But Does the Bible Speak of More Than One Church?
The word church frequently occurs in the plural form, but never in the sense of sects or denominations. When more than one church is spoken of, it is always the one church of the living God, in different localities:
“They returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch…. And when they had ordained them elders in every church….” (Acts 14:21,23)
“And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.” (Acts 15:41)
“Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” (Romans 16:4)
“…as I teach every where in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:17)
“And so ordain I in all churches.” (1 Corinthians 7:17)
“…as I have given order to the churches of Galatia.” (1 Corinthians 16:1)
“The churches of Asia salute you.” (1 Corinthians 16:19)
“…throughout all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 8:18)
Thus we see that when churches are spoken of, they invariably denote the same church of God in several cities, or throughout one or more countries. But there is not the slightest intimation of more than one church in the same city. Speaking of the church in various geographical localities, the apostle says: “So ordain I in all churches.” “As I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye [Corinthians].” It can easily be seen that if these New Testament “churches” were different sects, as we have today, one bishop could not give orders to them all. Bishop Simpson of the Methodist Episcopal sect cannot issue orders over the United Brethren, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and other sects. He has no jurisdiction over them. So we see a vast difference between Bible churches and sect divisions. The former are all one in Christ. The latter are independent and separate schisms.
Several sects exist in the same town, but God only has one church in the same place. Hence we read: “the church that was at Antioch” (Acts 13:1); “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2); “the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thessalonians 1:1); “…unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:11) Thus we see there was only one church in one city. Seven sects can now be addressed in one town of no great size. But when messages were sent to seven churches in Asia, seven different cities had to be addressed.
All the saved of God in any place constitute His church in that place. Then it follows that a plurality of separate bodies in the same place are not God’s church, but babel confusion.