May 19, 2008
Church: Baptist Dogmas
It certainly makes sense when [the pastor] is teaching it but something just doesn't sit right. Here are our definitions:
--Family of God: All the saved in heaven and on earth.
--Church of God: Always local, not universal. Baptized believers coveted [vw: perhaps "covenanted"?] together to carry out the great commission.
Church succession meaning:
--There has been a New Testament church in existence since Christ started the first one, I can live with that.
--Church authority can only come through the church that was started by Christ. Here I run into trouble. How can anyone say that the church they are in can be traced to the one Christ started? It can't be done. This theory has different levels of following. Some say that there is a church today that is like the one Christ started even if it can't be traced back to the original, I can live with that. The problem comes with who you choose to fellowship with or who you consider a "real church" based on "authority". Accordingly only churches can start churches. A group of people can't just come together and start a church following the NT example because they don't have church authority? I can't find this in Scripture without stretching the meaning of a couple of verses. I have heard weak support for this position. Usually they refer to Acts when Phillip was sent (church authority) to preach to Ethiopian Eunich. That's weak support, in my opinion, for a major doctrinal position.
comes from a view of the Bride of Christ as being only from the "real churches"not the ones who don't have church authority. I have a hard time with this. It doesn't go as far as Catholicism and saying salvation is through the church but it does elevate the position of church membership as the only way to be right with God. I can't find this in Scripture. If you are saved and not in a real church you will be a guest at the marriage supper and not a partaker? I can't find any that hold this position that can explain Revelation 22:17 where it explains exactly who is the "Bride" "Those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life". The SAVED. This doctrine, in my opinion, puts the church ahead of God. They will deny it but upon examination that is the way it seems to me. God should be the center of our theology, not the church.
VW INTRODUCTION to the ANSWERS:
This will be a little different from our usual Q/A's. As you've just read the above words, perhaps you are coming away from it a bit confused? On this topic, I have been, too, for years. The 'Reader' has been a regular VW subscriber for some time, and we communicate on a periodic basis. From our correspondence I know he truly loves the Lord with a deeper furvor than most. He regularly attends an "Independent Baptist" church. The church is KJ-only, but he has been using the VW-edition for awhile. I give all this explanation of the Reader so we can understand that these questions come from somebody 'in' an IB church, observations from inside...not an 'outsider' not knowing what they are saying. In follow-up he also explained that he has been to Bible institute and studied these things a bit. And some of his questions and thoughts are ones I've had over the years, too.
During my earlier life, if there was not an Evangelical Free church, or a "Bible" or (non-charismatic) "Community" church that was faithful to God's Word, most of my life was spent in Baptist churches. The three main ones were Baptist General Conference (Swedish), North American (NAB-German) or GARBC. Sometimes I would become a 'member' of the congregation, sometimes not. I never personally regularly attended Independent Baptist. But my dad did periodically.
In my spirit I have -never- been a "baptist" at heart. The pastors pretty much always would view the Bible as -baptist- doctrine, or speak of "we baptists". If I would speak, instead, of being a "Christian", they would immediately reply that "baptist -is- christian"; as if the two terms were synonymous. Baptist doctrine -is- Bible doctrine; in their minds: by definition. There were also other little (unspoken) things that would be hinted that never 'clicked' for me, but in their subterfuge they would never come right out and say what was what.
However also, the reason I attended (or worked in) so many churches with the "baptist" label was because, by-and-large, on paper, their doctrinal statements are some of the most Scripturally sound out there.
Doctrinally they would tend to be Biblical, but Baptist in polity. Biblical in Faith, but Baptist in form and ritual.
I have often wanted to address this topic, but have never quite had an adequate 'outline' or collection of thoughts to work from. A lot of things with the label "baptist" are not found in Scripture, and yet they will scrounge up passages to 'support' their beliefs. And as we know, if a person wants to badly enough, Scriptural "support" can be found for just about 'anything'...out-of-context and "twisted". (2Pt3:16)
There is one person (if I were to give the name, many of you know who he is) whose research on many topics I highly respect and trust. I even have a special folder in my Eudora directories to save selected mailings for reference purposes. And based on much of his heart furvor, as evident in his writings, I think it is safe to say that he truly loves the Lord. And yet, he is a self-proclaimed "baptist". Specifically "Independent Baptist". When he sends out re-mails of "What is Independent Baptist", near the top of that list is adherence to KJ-onlyism, although in other writings when he speaks of manuscript issues, one might be led to believe that he personally is not. Many of his mailings will speak of some of the things in this "Reader's" questions, about the "rulership" of the pastor, and of 'appointed' church "succession" (he condemns a simple group of Believers getting together, studying God's Word, and calling themselves a "church", unless their leadership is 'appointed'...as close as I can surmise his meaning). And yet, a few days ago the mailing was warnings against "unquestioning loyalty to a pastor being the mark of a cult". On one hand, even if a pastor is wrong, obey him. But on the other hand do not consider the pastor to be infallible? Which is it? It can't be both!
