The Early Church Fathers On The Church: A Matter Of History

1&2 cen fathers universal church

The Early Church Fathers On The Church

(The First Two Centuries)

            It has been said that those of us who believe that the body of Christ is much larger than the local church, but is composed of all the redeemed, are Protestant in doctrine. It is the intention of this writer to demonstrate from a historical viewpoint that the idea of the church being having not only a local nature, but also a universal nature is a quite ancient teaching. We will study quotations from a few writers from the first and second centuries. It might be that we could study and find ourselves in disagreement with these men on various doctrinal and practical issues. That is not our aim at this time. The aim of this article is to simply consider from a historical perspective whether or not there were any people of the first and second centuries who believed that the church has an universal nature, and that the church is composed of all those who trust Jesus Christ. Again, we are not seeking to establish the doctrinal orthodoxy of those who are quoted, but are studying from an explicitly historical perspective in order to determine the age of the doctrine of the church universal.

 

Defining Terms

            Ante-Nicene- before Nicaea. In AD 325 a council was assembled at Nicaea, in Turkey. Constantine assembled it in order to address some doctrinal issues. The resources from which these quotes come are called the Ante-Nicene Fathers. These are writings that have survived over the centuries, and we are focusing especially on those writers from the first and second centuries AD.

            catholic- universal

Regarding the nature of the church and the writings of these ancient Christians, the editors of the Ante-Nicene Fathers said,  “Too long have they been allowed to speak to the popular mind as if the Fathers were their own; while, to every candid reader, it must be evident that, alike, the testimony, the arguments, and the silence of the Ante-Nicene writers confound all attempts to identify the ecclesiastical establishment of “the Holy Roman Empire,” with “the Holy Catholic Church” of the ancient creeds.[1]

In other words, we must not confuse the word “catholic” with a lower case “c” with the Roman Catholic Church. The word “catholic” simply means universal. Any time this word appears in our article, it NEVER refers to the Romans Catholic Church, but simply to the nature of the church as being universal.

 

Polycarp

Polycarp was born about AD 65, and the exact date of his death is uncertain. His death is believed to be somewhere about AD 116, or even as late as AD 155. What is important to us is his place in history.

Polycarp is said to have been one who knew several of the Apostles, studied under the Apostle John, and wrote a letter to the Philippians, which was the same church to whom Paul wrote.

With these things in mind, though we acknowledge only the authority of Scripture, we yield respect to this elder who has gone before us and was so closely related to the Apostles; and we respect the words of his contemporaries who wrote of him.

“The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in Philomelium, and to all the congregations2 of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy, peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.[2]” This is not a direct quotation from Polycarp, but is extracted from a letter sent from Smyrna to other churches. Let it be noted that it speaks of the congregations of Holy and Catholic (universal) church in every place. Again, we must stress that this does NOT refer to the Roman Catholic Church, which at that time was not in existence at that time. This refers to the universal nature of the church. These Christian brothers, writing about the death of Polycarp, acknowledge that the church has both a local and a universal nature.

 

 

“Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all that had at any time come in contact with him, both small and great, illustrious and obscure, as well as the whole Catholic Church throughout the world, the time of his departure having arrived, they set him upon an ass, and conducted him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath.[3]” Once again we see the universal (catholic) nature of the church presented by the writers of this letter, as they declare that it is “throughout the world.”

 

“For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.[4]” We see even more clearly the universal nature of the church in the statement that Jesus is the “Shepherd of the Catholic (universal) church throughout the world.” That is, the universal church is in all of the world. It is not simply local, though the church has a local nature, but it is throughout the world.

 

 

“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.[5]” Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the universal (Catholic) church. This clearly sets forth the understanding that the existence of the church is both heavenly and earthly, as Jesus is omnipresent.

 

 

 

Justin Martyr 110-165

“Moreover, that the word of God speaks to those who believe in Him as being one soul, and one synagogue, and one church, as to a daughter; that it thus addresses the church which has sprung from His name and partakes of His name (for we are all called Christians), is distinctly proclaimed in like manner in the following words, which teach us also to forget [our] old ancestral customs, when they speak thus: ‘Hearken, O daughter, and behold, and incline thine ear; forget thy people and the house of thy father, and the King shall desire[6]” Note that Justin speaks of the church as being composed of those who believe, and as being one in nature. Let us recall that this was written at least one hundred years before the organization of the Roman Catholic church, and more than one thousand three hundred years before the Protestant Reformation. It is absolutely impossible to be historically accurate and claim that the teaching of the universal nature of the church is of Protestant origin.

 

 

Irenaeus 120-202

“The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,”7 and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,”9 and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.[7]” Let us simply notice that Irenaeus stated that the church was spread throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth.

 

“And again: “God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods.” He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church. For she is the synagogue of God, which God—that is, the Son Himself—has gathered by Himself. Of whom He again speaks: “The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken, and hath called the earth.” Who is meant by God? He of whom He has said, “God shall come openly, our God, and shall not keep silence;”4that is, the Son, who came manifested to men who said, “I have openly appeared to those who seek Me not.” But of what gods [does he speak]? [Of those] to whom He says, “I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High.”6 To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the “adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father.”[8]” Irenaeus stated that the church are those who have received the adoption. Adoption occurs when one trusts Jesus Christ and receives the Holy Spirit: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9) “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) In other words, Irenaeus believed that the church universal was composed of all believers. Again, far from being Protestant theology or ecclesiology, this teaching historically predates both the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Catholic Church.

 

 

 

“For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth. Those, therefore, who do not partake of Him, are neither nourished into life from the mother’s breasts, nor do they enjoy that most limpid fountain which issues from the body of Christ; but they dig for themselves broken cisterns out of earthly trenches, and drink putrid water out of the mire, fleeing from the faith of the Church lest they be convicted; and rejecting the Spirit, that they may not be instructed.[9]” Once again we find that Irenaeus plainly presents the church as having a universal nature when he says, “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church.”

 

“Vain, too, is [the effort of] Marcion and his followers when they [seek to] exclude Abraham from the inheritance, to whom the Spirit through many men, and now by Paul, bears witness, that “he believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” And the Lord [also bears witness to him,] in the first place, indeed, by raising up children to him from the stones, and making his seed as the stars of heaven, saying, “They shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and shall recline with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;” 15 and then again by saying to the Jews, “When ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of heaven, but you yourselves cast out.” This, then, is a clear point, that those who disallow his salvation, and frame the idea of another God besides Him who made the promise to Abraham, are outside the kingdom of God, and are disinherited from [the gift of] incorruption, setting at naught and blaspheming God, who introduces, through Jesus Christ, Abraham to the kingdom of heaven, and his seed, that is, the Church, upon which also is conferred the adoption and the inheritance promised to Abraham.[10]” Here Irenaeus declares that the seed of Abraham (He is speaking of all who believe on Jesus Christ.) is the Church.

 

 

“For thus it had behoved the sons of Abraham [to be], whom God has raised up to him from the stones, and caused to take a place beside him who was made the chief and the forerunner of our faith (who did also receive the covenant of circumcision, after that justification by faith which had pertained to him, when he was yet in uncircumcision, so that in him both covenants might be prefigured, that he might be the father of all who follow the Word of God, and who sustain a life of pilgrimage in this world, that is, of those who from among the circumcision and of those from among the uncircumcision are faithful, even as also “Christ is the chief corner-stone,” sustaining all things); and He gathered into the one faith of Abraham those who, from either covenant, are eligible for God’s building. But this faith which is in uncircumcision, as connecting the end with the beginning, has been made [both] the first and the last. For, as I have shown, it existed in Abraham antecedently to circumcision, as it also did in the rest of the righteous who pleased God: and in these last times, it again sprang up among mankind through the coming of the Lord. But circumcision and the law of works occupied the intervening period[11]” Note that Irenaeus speaks of the building of God, the church, are those who are in the one faith of Abraham. In other words, he recognized that the church has a universal nature, and is composed of all those who believe on Jesus Christ.

 

“For the illustrious Church is [now] everywhere, and everywhere is the winepress digged: because those who do receive the Spirit are everywhere.[12]” Once again, more than one thousand three hundred years before the Protestant Reformation, and more than one hundred years before Roman Catholicism, Irenaeus spoke of the church as being those who receive the Spirit. Far from being a historically Protestant doctrine, the doctrine of the universal church being composed of all of the redeemed is a historically ancient doctrine. The innovation comes from those who reject this truth.

