Fighting Fundamentalist

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Biblical Distinctives of Baptists:
A Layman's Perspective ©
Compiled by J. Wendell Cole

Getting Personal

Are you a Baptist by Conviction?

I am a Baptist! I am Baptist by Conviction! I am not ashamed to be a Baptist by conviction, and I hope you are not ashamed to be a Baptist either.

I have been a faithful member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio and I, like you am still in the process of becoming the saint that Christ intends for me to become. “Why…” one may ask, “…is being a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church noteworthy?” The answer to that question puts this entire series into perspective, a layman's perspective.

Shortly after I was saved (late in 1983) I began to read and study, among a plethora of other things the “statement of faith” of many, many churches within my vicinity and a few out of my surrounding area. I wanted to obey God, to be baptized and become a member of a local body of believers with the same convictions of spirit and resolve of purpose. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I read the statement of faith of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Toledo, Ohio.... I did not have to look any further. I truly am a Baptist by conviction not by the convenience of birth or because it was the way I was raised (I think it would have been great to be raised in a Baptist home).

I, like everyone who becomes a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church, went through the new members classes. The class I went through was conducted by the pastor, the late Dr. Earnest Pickering. I began to rapidly build my personal library based on the “recommended books” from that class. I discovered that I was a reader; I read every single article of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and studied them out as well, asking, “What does the Bible say?” Yes, I have read every single one of them! I have read and reread “Portrait of Obedience” and “Biblical Separation”. If you have not read these books shame on you. ;-) The good news is, there is still hope for you to become a person of substance… you can go get them (at the churches library, the Christian book store, or from Regular Baptist Press) and read them, you will be glad you did. I am confident that you will gain a greater appreciation for the Baptist heritage, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and learn more about true Fundamentalism.

I was born in 1960. I was born again December 15, 1983. I was raised in and therefore, formerly a member of a liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), and served on the education committee until I was convicted in my spirit that staying in that church was disingenuous on my part. I began a search for a church that still believed that the Bible was God's Word and followed Scripture faithfully. While I was in pursuit of a Bible believing church I maintained my membership at the liberal Presbyterian Church (USA) fulfilling my obligations of teaching the youth group (7-9 grades). I was also a consistent evening visitor at a charismatic Church of God. Furthermore, I was also a consistent Wednesday evening Bible study participant at a vibrant conservative Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ). I became a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church on March 3, 1985 and that with a whole hearted attitude about the fellowship there.


What about you my friend are you searching for a good church? That’s good; you should know I recommend Bible believing Baptist Churches. If possible try to find a GARBC church. If you live in the greater Toledo, Ohio area I highly recommend Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Having said all this, you need to know that no church can save you, not even a good church. Emmanuel Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio can not save anyone, as good as it is. The only hope is Jesus Christ. Not a church, but a Person, a divine Person; the Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again.

Jesus alone can and will save you if you will believe in Him to do so, and He will give you eternal life.

Perhaps you are saved, you know heaven will one day be your home because of the grace of God, but you have not been scripturally baptized in obedience to your Lord. You need to make arrangements to have that done.

It is conceivable that the Lord is calling you right now to serve Him as a teacher, a pastor, a teen leader, a nursery school worker, or one of the other various positions in your church that is lacking. This is a call to prepare as well. God uses those who are well trained and thoroughly equipped.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures… (1Corinthians 15:3-4)

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:41-42)

Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. (Romans 12:11-13)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2Timothy 3:16-17)

An email or comment is appreciated.

Your friend,

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Biblical Distictives of Baptists a Laymans Perspective

In the following pages you will find lessons I used for an Adult Bible Fellowship (i.e. an adult Sunday school class). The main curriculum I used was from Regular Baptist Press prepared by Donald K. Anderson and David M. Gower entitled The Biblical Distictives of Baptists (RBP 1992). This was my primary source and each family represented in our class recieved a student book by the same name. You may wish to consider these materials for your own church, or SS class thus I provided the links to them just point and click onto any highlighted word here (and any of my posts throughout this blog), if the pointer finger and underline appear just click. If you have trouble please let me know through email or in the comments links.

Throughout these posts I have tried to give my sources of information (often with a link), but I want to give place here to mention some of the best of the best sources that I used other than the Bible and the above mentioned curriculum. Some of these sources may be out of print and I am not taking time here to search them out or to link to them.

Baptists and the American Tradition by Robert C. Newman (RBP 1976)

Biblical Basis For Baptists by Duane Brown Ph. D. (RBP 1986)

God’s Blueprint for a Church by Kenneth Good (RBP 1974)

Principles and Practices For Baptist Churches byEdward T. Hiscox (Kregel Publications 1983)

The Doctrine and Administration of the Church by Paul R. Jackson (RBP 1986)

What Is a Baptist Association? By Jack Keep (RBP 1989)

A fine website packed with information is the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and for current articles I recomend checking out The Baptist Bulletin.

You may wish to use these posts for reference work. For example you may wonder "What do Baptists think about communion?" You may find out by clicking the "Archives" Jauary, February, or March, and scroll down till you see what you are looking for. Another way is to go to the top of the page, just above the banner to the left type in a key word or phrase and click to search blog. There you have it. May the reader enjoy and be encouraged with these posts and other sources herein.

Stay salty,
brother John

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists vs. The Fundamentals of the Faith

This blog is the overflow of an Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) class that I had the priveledge in leading through “The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists”. I had preiviously posted these on The Earnest Contender Bolg. If you are not a Baptist you will, at least, be able to discover what Regular Baptists believe and why Baptists believe it. If you are a Baptist my aim for you is similar. I hope to provide you with greater clarification of the biblical distinctives of Baptists. This is a study of who we are, what we believe, why we believe it, and how to live as biblical Baptists. Please ask questions or make any remarks in the comments links below each post. This is a forum for you, and open for all.

Before we get into our study of biblical distinctives of Baptists it is important to understand that there are some doctrines that are prized higher to biblical Baptists than the Baptist distinctives. These prized doctrines have been referred to as “the fundamentals of the faith”. In my view, the fundamental truths that all true Christians must affirm and contend for are:

The Bible alone is the complete Word of God and His final authority to mankind, the source of true Christian unity.

The Creator is the Triune God, co-equal; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Christ Jesus is God the Son, born of a virgin named Mary. He was fully God and fully man.

Jesus died on the cross, and shed His blood for the redemption of sinners. He was buried and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven physically.

Jesus Christ will return to this earth physically.
(there may be some wiggle room on this for certain a-millennial schemes, but this Baptist holds to pre-trib, futuristic pre-mill, dispensational position)

These fundamentals should trump any name or label. I have given further details on this topic at the following links. Fundamentals of the Faith Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, and Conclusion. This blog, however, is devoted to the study of, and understanding of The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists. My hope is that it will be helpful in bringing into focus each topic discussed.

