“Branch Churches?”

Jerry C. Brewer

There is perhaps no Bible teaching that is more generally denied by denominational preachers than the unity, or oneness, of the church. The Scriptural teaching that Christ established only one church and that sinners are saved in that one church is especially distasteful to most people. The reason, of course, is that most people would rather have their own way than observe what God teaches in the Bible.

The denominational industry rejects Bible teaching on the oneness of the church by the popular—but erroneous—contention that all denominations are “branch churches” which make up the one church of Christ. Now, branches of anything necessarily imply the main thing from which they come. A branch river implies a main river and branches of a tree imply a body or trunk. If there are such things as “branch churches”, then what, and where, is the main church from which they come? The natural branches of the same vine do not produce a half a hundred different kinds of fruits. Some produce more fruit than others, but in kind and nature, they are the same.

And that leads to this conclusion: If denominations are all branches of the same church, under the same head, and animated by the same spirit, they would produce the same results. If they were all branches of the church of Christ, they would make their converts simply “Christians” instead of the different denominational names they wear.

Denominational preachers pervert the beautiful parable of “the vine and the branches” in John 15 by saying the branches represent different denominations. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered” (John 15:6). This text does not say denominations are “branches” of the church, but the meaning is clear when the Lord says, “If a man abide not in me…”

When Jesus uses the pronouns “he” and “ye” in referring to the branches, no chance is left to misunderstand. He says, “If a man abide not in me”—not a denomination. Careless reading and preconceived notions are responsible for much false teaching. The branches to which Jesus refers are individual Christians who compose the church of Christ. Denominations, with their conflicting creeds, names, forms of worship, traditions, and organizations of men are foreign to the New Testament, and there is no denomination anywhere in the world that can cite Biblical authority for its existence.

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