 

“If, then, God promised him the inheritance of the land, yet he did not receive it during all the time of his sojourn there, it must be, that together with his seed, that is, those who fear God and believe in Him, he shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For his seed is the Church, which receives the adoption to God through the Lord, as John the Baptist said: “For God is able from the stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Thus also the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians: “But ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.”10 And again, in the same Epistle, he plainly declares that they who have believed in Christ do receive Christ, the promise to Abraham thus saying, “The promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his seed. Now He does not say, And of seeds, as if [He spake] of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” And again, confirming his former words, he says, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, declared to Abraham beforehand, That in thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.”12 Thus, then, they who are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham. Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive any inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”[13]” Note that Irenaeus speaks of Abraham and says, “His seed is the Church, which receives the adoption to God through the Lord.” We cannot but accept that Irenaeus was teaching that the church has a universal aspect to her nature, and that universal church is composed of all who believe on Jesus Christ.

 

 

“Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament “raises up from the stones children unto Abraham,” is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers.”[14]” Again we read, “The Church is the seed of Abraham.” Could it be stated with any greater plainness that Irenaeus believed that the church is composed of the redeemed, whose faith is in Christ Jesus?

 

Clement of Alexandria 153-193-217

“Come, come, O my young people! For if you become not again as little children, and be born again, as saith the Scripture, you shall not receive the truly existent Father, nor shall you ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. For in what way is a stranger permitted to enter? Well, as I take it, then, when he is enrolled and made a citizen, and receives one to stand to him in the relation of father, then will he be occupied with the Father’s concerns, then shall he be deemed worthy to be made His heir, then will he share the kingdom of the Father with His own dear Son. For this is the first-born Church, composed of many good children; these are “the first-born enrolled in heaven, who hold high festival with so many myriads of angels.”[15]” Clement declares that the church is “composed of… ‘the first-born enrolled in heaven.’” Once again, history bears out that the belief in the church being composed of all the redeemed is of ancient origin, and did not come from Protestantism.

 

“And the Lord is called man, because He is perfect in righteousness. Directly in point is the instance of the apostle, who says, writing the Corinthians: “For I have espoused you to one man, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ,” whether as children or saints, but to the Lord alone. And writing to the Ephesians, he has unfolded in the clearest manner the point in question, speaking to the following effect: “Till we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we be no longer children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by the craft of men, by their cunning in stratagems of deceit; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up to Him in all things,”9—saying these things in order to the edification of the body of Christ, who is the head and man, the only one perfect in righteousness; and we who are children guarding against the blasts of heresies, which blow to our inflation; and not putting our trust in fathers who teach us otherwise, are then made perfect when we are the church, having received Christ the head.[16]” Once again we see that Clement describes the church universal as being composed of all the redeemed, when he says, “We are the church, having received Christ the head.”

 

“Further release from evils is the beginning of salvation. We then alone, who first have touched the confines of life, are already perfect; and we already live who are separated from death. Salvation, accordingly, is the following of Christ: “For that which is in Him is life.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into condemnation, but hath passed from death to life.”2 Thus believing alone, and regeneration, is perfection in life; for God is never weak. For as His will is work, and this is named the world; so also His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church. He knows, therefore, whom He has called, and whom He has saved; and at one and the same time He called and saved them. “For ye are,” says the apostle, “taught of God.” It is not then allowable to think of what is taught by Him as imperfect; and what is learned from Him is the eternal salvation of the eternal Saviour, to whom be thanks for ever and ever. Amen. And he who is only regenerated—as the name necessarily indicates—and is enlightened, is delivered forthwith from darkness, and on the instant receives the light.[17]” Clement again says, “His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church.” Those who are saved are called the church by Clement. Once again, it must be stated that we may not agree with every doctrine taught by these men of old; but our aim is to historically establish the fact that the teaching of the universal nature of the church is much more ancient than Protestantism.

 

“And if the Word, speaking of the Lord by David, sings, “The daughters of kings made Thee glad by honour; the queen stood at Thy right hand, clad in cloth of gold, girt with golden fringes,” it is not luxurious raiment that he indicates; but he shows the immortal adornment, woven of faith, of those that have found mercy, that is, the Church; in which the guileless Jesus shines conspicuous as gold, and the elect are the golden tassels.[18]” Clement speaks of the church as those that have found mercy. What can this be but the teaching that those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ comprise the church universal?

 

“And the earthly Church is the image of the heavenly, as we pray also “that the will of God may be done upon the earth as in heaven.[19]” We once again find the universal aspect of the church’s nature when we find Clement stating that the church is both earthly and heavenly.

 

“From what has been said, then, it is my opinion that the true Church, that which is really ancient, is one, and that in it those who according to God’s purpose are just, are enrolled.[20]” This final quotation is very plain in stating that the true church is one church, and that those who are enrolled in it are those who are justified.

 

Conclusion

            Our aim having been to simply determine if any of the ancients of the early church believed that there was a universal nature to the church has presented us with proof that they did believe so. Several times these writers have stated that the church has a local nature, and that the church in her universal nature is composed of all of those who are redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ. While we may find ourselves disagreeing with these ancients on some doctrinal and practical issues, it must be remembered that our aim has been simply to determine what was historically believed among these first and second century writers. We can safely conclude that the belief in the church universal, composed of all of the redeemed is by no means a Protestant invention, nor is it of Roman Catholic origin; but it is much more ancient that either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), v.

[2] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 39.

[3] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 40.

[4] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 43.

[5] Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnæans,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 90.

[6] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 229.

[7] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 330–331.

[8] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 419.

[9] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 458.

[10] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 470–471.

[11] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 495–496.

[12] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 515.

[13] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 561–562.

[14] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 563–564.

[15] Clement of Alexandria, “Exhortation to the Heathen,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 195.

[16] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 213.

[17] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 216.

[18] Clement of Alexandria, “The Instructor,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 266.

[19] Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 421.

[20] Clement of Alexandria, “The Stromata, or Miscellanies,” in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 555.

Notes On Communion And Washing The Saints’ Feet

Communion

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

:17-22 The setting and context: Corinth’s divisions manifest in their common meal

Jude :12

In the pl., agápai, love feasts, public banquets of a frugal kind instituted by the early Christian church and connected with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The provisions were contributed by the more wealthy individuals and were made common to all Christians, whether rich or poor, who chose to partake. Portions were also sent to the sick and absent members. These love feasts were intended as an exhibition of that mutual love which is required by the Christian faith, but as they became subject to abuses, they were discontinued.

        These here seem to be the Agapæ, or love-feasts, of the primitive Christians; the design of which was to maintain and promote brotherly love, from whence they took their name; and to refresh the poor saints, that they might have a full and comfortable meal now and then: their manner of keeping them was this; they began and ended them with prayer and singing; and they observed them with great temperance and frugality; and they were attended with much joy and gladness, and simplicity of heart: but were quickly abused, by judaizing Christians, as observing them in imitation of the passover; and by intemperance in eating and drinking; and by excluding the poor, for whose benefit they were chiefly designed; and by setting up separate meetings for them, and by admitting unfit persons unto them; such as here are said to be spots in them, blemishes, which brought great reproach and scandal upon them, being persons of infamous characters and conversations.

 John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament <https://ref.ly/logosres/gillexpnt?ref=Bible.Jud12&off=123&ctx=a+feast+of+faith%EF%BB%BFb.+~These+here+seem+to+b>, vol. 3, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1809), 676.

The Last Supper was a full Passover meal, and the early church had continued the tradition of celebrating a meal (“the Lord’s Supper”) of which bread and wine were only a part. Communion as a full meal was also called a “love feast.”

 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament <https://ref.ly/logosres/bbackcom?ref=Bible.Jud12&off=4&ctx=wish+tradition.%0a12.+~The+Last+Supper+was+> (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Jud 12.

:23-26 The meaning of communion

cf 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 communion-sharing

Note that we have elements of cup and bread, which represent the blood and body of our Lord. They show His death.