In His fellowship,
brother John

What’s in a Name?

Labels Are Useful
Labels can be very useful. When shopping, one wouldn’t think about buying something that wasn’t clearly marked. In fact, most of us not only want to see the name of the product, but we also want to see the ingredients listed. Why would we want anything less when it comes to the most important matters of life? Before we go to a school of higher learning, we want to know about the school. Before we buy a car, we want to know what’s under the hood. Before we marry, we want to know what’s inside of that person who will become the most significant human being we will ever know. When choosing a place of worship and service to our Lord, shouldn’t we be at least as vigilant? In this post my aim is to list the ten ingredients, or distinctives, that make up a biblical Baptist Church. There may be some minor variations from one Baptist church to another, because there is no Baptist hierarchy to declare an official list, but nearly all will agree on these ten. Thus the label, or name “Baptist” will be more useful and important to the reader.

The Name Baptist Means Something
The name Baptist actually means something. It is a name that most will associate as a Bible believing, Christ honoring, Christian Church. The name “Baptist” is a meaningful descriptor of a doctrinal position, NOT a point of organizational pride. Baptists have a definite biblically distinctive doctrinal stance. Some churches that are not Baptist may hold to some of these positions. Then, there are some who call themselves “Baptist” who do not cleave to all of these biblical distinctives. There are yet other groups that do embrace all of these doctrines, but for one reason or another choose not to call themselves Baptist. I am a Baptist, and I am not ashamed to be called a Baptist. Baptists have a biblical foundation, a rich heritage, and a bright outlook on life. If you are a Baptist, I hope this post will encourage you to be a Baptist genuinely and not just by name. If you are not a Baptist you should be able to get the idea of what Baptists believe and why we believe it.

The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists
What are the biblical distinctives of Baptist? A useful tool to associate with this doctrinal body of thought is the acrostic, B A P T I S T. This acrostic will assist me by providing an outline for the future posts as well.

Biblical Authority
Autonomy of the Local Church
Priesthood of All Believers
Two Ordinances: Baptism and Communion
Individual Soul Liberty
Saved Church Membership
Two Offices: Pastor and Deacon
Separation of the Church and State

Will will be considering these distinctives throughout this blog. Let me know your thoughts about this acrostic, or any other related topic (agreements and disagreements) by using the comment prompt just below (that way we can engage in biblical discussion together). I welcome any questions you may have too. If there is any way I can be helpful to you, that's what it's all about.

Keep coming back!
Brother John

Biblical Authority

The Fundamental of Fundamentalism
Biblical authority is foundational to all the other doctrinal distinctives of biblical Baptists. This teaching is straight forward, and I think it is fairly safe to say, without controversy. The Bible alone is God’s completed Word of God and final authority for man. The Bible is God’s Word, not man’s word. The Bible makes certain and definite claims that do not appear in any other “holy book”.

The Bible Claims to be Eternal

It Stands Forever

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Is. 40:8)

For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. (1Pet. 1:24-25).

The Bible Claims to be Without Error

It is Inerrant or Infallible (there are no mistakes in it)
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. (2Sam. 22:31 and Ps. 18:30)

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Ps. 19:7)

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (Ps.12:6)

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. (Prov. 30:5).

The Bible Claims to be the Breath of God

It is plenary (i.e. all, or every portion of it) and verbally (i.e. the Holy Spirit lead in the choice of each word) inspired (i.e. lit. breathed out from God)
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2Tim. 3:16-17).

This doctrine has been called “Sola Scriptura” which means that the Bible alone (and in its entirety) is the Word of God; this applies to all 66 of the canonical (recognized) Books from Genesis 1:1- Revelation 22:21.

There are many warnings in the Scriptures not to trifle with its sacred contents. Yet there are those who feel that parts of the Bible can “become” God’s Word as one reads them. The idea that there are select portions that are, and other portions that are not, God’s Word does not jell with what the Bible itself states in 2Tim. 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” The Bible not only contains God’s Word, it is God’s Word through and through.

The Bible is the supreme truth: over-ruling human reason, tradition, experience, and knowledge. All other writings and experiences should be evaluated as they line up with the Bible. No one has a special “inner light” or anything else that can replace, add to, or take away from, what is already revealed in the Bible. There is no authority given to any organization, clergy leader which goes beyond, above, or equal to the authority of the Bible. This includes extra books and writings, so-called visions, dreams, tongues, and feelings or thoughts which some groups call “direct revelation from God”. None of this is authoritative, the Bible alone is.

Check out my post on How God Communicates and please leave a comment or question here or there. All are welcome including those who are theological liberals, neo-orthodox, charismatic, and spiritualist. Perhaps you’re one who doesn’t like the idea that God reveals Himself through the Bible, or you have some other authority to govern your life. This is a good place for courteous dialogue. Q&A is always welcome.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In His fellowship,
Brother John

Friday, March 16, 2007

How to Approach the Scriptures (Part 1)

The Bible, God's Word
I hope that the reader has come to the conclusion that the Bible is the sole authority of faith and practice, for it is without error in every matter of which it speaks. The Bible is, after all, God’s Word. Here are some places where this is taught:

The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. (2Sam. 23:2)

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
(Prov. 30:5-6)

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matt. 5:18)

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:17)

If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; (John 10:35)

Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. (Acts 1:16)

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Cor. 2:13-14)

Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1Cor. 10:11)

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Gal. 3:16)

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2Tim.3:15-17)

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; (Heb. 1:1-2)

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2Pet. 1:19-21)

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Rev. 22:18-19)

This by no means is an exhaustive list, but it is comprehensive.

The Bible, God's Teachings
Having come to the conclusion in my own life, that the Bible is my sole authority of faith and practice it is now essential for me to yield to its teachings whether or not I can intellectually understand and/or immediately agree. More properly I should say that, “I need to submit to God’s teachings” for that is what the Bible is: God’s teachings. I am reminded of the event that took place and was recorded for us in Acts 8:27-35, where Phillip led a one-on-one Bible study of the book of Isaiah 53 with a man from Ethiopia. The Ethiopian wasn’t quite sure of whom the Prophet spoke. He had not, at this point, had a course on hermeneutics (interpretation). God took care of the first things first: Phillip began at the point where the Ethiopian was and presented the Gospel and the Ethiopian believed and was baptized (by imersion).

Some have used this as a proof text for their philosophy that every passage in the Bible points to Christ. This method of interpretation is called the Christological approach. Others, closely related to the first group, use this passage to enforce the idea that every verse in the Bible points toward salvation of man or has to do with some aspect of God's salvation program. This method of interpretation is the Soteriological approach. The esteemed C.H. Spurgeon said to his students, “Choose your text, then make a bee line for the cross!” Before I assert what in my view is the best approach to Scripture, I will offer these preliminary remarks. It should be clear that I have a warmth and brotherly affection for Christians who do not agree with me. We are brothers in Christ! Some choose to call themselves “reformed”, “covenantal”, “new covenantal” and “progressive dispensational”, "dispensational" and so on. In these systems of thought many are conservative and seek to follow the teachings of God. There are also a great number of theologians and preachers in these groups who have much to offer the church and the individual believer. I personally praise the Lord for their commitment to the Bible and God. I am also friends with many in these groups and I am confident that they would say the same of me.