Thus, you see... throughout a lifetime of being around baptists, even for all that time, I've never been able to justify the validation for the (specifically) "baptist" label. So, let's take the items as laid out by the "READER" and see how the Lord leads us to some observations.
It's a question of WHAT DID GOD ORDAIN? WHAT DID JESUS ESTABLISH?
Most baptists will historically trace their lineage back to the Anabaptists, who in turn supposedly trace their lineage back to the -first- "baptist", John "the baptist". In that, they are not much different from Babylon of Rome that alleges its patriarchy back to the "first pope" (Peter).
Trouble is, the word "baptist" is not a Scriptural word... only as translators trans-LITERATED the Greek word, which means: to dunk, immerse, dip, submerge, etc. The so-called "baptist church" was never established in the Bible. Jesus did not establish it. John did not: he was the one announcing the arrival of the "Lamb of God". (Jn1:29,36) And Paul did not... nor did Peter. (Notice: I'm not providing references for the fact that they did NOT. The reason should be self-explanatory. Yes? Why would there be any reference related to the non-existence of something, verifying its non-existence...centuries before it came into existence and was given a label?) (Same reasoning for why "KJ-onlyism" is not addressed in the Bible since the KJV did not exist prior to 1611)
We do NOT "follow the Lord into the waters of baptism"...that: "because Jesus was baptized by John, therefore so are we". No. Jesus' immersion by John was for different reasons than what Paul describes in Rom6:1-5
And in this, in addition to other errors, I have also experienced duplicity from baptist pastors regarding these things. My unequal yoke (back when I didn't yet realize she was unsaved) was "baptized" in an NAB church. During the 'class' the pastor agreed with her explanation (testimony), that he had asked for, from Romans ch6, and said nothing different to 'correct' her; but then during the baptismal service preached on "following the Lord into the waters of baptism", and after the service she was welcomed by other members into the "fellowship of baptists". Agree to one thing during the class (during the class: not the slightest peep about "following the Lord into the waters..."), and then once everything is in motion spring the true beliefs on the person at the moment of the ritual! And she did as most would do in such a case: not raise a stink, and graciously was railroaded through the ritual.
Please understand: All this background is shared, not to stir up old 'grudges' or to express 'bitterness'. I am not bitter. These are just statements of 'fact'. Observations. (Sometimes people will write, chiding my alleged clinging to "old wounds"...or whatever other labels they like to psychobabelize. I'm just sharing with you-all what I've seen and experienced.)
So... let's look at the items:
Continuing from the dictionary: In the spiritual sense for God's kingdom: "The eternal spiritual sovereignty of God or Christ; The realm of this sovereignty."
In the very broadest of senses, God's "kingdom" is the totality of His creation. He created it, and He has sovereignty over it. All of it.
But from there the term kingdom can become subdivided into smaller spheres. There is God's kingdom of "light" (Jn12:36, 1Th5:5) and "rightousness", and satan's kingdom of "darkness". (Col1:13, Lk22:53)
Is God's kingdom necessarily limited to the "saved" on earth? Would not the righteous angels be part of God's kingdom; but are they "saved"? Salvation was something angels "desire to look into" (1Pt1:12b) Were they not created righteous, until some of them fell, along with satan, and are now part of satan's kingdom/sphere? People who are "saved" started out as sinners, and -become- "saved" through the blood of Jesus Christ. The righteous angels were created righteous, and have -remained- righteous. Thus, both the (originally) righteous, and the (saved) righteous are of God's Kingdom.
It will also be God's Kingdom when Christ rules during the Millennium, but there will be "sinners" who "die" during that time. (Is65:20) It will be a rule of justice and righteousness (Is9:7), and yet there will be disobedient ones, and nations that refuse to pilgrimage for the annual Feast of Booths. (Zec14)
Thus, is it not easy to see that the term "kingdom" of God has several
meanings and applications, depending on the context and time in history. It is not only a 'church' term.