The problem of the mass and transubstantiation. 1. John 6:51-63 Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms. He was not being literal. These words are a figure. It is not the flesh, but the spirit, that gives life. 2. The mass is re-enactment of the crucifixion in which it is believed that Jesus is crucified before the eyes of the beholder and His flesh eaten by those who partake. Thus it is that the priest holds up the chalice/cup and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!” He truly believes that Jesus is present in the form of the wine and wafer. The reality is that Jesus will not be crucified a second time, nor any more than the one time which He died. Hebrews 10:7-18 That one offering is sufficient forever.

:26 The Lord’s Supper shows His death. It is a sign and a symbol that testifies to the reality that we all share through faith in Christ.

“till He come.” Luke 22:14-18 This presents to us the remembrance of Christ’s resurrection, the promise of His coming, and the glorious hope of communing with Him forever in His eternal kingdom.

Feetwashing

John 13:1-17

First of all, let us understand that footwashing is an ordinance, yet it is not a separate ordinance from the communion service. It is a part of the communion service.

Washing feet

Washing the feet of guests was the job of the lowest of servants. It seems that there was no servant at hand to wash their feet, and they did not even wash their own feet. Now Jesus washes their feet to teach them a lesson.

 Jesus taught the disciples to be servants, as He was a servant Matthew 20:28. It is quite possible that Jesus taught this because of the disciple’s arrogant squabbling Luke 22:24-30, which seems to have taken part during the Last Supper. 

Washing with water

John 13:8 If Jesus does not wash us, we have no share in Him, no communion, and no fellowship.  Cf Hebrews 12:7-8

John 13:10 He who is washed is totally clean, except for his feet. Feet walk and, in daily life, feet get dirty and need washing. This symbolizes our need for daily cleansing.

Ephesians 5:25-28

John 15:1-3 clean through the Word

Washing one another

Galatians 6:1-3 help the fallen brother

James 5:19-20 convert the erring brother

1 John 5:16-17 pray for the sinning brother

    accept washing

    Some people won’t do the literal washing of feet, not because they don’t want to wash, but because they don’t want people seeing their feet. Likewise we often fail to willingly accept the help from those who wish to help us. Hebrews 13:17,22 We must remember Galatians 6:3 and recognize that we will need to accept washing from others. To refuse is to arrogantly assume that we are something though we are nothing.

Why call this a part of the communion service?

  1. Because it is part of the symbolism of salvation. There is the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, and then there is the cleansing Jesus gives by His Word. If we have no part with Him without the cleansing, it seems it is only right that it be signified in the communion service.
  2. Because Jesus said that we ought to do it. John 13:17

What Is The Church?

What Is The Church?

            Over the years many people all around the world have asked the question, “What is the church?” It is the aim of this post to answer that question from the most relevant and authoritative of places, the Bible.

            What is the church?  That is what we must determine before we delve into the composition and manifestation of the church.  The most basic meaning of the Greek word ekklesia which is translated “church” in the New Testament is “called out.”  This was a common term for a congregation or an assembly.  It speaks of those who are called out for a specific purpose and was specifically used in this manner when Luke spoke of the Ephesian assembly (which was a tumultuous mob) in Acts 19:32&39 where it is translated “assembly.”  With this in mind we can conclude that the church is a group of people called out by God for His own purpose.  In fact, Peter presents this fact to us very plainly saying, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”  (1 Peter 2:9)  

The Old Testament Church

            Though very little is said about the nation of Israel being part of God’s church, the Bible does plainly present this fact to us.  Stephen, speaking of Moses, said, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”  (Acts 7:38)  Now, there are those who would wish to deny that this is indeed a reference to Israel as being a part of God’s church.  They would like to tell us that this is simply an assembly of people, and that is all that ekklesia is meant to convey to us in this context.  The fact remains, however, that the word ekklesia occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament, and only in Acts 19:32&39 is it translated “assembly.”  In every other instance it is translated “church” or “churches.”  The only time it is used to speak of an assembly other than the Lord’s church is in Acts 19:32&39.  The typical usage of ekklesia in the New Testament is in reference to a called out group of people.  That is precisely what the nation of Israel was.  “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”  (Hosea 11:1) Thus, we can be assured that, though it did not function in the same manner as a New Testament church, there was indeed a church in the Old Testament.

The New Testament Church

            What about New Testament days?  How do we see the church in the New Testament?  First of all, the local church is certainly seen in the New Testament.  The church is there with her leaders, discipline, and ordinances.  At the same time the church is also seen as a larger body that is composed of all who know Jesus.  It is this manifestation of the church that we want to consider.

            When Jesus first mentions the church, He made a special promise to the church that actually demonstrates to us that the church is more than a local body alone.  Jesus said: “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Mt 16:18) KJV  Why say that this applies to more than the local church?  Because many local churches have died.  This promise must pertain to some form of church other than the local church.  Local church only proponents may say that this applies to the church in general.  To do so, however, is to concede that there is some form of church beyond the local church.  There is a church that shall never die, according to the promise of Jesus.  What church is it?

            The apostle Paul was one who understood the church to be general in nature and manifesting itself in local assemblies.  It was he who told us “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)  Entrance into the body of Christ comes by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 3:26-29).  The question then arises, into what body is one baptized?  Historically, Baptists have required water baptism for local church membership.  I think that is the right thing to do.  If this is so, into what one body is the believer baptized into when baptized with the Holy Spirit?

            Paul’s language again shows us the general nature of the church when he said “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)  Having just told the Corinthian church that their local assembly was the body of Christ, he proceeds to tell them about the gifts that are given to the church.  The first gift mentioned was apostles.  Were the apostles given to the Corinthian church, or the church general which is composed of Holy Spirit baptized believers?

            There’s hardly another passage in which the church general can be seen more clearly than the following: “He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.   For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.   Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”   (Ephesians 2:14-22)  Paul states that the Jew and the Gentile have been made one.  By the cross the Jews and Gentiles are reconciled into one body.  There is no Gentile church or Jewish church.  There is only the Christian church.  There is no longer Israel as the only chosen of God.  Gentiles are fellow heirs with believing Israel.  We are of the same household as the believing Jew. Together the believing Jew and the believing Gentile are built into God’s holy temple.  By being reconciled to God, we are made into one body, this text tells us. God dwells in this church by the Holy Spirit.  One thing that local church only advocates miss is the fact that the body of Christ is present in this passage, but water baptism is not.  Neither will it serve any purpose to insist that it is implied.  What is expressly stated is that the cross is what brings people into this one body.  The body here is a body composed of the redeemed.

            The church as the body of the redeemed is seen again in Paul’s writings to the church at Ephesus.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.   For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.   For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.    This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.   Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  (Ephesians 5:25-33)  How does the church become the church?  By the cross of Christ.  This same Paul said, “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) For whom did Jesus die?  He died for the church.  Who is the church?  Those who have been redeemed: the ones purchased by the blood of Christ.  Local church only advocates must notice that water baptism, as important as it is, is never mentioned in these two texts.  What is mentioned is redemption through the cross of Christ.  The church general is composed of blood bought Christians.

            Finally, the having seen the church as the bride of Christ, we must ask the question of the composition of the bride of Christ.  Who is in the bride?            

The Bride of Christ Composed of All Saints, Both Old Testament And New Testament Saints

            First of all, we must go to the Revelation to see the bride of Christ.  “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.   Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.   And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”  (Revelation 19:6-8) Many of those who advocate the local church only position state that  the white robes come from the righteous deeds of the saints.  In other words, the ones who are in the bride of Christ are the saints who live up to a certain standard of righteousness and holiness.  This standard has never been fully defined, to my knowledge.  It is supposed to begin with water baptism into the local church, however. 

            Does the Scripture uphold this view of the robes of righteousness being righteous works?  It is this writer’s contention that the Scriptures do not support that position.  Isaiah rejoiced in God’s grace saying, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”  (Isaiah 61:10) Isaiah ascribed the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness as being a gratuitous gift from God, not as something done by the saint[1].  Jesus alludes to this in one of His parables:  “When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.   Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   For many are called, but few are chosen.”  (Matthew 22:11-14) In Jesus’ day it was common for great men to invite many people to celebrate when family members were married.  We are told by some scholars that often the host would freely provide garments for his guests.  It was a great show of disrespect to one’s host to not wear the provided garments.  Jesus is telling us that we cannot partake of the joy of His kingdom if we do not accept the garments that He gives us.  What is the wedding garment, or the fine linen in which the bride shall be clothed in the day of her marriage to the Lamb?  It is the robe of righteousness.  It is the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:19-28;5:1-3).  Thus it is that the bride who has prepared herself and to whom it has been given to be arrayed in fine linen clean and white is none other than all those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God.  The bride of Christ is composed of those who are justified by faith in Jesus.

