Impossible is the word that best describes counting the number of denominations and sects found under the heading of Christianity. The most “reliable” number [meaning the one most often quoted] is over 33,000. A much more realistic number is 217. For those who like the larger number, they can inflate the numbers by recognizing each individual tangent as a separate sect or denomination.
In any case, it reflects one of the major problems Christians face. We are divided, in spite of the fact that Jesus prayed for unity among believers [John 17] and that Paul proclaims there is but one faith [Ephesians 4]. The truth of the matter is, dividing the body of Christ has been going on since the beginning. Whether you read of those who follow Paul, Cephas or Jesus [1 Corinthians] or you are dealing with Judaizers versus Gentile believers [Galatians], you are seeing the problem. We can’t seem to find common ground.
And that’s the real issue. We’ve disagreed over some element of truth. For Paul, the church should be constantly guarding the truth. Those who disregard the truth end up shipwrecking or abandoning the faith. Those who disregard truth, find themselves awash in a sea of division.
For that reason, most of 1 Timothy is focused on the truth and how the church can maintain it and propagate it. In chapter 4, most of what Paul addresses can be summarized in what happens when you ignore the truth and when you keep the truth. Knowing and keeping the truth provides us with wholeness and health as believers and as the larger body of Christ.
3 or 33 or 33,000…it’s too many. There is 1 truth story—the gospel. There is 1 church—the body of Christ. And we uphold that truth before the world as the source of church health and personal wholeness.