Now certainly, if we consider that those who receive Jesus become "children" of God (Jn1:12), children is certainly a 'family' term. The Church is also likened to the "bride" of Christ. (Eph5:32) But we are also Christ's "body" (Eph5:30, 1:23, Col1:24) Are body 'parts' considered "family" to that body? Angels are also called "sons of God" (Job38:7) and are also "fellow servants" and "brethren" with Believers. (Rev19:10,22:9)
However, if one takes the 'whole', "all the saved in Heaven and earth"
would certainly be part of God's "family". There's a lot that could be
said on this, but I don't think we 'need' to at this time. In the
present (baptist) context, this is not a 'problem' needing to be fixed.
But when Paul speaks of Christ having given Himself for "the church" (Eph5:25); -which- (presumably) 'local' assembly did He die for? Which specific 'local' group did He save? And since Paul speaks in the singular, does that mean all other local assemblies are not saved, but are counterfeits? According to this line of thinking, there is only one local church? Thus the questions: Where is that local group? What part of the world? Which city? And since the NT speaks of the church meeting in so-n-so's house, is -that- 'person' still alive, and maintaining their house where those Believers are meeting as -the- church Jesus redeemed? Or if it is said the church was in Jerusalem, what happened when Rome destroyed it? Did it move? If so, where is it?
But wait! Paul speaks in the singular, and yet his ministry was characterized by (what baptists like to call) church planting. He established -many- congregations all over Asia Minor. And he wrote epistles to many of them, which comprise half the New Testament.
When Jesus commanded to go into "all the world" to preach the Gospel, and people get saved, were they then required to -move- in order to join that one local assembly? (wherever it might be?)
Paul travelled all over setting up churches of those who had gathered
around after hearing him preach, had become Believers, and they began to
meet. There were many home churches: Rom16:5, Col4:15, Phm1:2 and in
Acts they met "from house to house" (Ac2:46, 20:20) Not to mention the
"seven churches" of Revelation chs2-3 All of these are observed in the
'plural'; and yet he observes that Jesus gave Himself for -the- church,
singular. Let's look at the next couple of items, because these things
now mush together into one larger related topic...
--There has been a New Testament church in existence since Christ started the first one
--Church authority can only come through the church that was started by Christ.
He did not say, I have just now built My church... On this particular boulder/slab-of-rock at Street address, City, State, Country. (See the steeple? No?) But tells the disciples to go to Jerusalem and "wait for the Promise of the Father" (Ac1:4) Then at Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent, and the Church began. (Ac2) It spread to the Samaritans (Ac8), gentiles (Ac11:18), and the disciples of John (Ac19:1-5) To the Jewish mind these four incidents represented every category of human, thus the proper 'authentication' for the universal church. Jews (Ac2), Samaritans were worse than dirt because they were considered as "half-breeds" (Ac8), The Gentile "dogs" (Ac10-11), And just in case anybody was confused because of dispensations, where Jesus proclaimed that the OT ended with John (Mt11:13), John's followers were also included (Ac19) All of these also happened at different -locations-.
That is -hardly- one single congregation. All this depicts a 'universality' to the Church of Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to die for the "world" (Jn3:16), and those who believe become part of His (universal) Church. Yes, in the purest sense of word definitions, "catholic". Except for the fact that Babylon of Rome is all messed up, so in order to keep distinctions clear, it doesn't make much sense to call Jesus' Church 'catholic'. But in the strictest sense, the True Church -is- "catholic". i.e. "including and concerning all humankind" It is -a- 'catholic' (adjective) Church; not -the- "catholic" (nominative) church of Rome.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Ga3:28)
And in a most technical sense, indeed church "authority" only comes through Jesus Christ. But not the way that point (above) is worded, with baptist presuppositions attached. Jesus is the "Head" (Eph1:22, 5:23, Col1:18) And then when right decisions are made amongst congregational leadership, those decisions were already made first in Heaven, and passed along through the Holy Spirit. (Jn16:13, 1Jn2:27)
Supposing they might answer: The first church was the Jerusalem church? Well, again, -which- one? Where did they meet? If they met "from house to house", which was the "real" one?
If it seems like I'm driving this point into the ground...I am. Purposely. There is so much Scriptural evidence to the contrary, I am doing as PB is typically wont to do...exaggerate the matter to drive the point home.
