “into one body.” If we are not in the one body, or church we have not been baptized into Christ. If, however, we have been baptized into Christ, we are in the one body. We cannot be in Christ and out of the church, nor in the church and out of Christ. The moment we are baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into the one body, the church. In Colossians 3:15 Paul says that we are “called in one body.” We have not been called of the Lord until we come into the one body. The one body is the church, therefore we are not called of God until we become members of the church. This teaches that we must be in the church in order to be saved. Now the church does not save us. Christ is our Lord and Savior, but He saves us in the church. He adds us to the church when we are saved, and because we are saved. In Ephesians 5:23 Paul teaches that Christ is the Savior of the body. The body is the church. Christ therefore is the Savior of the church. If we expect to be be saved then we must be in that which Christ has promised to save.
Not only are wear to be in the one body in order to be saved, but in the church all are united in Christ. In Ephesians 2:13 – 19 Paul argues that, in his death on the cross, Christ died to break down the middle wall of partition that separated Jews from Gentiles and unite them all as one in Himself through His body, the church. As a result all Christians find unity, equality, and fellowship in this one body. When people join different churches, they divide themselves into religious parties. Sometimes these denominations rival each other and manifest a competitive spirit. This is contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. All baptized believers are to be members of the one body, the same church. All are to be united to a common Lord, hold the same faith, believe and practice the same thing, and worship in the same way. This is the unity for which Christ prayed. Unity can never be attained in the religious world as long as people believe one church is as good as another, that all churches are equally scriptural, and that one can be saved by joining any of them. Unity will be attained only when we accept the one true apostolic church and, by obedience to the gospel, are saved and added to it. When we become members of the body of Christ, then we are saved, and united to all other Christians who likewise are in the same body. This is the picture of the one apostolic church given in the Bible.
Denominationalism, as it exists in the world today, is unscriptural. In the first place, denominations are different and diverse. Some began several centuries ago, while some are of more recent origin. Every denomination has a human founder and most of them have a human head. Various cites in the world today are the headquarters of certain denominations. Not only are they different as to their place of origin and their founder but all denominations differ in their doctrinal teaching, church organization, religious practice, forms of worship, and mission. Denominationalism therefore tends to divide rather than unite people. It confuses rather than enlightens. Many good sincere people are confused because there are so many denominations today, each one claiming to be a true church. Yet one denomination contradicts another. One practice that which another condemns. Surely this is not right. The Bible does not authorize such. We need to come to the New Testament and learn there is but one church, and that we all are to be members of it. Denominationalism, with its divisions, sects, parties, and schisms, violates the scriptural teaching that enjoins unity. It is contrary to the Savior’s prayer for unity. Just before He left the earth, Christ prayed that all His followers “might be one” (John 17:20). Denominationalism perpetuates division, encourages disunity, and promotes religious strife and sectarian rivalry. It confuses and misleads many sincere and honest people, who are seeking the truth. It is not what the Bible teaches that causes division but what it does not teach!
The church of Christ is undenominational, pre – denominational, and anti- denominational. As a religious body, the church of Christ is neither Catholic nor Protestant. The church of Christ is striving to be just like the first century church was 1,900 years ago; to preach the same gospel, and urge obedience to the same condition of salvation. When we do this, the Lord adds us to the church. Then we are simply New Testament, undenominational Christians, members of the body of Christ. Is one church as good as another? The Bible answers this question with an emphatic “NO.” The church for which our Lord gave his life’s blood on Calvary is far superior to every denomination started by man. Should we not rather be members of the Lord’s body that of some man-made denominations?
Friends, we plead with you to study the Bible. Learn what is teaches about Christ and his church. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, sincerely repent of your sins, confess Jesus before the world, and be baptized, or immersed, for the remission of sins. That is the Bible way, the ONLY way you can be saved. When you do this, you will then be added to the church. You need not join some human religious organization, for you will then be a member of the body of Christ. As a New Testament Christian, you can then worship in the Lord’s church and faithfully serve him. If this you will do, God in his mercy and grace will bless you and in eternity save you.