Some may argue that language is a hindrance to God, but I humbly suggest it is NOT! God is perfectly capable to condescend to our human language which He invented, and this is also how He chooses to communicate to us. Let me quote Alice, when she was in Wonderland, “...say what you mean and mean what you say.” This is basically what the Ethiopian was saying to Phillip… and it turns out that this is exactly what God has done for us in His Word the Bible. It is a marvelous Book, a special Book, a divine Book, and yes, a spiritual Book, but the simple fact remains: it is a Book! We must read it, and read it properly if we are to know what God wants to reveal to us from it. The question is “How are we to read this Book?” We will try to answer this question in part two as we explore the proper approach the Scriptures. Our approach to Scripture is vitally important don’t you agree?

In His service,
Brother John

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How to Approach the Scriptures (Part 2)

I have spoken of the Soteriological and/or the Christological approach to the Scriptures in the last post; These two are certainly popular and increasing in Christendom they each in there own stride have some strengths. I personally uphold the Doxological approach. Why? I'm glad this question came to your mind, the Doxological approach seeks to understand how Scriptures relate to God’s glory, or putting it another way, it views God’s glory in every text. It is by far the best approach and I aim to defend it here and at every turn. This is not at all in rebellion to my heritage as a former Presbyterian; I do come from a long line going back to the Scottish Reformation, and I have respect for my Presbyterian and Refomed brothers and sisters. Yes we disagree from time to time. My approach is due to the conviction derived from the evidence of objective truth found in the Bible.

The Doxological approach is best because it is not limited to one specific “plan” or “program” or “purpose” and therefore is free to examine every portion of Scripture as it relates to the glory of God and that is the way I think it should be. Not only in areas of Soteriology and Christology but in the wider range of Bible doctrine. God does not have just one program (eg. the salvation of mankind). He is concerned with Israel and also the Gentiles; Salvation and His church; Government and human conduct, morally and relationally, the whole of His creation; visible and invisible. The doxological approach does not strain at a nat then attempt to swallow a camel. It follows a plain or normal hermeneutic (interpretation) consistantly. Let me explain, there are mainly two methods of hermeneutics, and here lies the greatest divide between biblical thinking Christians today. Both start with Sola Scriptura as a premise, but as we will see this is where the two schools of thought end in similarity.

The Allegorical Method
The allegorical method of interpretation produces covenant theology, and visa versa. Desiring to see Christ, or His plan of salvation for mankind, the allegorical interpreter must seek a deeper hidden meaning. I would love to go on a rabbit trail and discuss Origins trichotomy of man theory and how it affects this method, but I will refrain (perhaps another post or as questions and comments dictates) for now. The allegorical method can be found as early as 200 AD from Alexandrian school of thought.

The Plain or Normal (not necessarily literal) Method
The plain or normal (not necessarily literal) method of interpretation produces Dispensational Theology and not the other way around. Each text is unfolded consistently in its plain or normal rendering. Seeking nothing but God’s glory, it too can be found as early as 200 AD from the Antiochene school of thought. This is the Doxological approach!

The later is the best approach because it is Grammatical: considers all the parts of the grammar in each text treated. Historical: considers the historical background of each text treated. Theological: considers the teachings of God in each text treated.

There are four prerequisites for proper interpretation, first you must be saved, second you must depend on the Holy Spirit as your teacher, thirdly you must be teachable, and finally you must be willing to obey. These are prerequisites NOT guarantees. The correct interpretation depends on these requirements with out them… FORGET IT! Even with them it is still possible for one to make mistakes. That’s why we interpret grammatically, historically, and theologically; according to the immediate and wider contexts and in harmony with the whole Bible comparing Scripture with Scripture. There are some difficulties with this approach, but it is the most reliable way to get the best out of ones study in the most important Book, the Bible.

Stay Salty,
brother John

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Two Roads Graphic: Explained


The two roads graphic is a custom design that my wife created for me when I was teaching a course on Systematic Theology. It really looks good on an overhead. She is working on figuring out graphic/photo additions to blogs. In the mean time I will share with you what it is. It is a picture of a road that comes to a fork. The name of the road is Read the Bible then it branches off in two directions. The right side exit ramp is The Covenant Theology Freeway. The left side is the entrance ramp to The Dispensational Highway. That’s the road less traveled nowadays, but it is the way I choose or am predestined to go.

On the Covenant freeway there are some landmarks. The first landmark is the Christological or Soteriological approach to the Bible: looking for Christ or salvation in every text. The next landmark is Allegorical interpretation … which tends to spiritualize and look for “deeper hidden meaning”. Then we come to a stop sign because this approach will lead us to the false conclusion that Israel and church are the same, or as my covenant brothers say “the church has replaced Israel”.

On the Dispensational Highway there are also some landmarks. The first is the Doxological approach to Scripture: finding God’s glory in every text. The next landmark is the plain and normal interpretation to discover the intent or meaning, “It means what it says…” We then come to a yield sign that reads, “Israel and the church are separate”
I hope this explanation helps to clarify the poor display.

Autonomy of the Local Church

We have covered the "B" which stands for Biblical Authority (I discussed different ways that Baptists might approach the Bible, but we should all agree that it is our Authority.) Now we will move on to the "A".

Autonomy of the Local Church
The autonomy of the local church is one of the premiere distinctives of biblical Baptists. Denominational churches (even some Baptist groups) can't lay claim to this one. Most main line churches eschew it, yet it is what Baptists believe best represents the New Testament pattern for local churches. The words “autonomy”, “independent”, and “sovereignty”, all mean “self- rule” or “self- governing”. In other words, biblical Baptists have no outside ecclesiastic control. No hierarchy of any kind. No district superintendent. No Synods, General Assemblies, Bishops, Cardinals, or Popes. Biblical Baptists are distinctly autonomous in their government. However, even though biblical Baptists are autonomous they do follow an authority structure.

Who is NOT in Charge?

The Pastor/s?
The question is, “Who is not in charge then?” Bishop (overseer), pastor (shepherd), elder (presbyter), are three words that describe the pastor who is designated in Scriptures as an officer (1Tim. 3:1), but the pastor does not control a biblical Baptist church. So called elder rule is not the best model to follow.

The Deacon/s?
The deacon is a helper of the pastor and the servant of the church, and is also designated in Scriptures as an officer (1Tim. 3:10), but deacons are not in control of a biblical Baptist church.

