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.

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.

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 pt 1

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)              

Order In The Church

Order In The Church

Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40)

God Loves And Ordains Order

God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

            Order in the church is a very important thing. God both creates order and loves order. Our text above shows us that God does not cause chaos and uproar, but rather desires order and peace in the churches.

            Note that the Genesis Creation Account shows us the earth as being a watery chaos into which God quickly brought order by dividing the water from dry land, creating light, establishing seasons, etc. Order in our lives has its roots in the nature of God and in His creative design.

            God, having created order, commands us to submit to it. God is the ultimate authority, and all other authority comes from Him. We cannot live as though we are free from restraint. God is the King, and we are His subjects. Anarchy, disorder, self-will, and chaos are rebellion against God. When we submit to godly order we are submitting to God and honoring God.

The Natural Order

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) 

            From the very beginning there was order established in society by God’s establishing marriage, giving man a family, and then ordaining civil government.

            From the beginning the husband was the head of his wife and family (1 Corinthians 11:1-10;1 Timothy 2:11-15; Malachi 2:13-16;Ephesians 5:21-6:4). We find many ways in which God placed much responsibility upon the man to care for his family as he leads them. Headship not only involves authority, but also places great responsibility upon the one who is in authority.

            As the families upon Earth grew, there was the need for order among the people. Thus God established a bit of order when He gave command regarding Cain after his murdering of Abel, his brother (Genesis 4:11-16). After the flood we see that God instituted the death penalty as the punishment for murder (Genesis 9:6), which shows us that God does indeed command order in society. We later see this principle reinforced in the New Testament (Romans 13:1-7;1 Peter 2:13-17).

Church Order

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18) 

            The church belongs to Jesus, as He has died for her (Acts 20:28;1 Corinthians 6:18-20;Ephesians 5:25-28). Christ is the head of the church. God has designed that our marriages serve to portray that (Ephesians 5:21-33). Having risen from the dead, and having been exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus’ name is exalted above all others, and He is given to the church as her head (Ephesians 1:19-23;Colossians 1:15-19) God has done this so that we would value Christ above all, and that God would get His glory in Christ.  If we truly long to honor God we must submit to godly order and follow Christ.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17) 

            Note that God has placed rulers within the church. There is an order that is to be observed among God’s people. Christ is God’s gift to the church as our head, and then He has gifted the church with leaders (Ephesians 4:11-16). These leaders are under the authority of Christ and bear the authority of Christ as they preach and teach His Word, and tend to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). We are taught to show great honor to those who rule well, to provide for their material needs (1 Timothy 5:17-18), to love them (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13), and to follow them and obey them (Hebrews 13:7-8,17).

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (1 Timothy 2:11–15) 

            The natural order, established by God, is also to be followed in the church. God’s Word teaches us that the men should take the leadership in the church, as this is God’s order from the beginning. The law also established this (1 Corinthians 14:34-45). While there is definitely room for godly ladies to teach and be a blessing (1 Timothy 2:11-15;Titus 2:1-5), it is godly order that the responsibility of leading the church rests upon the men, just as it does in the home. Please note that this is something to which we are all called to submit. Godly order requires submission to the order, both by those who must submit to the burden of leadership as well as those who must submit to the leaders. The ultimate authority in the church is Christ, who has established this order, and we must submit to Him by following His order.

 

See also: Conducting Church Business Meetings

Baptist Distinctives

Baptist Distinctives

There are biblically based doctrines that make Baptists unique among professing Christians. Not all Baptists hold to all of these doctrines and practices. Since the beginning of Christendom there have been those who have not held to everything that is mentioned here. The failure to do so has often led to Baptists losing their unique identity as Baptists, though the name may remain on the church and on the sign. The totality of the doctrines believed is what makes Baptists unique. In addition to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity listed above, these are as follows:

  1. Salvation by grace through faith, apart from any good works or religious deeds.
  2. The eternal security of the believer in Christ. (John 10:27-30;Romans 8:28-39;Ephesians 1:12-14;1 Peter 1:1-9).
  3. The baptism of believers by complete immersion in water as an ordinance that is requisite to church membership. (Matthew 3:1-18;28:18-20;Acts 2:38-47;Romans 6:1-4)
  4. The beginning of the New Testament church during Christ’s earthly ministry. John came immersing those who repented, and Jesus led His followers to do likewise. (See Matthew 3:1-18;John 4:1-3;Matthew 28:18-20)
  5. The identity of this church as Baptist in doctrine and practice.
  6. The independence and autonomy of the local church under the headship of Christ and the leadership of His Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 1:1-3;Galatians 1:1-5 Note that here the churches are recognized as local and distinct bodies with no connection to one another beyond that of Christian fellowship. None had authority over the other. See also Revelation chapters 2-3, 2 Corinthians 8:18-24 and Colossians 1:1-2;4:15-18.)
  7. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion Service, as an ordinancein the church by which the members of the church remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, as well as the promise of His return. (Matthew 26:17-30;Luke 22:1-20;1 Corinthians 11:17-34)
  8. That Baptists have existed in all ages since Christ established His church and are not Protestant, having begun before the Roman Catholic Church.