Hmmm...and if Peter was the first elder, having been given "the keys of the kingdom" then how come Jacob appears to be the main elder in Jerusalem? (Ac15:13, 21:18, Ga1:19, 2:9,12)
And if it required 'human' appointment, then how do we explain:
If it required human appointment, why was Peter not "appointing" when the Holy Spirit came to those in Cornelius' house? Peter was preaching, and in God's own time, He sent the Holy Spirit. It says, "While Peter was still speaking these words...." (Ac10:44)
Peter did not preach the sermon, and then extend an "altar call" to "join-the-church". And this is why I have suggested on many occasions: If a person "goes forward" at a meeting where they also truly get saved, they did not get saved -when- "repeating after me" the words of a rote 'prayer'. They -already- GOT SAVED when they were still sitting in their seat, when the Holy Spirit came into their heart. And that's yet another little bit of 'control' Scriptural reality takes out of the winds of Baptist sails of "authority". Their 'authority' in "saving" people; you know, the "soul-winners". Soul-winners do not save anybody! The Holy Spirit does.
A person is not saved, to become part of the Body of Christ by a priestly intonation like catholics or lutherans (due to the priest's label as "father" or "reverend"), a "repeat these words" like baptists, or conversion courts like Judaism. Salvation happens when the Holy Spirit comes to reside within the person. (Rom8:9, Jn3:8) Being on the paper membership rolls is not the same as having one's name enrolled in the Lamb's Book of Life. (Re21:27) Church 'lists' are written with ink. The Book of Life is engraved with Jesus' blood! (Rev1:5, 5:9, 1Pt1:18-19)
Membership list is not a Scriptural concept. Ac2:41, 5:14 & 11:24 are nothing about church "membership", but statements of fact: that -MORE- people were saved on those occasions.
Nor is Salvation a -result- of having water dabbed, or dunked under. That is -works-. We are not saved through our works. (Eph2:8-9) If immersion were so essential to the Salvation -process-, Paul would not have said,
The READER questions:
Exactly! That's exactly my question.
Does not the logic of that sentence even prove the concept false. What -is- the "NT example", if not Biblical? If it is a "NT church", it -has- the proper authority... the New Testament, authored by the Holy Spirit, the same one who indwelt the early Believers. Or are they suggesting that they have superiority over the Holy Spirit and Scripture?
Many of them like to discredit this...
From some it is suggested that -all- NT churches were established by roving apostles who "appointed" all the leaders for each individual congregation (including those meeting in houses?). But before the little bits included here in the above paragraphs, I never before realized that -today's- 'authority' for "properly appointing" congregational leaders also harks back to NT times; according to them. I was always wondering where they came up with such a concept: that God's appointment of the servant He was calling had to be officiated by another man; a fellow-servant. For all the time I spent in baptist churches, this little 'nugget' was never uttered...in my hearing. If it had been, I possibly would have never ever darkened the door of another baptist church. Next to Babylon of Rome's pontifications, this almost seems like the ultimate in pride on the part of those who would consider themselves so-ordained by God to lay their own hands of blessing on another of God's anointed; as though, without their (dirty) hands touching the person (based on what I've seen of so many baptist leaders and pastors), that person is being presumptuous to strike out (alone) in ministry at God's call???
But indeed, some of the scurrying that sometimes takes place, when a person is called of God to ministry, to convene a council and tug that person under their hands of "ordination". Phew! Now he's going out as a right proper "baptist", at -our- "commissioning"!
Titus is exhorted to "appoint elders in every city" (Tit1:5) But then he also says, "to which I was appointed a preacher" (2Ti1:11)
Again: -who- appointed Paul? Who addresses Saul on the road to Damascus? "I am Jesus, whom you persecute" (Ac9:5)
Look at any of the prophets in the OT (except for perhaps Joshua?) for whom a book is named after them. Who appointed them and called them to ministry? If you really need me to answer this, please open your Bible/s and page from one book to the next; the answer will usually be found in the first chapter.
Certainly, some were appointed by people: Joshua, Elisha, the priests, kings, etc. As is also the case in the NT as some congregational elders were appointed, and after the OT Jewish traditions, they also laid hands. (After all: the early Church -was- Jewish, and they continued those Jewish traditions) But -human- appointment of God's servant is not the proper "authority". The -only- authority that exists comes from God, through the Holy Spirit.