The Church?
The Church (including the pastor/s, the deacons, and the congregation) has the final say in the official business of the church (as we will see). In fact biblical Baptists have both a Congregational and Presbyterian model of government, yet the church is not in control of a biblical Baptist church.

The church is autonomous in that:
The church disciplines its own members (Matthew 18:15-17).
The church appoints its own deacons (Acts 6:1-7).
The church sends out its own missionaries who are accountable to the church (Acts 13:1-3; 14:26-27).
The church judges and restores its own members (1Corinthians 5).
Yet each church is accountable to God (Revelation 2-3) this is a clue for the answer to our question.

Not the Pastor, Not the Deacons, Not the Church!

Who Then is in Charge?

The answer is found in the Bible. The Bible as we have established is the authority, no mater how we approach it, and we read in Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18 that Christ is the Head of the church. Godly pastors, deacons and church members directed by Jesus Christ Himself , the Head of the church, through the Person of the Holy Spirit working together in each member of the church. There are biblical guidelines to follow; God is not saying, “OK. You take over from here, best of luck to you.” Each church member must be tuned into God through His word and prayer. The authority resides in the total membership under the control of Christ. The natural consequence or privilege is that each member has greater responsibility for the conduct and direction of the church than members of other hierarchal groups. I will touch on these responsibilities in the priesthood of every believer. Does your local church follow this model or some other form? What duties do you have that contribute to your local fellowship?

“What a lovely and delightful relationship exists between pastor, deacons and people when all are subject to Christ the Head.” (Dr. Paul Jackson, National Representative of the GARBC from 1960-1969)

The best expression of Christian fellowship is within a Bible believing church!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The series we are currently working through here is called The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists.

My aim is to encourage a greater understanding of what the name Baptist means:

  • Baptist, not just in name, but by conviction of the biblical truths presented
  • Baptist, not just in conviction, but also by name

My wife, Rose, designed this bookmark for those in our Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) class. If you click on it, you may see the details. I invite your comments ... especially regarding the statement on the back of the bookmark.

Just in case you can't read the graphic (let me know if you can or can't), these are the 8 points of the acrostic that we have been covering:

  • Biblical Authority
  • Autonomy of the Local Church
  • Priesthood of All Believers
  • Two Ordinances (Baptism & Communion)
  • Individual Soul LibertySaved (regenerated) Church Membership
  • Two Offices Only (Pastor & Deacon)
  • Separation of Church & State

And here's the paragraph of text from the back, that I was looking for feedback on:

The term BAPTIST is more than a church "label". As an acrostic, it delineates a set of convictions. Some churches or groups are BAPTISTic, but not identified with the BAPTIST label. Conversly, a group may hold on to the label after abandoning the convictions.

In His fellowship,

brother John

New Testament Authority and Our Baptist Distinctives

According to E. T. Hiscox, A Baptist historian from yesteryear,
“It is on all hands conceded, that from the days of the Apostles to the Reformation, there existed congregations and communities of Christians separate from the prevailing and dominant churches… these separate communities maintained their distinct existence, worshiped by themselves, and served God according to their understanding of the Scriptures and the dictates of their consciences.”

These kind of churches, that held to New Testament Authority, are most commonly called Baptists. Perhaps they were known by other names (Messalians, Euchites, Montanists, Novatians, Paulicians…etc.) and/or some peculiar doctrines, but we can see throughout history, since the time of Pentecost, there have been such churches.

We are studying the Biblical Distinctives of Baptists. These distinctives are presented in an acrostic

Modern day Baptists (not modernist) arrived at these distinctives through careful study of the Bible. That is why these teachings are more precisely called the Biblical Distinctives of Baptists and not Baptist distinctives. In other words, these teachings are common among Baptists because individual Baptist churches have consistently and independently discovered them in God's Word, the Bible and held to them, not because some group of Baptist leaders composed the list and then imposed the distinctives on local churches. (In fact, there is no ecclesiastical hierarchy in an autonomous group… and the “A” stands for Autonomy of the local church.)

Church groups other than Baptists have held some of these Biblical distinctives, and one may even find churches that hold all of the distinctives but do not call themselves Baptist. Such groups are "baptistic", but for some reason they choose not to be identified as Baptists. On the other hand, some churches naming themselves Baptist are not truly Baptist because they no longer hold the historic Baptist beliefs or even the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

Baptists are people of the Book!
Baptists are people of the Book above all else... and Baptists enjoy a priceless heritage of generations who have exalted God's Son, our Savior and have proclaimed God's inspired Word.

“The Baptist name is not a point of organizational pride but a meaningful descriptor of a doctrinal position.” -D. Anderson

The Priesthood of Every Believer

The series we are currently working through is called "The Biblical Distinctives of Baptists". There is an acrostic that we are following. You can see it above on the "bookmark". This post will cover the letter "P" in the word BAPTIST. The "P" stands for the Priesthood of every believer.

I’ll not soon forget, if ever, a message entitled “How I Became a Catholic Priest,” by the thunderous preacher, Dr. Earnest Pickering. He didn't mince words over what he called “priest-craft”. "It is used by many cults which esteem men to a place of such religious stratosphere it could make one’s ears pop and cause the nose to bleed." I agree with him, the importance placed on a “special class of men and/or women” is nonsense and is not supported by the New Testament! The word "Priest" is defined as " authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God." (Websters)

The word “priest” appears in not less than 846 verses in the Bible (AV). It appears first in Genesis 14: 17-19; It seems that God had at least one priest before Aaron came along;

…the king of Sodom went out to meet him [Abram] after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth…

Later God made this conditional promise to Israel:

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. (Ex. 19:5-7)
I am a Baptist priest! In fact every believer today is a priest of God, no matter what denomination or creed. But what is our basis for being priests? A better question would be, “Who is the basis for our priesthood?” It is none other than the great high priest, Jesus Christ Himself! When Jesus hung suspended between Heaven and earth on the cross, the curtain of the holy of holies was rent in two from top to bottom. He opened the access to God, and the Bible declares that all who trust in the finished work of Christ are priests. Priests may enter into God’s presence directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and HIs people. There is no other mediator! As priests, we also have the responsibility and great privilege to study God's Word, pray for others, and offer spiritual worship to God. We all have equal access to God, whether we are a preacher or not. (See 1Peter 2:5, 1Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:9-10)

Think on these things...
There are priests in this age! Biblical Baptists (as well as many other bible believing groups) agree with the New Testament that every person who is “born again” is a priest unto God. You, my brother or sister are a priest! How are you exercising your priestly duties?

Stay salty,
brother John

Monday, March 05, 2007

Two Ordinances: Baptism and Comunion

For our study about the biblical distinctives of Baptists, the acrostic
has been employed for our outline.
We now come to the letter “T” which stands for Two ordinances: Baptism and Communion.

