I ended yesterday's post talking about the Church failing to compromise on doctrine. I did not say whether I thought that failure to compromise was good or bad. Let me continue by saying it is both. There are certain doctrines that are viewed today as the fundamentals of our faith: the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, Christ's sinless life, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His advocacy for the Church, Salvation by Faith alone, Believers Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and His promised Second Coming. These are all doctrines which today must be agreed upon for unity. Many of these doctrines, such as Salvation by Faith alone, were not always understood to be fundamental. Division occurs when two factions develop differing views concerning one or more of them over time.
Jesus told His disciples to preach the Gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the world. However, since the first Christians were Jewish, and since Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish religion, the early Church clustered there. God used persecution to disperse them (Acts 8:1). When Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313, Christianity became legal. Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire on February 27, A.D. 380. It then was centered in Rome. In A.D. 1054, the Church split with Rome and Constantinople being the center of power for each. The Western Church, challenged by Martin Luther in A.D. 1517, began the splintering that has resulted in thousands of groups and denominations headquartered around the world today. So much for unity.
The good news is, Christianity has been spread throughout the world. The bad news is, most of the division within the Church has been over church doctrine resulting in persecution. This begs the question: Is the Christianity that spread throughout the world really the Church? If the interpretation of doctrine varies, are both sides in the resulting division part of the Church?
Yesterday, I suggested that God's confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel was similar to what He has done with the Body of Christ. As people discovered that they could not live together with those having a different language, they spread out and populated the world. God then chose one family group to be His people; Abraham became the father of the Jews. As born again believers discovered that they are unable to fellowship with those who hold different doctrinal views, they began to separate themselves into groups that were like-minded. As God had set apart His people at the beginning of the Church, He now did with new denominations as they spread throughout the world. The Bible says that believers will come from every kindred, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9). I would suggest that believers will come from many denominations, as well. The unity that Jesus prayed for, and which does exist among born again believers of many denominations, IS the Church. Though we may differ on non-essentials, we have fellowship with one another because we have been given the faith to believe in Jesus, and His death, burial, and resurrection according to the Scriptures!