The word denomination comes from a Latin compound of de and nominare: “to name” or “from a name.” Pick one. It plainly means to call by a name.
As it is a word used by “Christian religions,” it means that we have somehow found additional names for the assemblies to distinguish one from another. We all know that they do not teach and practice the same things. So the scriptural names such as assemblies of the saints (alive not dead), the assembly of the Firstborn, or the assemblies of God, and those churches of Christ (who is also God) and so forth, are just not sufficient to identify the differences.
You know what? Be thankful. Those people decided to make distinctions to mark themselves for the rest of us; because you can better identify the true from the fraudulent and the real from a counterfeit knowing that. You may get fooled once in a while, but if you are looking for the original you ought to be able to find it by looking for the pattern found in the Scriptures and by using the notion that words mean something. To make it easy for us — all the given names are listed in the NT.
If you have followed anything on this site, you know that we don’t much care for the word church, regardless of whether it is distinguished beginning with a lower or an uppercase letter. It is in common usage and we accept that, and so we use it and put up with it. And anyone who has read anything I’ve posted here knows that I am not a linguist or a scholar. So to continue I’ll rely on the words of wiser souls who have spent copious amounts of time on these things. And with a definition of the word denomination now under our belts, let’s take a moment to refresh ourselves about the word church.
This is a compilation of what some of the scholars have written: When the assemblies of Christ first spread out of Jerusalem and into Judea, Samaria and then to the rest of the world, there were only a few names by which the Christians identified their assemblies. And as a matter of fact, there was only one type of assembly of Christians, as the apostles and prophets took considerable time to note.
The most common word we now find in English versions for that assembly is the word church, an Anglo-Saxon extraction of the Scottish word for assembly, Chirche, pronounced “Kirk.” As no Scotsman or Lassie had been either conceived or identified in the first century AD that word was unavailable for use when the NT was written and compiled. The transliterated word most often found identifying those assemblies in the NT is ecclesia; and it does not mean a thing to an uninitiated English reader.
It is however, both the Latin and Greek root of the word that appears in the first line of the OT book known as Ecclesiastes or The Preacher (as it is occasionally rendered). The Hebrew word used with that word for assembly is often mistaken for a position and occasionally for a proper name, which the scholars tell us that it is not. This word is transliterated into English as Kohelith, and has been sometimes rendered as the preacher.
The transliterated Hebrew root word is kahal. From it was fashioned the Latin calo, and later the English call. You just phonetically “heard” where this has been leading as you read those last two sentences. You really don’t need me or anyone else to explain what those things mean at this point; do you? But for the sake of making things as clear as possible, let me finish this off.
In the scriptures, when these words are put together, they represent a regular assembly of purpose called by someone in authority, hence the association listed. The important part is the idea of being called out to religious assemblies. It is further indicated that these assemblies were orderly, purposeful and regular events as opposed to spontaneous gatherings or random meetings. It does not expressly note who called things together so much as it identifies the act of being called together. All of Israel’s assemblies would have been called together by Moses, later by Joshua, the High Priest, a judge, a prophet or a King. No one else had the authority. You may confirm this by reading of the incident regarding Korah, Abiram, Dathan, On, and their families and supporters – to confirm what happened when an Israelite other than a designated leader decided that they should be in charge of calling together the assembly (Nu. 16).
In the same fashion Christian assemblies are called together by the command of our King: The King of Peace, The Christ. Jesus said that He had been granted all authority (how much is that?). No one else had the authority. Furthermore, He already has given us His Will. So, He has not sanctioned us to get us together and study the doctrine of someone else, whether from Martin Luther, John Calvin, or anyone else; or to wear another name coined by some other person . He did not authorize us to take instruction from the unique doctrines of Ellen G. White, Joseph Smith, or from any other person or source. He has not sanctioned us to call ourselves Presbyterians, Witnesses, Baptists, Catholics, or by any other name. He did not ordain us to meet just at Christmas or at Easter. He has not and is not now sending messages out to tell us to get together on some other day, not even the Sabbath; or to offer special programs and schedules. He is not and will not send us to meet at a new or special temple in some location, whether in Jerusalem, Salt Lake City or anywhere else.
He did however leave us complete instructions in His Word and details through the writers of the NT. He and they said it is all that we need and that it contains all things that pertain to life and godliness. He said the apostles and prophets wrote out His Will exactly as the Holy Spirit gave it to them. And He said that His Word will judge us all one day. He very clearly demonstrated that we are to assemble on what the Apostle John called the Lord’s Day, and the other apostles and disciples called the first day of the week. Isn’t there a first day every week? He never commanded Christians to meet in some particular location or at some particular time or for so many hours or for a specific number of times on the Lord’s Day.
We are simply told to assemble. And we are to have a singular and particular purpose to our assemblies. He said that we are the temple when we are assembled together on His day and for the right reasons, and that we make up the body of Christ. We are to offer up praise, blessings and service to our Savior and our God. He was kind enough to delineate all of the few requirements. No guessing or embroidery is needed or useful.
Apparently some assembly is required. But beyond what He gave us, no additional instructions are necessary. And anything that does not meet those requirements, by name, date, composition or instruction, simply acts to expose a house and organization that has been fabricated under false pretense, by false workers and under the authority of men. Now how simple is that?
Therefore, I also after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He worked in Christ when he raise Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
And he put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
(Ephesians 1:15 – 23)