What is an Ordinance?
It is important at the start, to point out that there is a difference between what is meant by an ordinance and what is meant by a sacrament. Biblical Baptists hold that baptism and communion are ordinances, NOT sacraments. In fact, this blogger is unaware of any biblical or Baptist “sacrament.” An ordinance is an authoritative rule, law, decree, or command. In the Christian context, an ordinance is a symbolic act or ceremony. The two ordinances (and only two) that biblical Baptists practice, have their separate meanings. In contrast, a sacrament is that which symbolizes and/or confers inward grace.
Some religious institutions sprinkle water on a baby’s head and teach that this act, when performed by a duly appointed “priest” removes original sin and regenerates the baby (the baby is said to be born-again) into a possible position of not having to go to hell if he or she should die before being conscience of personal sin. Others are immersed into water and believe that this is an act of salvation. These beliefs/practices are both referred to as “regenerational baptism.” To other groups, the sacrament of infant baptism indicates that the child is a part of the “Christian” family. This is said to be a counterpart to the circumcision of eight day old males in the Jewish nation, and allows Christian participation in the covenant nation of God, Israel. For an example of this I will refer to the baptismal certificate I received, March 1961, at Rosewood Presbyterian Church. It says:

“God the father, who has redeemed us by the sacrifice of Christ, is also the God and Father of our children. They belong, with us who believe, to the membership of the church through the covenant made in Christ, and confirmed to us by God in this Sacrament, which is a sign and seal of our cleansing, of our engrafting into Christ… This sacrament marks the reception of a new member into Christ’s Church. As a child of the covenant, he has been born into the household of God;”

According to this certificate, by virtue of my parents “Christianity”, I too became a member of this "covenant community", but… God does not have any grandchildren! One can not be born again by the will of one’s parents (cf. John 1:13).

There are all kinds of ideas about baptism and communion, but what does the Bible say? Remember, for the biblical Baptist, it is the Bible that is to be our rule and authority in every matter for which it speaks!

The first ordinance we will consider is baptism. This is the initiation into a local church. Then, we will put communion under the spotlight of God’s Word.

Thanks for reading,
Brother John

Believers’ Baptism

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:41-42)

Baptists hold to “Believers' Baptism.” I will try to answer the questions: “What is it?” “Who is it for?” and “What does it mean?”

What Is Believers' Baptism?
The New Testament was originally written in the Greek language and eventually translated into English. The word “baptize,” however, is an exception. So interesting... it is not translated into our English Bibles! Instead, it is transliterated… which basically means English letters were used in place of the Greek letters. According to Spiros Zodhiates, a scholar of biblical Greek (who also happens to be Greek), the word “baptize” means to immerse, submerge, or dip. It seems to me, and I am no Greek scholar, that if the word “baptize” was translated into English, one of the above words would have been employed. I wonder how much controversy that would have caused back in the day? After looking at these facts about the word “baptize”, there seems to be only one conclusion: real baptism IS immersion. Sprinkling or or wiping water on the forehead might be less messy, and to some just as meaningful, but it isn’t baptism. Let me quote what brother Bobby Grow, a fellow blogger, has pointed out:

It's interesting in the Didache, an early church document (50 yrs within the time of the apostles) which served as a "commentary" on various church practices such as baptism … the preferred methodology was indeed immersion…” (also cf. Matthew.3:6, 16; Mark 1:10; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39)
BTW the Greek word for sprinkling is rhantizo, and it has been correctly translated into English in our NT, one place is Heb.9:13 you’ll want to read this in the context.

Who Is Believers' Baptism For?
Who then is to be immersed? I divided a washboard into two columns. Column #1 was “NT persons baptized after trusting Christ for salvation.” Column #2 was “NT persons baptized before trusting Christ for salvation.” I asked my Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) to look up verses on baptism. As they read them out to me, I asked the class if they belonged in column #1 or #2. I’ll give you the Scriptures and you may look them up and tell me what you came up with. They are Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12-13; Acts 16:14-15, 31, 33; Acts 18:8. The result in class was quite revealing. You may find some other Scriptures you want to share on this topic, in this post. Participation is encouraged. In our ABF class, we concluded that NT persons baptized after trusting Christ for salvation won the contest. There were none listed in column #2.

What Does Believers' Baptism Mean?
One of my favorite preachers Dr. Earnest Pickering used to say, (in a southern drawl) “All the water in the world can not wash away your sins!” I would agree with a hearty, “Amen!” (we do that sort of thing in a Baptist church). Just when you could hear a pin drop, he would lower his voice a bit and say, passionately, “Only the blood… only the blood of Jesus can save you… wont you trust Him… wont you trust Him now?” Once you have, my friend, you’ll want to obey Him and get baptized (immersed), to be identified as a Christian. This ordinance is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and a “showing forth” that you trust in this. It is the initiation into the local church. It is an outward public declaration of what has already occurred in your heart when you were born again.

After a candidate for baptism would tell their story of saving grace, Pastor Edward Fuller would put his right hand above the head and say, “[Tom] upon your profession of faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost." Then he would put his hand on the back of the neck in a fatherly manner and the candidate would cling on to Pastors left hand and as he was lowered into the water, Pastor would continue, “…dead to sin…” then as the new member of our local body came up out of the water, Pastor concluded “…and raised to newness of life.” It was all very clear that this was a living testimony of an historical occurrence.

For further discussion on this topic see the comment section here, and feel free to participate.

Brother John

The Second of Two Ordinaces: Communion

“…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he comes.” (1Cor. 11:23-26)

On the night of the Passover celebration, in the midst of the meal, Jesus must have startled His disciples when He…


Let me back up. Perhaps you are asking, “What’s the Passover celebration?” Some of my Gentile readers may not understand the rich Jewish roots of Christianity… so please, be patient as I provide a little background. For those of you who are familiar, and have heard this over and over, I’m not trying to drill you, so I hope you won’t get bored! “The Prince of Egypt”, is an animated film that I recommend, because of the portrayal of the first Passover, but you’ll want to view it with the Book of Exodus in mind or close at hand. The Passover celebration is one of the most important events on the Jewish calendar because it is a living memorial of an historical event. This was the final plague that God used to bring His chosen people out of the land of bondage, out of the land of Egypt. Read about it in Exodus 12 (BTW … methinks this is why the Book is titled Exodus. Does it sound like “exit?”)

In brief, the Passover was a time when God commanded Israel and Egypt to take a young lamb into their homes. Then, after several days, they had to slaughter the lamb, and put the blood on the lintel and doorposts so the death angel would regard it, and "pass over" that house. On Passover, Jewish families have a celebration to remember this historical event. There are many symbols that they use to remember this time. Among them is Matzo bread that is said to have come from the original lump of unleavened bread that was commanded to Moses … and red wine to symbolize the blood of the sacrifice lamb.

