CHURCH DENOMINATIONS (part 1)
The question often arises "why are there so many different denominations in the Church that Jesus has been in the process of building, for the last 2000 years?". At last count there were several thousand, and new ones are being created all the time, so this is a good question for us to consider.
To start with, we must realize that the true "Church" that Jesus stated He would build (Matt 16:18) is based on the declaration of Peter in verse 16 "you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God", and not on Peter as a person. This true Church was birthed in the upper room on the evening of the same day Jesus arose from the tomb (John 20:19-23). When Jesus "breathed on them", and said "receive the Holy Spirit", the disciples who were there at the time received the promised Holy Spirit and became the first members of this Church. Later, on the Day of Pentecost they along with other disciples were all filled with this same Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) to give them power to be witnesses! The rest of the book of Acts records the early history of how the Church spread throughout the then known world.
The Church was greatly persecuted in those early days, both by the Roman Emperors, and by the Jewish priests and religious leaders who refused to believe Jesus was their promised Messiah. Then in the fourth century under Emperor Constantine, there came a drastic change. Constantine claimed to become a Christian, and the church became part of the Roman Empire. He stopped all persecution of the church from Rome, and started to build large cathedrals for places of worship, and established a system of worship based partly on OT Jewish customs, and partly on the type of worship of the Pagans of the day. This resulted in a church structure that in no way represented the true Church we see in the book of Acts. This church became the mother of the Roman Catholic Church, which considers itself the one true church. A careful reading of church history, especially through the period know as the "dark ages", reveals a great deal of corruption on the part of the church leaders. The mistaken belief that Peter was the foundation of the church, instead of his declaration about Jesus being the Messiah, led to him being declared the first Pope. As you know the Roman Catholic Church still considers this position of the Pope being the head of the church rather than Christ. (Eph 1:19-21). The scriptures clearly declare that Jesus Christ is the head of His Church which He has been in the process of building for the last 2000 years from His throne in heaven next to His Father. When this true Church is finally complete, He will return and receive her to Himself as His long awaited bride, who will be pure and undefiled, and will rule and reign with Him forever! (Eph 5:25-27).
The various denominations we see in the church today are all based on some variation of the church structure that was established back then, with a definite "priesthood" and "laity" division in the body of Christ. This was never God's intention, and is clearly a product of man's carnal mind, and a lack of understanding of the scriptures. We must go back to the book of Acts if we want to see how God intends His true Church to be structured and governed. We find that all local churches were governed by "Elders" (plural), never by one single priest or pastor. These Elders were set in place by the Holy Spirit, and overseen by travelling ministries like Paul and his companions on a regular basis. We never see a local church under the leadership of an elected pastor or board. The Church is to be under a "Theocratic" rule and never a "democratic" system that man has devised. Remember when Israel wanted a king to rule over them like the nations around them, and not a God appointed leader like Samuel? (1 Sam 8:4-9). God allowed them to have a king, although it was not His original plan for them. David was His chosen leader, and one of his seed (Jesus) will be king over His people for all eternity. (2 Sam 7:8-16). This same Jesus is head of the true Church that He bought with His own precious blood! (to be continued)