            We also see the bride of Christ portrayed in the book of the Revelation as the city New Jerusalem.  “There came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.   And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”   (Revelation 21:9-10) One statement especially about this city leads this writer to believe that all of the redeemed of all ages will be a part of the bride of Christ.  That statement is as follows: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.   For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:14-15) The reader will quickly notice that the only ones who are without the city are those who are not redeemed.  By this we readily see that the city is populated with the redeemed.  That being so, and the city being the bride, the bride of Christ is composed of all of the redeemed of all ages.  In fact, we find that Abraham and other Old Testament saints anticipated entrance into the New Jerusalem.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.    For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.   And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.   But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”  (Hebrews 11:13-16) This writer knows of no city for which they could have been looking other than the New Jerusalem, and God has prepared this city for them.  This being so, we can safely conclude that the church is the redeemed of all the ages.

The Local Church

            While considering these things, it is imperative that we recognize that the church generally is seen and experienced as the local church. What we mean by the local church is the church as it is established and ministers in a certain area. In many places within the New Testament, the church is referred to as being within a particular location. It is for this reason that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, rather than to the state church of Galatia, composed of all of the Galatian churches. The New Testament knows nothing of a national or state church, but teaches us much about the local church composed of those baptized believers in a particular area. This is readily seen in the book of Acts. “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. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:41–47) The Jerusalem church was comprised of those believers who were baptized and were joined together in teaching, worship and communion. 

            Many people contend that the belief in the general church constitutes a denial of belief in the local church. This simply is not true, and is an uncharitable statement to make. In fact, the denial of the local church does not logically follow the belief in the larger body of Christ composed of all of the redeemed. Paul told the Corinthians that we are all baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) We know that this is true, because the Spirit that we all receive is the Spirit which was promised (See Ephesians 1:13-14 cf Isaiah 32:12-20;Joel 2:28-32;Acts 2:14-21). Every believer is baptized in/by the Spirit into the body of Christ. In the same chapter, however, Paul explicity tells the Corinthians that they, the local church, were the body of Christ: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) It is impossible to both believe the Bible and reject the truth of the local church. In fact it is no more biblical to deny the local church than it is to deny the church general, composed of all of the redeemed. Scripture teaches us both. 

            We also read Jesus saying, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18–19) Here Jesus tells us that there is a church that is unfailing in her existence. At the same time, this church has certain functions it exercises. This church has authority to bind and loose. That is, she can either declare            something lawful or unlawful, right or wrong, as she has been entrusted with the truth of God and is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). This points further to the exercise of discipline within the body of Christ in which the church has the authority to receive people into the membership and to loose them from their membership by means of excommunication, and to receive them again by means of forgiveness (See Romans 16:17;1 Corinthians 5;2 Thessalonians 3:5-16;Titus 3:10;2 Corinthians 2:1-11). This is worked out within the local body of the church. While it is true that we see in this text the larger body of Christ composed of the redeemed, it also points us to this body being experienced and showing herself in the activities of each local church. This also leads us to understand that each local church is a distinct body, which is autonomous under Christ: no other body has authority over the local church, because Christ and His Word is the authority.

            As Paul taught Timothy concerning the ministry, he wrote to him as one who was laboring in a local church. He told him the qualifications of those who would serve the local body, and told him that he was writing for a purpose: “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14–15) Paul’s counsel for Timothy was for the purpose of instructing him in how he should conduct himself in the church where he was laboring and leading. The same could be said concerning Paul’s letter to Titus.

            When Jesus gave us instructions concerning relationships, he did so with the understanding that the local church had authority in these matters. “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:16–20) Not only does the local church have authority in matters of relationships and discipline, but Christ Jesus dwells in the local church. This is why He said that He would be in the middle of the gathering of two or there who get together in His name. When God’s people determine to do God’s work in God’s way, Christ is present with them. Considering the fact that these things always occur in a locality, we can certainly understand that this refers to the actions of a local body.

            Finally, as we consider the gifts and ministries that are given by the Spirit of God, we find that they are found being used within the local body. Paul taught the Roman church about this (Romans 12:1-8). He also went into great detail with the Corinthians concerning this: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:13–27) Though there is reference to the general body of Christ, we also find that the gifts of the Spirit have their residence and benefit within the local church. Paul informed Corinth that their local body was the very body of Christ. Each local church is a complete body of Christ, established to carry out the commandments of God in her area.


[1] It is interesting to note that clothes cover, and that the meaning of atonement is covering. There is good reason to think that the robes of righteousness represent both atonement and justification through Christ Jesus our Savior.

A Few Thoughts On Baptist Succession

Baptismal Succession And Baptismal Authority

Note: We believe that Baptist churches are true churches of Christ, and that churches of Baptist faith and practice have existed since Christ established the first local, New Testament church during His ministry. This belief was well presented and well defended by Dr John Christian in his “History Of The Baptists.” This belief can be held to without subscribing to linked chain successionism, or the baptismal authority succession as presented by many Landmark Baptists.

The nineteenth century antebellum South saw a controversy arise in Baptist churches. This controversy was led by J.R. Graves and J.M. Pendleton and was a battle against what was called “pulpit affiliation”. Baptist churches were allowing men to preach in their pulpits who had not been baptized by immersion. Graves and Pendleton rightly considered this to be something that should not have occurred. Their premises, however, were not right premises. The “Landmark” which they sought to “reset” is that of Baptist succession and the sole authority of Baptist churches to baptize. It is the aim of this article to show that there were Baptists before the time of Graves and Pendleton who embraced neither their idea of baptismal succession, nor that of a Baptist church being the sole authority when it comes to baptism.

John Gill
John Gill (1697-1771) was an English Baptist, Biblical scholar, and pastor. “His first pastoral work was as an intern assisting John Davis at Higham Ferrers in 1718 at age twenty one. He was subsequently called to pastor the Strict Baptist church at Goat Yard Chapel, Horsleydown, Southwark in 1719. In 1757, his congregation needed larger premises and moved to a Carter Lane, St. Olave’s Street, Southwark. His pastorate lasted 51 years. This Baptist Church would later become the Metropolitan Tabernacle pastored by Charles Spurgeon.” (See Gill’s biography at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org/g/gill/ ) Gill wrote millions of words on theological themes. He wrote a commentary on the Old and New Testaments as well as a two volume systematic theology, and much more. Over two centuries have passed since Gill’s death, but his influence lives on due to his great scholarship.Gill did not embrace the idea that is held by many Landmarkers that baptism joins one to the local church:. “..men must be believers before they are baptized; and they must be baptized before they become members; and they cannot be members till they make application to a church, and are admitted into it.” (The preceding quote and the following from http://pbministries.org/books/gill/Practical_Divinity/Book_2/book2_01.htm

Last accessed 02/22/2010) Neither did he believe that baptism was performed only by the authority of a Baptist church, saying,

“When I say it is not a church ordinance, I mean it is not an ordinance administered in the church, but out of it, and in order to admission into it, and communion with it; it is preparatory to it, and a qualification for it; it does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church… Admission to baptism lies solely in the breast of the administrator, who is the only judge of qualifications for it, and has the sole power of receiving to it, and of rejecting from it; if nor satisfied, he may reject a person thought fit by a church, and admit a person to baptism not thought fit by a church; but a disagreement is not desirable nor advisable: the orderly, regular, scriptural rule of proceeding seems to be this: a person inclined to submit to baptism, and to join in communion with a church, should first apply to an administrator; and upon giving him satisfaction, be baptized by him; and then should propose to the church for communion .. and so the way is clear for his admission into church fellowship. So Saul, when converted, was immediately baptized by Ananias, without any previous knowledge and consent of the church; and, it was many days after this that he proposed to join himself to the disciples, and was received (Acts 9:18, 19, 23, 26-28)…”Note that Gill supports his contention for baptism at the hands of an administrator instead of by church authority by appealing to the case of Saul in Acts chapter nine. Gill demonstrated from this passage that Saul was baptized at the hands of Ananias and then presented himself to the church. Gill also presents the authority for baptism as being the authority of God. The Landmark teaching on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is that Jesus gave the church the authority to baptize. Gill states that baptism “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” is truly being baptized by their authority because the one being baptized has submitted to God's authority by faith in Jesus.