The only thing missing is the lamb. Passover without the lamb is like a wedding without a bride. What modern Jews celebrate today is not the Passover, but the feast of Unleavened Bread. Nevertheless, people rejoice remembering how God delivered them from enslavement, making them a new people and bringing them into the promised land.

Passover is the story of deliverance. How, you may ask, does this relate to communion? I will explain further in the next post.

Stay salty,
Brother John

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Communion (Part 2)

With the background of the Jewish celebration of Passover in mind, please consider the following: Jesus Christ was born and lived under the law (Galatians 4:4). Christs ministry on earth occurred during the dispensation that began with the Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai. The Old Testament dispensation known as the dispensation of the Mosaic Law ended after Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Therefore, Jesus observed the yearly Passover required in the law.

Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples... (Matthew 26:26)

Here is an interesting fact: Among the many symbolic aspects of the Passover, is the eating of the “Aphikomen.” Early in the meal, the papa takes the middle matzo of three unleavened cakes of bread, breaks it, and after pronouncing a benediction, distributes half among the family. The second half is hidden until the end of the meal. The first child who finds the “Aphikomen,” gets a present and this is thought of as a great privilege. To this day, Jews use the word “Aphikomen,” the only Greek word in the entire celebration. When they hide this piece of bread, it could symbolize that the gospel is hidden from their eyes, due to their pride in religion. A good knowledge of the passover and its traditions will deepen one's appreciation of the Lord's table. I encourage my readers to learn more about this. The Gospel in the Feasts of Israel by Victor Buksbazen is a greatly beneficial book for this. One may also read these other sources here, here, here, and here.

The red wine on the Passover table brings to memory the blood of the lamb whereby the children of Israel were saved from death. This puts His statements regarding the bread and the cup in the context of a substitutionary death that brought deliverance. On the night of the Passover celebration, in the midst of the meal, Jesus must have startled His disciples when He took the bread and broke it. Obviously, observing plain normal hermeneutic, He was not saying that this bread was His body. He was giving us a symbol to remember Him and show the disciples what was to happen in His body.

“…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he comes.” (1Cor. 11:23-26)

Baptists believe that the two ordinances of Baptism and Communion are symbolic or pictures of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. I personally feel that Communion should be practiced once a week, but with large congregations, this is just not practical. The Bible doesn’t specify how often, but it does say that as often as we do this, to remember.

In His fellowship,
Brother John

Monday, February 19, 2007

Individual Soul Liberty

What is ISL?
In a nutshell the doctrine of individual soul liberty (ISL) is the teaching that every individual has liberty over their own soul whether saved or unsaved. This is a biblical Baptist distinctive. Baptists should view this blessed doctrine with much satisfaction. According Edward T. Hiscox, it can not be said of Baptists since they have been called Baptists that they ever persecuted anyone for holding to other religious beliefs (cf. Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches p. 493). “Is it not true…” one may ask, “…those Fundamental Baptists want the whole world to be converted to biblical Christianity?” Yes! It is true, but while we do wish the whole world would be saved our evangelism technique is neither by coercion nor persecution! Rather, it is by persuasion, we pray, present the gospel, and God gives the increase.

What ISL is Not!

ISL is not justification for disobeying Scripture.

The Believer
A believer may choose to obey or disobey God’s Word, but disobedience is not justified. My Bible calls it SIN!” (Sketch Erickson)

The Unbeliever
An unbeliever has liberty to remain in unbelief, but is not free from the consequences.

No one has the right to do as he wishes without regards to others. This is especially true for believers (see Romans 14).

Here are some examples:

I may have the freedom to drink wine, but not to get drunk.(Ephesians 5:18)

While at a Jewish Bar mitzvah (when it is recognized that a boy becomes a man) I do not want to offend my Jewish friends by not drinking a glass of wine which they have provided for the occasion. So I partake… I have NOT sinned!

However, if there is a certain sister in Christ with me who has a particular weakness in the area of drunkenness, then I will abstain so I do not offend her. I will be as gracious as possible not to unnecessarily offend anyone, but I am bound to those in Christ first… I have NOT sinned!

ISL is Not Short for Island!
We are not a law to ourselves. I can’t go driving my Neon through traffic like it’s a bumper car track or a rollercoaster ride. In the church I can’t just go on my own little soapbox and expound it to the death (usually the death of the doctrine, or the death of the learners, not the death of me).

We are a church, individuals banned together for the common purpose, to glorify God.

  • To Exalt Christ
  • To Edify the saints
  • To Evangelize the lost
  • To Encourage one another

My Liberty and Your Liberty!
My liberty does not take for granted nor infringe upon the liberty of others. Some one said, “Your liberty to throw punches ends where my nose begins!”

Unprovoked, and out of the clear blue sky, a customer of mine announced in a harrumph, “I believe in homosexual marriages, a woman’s right to choose an abortion for any reason, and that it’s OK to burn our flag!” My response, “Hi [Tom], I couldn’t disagree with you more on each of those issues, but I would fight for your freedom to express your opinions.” This ended the discussion and left him scratching his head. I think it threw him off a bit that I didn’t get on my moral high horse and gallop all over his twisted “beliefs”. The point is: it is hypocritical to desire liberty for oneself and not extend it to others.

ISL and the Priesthood of the Believer
We have covered The Priesthood of Every Believer in another post. ISL has also been called the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer practically considered. (God’s Blueprint for a Church, K.H. Good, RBP). I like that idea because no one has more liberty than those God calls His priests. K. H. Good makes an interesting observation about the Reformers who spoke out against “…priestcraft that began in the third century abscessing in the apostasies of Rome’s rituals.” Yet, “…the development of the doctrine of conscience never reached its full application. …this principal was latent with the Reformers but not emergent.” (K.H. Good p.91; cf. Calvin’s Institutes Vol. II page 141)

Puritans fleeing a church-controlled state came to the new country and began to set up a church-controlled state. Our look at ISL would not be complete if we did not mention Roger Williams and the roll he played in establishing a separation of powers. However, this will fit in nicely with the second S in our BAPTISTS acrostic when we will put “separation of church and state” under the spotlight. If you wish you may read A PLEA FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY by Roger Wiliams (also see Edward T. Hiscox Prop. III).

What is your view of freedom? Some hold the obnoxious idea that freedom means one can do as one pleases, but this leads to bondage. Truly, freedom is doing as one ought to do, not “whatever pleases me”, but “whatever pleases God”! This is true freedom and leads to true happiness and joy.

Stay salty,
Brother John

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why must I be “Saved” to Join Your Church? or ...Saved (Regenerated) Church Membership!

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:47)

Are local Baptist churches committed to snobbery?
Is it reasonable to ask a perspective member to give a believable, personal, testimony of their conversion? The biblical distinctive of Saved Church Membership is another concept that separates biblical Baptists churches from other denominational groups. The fact is that historically this doctrine is more important to Baptists than baptism by immersion. Let me explain…

There are two senses of “church” in the NT, the invisible/universal church, and the visible/local church.

