Continually I come in contact with people who are confused over the various denominations that are in existence. Often I am asked, “Can I be a Christian without belonging to a denominational church?”
In the early days of Christianity there were no denominations. The early followers of the Christ were simply called Christians (Acts 11:26). Collectively, they were referred to as “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16). Religiously, the apostles Paul, Peter, John, and all the rest were neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jew. They were Christians only.
First century Christianity was undenominational Christianity. There term should not be confused with the modern idea expressed in “inter- denominational” or “all-denominational” Christianity. Those who tried to create divisions within the church in the first century which would have resulted in denominations were reprimanded (I Corinthians 1:10-13). Their allegiance was to Christ and to Him only. The “party spirit” was not present in pure New Testament Christianity. There were no divisions over doctrine which divides the religious world today. Those who followed Jesus, followed His Word; they had a “Thus saith the Lord” for all they practiced. They were followers of Christ, members of the church which He purchased with His blood—this and nothing more. They practiced no man-made creeds which would have made them members of man-made denominations.
Certainly today if we follow the Christ as they did, we too can be just Christians, having “like precious faith” with the apostles (II Peter 1:1). We will be, as they were free from the error and confusion of denominationalism. We can worship and serve the same God as simply and acceptably as they did, following the pattern set forth in the New Testament. When we follow the same God and the same Christ using the blueprint given to us by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, then we can be New Testament Christians just as men and women were nearly two thousand years ago.
The plea of the church of Christ has been the same from the beginning. The Scriptures are sufficient to guide us in all matters of religion (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:3). We plead for men to abide in the “old paths” and walk therein. You can be an undenominational Christian just as in the early days of the church by following only the teaching of the New Testament.
William S. Cline