We believe and teach that participation in “Union” worship services with denominations is unscriptural and therefore not permissible. (1 Pet 2:9; 2 Cor 6:14-18)
Many may read this statement and wonder, “What are ‘Union’ worship services?” It typically refers to a joint meeting of various denominations to “worship” together. Members of faithful congregations of the Lord’s church have avoided such meetings for several reasons. However, in more recent times, liberal congregations have made it their practice to openly participate, and even encourage, such participation with denominations. In this article I want to give a few of the reasons for our refusal to participate in such meetings.
Reason #1: We follow the New Testament Pattern for our worship.
We have seen in previous articles that the New Testament gives us a very specific pattern for our worship (Jn. 4:24). We are to assemble in the fellowship of the saints on the first day of the week (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; Heb. 10:25). When we are assembled as the church: we are to take the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-26); we are to sing praises to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12); we are to pray together (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 2:8); we are to give of our means as an expression of our love for God and his work (1 Cor. 16:1, 2; 2 Cor. 8:3-5; 2 Cor. 9:6-9); and, we are to hear preaching from God’s word (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 2 Tim. 4:2).
This is one of the things that sets us apart from denominations. Whereas denominations follow man-made patterns of worship, we refuse to participate in such. We understand that offering up worship to God that is not in harmony with the New Testament pattern is to offer up vain worship (Mat. 15:9). In order for us to participate in a joint worship service or “Union” meeting with denominations we would have to compromise on the Scriptural expressions of worship. Denominations play mechanical instruments in their worship and preach the doctrines of men instead of the doctrine of Christ. Many have special clothing and titles for those leading the so-called “worship.” How could we “Unite” with these kinds of errors and still think we are pleasing God? It is not possible!
Reason #2: We abide in the doctrine of Christ.
The points above regarding the unscriptural worship of denominationalism are just a few of the reasons we say that denominations do not abide in the doctrine of Christ. There are many, many more. For example, what is it that differentiates one denomination from another? It is their peculiar doctrine! One group holds to one set of doctrine while the other holds to another, different, set of doctrine. However, in reality, all doctrine can be broken down into two groups: the doctrines of men (Matt. 15:9) or the doctrine of Christ (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Jn. 9). All who abide in the doctrine of Christ, and the doctrine of Christ alone, are Christians and our brethren. They are a part of the body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; Col. 1:24) and household of God (1 Tim. 3:15) and in the fellowship of the saints (Phil. 1:1). All who abide in the doctrines of men are outside of Christ and not part of the body of Christ, household of God and fellowship of the saints.
In “Union” meetings, those other than faithful Christians are given leadership roles in the so-called joint worship service. We would be expressing fellowship in unscriptural worship with those who abide in the doctrines of men rather than the doctrine of Christ.
The only way we could have joint meetings, or “Union” worship services, with those outside the doctrine of Christ would be for we ourselves to go outside the doctrine of Christ. Abiding in the doctrine of Christ means that we do all things according to the word of Christ (Col. 3:17; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Cor. 4:6). So, the question is, where in Scripture would we find approval to mingle with those who don’t hold to the sound doctrine of Jesus Christ? (Titus 2:1). We find no such joint services in Scripture! Neither do we find the principle of such joint services being even implied by Scripture. To the contrary, Scripture very clearly teaches us to be separate from those who do not follow the doctrine of Christ (2 Cor. 6:14-18; 2 Jn. 9:11-13). How could we possibly have joint services with those who “bring not this [Christ’s] doctrine”? We are specifically told not to!
Reason #3: We walk in the light.
The word “light” is often used in Scripture to refer to the truth of God’s word (Matt 5:16; Lk. 1:79; 2:32; Jn. 1:4, 5; 8:12; 12:46; Acts 26:18; Rom. 13:12; et. al.).
When John writes about the fellowship between faithful Christians and God he says:
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:5-7).
So, what is the standard for maintaining fellowship with God? It is walking in the light, i.e. living according to the truth of God’s word. One of the main reasons we appose denominationalism, that is to say we are anti-denominational, is because they do not live according to the truth of God’s word. We certainly are not saying that they are morally corrupt people, but there is much more involved with “walking in the light” than just not lying and cheating. It says “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light.” We understand that Jesus was not simply a good moral person. He was much more. His “walking in the light” meant he was completely submissive to the Father’s will in every regard (Matt. 26:42; Heb. 5:8, 9). Walking in the light means not only refraining from things we know to be wrong, but also doing those things we know to be right (Ja. 4:17).
We’ve already pointed out several areas where denominations do not “walk in the light.” We could also point out many more, from their names to their organizations. It simply cannot be said that they are abiding in the doctrine of Christ and, therefore, they are not walking in the light. And, if they are not in the light then they must be in darkness. The Bible doesn’t leave any middle ground. We cannot have joint meetings with those in darkness (Eph. 5:11; 1 Pet. 2:9; et. al.). If we join with them in “Union” meetings we leave the impressions that we share the same spiritual condition. We make them think that we believe that they are walking in the light when, in reality, they are not.
For these, and many more reasons, we cannot – must not – have any expression of fellowship whatsoever with denominationalism. The Lord’s church is to be distinctive, i.e. different and peculiar, from the religions of man. We must never do anything that would give the impression of compromising the doctrine of Christ to “go along and get along.” Rather, let us stand strong in the truth of God’s word and be examples of truly walking in the light as he is in the light! Our strong convictions will reach those who are truly seeking the truth.