The Invisible or Universal Church
Theologians have found the concept of the invisible or universal church (i.e. all those who have trusted in Christ from the day of Pentecost to the rapture or catching away). It is deemed the invisible church because one can not look at another and know if that he/she is saved. It is the universal church in the sense that it encompasses all true believers regardless of their time in history, the location, and the name which their group calls its self.

The Visible or Local Church
Theologians have also found the concept of the visible or local church. It is visible because one can see others who meet together and profess to be saved. It is called local because it meets in a locality. It is the Tenth Presbyterian, Church of the Cross Methodist, West Broadway Baptist Church, Shadow Mountain Community Church, or some such name.

In Contrast
Some churches such as the congregation I grew up in, Fairgreen Presbyterian Church teach that the wheat and the tares (saved who can’t be sure they are saved, and the unsaved who can’t be sure they are saved) grow up together in the covenant community and that God would straighten it all out in the end. The proof text for this idea is… Matthew 13:24-30 ESV usually from the RSV:

Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, `Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, `An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, `No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

It is suggested that the “church” is inclusive. That is, it includes anyone who wishes to join, or anyone who has grown up therein (eg. me, my parents, my grandparents, my great grand parents, my great, great grandparents etc.) Anyone? Yes anyone! However this is misleading, it serves as an example of the saying, “a text out of context is a pretext.”

A Fuller Explanation
Later in that same chapter, Jesus clearly explains the parable to His disciples (incidently, we also have the explanation Matthew 13:37-43 ESV). The field is not the kingdom, not the covenant community, not the church. Jesus said, "The field is the world..." (v.38) Christians are not to go about the world claiming dominion, or pestering and persecuting till others believe, but by prayer and persuasion explaining the good news so that others become responsible to believe! Once one becomes a child of God by being born again into God’s family (BTW the Bible never speaks of the grandchildren of God, or great grandchildren etc.) they are a part of the church (invisible/universal). The next step for a child of God is to become a member of a church (visible/local). One is not a member of the church preceding salvation. A local church should not receive unbelievers into their fellowship! One my say, “That’s a dogmatic statement, how can you say such a thing?” I can say such a thing for three simple reasons: the original language indicates this, the NT dictates this, and reason predicates this.

The Original Language Indicates This
The Greek word ecclesia, which is a means a “called out group” in the classical sense, characterizes citizens that were called out of their homes into a public place. In the biblical sense it refers to those called out of the world unto God. God’s church is made up of those called out of the masses to God and for God. The body of Christ (the invisible church) is composed of believers and I hope you will agree that the local church should reflect this model.

The NT Dictates This
Fifty days after Christ’s resurrection was the day of Pentecost. On that day Peter the apostle (NOT the Pope) preached a powerful message of good news! Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Acts 2:14-36). On that day God began the church, the body of Christ: all who believed from that day till the end of the age. The church of Jerusalem (NOT Rome) was founded that day. If we break it down further, we can see that Acts 2:41 describes the events on the “Day of Pentecost” while vv. 42-47 describe events of the weeks and months that followed. In v.47 we read that God added to the church such as should be saved. Those who were saved were baptized and added to the church. There is no example in Scriptures of a believer refusing to be baptized and join a local church.

Reason Predicates This
I asked my ABF why it is important that we admit only those who give a credible testimony of personal salvation. One quoted, Amos 3:3 “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Another quoted from 2Cor.6:14 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” Another said, “Unless we are on the same page, we would not be working as a team.” This prompted another who asserted “An unbeliever may have different agendas than believers do…” The discussion continued to snowball, “Unbelievers might want to use and influence others to fulfill a social program instead of the great commission… we could lose our focus and forget our mission.” Good answers! There were other answers given too. We had a good discussion time that day. The answers were all reasonable. Saved church membership is reasonable because it unifies the members, it gives us a sense of family and brings us into full responsibility to one another (see my wife’s post here. This was also part of our discussion at that time too).

This is a very practical, biblical, Baptist distinctive. What are some commitments or obligations of members in your church toward the Pastor/s and other members? How may this be applied to business meetings? In what ways do you value this concept? Perhaps you do not like it … tell me why. Use Scripture whenever applicable. :-)

In His fellowship,
Brother John

Two Offices: Pastor, the First of Two Offices

"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."
(Acts 20:28 )

Churches have many different titles for their spiritual leaders: pastor, deacon, elder, bishop, archbishop, cardinals, prelates, vicars, presbyters, presidents, prophets, priest, apostles, nuns, monks, pope, but which of these titles is or are bible based offices? Biblical Baptists recognize only two offices; the office of pastor, and the office of deacon. The office of pastor and the office of deacon are not really distinctives of Baptists; almost every church has a pastor and deacons. The biblical distinctive is that Baptists have only two offices within the local church, pastors and deacons. Biblical Baptists recognize no church offices outside of or over the local church other than pastors and deacons. The so called offices of cardinals, prelates, vicars, priest, nuns, presidents, and pope are not found in the NT. The aim of this post is to highlight the first of the two church offices of biblical Baptists; that is the office of the pastor.

I will make some preliminary remarks as to the office of the pastor (not to be confused with the spiritual gift of pastor*). I will then discuss the qualities of the pastor NOT the qualifications of a pastor and then move to the functions of a pastor, I will round it off with how these leaders should be treated by those they serve. Many of my readers are aware that I am speaking of the distinctives of biblical Baptists and it is not my intent here to do otherwise.

In His care,
Brother John

*I have reserved the spiritual gifts issue for other posts one of which is linked above and here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Preliminary Remarks as to the Office of the Pastor

In making some preliminary remarks as to the office of the pastor, I assume that it is understood (for the most part) that it is usually the pastor/s or deacon/s who also serve as treasurer, trustee, and other offices that are necessary to conduct the "business” side of a local church (cf. Acts 6:3)

It is important to state that an office is not a spiritual gift*, and a spiritual gift alone does not qualify anyone for an office (cf. The Particular Gifts).

An officer is one who is elected or appointed to an office or position of authority or a certain function under authority. In a Baptist church the pastor must be a church member and his calling must be affirmed or recognized by a vote of the church (cf. Acts 6:5).

Pastors are given a trust to perform the task or duty to be carried out with the authority of the church. This has to do with the “hats he wears", or "the titles he bears". What then are these titles he bears? There are three titles for this office; they are pastor, elder, and bishop.

Poimen GK, means shepherd and is used of those who care for sheep (cf. Luke 2:8) It is also used in the NT of church leaders (see Eph. 4:11). Related words are the noun "flock" (poimnion) and the verb "to feed" or "to shepherd" (poimaino). In John 10:11, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd (poimen). Compare this 1Peter 5:4 where Peter refers to Christ as the Chief Shepherd. Both of these examples speak of Christ's care for His people. We may think of Him as our Good Pastor and the Chief Pastor. Similarly, the verb poimaino, "to feed" or "to shepherd" can mean "to pastor" when ministy to people are in view. This is exactly the case when Jesus told Peter to, "...feed [His] sheep." John 21:16.