“I shall next consider the author of it; and show, that it is not a device of men, but an ordinance of God; it is a solemn part of divine worship, being performed in the name of the Three divine Persons in Deity, Father, Son, and Spirit, and by their authority; in which the name of God is invoked, faith in him expressed, and a man gives up himself to God, obliges himself to yield obedience to him, expecting all good things from him.”
“..it is ordered to be administered in the name of all three, Father, Son, and Spirit. Which, among other things, is expressive of divine authority, under which it is performed.”

Andrew Fuller
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a baptist theologian, missionary advocate, and pastor in England. He was of great encouragement and help to William Carey as he sought to strike out and do mission work. His word is to be taken as the word of one who loved God’s Word, God’s people, and God’s church.
(For more information on Fuller see http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/fuller/fuller.htm )
The time of Fuller’s life was before the Landmark controversy arose, and he seems to have not been a believer in a linked chain succession of baptisms, or church authority in the administration of baptism.

“Baptism is a Divine institution, pertaining to the kingdom of the Messiah, or the gospel dispensation. John received it from heaven, and administered it to the Jews, who, on his proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, confessed their sins. Jesus gave sanction to it by his example; and after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to him, he confirmed and extended it to believers of all nations.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 728; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)
In this particular passage from the works of Fuller we see no references to either successionism or authority, unless one stops to consider that he does present Christ as being the authority over baptism.We also notice that Fuller did not think it wise to seek a formula for how a church should be established. Most Landmarkers require a “mother church” who formally authorizes and establishes a new church plant. Fuller said,

“We have no particular account, for instance, of the original formation of a single church, nor of an ordination service, nor in what order the primitive worship was generally conducted.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 831; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)
and
“..to attempt to draw up a formula of church government, worship, and discipline, which shall include any thing more than general outlines, and to establish it expressly on New Testament authority, is to attempt what is utterly impracticable.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 831; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)Fuller's further statements inform us that he had no problem with an informal manner of establishing a church.

“The missionaries, arriving at the scene of action, would first unite in social prayer and Christian fellowship; and this would constitute the first church.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 832; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)This is far different from the typical approach of most Landmarkers with whom I am familiar. When we consider his statements, Fuller would probably contend that the Landmark position on establishing churches and the authority of baptism is not the Biblical position, but an imposition upon the churches. Fuller also spoke about succession, and obviously did not count it to be of great importance.

“Such, I conceive, is the state of things with respect to the apostles and succeeding pastors. There were never any men, or set of men whatsoever, that were, properly speaking, their successors. Nor was it necessary that there should, seeing every thing which they did (excepting what was extraordinary, in which none can succeed them) was lawful for every pastor to do in his immediate charge.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 833; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)

James Robinson (J.R.) Graves
J.R. Graves “(b. Chester, Vt., Apr. 10, 1820; d. Memphis, Tenn., June 26, 1893). Preacher, publisher, author, and editor. He influenced Southern Baptist life of the 19th century in more ways, and probably to a greater degree, than any other person. As an agitator and controversialist of the first magnitude, he kept his denomination in almost continual and often bitter controversy for about 30 years.” (http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/graves/gindex.htm Accessed 03/02/2010)
Graves was a very outspoken advocate of Landmarkism, both in the pulpit and in print. In the late 1850’s Graves was brought before the First Baptist Church of Nashville, TN on charges of slander. He was found guilty and censured as a member at that time. Instead of humbly submitting to the censure of the church, Graves declared the minority which supported him the true church, withdrew, and started a new church! S.H. Ford wrote of this saying,

“After careful consideration and counsel amongst the prominent members of the First Church, Nashville, it was decided to arraign Graves before the church on charges of slander. The names already mentioned were the expected witnesses, and their statements were sought and forwarded. Instead of accusing Graves of slander, Fuller acknowledged that he was right in his criticisms, and that he fully deserved them. The others were used as witnesses against him, and it was supposed that a case was made out.
Graves had many strong friends in the church. Among these was A. C. Dayton, the author, and Shackelford. Twenty of these on the advice of Dayton, seeing that the disposition of the case was already decided, and that Graves would be excluded, entered a demurrer; declared that the majority were acting contrary to scriptural precept as laid down in Matthew; announced themselves, that is, the minority, to be the church,, and virtually excluded the majority. This action was at once published, with the reasons for it. The majority was denominated “Howell’s Society.” But the church proper went on with the trial and Graves first and then all the minority were expelled. Thunder and lightning! How the news flashed along the wires, was published in all papers, was denounced by Graves’ friends, was dwelt upon with glow of joy by the Methodist journals. “Graves had come to his deserved end―expelled, disgraced, his power broken, his influence gone.
But wait! While the course of the minority, and especially of Graves, in not squarely standing the trial to the end, was blamed by nearly all well-informed Baptists, and Graves and Dayton were soon made to see their mistake in this and a different, scriptural and rational course was taken. The minority formed themselves into a new church. They called a very large independent council which after several days of investigation acknowledged them as an independent scriptural church of the Baptist faith and order. The association and the general associates [association?] to which both churches belonged, ratified this action. The First Church withdrew from these bodies, and the new church remains to this day.
And then came a general discussion in the papers, in pamphlets, in books, of the finality of the act of a church in expelling a member. Must not every church, in fellowship with the one which expels, respect and abide by its action; or is every church so distinct and independent that it can receive into fellowship any one deemed fit, without regard to the action of any other church? In other words, shall one church decide for, or control the action of every other church? Public opinion among Baptists, generally settled down on the principle, expressed in a circular of the Long Run Association at Louisville, Ky., that though proper regard should be paid to the action of a church excluding a member, yet if on a fair investigation, it had concluded that the expelled member can be fellowshipped by the church to which he applies, the church has the right to receive him. The right of one independent church to expel without appeal, proves the right of another church to receive without appeal. The circular was quoted in nearly all the denominational journals with approval, and adopted by several associations. It may be said that this is now the doctrine of Baptist churches generally.” (http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/graves/biography-ford/chapter06.htm Accessed 03/02/2010)After all of the writing and preaching about the authority of the local, New Testament, Baptist churches, Graves disregarded that authority. As far as we know, Graves never showed any respect for the judgment of R.B.C. Howell, a man his elder as well as his pastor, nor the judgment of the church whose authority he said that he believed was of God. Instead we find political maneuvering and resistance to said authority. Whatever else may be said about Graves and his teaching, he was not consistent with it in this respect.

James Madison (J.M.) Pendleton
James Madison Pendleton, D.D., was born Nov. 20, 1811, in Spottsylvania Co., Va. On the fourth day of March, 1891, he closed his eyes in death, in his eighty-first year. He died as he had lived, a Landmark Baptist. He stated in his Reminiscences, page 104, that he did not think his position on that question had ever been answered, and that he was of the same opinion in 1891, the year of his death, as he was in 1855, the time he wrote it. He was laid to rest in the cemetery at Bowling Green, Ky., March 6 (1891). (See http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/pendleton.j.m.by.bogard.html for a biography of Pendleton.)
Near the beginning of the Landmark controversy Pendleton wrote “An Old Landmark Reset”. (See http://www.reformedreader.org/history/anoldlandmarkreset.htm for an online version of this pamphlet.) The original issue that “An Old Landmark Reset” sought to deal with was the practice of pulpit affiliation, or Baptists allowing Pedo-baptists to share their pulpits. Through all of the argument, Pendleton never sought to establish a Biblical argument for church authority in baptism. Neither did he present an argument from Scripture or history for a linked chain succession of baptisms from the days of John the Baptist and Jesus. These arguments would have been mighty weapons in his arsenal of arguments, but he did not use them? Was it because he was not aware of these arguments? That is doubtful. Was it because he lacked the intelligence to use these arguments? Again, doubtful. Why, then, did he not use such strong arguments (They would be strong if they had Biblical support.)? Let the reader consider this question.
In an appendix to “An Old Landmark Reset”, Pendleton says, “While it is true that authority to preach must, according to the New Testament, come from a Gospel church, it is equally true that authority to baptize must come from the same source.” (J.M. Pendleton, pg 37, An Old Landmark Reset)
It is very interesting that the issue of authority never came up in the body of “An Old Landmark Reset”, and is only seen in this appendix. Why did Pendleton not found the whole of his argument on this issue of church authority? If it were held to be true by all, or if it were a point easily established by Scripture, it would have been the very thing which would have vanquished his opponents. Why did Pendleton not use this argument? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Baptist Confessions
Until after the nineteenth century this writer found no Baptist confession listed by Lumpkin (W.L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith; Judson Press) that demonstrates a belief in baptismal succession or baptismal authority as held by those who hold to the Landmark position.

