III. THE FACTORS OF A DENOMINATION (SECT)
Scripture Reading: Acts 2:42
In this chapter my third burden is to show you the factors of a denomination. A denomination is a sect. However, there is a difference between a denomination and a sect: a sect is not a denomination if it does not denominate itself. The divisions that have been produced among us in recent years have not yet denominated themselves. Hence, they are not yet denominations, but they are surely sects.
A. A Special Teaching
The first factor of a denomination or a sect is a special teaching that differs from "the teaching of the apostles" (Acts 2:42) in the entire New Testament, such as baptism by immersion, the presbytery (to administrate the church by the eldership), head covering, the keeping of days, diet, or a particular stress on a certain point of prophecy. All of these matters may be scriptural, but we should not make any of these a special teaching. It is right for us to have all our practices according to the Bible. Thus, in our practice we baptize people by immersion and we have the eldership, but we do not make these things particular items that divide us from other believers. Certain Christians divide themselves from other Christians over the matter of baptism by immersion. If a believer desires to be received into their membership, they require him to be baptized by immersion in their baptistry, by their pastor, and in their water. If he is baptized by immersion in another place and by other people, they will not recognize him. This is a special, particular teaching that divides these believers from other Christians, making them a sect and a denomination.
B. A Special Fellowship
The second factor of a denomination is a special fellowship based upon a special teaching in a realm narrower than that of "the fellowship of the apostles" (Acts 2:42). The fellowship of the apostles is the fellowship of the entire Body universally, covering all kinds of genuine believers. Romans 14 tells us that we must receive different kinds of genuine believers, regardless of what days they observe or what dietary regulations they keep. Whether they eat herbs or eat meat, they are genuine believers because they believe in the Lord Jesus. Thus, we must receive them.
C. A Special Name
The third factor of a denomination is a special name, either according to a special teaching or according to a particular practice, that designates a certain group of believers who are of the same teaching or the same practice. The taking of such a name denominates a particular sect, making it a denomination.
D. Any of the Three Factors
Being Adequate to Make a Division
Any of the above-mentioned three factors is adequate to divide the believers from others who are different from them in teaching or in practice. Therefore, although we should practice things such as baptism by immersion, the presbytery, and head covering, we should not make these things a special item that divides us from others. Furthermore, we should not make them our creed, and we should not designate ourselves by a name, such as Lutheran, Baptist, or Presbyterian, that is according to a particular teaching or practice.
(Elders' Training, Book 10: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (2), Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)