Hmmm...in browsing around just now I find something interesting, which those using only the KJV would obviously not be aware of.
Certainly they "laid hands" to appoint. e.g. 1Tim5:22, Ac6:6, 13:3 But
on how many of the OT prophets whom God called, how many of them
received the ritual of "laying hands"? For them, usually, when hands
were "laid" on them, it was to capture them for torture because they
were proclaiming God's Word, and the rebellious ones didn't want to hear
it. They would be asked regarding their "authority", and their Word
from God was usually, "Thus says Jehovah the God of Hosts", etc. And of
Jesus Christ, Himself, God's Son, they tried to elicit the
chain-of-command regarding His "authority" (Mt21:23-24), because they
didn't accept God's Word, and it ultimately resulted in His crucifixion.
Jesus hadn't gotten His commission from the proper "authority"... THEM!
A "real" church is made up of "real" Believers. Who are REAL Believers? Those who have had human hands laid on them, and are proclaimed "saved" by the soul-winner? or...
--Immersion by immersion
(There are even some that will RE-baptize a person if they didn't get dunked in the 'right' baptist church)
From the standpoint of the concept we speak of on occasion, of keeping the unbelievers out of Believer meetings, I can see where there might be reason to limit participation to those of the same denomination, or with letters of recommendation from other known Believer Congregations; or where the person has been in attendance long enough for the membership to verify if the person is truly a Believer, so as not to incur guilt. (1Co11:30) But to limit all authority to one's local congregation...that is somewhat ultimate in pride and "playing God"!
I tend to hear of this more in Southern Baptist churches, and they also have about a 30% rate of their members who are also Freemasons. Perhaps this little exclusivity (secrecy?) comes from their Masonic "secret rites" traditions, which they brought over into the church, and attached Scriptural 'reasons'? I don't know. A Believer from Mongolia, visiting a congregation in Texas, -ought- to be able to share in the Lord's Supper together, whether they both have the label "baptist", or happen to be a "NT-church" meeting in a home. If they are True Believers, they are both "one in Christ"; Jesus died on the cross for them both, and commanded to all those who should "believe into Me through their word" (Jn17:20) to observe "in remembrance of Me" (1Co11:24-25)
Paul wasn't at that table that night when Jesus gave the command, but was given the command by revelation as though he had, and in that passage is passing the command along to Gentiles. You see, Believers who came to Faith in Christ "through their word".
It is not 'that' (local) church that "saved" its members! Jesus Christ
did that on the cross ('if' they -truly- received Him!). And the person
did not get saved when they "went forward"! They did that when the Holy
Spirit was given entrance.
This time, from an IB who is filled with reason. But perhaps, like me, he isn't -really- a "baptist"?
I typically have found IBs that I have known to be more cult-like, like that 1999 e-mail. I mentioned the mailing warning against cult-like following of pastors. So many IBs I've been around seem terribly much like the ones I would hope he is warning against? And yet this cult-likeness seems more prevalent within this (non-associated) 'denomination'. I say "non-associated", because in another mailing he defines IB as a non-associated association (or words to that effect). Nobody knows 'how many' of them there are, because there is no official hierarchy, nor official record-keeping. And that, then, adds another angle to the dilemma...
If an "authorized" church can only be appointed, but nobody knows exactly 'who' is in this network, how do they keep track of who is "authorized" to make new appointments?
However, like in that 1999 commentary, please understand that what might be perceived as the 'tone' of this Q/A should not be construed to suggest that -all- Independent Baptists are blind cult leaders and followers. Much of what was addressed covers -all- 'baptists'. And just like -anything- today that is called "christian", as we note often from Scripture:
If it requires "membership" to get to heaven in the catholic church; well, for many baptists it does, too. Maybe not in the official "statement" of faith...but in practice, attitudes and hearts it does.
If that is the case, what does it matter that one prays to Mary, and the other recites the Lord's Prayer? If church 'membership' is the main thing, they are -both- LOST.
They both require a baptismal ritual for right standing. But that is not how the Bible says we are saved. They are -both- LOST.
Do we need to continue?
The Church of Jesus Christ, Jesus Himself purchased with His own blood. (Ac20:28) We have been "washed from our sins in His own blood" (Rev1:5) Jesus is the One with authority over the Church, which He accomplished through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
"These things I have written to you concerning those who try to lead you astray. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will remain in Him." (1Jn2:26-27)