A.H. Strong (1836-1921) an American Baptist minister and theologian who wrote a very large, scholarly, and influential systematic theology. (See http://www.ccel.org/s/strong/ for a brief biography.)
“Upon the person newly regenerate the command of Christ first terminates; only upon his giving evidence of the change within him does it become the duty of the church to see that he has opportunity to follow Christ in baptism. Since baptism is primarily the act of the convert, no lack of qualification on the part of the administrator invalidates the baptism, so long as the proper outward act is performed, with intent on the part of the person baptized to express the fact of a preceding spiritual renewal (Acts 2:37, 38).
(Strong, A. H. (2004). Systematic theology (948–949). Bellingham, Wa.: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)

In other words, Strong believed that what was necessary for the validity of baptism was that a person be immersed as a believer.

Concluding Thoughts
Having briefly touched on a few things in a very simple manner, I shall confess that my studies have found the Landmark/Baptist Bride position to be a weak one when the historical data is taken into account.

Baptism, Church Membership, And Landmarkism

Baptism, Church Membership, And Landmarkism

            In previous articles we have considered the significance of baptism, the baptism that is in Romans 6:1-7and Galatians 3:27, the administrator of baptism, and the authority of the churchin receiving members; so in this article we shall try to build upon these things and briefly deal with the issue of baptism and church membership.

            The pressing question of Landmarkism that was posed by James Madison Pendleton in his, “An Old Landmark Reset,” was, “Ought Baptists to invite Pedobaptists (That is, those who baptize babies.) to preach in their pulpits?” A.C. Dayton also dealt with the issue of “Pedobaptist And Campbellite Immersions,” and whether they were valid or not. Both men concluded that the questions should be answered in the negative, and we certainly agree.

            The problem with inviting men to preach who have been sprinkled instead of baptized is the issue of their not truly being subject to the authority of a local church. Where there is no true baptism, there can be no true church nor true church membership. This is a matter of great importance, if we are to respect the biblical order of binding and loosing that Christ has instituted in His church. The body of Christ is visibly manifest in the local church, and the pattern found in Scripture is for believers to be baptized and then united with the local church. Where this is absent, those who lack baptism and church membership should not be received as valid members of a church. They can neither be recommended by a church, nor received by a church in any capacity until they have submitted to true baptism. This is a matter of obedience to Christ and His commands, so we must expect those who would be regular ministers of the gospel to set the example of obedience to Christ.

            Why should we not accept the baptisms performed by those who are Campbellites (Church of Christ or Christian Church Disciples of Christ), Pedobaptists, Methodists, Anglicans,  United Pentecostals, or those of similar beliefs? The answer is that they baptize for the wrong reasons. In some fashion or another, each of these groups speak of baptism as conferring some sort of spiritual blessing, and often demand that a person be baptized in order to have the remission of sins. That is not true baptism, as we have already seen. True baptism is symbolic in nature, and confers no grace to the one being baptized; but is simply their profession of faith. 

While Pendleton’s and Dayton’s conclusions were valid, their arguments were not. The important issue is not that of church authority in baptism, but rather of the validity of sprinkling as baptism and the validity of receiving the immersions performed by those who hold to erroneous views on baptism.

            Having said these things, it is my earnest desire that my Landmark Baptist brethren understand and accept that we arrive at the same conclusions regarding the above questions. Brothers, we are on the same team. We are brothers in Christ. We are members of the church that Jesus established and promised that He would build and be present with forever. The issues that are before us should be issues that we discuss with kindness and brotherly love rather than stridently and with anger. “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) 

The Administrator Of Baptism

The Administrator Of Baptism

             The question that is before us is, “Who is to be the administrator of baptism?” Our sole authority being that of Christ inthe Scriptures, let us go “To the law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to this word, It is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20) 

The Practice Of Baptism In The Gospels And Acts

            When we approach the Scriptures, one important principle that must be applied is that of the normative principleof interpretation. The normative principle of interpretation considers the Scriptures, looks at its examples and commandments, and asks whether these examples and commandments have been replaced by the Word of God or amplified, or if we can fulfill the spirit of the Word in any way other than that which is given. It is with this in mind that we understand that the practice of Christ and the early church, and the commandments of Christ to the local church are binding upon us today, as they have been neither changed nor nullified by God’s Word in any way.

When the practice of Christian baptism began, it began with John the Baptist, whom we can also call the Baptizer. John was sent from God (John 1:6) and had been commissioned to baptize those who repented (Matthew 3:1-10). There are two important things to notice: first, John was not baptized, but began the practice; and, second, John was sent from God with the authority to command all who repented to be baptized.

            Then we find that Jesus’ disciples baptized (John 4:1-3), and in this Jesus is spoken of as baptizing. Jesus is spoken of as baptizing when His disciples physically did the work because they did it under Jesus’ authority and supervision. It is with this same authority that Jesus commissioned His disciples and sent them forth to preach the gospel, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them (Matthew 28:18-20;Mark 16:14-18).

In the Acts we find that there are no names given to those who administered baptism on Pentecost, though there were probably many who did. We the find Philip baptizing in Samaria (Acts 8:12-13), then baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts8:36-38). From there we find Ananias baptizing Saul (Acts 9:18), Peter and other disciples baptizing at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:47-48), Paul and others baptizing at Philippi (Acts 16:15,33), Corinth (Acts 18:8 cf 1 Corinthians 1:13-18), and Ephesus (Acts 19:1-5). 

It is interesting to note that, in each of these instances, the emphasis is not placed upon the administrator of baptism, but upon the act of baptism and its significance. This was so important that Paul stressed that he baptized very few people at Corinth, because the gospel is more important than the man doing the baptizing (1 Corinthians 1:13-18). We should certainly find it instructive that both Paul and John the Baptist (John 1:15-28;3:22-36) sought no fame for themselves, nor did they consider themselves important or indispensable because they baptized. The significance of baptism is in what it represents ( Baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the death of the believer to sin and his being made alive to God in Christ, and the believer’s inward baptism with the Holy Spirit.) rather than in the person who administers baptism. We should also place our emphasis on the truths of the gospel, and the significance of baptism as a profession of one’s faith in the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.

The Role Of The Local Church In Baptism

            What do the Scriptures teach us of the role of the local church in baptism? First of all, we find that the local church at Jerusalem was formed by assembling believers who had been baptized by John (Matthew 4:17-22;Acts 1:21-26). Among these were the twelve Jesus chose to be His apostles. Then we also see that there was a greater number in the early church at Jerusalem, as they numbered one hundred twenty in Acts chapters one and two. Having specified that the one chosen to replace Judas must have been baptized by John, Peter seems to have implied that there were those in the number who were baptized by Jesus and/or His disciples (See John 4:1-3).

            It is also instructive to us to consider the order of events on Pentecost: “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) Having heard the Word, many believed. After believing they were baptized. After baptism they were added to the local church. Who were the administrators of baptism on Pentecost? Truly we do not know. It is relatively safe to assume that the apostles took the lead, and perhaps some or all of the seventy (Luke 10:1-12); and who knows who else baptized? We must notice that very little is specifically statedregarding the persons of the administrators while acknowledging and emphasizing that we can be relatively certain that each of them would have been baptized disciples who were members of the Jerusalem church.

            As we take this farther, consider that Paul did not speak of the church baptizing, but of himself baptizing (1 Corinthians 1:13-18). Neither do we see Philip (Acts 8:12-13,36-38) or Ananias (Acts9:10-20) seeking permission from a local church to baptize. 

What can we conclude from this? We can conclude that it is important that one be baptized and a member of a local church in order to administer baptism, and that the local church seems to have accepted these baptisms by receiving those baptized into their membership (Acts 2:41-47;9:17-20). 

What Does The Scripture Show Us Regarding The Person Administering Baptism?

