The Denomination of The Early Church

I don’t get the question too often, typically instead of asking what denomination I belong to people ask what church I go to.

But I have been kicking the idea around and realized that the earliest churches were “adenominational.”

Simply, without a denomination.

I like that…

What do you think?


14 thoughts on “The Denomination of The Early Church

  1. I guess that depends on how you deal with people like Montanus. He and his followers were definitely on the edge of Christianity. Otherwise, I say there is a solid case for adenominationalism. I like Cyprian’s attitude on the matter:

    And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole. The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. . . .Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated.

    1. Hey Steve,

      I like that quote from Cyprian!

      Montanus is way late in the game for me. When I say “earliest church” I am referring to early first century.

      I see some legitimate issues raised by Montanists. In some (only some) ways they were akin to the Reformers. They saw the direction the church was taking in practice and responded. In many more ways, they were definitely on the fringe, but then just turn on TBN and there’s plenty of fringe there as well.

      I guess my goal in even bringing up adenominationalism is to jar our 20th century Western minds back to the essence of the faith, and that is a body undivided that Christ asked the Father to make one…even as they are One.

      Ethereal, pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic…yep, but that’s the kingdom of God, right?

  2. Actually, if you look back at history the Church that Christ established is the Catholic Church. It is the only Church that can trace its history all the way back to 33AD when the Church started. No other Christian denomination can claim this. All Protestant denominations can only trace their history back to what ever reformer started them. I’m not trying to start “waves” or anything I’m just stating the facts. Jesus said in Mat. 16:18- “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”—You are Peter and I will build my (Singular) Church – not churches. Christ is the head of the Church but He did appoint a prime minister (Pope) to represent the head of the Church on earth. Also St. Ignatius of Antioch, a Church Father of the 1st Century (A.D. 50- A.D. 107) and also a direct disciple of St. John wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Hoped this helped you guys. Once again, I’m not trying to start an argument I’m just stating the facts. God Bless!!

    1. Hi Slade,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      While I understand that point of view, I heartily disagree. The earliest churches were catholic in the denotative sense (universal), but not in the religious/institutional/dogmatic sense until much later.

    2. not true. they tell you they trace it but they really cant. Gods church doesnt have false manmade doctrines like Rome has.

  3. I see where you’re coming from John, but the early Church in the beginning was in its infant stage and was trying to get organized. The Church has always accepted the bishop of Rome as the head of the Church. The Church at Corinth around A.D. 80 desposed its lawful leaders and called on the bishop of Rome (more than 700 miles away), although St. John was still alive in Ephesus (less than 300 miles from Corinth), they appealed to the bishop of Rome because he had the “keys” of authority. The Pope at the time was Clement. Please note how forcefully Pope Clement writes to the Church at Corinth: “You, therefore, who laid the foundation of the rebellion, submit to the presbyters and be chastened to repentance, bending your knees in a spirit of humility” (First letter to the Corinthians, 57, 1; Jurgens, #27).

    And again, “If anyone disobey the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger” (First letter to the Corinthians, 59, 1; Jurgens, #28a).

    Also, St. Irenaeus, who was bishop of Lyons from about A.D. 180-200 and who was also taught by St. Polycarp (another disciple of St. John the Apostle), stresses that Christians must be united to the Church of Rome in order to maintain the Apostolic Tradition. He makes the following statement about the Church of Rome and the successors of St. Peter: “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a small volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all the Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition” (3, 3, 2; Jurgens, #210). St. Irenaeus then goes on to name all the Popes succeeding Peter up to his time–twelve in all (3, 3, 3; Jurgens, #211).

    The only Church that continues to practice ALL of the traditions that were past down by the Apostles is the Catholic Church.

  4. Paul’s letter to the Romans was written in A.D. 58 which means that Peter was still alive. Peter didn’t go to Rome until A.D. 64 and he stayed there and was martyred in A.D. 67. After Peter’s death St. Linus becomes the new Pope.

  5. I see where you’re trying to go with this John…Now at the time yes there was no bishop in Rome, but nonetheless everyone recognized Peter as the leader of the Church including Paul. To deny that is going against what is written in Sacred Scripture. In Matt 16:18-19 Jesus singled out Peter and gave him the keys to bind and to loose. He gave Peter and his successors the authority over the Church. Also in John 21:15-17 Jesus singled out Peter again. Jesus didn’t speak to anyone else the way he spoke to Peter. It didn’t matter where Peter was he was still the Shepard that Jesus left in charge to feed his flock. If Jesus established such an office in the 1st generation of the Church, then it is also necessary in every generation. Peter became the 1st bishop of Rome, so his unique office in the Church has been passed down to his successors there.

    1. I would challenge you on that point…that “everyone recognized Peter as the leader of the church including Paul.”

      The interpretation of those scriptures are speculative, unless of course one is inclined to a particular church tradition/dogma. Quite simply, I see no historical or scriptural reason to insert such a teaching upon the earliest churches.

      My purpose in writing this blog is to draw out what the earliest churches looked like, believed and practiced. That’s why I am not so interested in what the later church fathers have to say. My aim is very early…the first few generations. As such, I purposely seek to avoid unnecessary built up traditions and belief systems in order to examine the essence of the early church.

    2. you build a house of cards. There is no liniage. You have been “taught falsely”. Rome has no biblical doctrines, they are all twisted to fit pagan traditions of men. I was catholic for 30 years , I know what they teach, and its not biblical.

  6. To be quite honest John I really enjoy the discussion we’re having about this, so I hope you’re not taking offense to anything I’ve said. If you have, I want to apologize because that was never my intention. Thanks and God bless!!

    1. I appreciate you thoughts and comments, and I do respect your beliefs even though I do not hold them myself.

      I am not offended at all, but please keep in mind my purpose here. I am just not interested and don’t have the time to spend debating points beyond the scope of this blog.

      That said, what do you think about this post:

      As a Roman Catholic, perhaps you can appreciate a deconstruction of one of Luther’s main points!

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