Presbuteros GK. Suggests one who is older wiser and or more mature. I believe a young man who demonstrates characteristics of maturity and wisdom may also fill the office of elder. What do you think are marks of maturity and wisdom? Why does a pastor have to be mature? How does maturity develop?

Episcopos GK, refers to an overseer, one who leads and give direction. What are some areas in a local church a pastor should oversee?

This is one office with three titles. It is proper for me to speak of pastor De Courcy, elder De Courcy, or bishop De Courcy. (cf. Acts 20:17-38; Titus 1:5,7a; 1Pet.5:2; 1Tim.5:17) Actually, he prefers bishop, but his wife and friends call him Philip.

In His fellowship,
Brother John

*Teaching of spiritual gifts may be accesed in the achives of June and July 2006 of The Earnest Contender.

Friday, February 09, 2007

More Preliminary Remarks as to the Office of the Pastor

I feel a bit more explanation may be warranted on this topic. Even as I am offering this reintroduction I anticipate further questions as to the biblical office of pastor. I am not speaking here of a non-biblical, worldly pattern that perhaps some are inclined to embrace, this may come into better focus as we move to the qualities not the qualifications of a pastor. Let's bear with one another on this. May I remind you my purpose here is not exposing unbiblical views and there are plenty of them. Neither is it my intent to express here the various legitimate patterns as there are many . Instead, I am expressing the biblical Baptist view.

Hear the Word...

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

1Timothy 3:1-7; This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Titus 1:5-9
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

1Peter 5:1-3; The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.

I can almost hear one of my brothers saying "Break it down for 'em Oblio!"

I'll do my best...

The Verse
Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock1, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers2, to feed3 the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

The Words
1 poym'-nee-on Neuter of a presumed derivative of poym'-nay a flock (literally or figuratively): - flock, fold.; a flock, that is, (figuratively) group (of believers): - flock. (Strong's)

2 ep-is'-kop-os From epi or ep-ee' and skopos; a superintendent, that is, Christian officer in general charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively): - bishop, overseer. (Strong's)

3 poy-mah'ee-no From poimēn; to tend as a shepherd (or figuratively superviser): - feed (cattle), rule. (Strong's)

I previously pointed up that, the Greek word poimen means shepherd this is where we get our word pastor. This can be discovered from Vine’s, Strong’s, Thayer’s, Zophiadite's, or my new favorite resource e-Sword.

The Context
In the text above Paul is exhorting some elders from Ephesus (Acts 20:17) He is confident that his mission was complete before moving ahead in God’s plan for him (Acts 20:27).

The Explanation
Let’s note that Paul indicates that it was the Holy Spirit that made (the Greek here can mean made, appoint, or ordain) them overseers not an apostolic laying on of hands or appointment. Paul is telling these elders that the Holy Spirit made them overseers (bishops) in other words the apostles may have had a formal recognition of these men of God, but it was the Holy Spirit that ordained them. These, recognized elders who the Holy Spirit ordained as bishops are then told here to feed (pastor) the church of God.

The Point
This text uses three words to denote one group of men performing three aspects of the same office. The elders were also the bishops and their job was to pastor.

Bear all this in mind as we unfold the next passage

The Passage
Titus 1:5-9 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders1 in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop2 must be blameless, as the steward3 of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

The Words
1 pres-boo'-ter-os Comparative of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior; Christian "presbyter": - elder (-est), old. (Strong's) This term denotes wisdom and a level of maturity.

2 ep-is'-kop-os ...a superintendent, that is, Christian officer in general charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively): - bishop, overseer. (Strong's)

3 oy-kon-om'-os ...a house distributor (that is, manager), or overseer, that is, an employee in that capacity; by extension a fiscal agent (treasurer); figuratively a preacher (of the Gospel): - chamberlain, governor, steward.

The Context
Paul is instructing Titus, one of his protégées. By this time Titus was seasoned in the work of ministry and it is apparent that he had the spiritual gift of administration. Paul, therefore, wrote, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders1 in every city, as I had appointed thee..." Paul then mentions some character traits we will call qualities (more on this later), then declares "For a bishop2 must be..." again linking eldership with the bishopric. One may ask, "What are these elder/ bishops to do?" Paul would then answer that they are to be, "Holding fast the faithful word as [they] hath been taught, that [they] may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."

The Explanation
If you will allow me some liberty to cross reference with what we have seen in Acts 20:28 we can conclude that these elder/ bishops were to act as shepherds feeding the flocks.

The Point
If you see in what I see in this passage too, then you can agree that once again we see one office with three descriptions.

The Passage
1Peter 5:1-3; The elders1 which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder2, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed3 the flock4 of God which is among you, taking the oversight5 thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over6 God's heritage, but being examples to the flock4.

The Words
1 pres-boo'-ter-os This has been covered above.

2 sumpresbuteros ...a co-presbyter: - presbyter, also an elder.

3 poimaino tend as a shepherd (or figuratively superviser): - feed (cattle), rule.

4 poimnion ...a flock, that is, (figuratively) group (of believers): - flock.

5 episkopeo oversee; by implication to beware: - look diligently, take the oversight. Bishop

6 kat-ak-oo-ree-yoo'-o lord against, that is, control, subjugate: - exercise dominion over (lordship), be lord over, overcome.

The Context
Peter here is exhorting elders reminding them and perhaps himself that they are on the same team and on the same level in other words though Peter has apostolic authority, and though here he is speaking ex-cathedra he is no Pope! He identifies himself as a co-elder. It was important for the readers to understand this, at that time, although empire-wide ban on Christianity had not yet taken place they were still oppressed, living godly lives among pagans. BTW its important for those who read this letter today to understand this instead of exulting Peter we need to keep our sight on the archipoimen, the head shepherd: - chief shepherd, Jesus Christ.

The Explanation
Paul is not the only apostle that speaks of this one office of elder/pastor/bishop. Here we see the elders being exhorted to pastor the church and being careful in their bishopric not to be overlords. Peter set forth an example referring to himself as a co-elder.

Conclusion of Preliminary Remarks
The Holy Spirit co-Author of the passages above used three words to describe this one office. Perhaps He did so to give us a fuller idea of what this office involves. Pastor points to the care, feeding, protection and comforting of God's people. Elder emphasizes that he is mature, sound in the faith among God's children. Bishop bears marks of one who guides, directs, and give oversight to God's church. We most often use the word pastor because it is the most endearing of the three.

I hope this further exlination helps others to see that Baptists derive thier pattern from the Bible.

Stay salty,
brother John


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