What Kind of Christian are You?

I repeatedly hear the question, “What kind of Christian are you?”, or some variation of that question. What the person asking wants to know is if I am a Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic, Episcopalian, etc. Typically, I will play along and respond, “Presbyterian,” but in my head I am thinking, “What a silly question. I’m a Christian Christian.”

Because Christians are so divided–hence the many denominations–the bricks and mortar of a church tend to define who we are.  To the extreme, some denominations believe that if you are not part of their denomination or part of their church, then you are not saved. Others believe that other denominations are damned because they are not baptized properly or have not recited a “Sinner’s Prayer.”  Others have recognized this ludicrousness and formed so-called “non-denominational” churches, which become denominations themselves.

The tendency is for Christians to gather in exclusive “clubs,” believing that their respective clubs have a monopoly on Truth.  But what does the Bible say about that?

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you . . . so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17.

Replacing denominations for the named individuals in Paul’s reprimand above, it would sound something like this:  “I follow the Baptists”; another, “I follow the Methodists”; another, “I follow the Presbyterians”; still another, “I follow the Catholics.”  And Paul’s response would be?  “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you.”  Harsh words to hear.

So are we to disregard these denominations altogether?  No.  But what are we to do with them?  Paul, I think, answers this question directly:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9.

In the foregoing scripture, Paul explains that  Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, are NOTHING. God is the sole source of Truth and is the One who grows His Kingdom.  Paul, Apollos and Cephas were mere planters and waterers, servants to God.  Planters and waterers do not make anything grow.  God is the One who makes things grow.  While “NOTHING” sounds harsh, Paul does not mean planters and waterers are worthless.  Planters and waterers are in God’s service and are doing good work, but they are not to be worshiped or bowed down to.

Once again, inserting denominations into the place of the planters and waterers, we are cautioned that denominations are NOTHING. They are not to be worshiped or bowed down to.  They are mere vehicles through which God works on the heart of the sinner. They are builders on the foundation of Christ.  So, one should not beat his chest proudly proclaiming, “I am Baptist!” while looking down on other denominations, which brings to mind the image of the Pharisee and the tax collector:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 18:10-14.

Unfortunately, there will always be divisions among Christians due to the Fall of Man.  But, just because divisions are a reality due to the Fall of Man, this does not make them excusable.  When the Pharisees confronted Jesus about Moses allowing divorce, He responded as follows:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Matthew 19:3-9.

Applying Jesus’ reprimand to denominations, they are tolerated because of the fallen nature of man just as Moses tolerated divorce.  Denominations are evidence of man’s hardened heart.  But these divisions did not exist “in the beginning” and are contrary to the unity of Christ.

So, what are we to do with denominations?  We are to look at them as mere planters and waterers, builders on the foundation of Christ. We should not proudly beat our chests, proclaiming that we are glad we are better than and not a member of the other “club.”   We must not take on the Pharisaical superiority complex.  We are called to the unity of Christ. He is not divided; therefore, we should not be either.  We are all servants, through whom Christians come to believe, as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  All denominations are co-workers for God’s purposes and should be treated as such.

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24 thoughts on “What Kind of Christian are You?

  1. Truth filled article. My favourite quote, “No one has the monopoly on truth “. I couldn’t agree more. Considering, I once used it in a christian debate 2years ago. You just spoke about what has “troubled” me more about us Christians. Thank you..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. Course by this I don’t mean to bless every denomination and branch of Christendom. Rather my point is that they need to start thinking of themselves as co-workers for Christ and in the proper higharcy–i.e., planters and waterers. Christians must still “test the spirits.”

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  2. Great post, and excellent analogy but in agreement with one of the commenters about denominations. It may be my ignorance but I never thought Catholics were identified as Christian. I grew up with this understanding that you were either Catholic or Protestant. Of course now, so many more religions have been defined, not that they are new, but not as prevalent when I was growing up. But yes, I totally agree with the premise that regardless of my being a Baptist versus being in a non-denominational or being a Presbyterian, the critical thing is what we believe about God and his Son, Jesus Christ and how we are saved. So, I am not a “We are the world Christian”, and I am not implying that you are. I just know that we must always exercise discernment because the era we live in is all about tolerance and I’m okay, You okay. There is a distinction. And yes, we must always, always exercise grace. “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9

