Denominations and Going to Hell

Sorry for the purposely shocking title. You can decide for yourself whether it’s accurate.

I’m always surprised that no one ever talks about the fact that Galatians 5:19-21 says that those who "practice" denominations will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I’m assuming that the huge majority of Christians don’t know that. You’d think, however, that the few that do would bring it up and at least ask whether we ought to talk about it.

Hairesis and Denominations

One of the "deeds of the flesh" listed in Galatians 5 is translated by the KJV as "heresies," but I think most modern translations use "factions." I’ve heard people say that a good translation is "a party spirit."

Here’s what they’re translating.

The Greek word hairesis is used 9 times in the New Testament. 6 of those occurrences are in Acts:

  • Acts 5:17: The high priest and others were part of the hairesis of the Sadducees.
  • Acts 15:5: Some members of the hairesis of the Pharisees argued for circumcision at the council in Jerusalem.
  • Acts 24:5: Paul was a member of the hairesis of the Nazarenes (i.e., a Christian).
  • Acts 24:14: Paul says he worships according to "the Way," which Jews call a hairesis.
  • Acts 26:5: Paul calls the Pharisees the strictest hairesis of Judaism.
  • Acts 28:22: Jews tell Paul they have heard of this hairesis (i.e., Christianity).

I don’t think you have to be a Greek scholar to conclude that this word hairesis could accurately be translated "denomination." The KJV translates it "sect" 5 of those times in Acts. As I said, modern translations tend to use "factions" in Galatians 5:20, where it’s plural.

Will Denominations Keep Us Out of the Kingdom of Heaven?

So here we are. Most Protestant denominations claim to be following the Bible. Many say that it is divinely inspired down to every word.

Yet, the Bible says that those who practice haireseis—which, as you can see, is probably best translated "denominations"—will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

So, now you know. I’ll let you decide what to do about it.

It seems like it would be a good thing for your hairesis to talk about. Don’t you?

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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5 Responses to Denominations and Going to Hell

  1. dad says:

    I believe the early followers of Christ had one Church in each city or town,
    not several different denominations, squabling over the right way to follow Christ. If we can't all follow Christ in one Church in each community, How do we show Love and obedience to Christ. Rose Creek is one Church in one cimmunity learning to serve God and each other with one heart. Shouldn't every community come together and follow Christ together. How much more could we accomplish if we were one Church with one Head(Christ). I don't believe we can comprehend what God could do thru us if we were of one Heart.

  2. John Cullimore says:

    It seems to me that it comes down to our willingness and actions when we meet with those of other denominations.

    I like the way that you said "… opportunity to trample the lines between organizations."

    This is an imperative action. We've got to be looking for more and more ways to preserve that unity of the Spirit with one another, and set aside all the many many things that we divide over and think more important.

    So I would say, in answer to your question, Mark, the way Rose Creek is not a denomination is only in as much as we work to trample those lines and extend the right hand of fellowship to everyone who will receive it.

  3. Pingback: The Rest of the Old Old Story » I Am of Paul

  4. Mark says:

    An obvious question might be this – By being seperate and different from denominations, how is Rose Creek Village NOT a denomination in some sense?

    I ask because I have come across many different groups who claim to be getting back to the bible and doing church how it should 'really' be done (the 'local church' movement is one example) and slamming denominations and factions while at the same time looking like just another denomination and faction.

    • shammahbn says:

      Obvious or not, it's a legitimate question.

      The issue has to be kept on practical level (like most other issues). It stands out to me here in Auburn that there are Christian clubs–as I like to call the way we do church nowadays–that it would be foolish to send a person to. The person would not be helped and would, in fact, be hindered in following Christ by showing up there. It is in no way the church, and dividing from it is necessary.

      Then there's other Christian clubs with people in it with whom we have to find a way to be united.

      What is that way? Now that's the question, and I don't think there's one answer to it.

      I do know that at Rose Creek Village we have to keep asking ourselves that question, which we do. We've talked even recently about what it means to be the church and what we do with those that follow Christ in Selmer, Tennessee who could never unite with us organizationally because of the fact we live in community or whatever.

      This is not a sufficient answer, but I believe we have to see past the organizations. We don't do that with words, merely saying, "Well, you know, deep down we're all united because we follow the same God." Our actions have to step across organizational lines, pulling our fellow believers into our lives in a way that can be seen by the world. We have to really, in action, show that we're united in truth, taking care of and spending time with one another.

      I think we make real efforts to do that at RCV, and I think here in Auburn, where I am for a while, there is real opportunity to trample the lines between organizations in a very visible way because there's pastors here who care about the church more than they do about their position or salary.

      I hope it doesn't sound trite–because I've seen it work–to say that it boils down to attitude. Yes, it's attitude that's accompanied by action, but the foundation is attitude. Being ingrown comes from where we're looking. When what we see is a unity that's spiritual, then that's the unity we walk in, and it's real. I think we've all experienced brothers and sisters that our hearts joined with in Christ with whom we've had real fellowship despite being in different buildings on Sunday morning.

      I'm rambling, so I'll just quit now. I'd be happy for help with my words because I think the thoughts I'm trying to express work.

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