            To summarize what we have seen to this point, we find that the Scripture shows us the following regarding the person who administers baptism:

  1. He is a disciple (John 4:1-3).
  2. He baptizes with Divine authority (Matthew 3:1-10;John 1:6-9,15,19-28;Matthew 28:18-20).
  3. He seems to be a baptized member of the local church (Acts 1:21-26;1 Corinthians 1:13-18).

Beyond these three things we can speak with no certainty regarding the administrator of baptism. 

Some Recommendations For Church Policy Regarding The Administration Of Baptism

            The first consideration for any church is to be sure that baptism has been administered to a candidate for the proper reasons. Baptism signifies the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, the baptism of the believer in the Holy Spirit, and the believer’s dying to sin and becoming alive to God in Christ. This makes it necessary that we seek to ascertain that the one we are considering receiving into the church has a credible profession of faith. We should also seek to determine that they were baptized for the purpose of professing their faith. No baptism that is performed with the belief that it saves the one being baptized is acceptable baptism. We must be as sure as we possibly can that we are accepting a baptism that has been performed upon a believer as their profession of faith.

            While the administrator of baptism is not integral to the validity of the act, we should seek to ascertain whether there was a valid administrator. After all, it is highly irregular, though not unheard of, for there to be an administrator of baptism who has not been baptized (John the Baptist demonstrates that there has been at least one unbaptized baptizer.), though this does not necessarily invalidate a baptism. (Note: we must recognize the difference between that which is irregular and that which is invalid.) We should in every way seek regular baptisms. That which is irregular, though valid in the sight of God, should also be a rare occurrence. When that which is irregular becomes common, it becomes accepted as regular, which is not a good practice. In the USA there are many faithful, Bible believing Baptist churches with which a person can connect and receive baptism at the hands of a baptized administrator. It seems to be a wise course for a church to consider the baptism of each person who applies to them for admission into the body and, should the applicant have irregular baptism, we should certainly seek to ascertain why. Should a person not have been baptized by a valid administrator although one was available, this writer counts it wise for that person to receive baptism at the hands of one whom the church can recognize as a biblically valid administrator; so that we can uphold that which is regular above that which is irregular. 

            Ultimately the local church chooses whom to accept as a member, and what baptism they will receive (Acts 2:41-47;9:17-19,26-31;Romans 14:1;15:7). The local church should not go beyond the bounds of Scripture in their requirements, nor should they accept less than Scripture requires. The local church has no authority beyond faithfully obeying the commands of Christ as given in Scripture.

The Significance Of Baptism (Full Article)

The Significance Of Baptism

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:1–12) 

John’s Baptism

            As John came and preached, his preaching was that of repentance. He was making ready a people for God. His message was that men should believe on Jesus, who was coming after him (Acts 19:4). He told them that they should repent, because their King was coming. As John baptized unto repentance, we must note that baptizing unto repentance did not bring about repentance. The above text shows us that John expected repentance to have occurred before baptism. Only when one repented was he baptized. This is why it is called the baptism of repentance (Mark 1:1-5;Acts 19:1-4). 

            What was the focus of John’s baptism, if not the relationship of the people to their King, Jesus? John, when asked why he baptized, stated that it was because the King was coming (John 1:19-28). He further stated, when many disciples left him to follow Jesus, that was how it should be (John 3:23-26). John’s full focus was on Jesus. People were to repent of their sins and be baptized unto that repentance because the Christ was coming. The emphasis was not so much on the act of baptism as it was on the need to be right with Christ.

            Furthermore, God had promised that He would pour out His Spirit upon His people (Isa 32:13-18;44:1-8;Eze 36:25-26;Joel 2:28-32), and John reminded the people that this would be fulfilled in the kingdom of God by the King who was coming (Matt 3:11-12;John 1:25-28). This promised baptism of the Spirit was one of the reasons why John was baptizing: water baptism is a symbol of Baptism in the Spirit, and those being baptized in water were showing their faith in the King who would pour out His Spirit on them.

            In all of these things we can see that John was pointing people to Christ, the King, who would come and change them. John was not preaching that baptism would wash away the sins of the people.

Apostolic Baptism

            When the apostles baptized, they simply continued the practice of John, who had baptized them (Acts 1:15-22), and they did so under the direction of Jesus (John 3:26;4:1-3). Paul spoke to that effect when he baptized the believers at Ephesus in Acts chapter nineteen. He did not declare that John’s baptism was invalid: he declared that the Ephesians to whom he spoke had not received John’s baptism, although they thought that they had received it. These folks had heard something about John and his baptism and were baptized unto John’s baptism. Paul told them that John preached that Jesus was coming to pour out His Spirit, but they had heard nothing of that promise. They had not heard the message of John, who had preached that people should believe on Jesus. Having heard this, they believed on Jesus Christ and were baptized. It is interesting to note that neither John nor the apostles preached that baptism brought about salvation: they always emphasized that Jesus was the one who would give the Holy Spirit to those who believe Him. 

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

            Acts 2:38 has often been used to declare that the apostles preached baptismal regeneration, however this is not so. Remember that the preaching of John and the apostles was built upon the promises of God in the Old Testament. God had promised that He would pour out His Spirit and make things and people new. In addition to that promise, God stated that those who received the Spirit would call themselves by the name of the God who had saved them. One thing is certain, Acts 2:38 does not contradict the plain statement “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  When Peter said that they were to be baptized in the name of Jesus,he was simply stating that men must receive Jesus as the Christ and embrace Him as the true King of Israel. Not only so, but one of the things that is characteristic of those upon whom the Spirit is come is the fact that they identify themselves with the Lord who poured out His Spirit  (See Isa 44:5).  If this is characteristic of those who have received the promise, is it any wonder that Peter would tell the Jews who rejected Christ that they must repent, accept Jesus as their Messiah, and identify their selves with Christ to be saved?  Salvation is not through the identifying, but those who deny the Lord are denied of Him (See Matt 10:32,33).  No one need think himself to be forgiven of sin if he will not confess Jesus as the Christ and as his savior. This is simply another part of Scripture being fulfilled which says “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:   And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.  One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.”  (Isa 44:3-5)              

Baptized In The Name…

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

            What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? What does it mean to be baptized in the name of Jesus? Is this a series of words that must be said over the one being baptized, or is there another significance? 

            The preposition ες is often translated in, into, unto, or for and is seen in both of these texts as well as 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, where Israel is spoken of as being baptized unto Moses. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4) 

(It is interesting to note that there is a parallel to be seen here: Israel was redeemed by blood and then baptized in the Red Sea, and the saints are redeemed by the blood of Jesus and then baptized in water.) Notice that Israel was baptized unto Moses. Just as we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto repentance, and for the remission of sins, Israel was baptized unto Moses. Were they baptized in order to receive Moses into their hearts? Were they baptized to be joined unto Moses? No, they were baptized in identification with Moses. They were identified with Him as their leader as they followed the visible presence of the LORD in the fiery and cloudy pillar.

            What, then, does it mean when we read of being baptized unto repentance, for the remission of sins, in the name of Jesus Christ, or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It simply means that we are identifying with repentance, the remission of sins, Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we saw earlier, baptism occurs after repentance, which brings the remission of sins (Luke 24:47;2 Corinthians 7:8-10). Baptism neither saves, nor brings the remission of sins. Neither does water baptism join us to Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is an outward sign that identifies us with all of these.

            Thus it is that, when we are baptized, we are saying that we have repented of our sins, received the forgiveness of our sins, are joined to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and are thus identifying ourselves as such.

Baptism A Symbol

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:18–22)

            In closing this article, we need to consider the text before us. In this text we see that baptism is spoken of as a symbol, thus the language regarding baptism saving must be symbolic also.

             Let us notice the following regarding this text:

  1. We are reconciled to God in Christ by the cross.:18 cf 2 Corinthians 5:17-21;Colossians 1:19-23;2:13-15
  2. Salvation by water in Noah’s day was actually symbolic. :19  Noah was justified by faith (Hebrews 11:7), thus it was neither the ark nor the water that saved him. He was saved by the grace of God (Genesis 6:8). The ark carrying him through the waters symbolized the salvation Noah possessed by grace through faith.
  3. Baptism is a figure. It does not cleanse the flesh. Sins are forgiven because of the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:1-7;Colossians 1:13-14;Hebrews 9:22-28;Revelation 1:5).
  4. Baptism saves in a figure by the resurrection of Christ. Baptism figures or symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as well as the inner death and resurrection to new life (Romans 6:1-7;Ephesians 2:1-6) of the child of God.

