One of the most obvious truths is the unity of the body of Christ. There is only one body, one church, one assembly (Eph. 4:4).
Because this is true, all believers are responsible to bear witness to it. As we gather together, we should give practical expression to it. Nothing that we do or say should deny it.
Many Christians see quite clearly that sects and denominations are a denial of the truth of the one body (I Cor. 1: 10-13; 3:3). Sects create the impression that Christ is divided, and thus misrepresent the truth of God's Word. Many of us see this quite clearly and refuse such names as Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist or Episcopalian.
But we do not always see that any name that separates us from other members of the body is divisive and unscriptural. Even if we take a biblical name like brethren, for example, the minute we qualify it or capitalize it, we transgress. It is as wrong for some believers to identify themselves as Plymouth Brethren, United Brethren, Christian Brethren, Evangelical Brethren, Open Brethren or Exclusive Brethren as it is for others to call themselves Presbyterians or Pentecostals.
Brethren with a capital B implies that there are some believers who are not brethren, or that some are brethren in a distinctive way. We hear people ask, "Is he in the Brethren?" or they report sadly, "He left the Brethren."
The truth is, of course, that if he's saved, he's in the brethren, and he can't leave the brethren since the believer is eternally secure.
It is certainly right that we should gather to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone, but the minute we speak of ourselves as "Christians gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone," meaning that we do and others don't, we have become a sect.
To speak of any particular group of Christians exclusively as "the Lord's people" betrays a sectarian attitude. It puts us in the same class as those in Corinth who said, "I am of Christ"-meaning that they were of Christ to the exclusion of all others (I Cor. 1: 12 ).
Another way in which inconsistency appears is the habit of calling a particular gathering of Christians in a town "the assembly" in that town. Or speaking of states and cities where there are "no assemblies." Actually this is not accurate language. The assembly in any given town is made up of all true believers there. Within that town there may be several gatherings of Christians. In addition there may be some true Christians who are not associated with a local fellowship for one reason or another; they may be under discipline, for instance. All go to make up the assembly in the town, though all may not meet together in one place.
Someone will say, "Well, how can I distinguish my assembly from the other evangelical churches in Hometown?" The answer is, "Instead of calling it 'the assembly' in Hometown, refer to it as the assembly that meets in the Bible Chapel at 5th and Pine." Then you have not denied the unity of the body.
We must never forget that we are Christians, believers, brethren, disciples and saints-and so are all who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. To deny this by any form of sectarianism, denominationalism or exclusivism is to deny the truth of the Bible and to be guilty of carnality and pride.