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 Authority Of The Local Church pt 2

Binding And Loosing In The Local Church

            Our text shows Jesus stating that there is, within the local church, the authority to bind and loose as long as it is in accord with what has been done in heaven. When we consider that the ultimate authority in the church is Jesus Christ (See Matthew 28:18-20;Ephesians 1:23;Colossians 1:18), and that God alone has the authority of forgiveness (And that forgiveness and judgment are the prerogative of Jesus. See Matthew 9:1-8;John 5:22;James 4:12), then we see that the binding and loosing must be done under the authority of Christ, or in harmony with the teaching of His Word.

            What does it mean to bind and to loose? Jesus shows us this in Matthew 18:21-35. It is here that the parable shows us how one can either be bound to, or loosed from his debt. When we see Jesus tells the church that we have the authority of forgiveness (John 20:23), we understand that He is speaking of the same thing. The binding and loosing refers to the sinning member who is put outside the fellowship of the church (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-13), thus being bound to his sins until he repents; and then receiving him back into fellowship through forgiveness, thus loosing him from his sin as God has done (See 2 Corinthians 2:1-11). 

            As we consider this, it shows us that the church has authority under Christ to receive and/or reject members. This is not something that is to be done carelessly, but under the authority of Christ only. We have no right to receive or to reject anyone that Christ would not treat the same as we do. Thus it is that we see very explicit directions concerning how to exercise church discipline. We also see that the New Testament pattern was to receive the baptized believer into the fellowship of the local church (Acts 1:41-47). Though we see no formal vote that took place, we do see that those who trusted Jesus were baptized and then became a part of the fellowship of the church. We also see that Saul of Tarsus was initially rejected, but then received by the church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-28). Later this same apostle wrote to the Roman church, commanding them to receive their weaker brethren (Romans 14:1). Thus the church has the authority concerning whom they will receive into their fellowship.

            While we see only the broad principle regarding the receiving of members into the fellowship of the church, we must recognize that this is a very important issue. What is at stake is the holiness and purity of the church. As mentioned earlier, there are issues that will be dealt with more in depth when we address church discipline; here we will let is suffice us to say that the church should be careful that they only receive into their fellowship those who give credible evidence of saving faith in Christ, baptism, and good moral character (Acts 2:41-47;1 Corinthians 5:1-13).

Respecting The Local Church

The authority and autonomy of each local church should be respected. As members of local churches, we must ourselves be respectful of the church. We should do that by living godly lives so that we can be a blessing to the church, thus upholding the Biblical standards of holiness. We should respect the local church by showing Christian courtesy in all things, so that we minister to the harmony and edification of the body in our assemblies, and so that we represent the church and Christ well in society. Finally, we should respect the local church by submitting to her teaching and discipline, as the church follows Christ Jesus.We should also show respect to the authority of the local church by respecting the rights and privileges of other local bodies as we deal with them. Whether we are receiving or granting letters of commendation for members, conducting business in associations, seeking for or planning the ordination of ministers or deacons, or whatever business we are transacting, we must always be aware that each local church must be respected as an individual body that is responsible for carrying out her own business. That being so, we should respect the freedom and authority of each local church in carrying out the business of the church.