These things being said, let us remember the following: baptism demonstrates the inward reality of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which is given to all who believe (Matthew 3:1-10;Romans 5:5;6:1-7;Ephesians 1:12-14). Baptism demonstrates our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3:18-22). Baptism is an outward symbol of the inward grace of the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 3:1-6;Acts 22:16). Baptism has no spiritual power to give us any blessing, but is our profession of faith in the saving blessings given to us by Christ.

The Significance Of Baptism pt3

Baptism A Symbol

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:18–22)

            In closing this article, we need to consider the text before us. In this text we see that baptism is spoken of as a symbol, thus the language regarding baptism saving must be symbolic also.

             Let us notice the following regarding this text:

  1. We are reconciled to God in Christ by the cross.:18 cf 2 Corinthians 5:17-21;Colossians 1:19-23;2:13-15
  2. Salvation by water in Noah’s day was actually symbolic. :19  Noah was justified by faith (Hebrews 11:7), thus it was neither the ark nor the water that saved him. He was saved by the grace of God (Genesis 6:8). The ark carrying him through the waters symbolized the salvation Noah possessed by grace through faith.
  3. Baptism is a figure. It does not cleanse the flesh. Sins are forgiven because of the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:1-7;Colossians 1:13-14;Hebrews 9:22-28;Revelation 1:5).
  4. Baptism saves in a figure by the resurrection of Christ. Baptism figures or symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as well as the inner death and resurrection to new life (Romans 6:1-7;Ephesians 2:1-6) of the child of God.

These things being said, let us remember the following: baptism demonstrates the inward reality of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which is given to all who believe (Matthew 3:1-10;Romans 5:5;6:1-7;Ephesians 1:12-14). Baptism demonstrates our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3:18-22). Baptism is an outward symbol of the inward grace of the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 3:1-6;Acts 22:16). Baptism has no spiritual power to give us any blessing, but is our profession of faith in the saving blessings given to us by Christ.

Romans 6:1-7 and Baptism

Romans 6:1-7 And Baptism

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:1–7)

Does This Text Speak Of Water Baptism?

Does the above passage speak of water baptism? This passage has been used to show that water baptism shows our identification and participation with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Is this so? Does water baptism cause us to die with Christ and rise to walk in a new life? Does water baptism join us to the local body of Christ? To answer the question concisely, no, it does not. That is what we shall seek to establish in this article.

The first thing that we must do is notice the greater and the immediate context. The greater context shows us that Paul has been teaching the Romans about justification by faith rather than by works (Romans 1:16-17;2:27-30;3:21-28;4:1-5,24-25). The immediate context is that God’s grace in Christ reigns unto life where sin had once reigned unto death. “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20–21)

The opening verse asks if we should continue in sin that we might experience the abundance of God’s grace. After all, where sin is abundant, grace is superabundant (Romans 5:20-21). Yet grace reigns unto life. Grace conquers sin. For this cause we cannot sin in order to continue to receive great grace: we have died and are alive, as we see taught in Romans 5:20-21. God forbid that we think that the gospel encourages sin by giving grace to sinners (Cf Romans 3:1-8), when the gospel is the message of God’s conquering of sin.

The response to the question is that we are dead to sin. How shall those who are dead to sin continue to live in sin? We know that is logically impossible. Scripture tells us that we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) who are crucified with Christ. “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:19–21) We are also risen with Him. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved.)” (Ephesians 2:4–5) (See also Galatians 2:19-21) This came through the grace of God when we believed.

Paul asked the Romans if they were aware that they, by way of being baptized into Christ, died to sin and risen to walk in a new life (Romans 6:3-4). Ask yourself this question: Does water baptism bring about this great change, or is it the free, justifying grace of God in the believer that makes this change? We have already seen that it is the work of free grace that changes us.

Paul continues and tells the Romans that in baptism we share in Christ’s death and resurrection, that the body of sin is destroyed, all to the purpose that we would not serve sin. Does water baptism do all of this? We have already seen that this occurs by the free grace of God when one trusts Jesus and is justified by faith. Furthermore, Paul teaches us in Colossians that it is by the blood of Christ that we are forgiven our sins, rescued from the power of darkness, and made citizens of the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13-14). This deliverance from sin is the very essence of the doctrine of redemption through grace. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7) The context of this passage speaks of God’s grace in Christ being to God’s glory. We do not contribute anything to our salvation. Redemption and deliverance from sin come because Christ died for us and rose again. This is why God gets the glory and not man (Cf Ephesians 2:8-10).

Then we find that Paul states that the person who is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6:7). Interestingly enough, the word “freed” is the same word that is more often translated “justified.” Dare we say that water baptism justifies us and frees us from sin? Dare we, who contend for the free grace of God in the gospel and justification by faith, proclaim that this is water baptism in Romans 6:1-7, if the text tells us that this great change is wrought by baptism? The Word of God does not allow us to do so.

What Baptism Is This?

If this is not speaking of water baptism, then of what does the text speak? What baptism is this? This can only be the promised baptism of the Spirit. Let us consider what the promise was.

The promised outpouring of the Spirit was to give to God’s people cleansing, new life, and liberation from sin. “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.” (Ezekiel 36:25–29) God promised Israel that He would put His Spirit in them, change them, and liberate them from sin. In a similar manner, He said, “Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; Yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: Because the palaces shall be forsaken; The multitude of the city shall be left; The forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, A joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, And the wilderness be a fruitful field, And the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, And righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; And the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, And in sure dwellings, And in quiet resting places;” (Isaiah 32:13–18) Again, notice that there is great liberation from the curse of sin when the promised outpouring of the Spirit comes.

Again he says, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh: that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19–20) Once more we see that the promise of the Spirit will bring a change of heart in the people so that they will be liberated from sin to serve God. This promise is also given in Joel and fulfilled in Acts 2. “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:16–21) “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:38–40) It is quite evident that the promised gift of the Spirit is given in order that we might be saved, cleansed, delivered, forgiven, and made anew.

Paul spoke of this when he referred to the seal of the Spirit that is given to us: “in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14) This seal is not one such as we think of on a jar of beans, but a seal such as we see when papers are notarized. It is a mark that signifies that something is official or genuine. Thus we read, “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1 John 3:24) The Spirit within us is what signifies that we are God’s children. When we trust Jesus we receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit and the love of God is poured out (See Romans 5:5, where the text tells us it is “shed abroad in our hearts,” or poured out.) in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Thus we see that the baptism which clothes us with Christ (Galatians 3:26-29), buries us and raises us through faith (Colossians 2:12), and causes us to die, buries and raises us, and justifies and liberates us from sin (Romans 6:1-7) is nothing less than the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is given to all who trust Jesus.

The Significance Of Baptism pt 2

Baptized In The Name…

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

            What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? What does it mean to be baptized in the name of Jesus? Is this a series of words that must be said over the one being baptized, or is there another significance? 

            The preposition ες is often translated in, into, unto, or for and is seen in both of these texts as well as 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, where Israel is spoken of as being baptized unto Moses. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4) 

(It is interesting to note that there is a parallel to be seen here: Israel was redeemed by blood and then baptized in the Red Sea, and the saints are redeemed by the blood of Jesus and then baptized in water.) Notice that Israel was baptized unto Moses. Just as we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto repentance, and for the remission of sins, Israel was baptized unto Moses. Were they baptized in order to receive Moses into their hearts? Were they baptized to be joined unto Moses? No, they were baptized in identification with Moses. They were identified with Him as their leader as they followed the visible presence of the LORD in the fiery and cloudy pillar.

            What, then, does it mean when we read of being baptized unto repentance, for the remission of sins, in the name of Jesus Christ, or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It simply means that we are identifying with repentance, the remission of sins, Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we saw earlier, baptism occurs after repentance, which brings the remission of sins (Luke 24:47;2 Corinthians 7:8-10). Baptism neither saves, nor brings the remission of sins. Neither does water baptism join us to Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is an outward sign that identifies us with all of these.

            Thus it is that, when we are baptized, we are saying that we have repented of our sins, received the forgiveness of our sins, are joined to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and are thus identifying ourselves as such.