Someone recently wrote me an email arguing that only those who belong to his particular denomination are any part of the body of Christ and the universal church of God. How should we respond to such claims, which are made across the “Christian” spectrum?
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For more than a millennium now, different people have equated the true church of Christ with some particular group found in the Yellow Pages (an anachronism, I know, but you get the point). All such attempts will ultimately fail because they are trying to shrink Christ’s spiritual body, God’s true church, to a tiny segment of the whole — a segment which, regardless of its identity, sprang into existence far too late to claim such a lofty distinction. The true church of Christ includes every saved person who knows Jesus since Pentecost, and it is far bigger than any Christian denomination or nondenomination regardless of its name, claim or fame. To suppose otherwise is to fall, however.unintentionally, into sectarianism and possibly into heresy as well in the biblical sense.
The world is full of would-be “true churches,” each of which has preserved or restored some part of the apostolic message, church detail or personal experience, and all making exclusive claims. Each such group probably is correct in some of its specific doctrines or practices, though such groups usually are not nearly as unique or distinct in those matters as they themselves imagine. And they all are wrong in their exclusive claims.
The time has come to stop playing the “Guess the Right Religious Organization and Win a Trip to Heaven” game. Instead, as repentant sinners who have nothing that God needs and nothing of which we dare to boast, let us put all our trust in the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Let us entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ — to learn from him, to follow him and to become like him. When we do that, we can stop quibbling about the name over the church house door. And we then can say with confidence that we are part of the church of which Jesus Christ is the head and the Savior.