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    1. Ha! I’ve never thought of Catholics as anything other than Christians. Go figure. My understanding of who qualifies as “Christian” is one who accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and acknowledges God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as the one true God. Protestant and Catholicism are just two branches of the broader Christian Church or Christendom. But I can certainly be corrected on that. Much of Church history involves Catholic Christians as I understand it. Even the Christian crusades were led by the Catholics I believe. In any event, as I stated in response to a comment above, I don’t mean to marginalize Truth. My point here is not to approve or disapprove of any particular denomination or to minimize the importance of doctrine. My only point is all Christians should consider themselves as co-workers for Christ and not get all hot and bothered about differences. Those differences may lead you to one church or another, but they shouldn’t keep you from worshiping together, respecting each other, and working to God’s glory together.

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      1. Your title made me think of my post, Are You a Radical Christian? I’m just getting into church history but the Protestant Reformation began as a move away from the Catholic Church and it’s teachings when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door, which is why we are called Protestant. I never even thought about that before, but am in a learning phase that will never end.

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      2. I totally agree with your article. I have to laugh and shake my head at the statement of Catholics “not being Christian.” It astonishes me that anyone can say this. The Catholic Church is the original church, the Protestant denominations splintered off from it. Not saying it’s better or worse; certainly there were good reasons at the time for the Reformation. But Catholics believe in Jesus Christ (of course), so how can we not be Christians??? In my opinion, what causes the most problems between faiths and denominations is a lack of knowledge or understanding about what other faiths/denominations believe. I agree, we are all Christians and we need to stick together, especially in this troubled, anti-Christian climate.

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  3. I agree. Christ desired we be one in Him, one with the Father. These divisions are of the enemy to break up God’s family, God’s work on earth. If we are divided, then there are fewer resources available to share among the needy in the family. Being more in need than in the past, I feel this most. When I sit through a fancy sermon in a fancy church with expensive bulletins, my stomach aches. Do they know that what they spent on printing could cover my rent? As a Civil Engineer from UC Berkeley, I am not stupid, nor incapable of making an income. Neither is my Berkeley grad. husband. God led my family into self-employment, we risked it all, and in this down economy lost it. But in losing it all, God has revealed His Son so clearly & deeply to my family. Now I enjoy deep conversations with my nearly grown children & thank God for the loss. Now I pray the body of Christ grows deeper, more unified soon. I think we are being prepared for tough times in the very near future. I read a few posts in your blog & liked them enough to follow you & your blog. Thanks for reading mine.

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  4. Good commentary! Perhaps on problem with denominations is lack of bible study. Do you suppose that some folks get stuck on one aspect of the Gospel to the exclusion or diminution of the rest. For example, someone got stuck on the scripture concerning protection from serpents, etc. So we now have the snake dancers.

    Maybe it’s style? In everything from teaching to sales to instruction I’ve learned nobody bats 1.000. We are all hard-wired to communicate I different ways. Paul’s preaching does it for me. Or Cephas’.

    Sin won’t let us recognize honest differences in style or keeps us from really learning ALL of scripture. Watcha think?

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    1. Yes, my point was division was not intended by God any more than He intended divorce when Moses gave certificates for it. It was a reality and tolerated, but only out of brokenness, not because of God’s intent. So, with denominations, I think there are legitimate differences that justify division. Simple example is Catholicism versus Protestantism. The difference between those two are not mere snakes but canyons of theology. But what often happens is the divisions line up contrary to each other as if enemies instead of all co-workers for Christ.

      I attend a Presbyterian Church and a couple of years ago we were hosting a community event and had invited a neighboring Church of Christ Church to participate. I remember it was treated like a monumental event that the CoC was coming to the Presbyterian Church. It was unheard of. And to make it happen, we had to promise that there would be no instrumental music. So we sang everything a cappella. It felt like the Queen of England was visiting. I always thought that was so bizarre, not to mention that a large percentage of that Church thought we were all condemned for not being members of their church. Nonsense. We are all co-workers for Christ. We can group together based on shared understandings and values, but we should consider ourselves all as one in God’s service.

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      1. Good summary. All in one under God. We might not agree on peripheral issues, style, etc. but we’re all trying to get to the same destination; obedience, service & salvation.

        I’m enjoying the dialogue. Thanks for taking the time!

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