BAPTIST

DISTINCTIVES

 

BY IVAN G. CASTEEL

 

BETH HAVEN BAPTIST CHURCH

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA

 

 

              B - BIBLICAL AUTHORITY

              A - AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

              P - PRIESTHOOD OF EACH BELIEVER

              T - TWO ORDINANCES

              I -  INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY

              S - SAVED MEMBERSHIP

              T - TWO OFFICES - PASTOR AND DEACONS

              S - SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE #1

BIBLICAL AUTHORITY

 

 

Baptist History sets us apart; The best way to describe a Baptist is to describe what Baptists believes. Independent Baptists is not a denomination, rather a doctrine. The doctrine, which is from the Bible, developed Baptists. Baptist did not develop the doctrine. The doctrine was here first. By following the doctrine we became what we are. Most organizations develop the doctrine after they have organized. Not so with Independent Baptists. We are Baptists because we follow what Jesus Christ taught in the N.T.

 

Baptists are not Protestants! A protestant is a person or people who protested against the Catholic mother church – we were never part of the Catholic church.

 

The Table of Contents above gives the Acrostic of B-A-P-T-I-S-T-S. We will take each letter and connect it with the various distinctive doctrines of the Baptist faith and practice.

I. BIBLE AUTHORITY

 

The first point is “B” or: “Biblical Authority our sole standard for belief and practice. 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

 

2 Timothy 3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (KJV)

 

The Bible is a Divine Revelation given of God to men, and is a complete and infallible guide and standard of authority in all matters of religion and morals; whatever it teaches is to be believed, and whatever it commands is to be obeyed; whatever it commends is to be accepted as both right and useful; whatever it condemns is to be avoided as both wrong and hurtful; but what it neither commands nor teaches is not to be imposed on the conscience as of religious obligation.

 

            A. The Bible Is Authoritative Because It Is From God And About God.

 

Baptist emphasize that the Bible is the sole authority for Christian faith and practice. All other writings, creeds, or confessions are rejected as authoritative. Baptists have been accused of worshipping the Bible because of our extraordinarily high regard for the Bible as our authority. That is not true, as Baptist we worship the God of the Bible as the ultimate authority. We believe, and follow the Bible as our total authority.

 

            B. The Bible Is Foundational For All Doctrine And Church Polity.

 

Where do we Baptists get our authority for our doctrine? All of the great doctrines that we teach and practice comes right out of the Bible.

 

                        1. Salvation by grace is from the Bible. Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (KJV)

 

Most denominations teach that salvation is granted through the works of the individual. There are dozens of Scripture that will refute that fallacy. Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (KJV)

 

What are some works of righteousness? Tithing – church attendance – teaching a class – visiting the sick – singing in the choir, or even being a good employee. None of these have anything to do with righteousness.

 

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (KJV) The first part of this verse is speaking of self righteousness – or keeping the law to obtain righteousness. In Luke 18 the ruler came to Jesus asking what was necessary to inherit eternal life – Jesus quoted the 10 Commandments to him (the Law) and he said, Luke 18:21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. (KJV) It wasn’t enough. Keeping the law is not the plan for obtaining righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (KJV)

 

Salvation is by grace and not works.

 

                        2. The security of the believer. John 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (KJV)

 

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (KJV)

 

The problem that develops with those who don’t believe that these scriptures are teaching that a believer has eternal life is that they do not take the Bible literal. The first rule in interpreting the Bible is that it must be taken literal. The literal interpretation is always first. Eternal life can mean only one thing – that the person who has been redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ has eternal life. That means that that person will live forever. That’s all it means – it means nothing else.

 

Those who oppose this doctrine believe in “Terminating life”. They may have eternal life one day but if they do certain sins their eternal life will be terminated. The Bible doesn’t teach that.

 

When does eternal life begin? At the time of salvation. It never ends – because man did not nothing to get  eternal life; therefore, he can do nothing to terminate it.

 

                        3. Holy life style. Romans 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. (KJV)  It does matter how we live – God expects every believer to live holy.

 

We will cover baptism a little later.

 

                        4. The 2nd coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are two or three different approaches to the Rapture of the believers, however Baptists hold to the Pre-tribulation Rapture. We have scripture for that.

 

In the 4th Chapter of the Book of Revelation we see the exit of all of the saints of God. Some would ask how we get that from the 4th Chapter? In Chapters 2 and 3 John is writing about the 7 churches. Which describes all of the church ages, and in the 4th chapter we see this scripture - Re 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. (KJV) What takes place in the next chapters through chapter 18 is all consisting of the tribulation years. The N.T. Church is not mentioned again until chapter 19 – where the bride and Bridegroom are married. Therefore, from chapter 4 through 18 the N.T. Church or churches are not on the earth. All believers have gone to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Thess 4:13-18.

 

There will be a 7 year period following the Rapture of the Saints in which we will be in the Judgment Seat Of Christ. This is a time when each Christian will receive give an account for the deeds done whether they are good or bad. This judgment will not be to determine whether the person will go to heaven or not. That was settled when they accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour. Everyone in this judgment will go to heaven for ever and for ever.

 

There are those who teach that we will go through the first half of the tribulation. I don’t hold to this teaching for the reasons just given. Most Baptists will hold to the Pre-tribulation doctrine.

 

Then the Pre-millennium return of Christ. That meaning that He will return to the earth and rule and reign for one-thousand years. Following that thousand years will be the Great White Throne Judgment where all those that did not get saved will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Those who are in the Great White Throne Judgment will not be judged whether they will go to heaven or not. They will not go to heaven. It will be a judgment of punishment. 

 

There are other matters of doctrinal practice that we adhere to that I will not cover in this: However, there is one more that I want to mention.

 

            C. The Bible Is Our Authority For Church Discipline.

 

Not many churches practice church discipline today – yet it is just as much part of the Bible as is eternal security, and baptism.

 

Mt 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

 16 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.

 17 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 an heathen man and a publican. (KJV)

 

1.      We are to withhold fellowship with them.

 

If the person repents and confesses before the church that he/she has sinned and seeks forgiveness of the church then the church forgives and fellowship is either restored or continued.

 

If they won’t hear the church then we are to break fellowship with them. We are to treat them as though they are unsaved. They may really be saved, but we consider them to be lost, because they did not repent. If they are really saved I believe they will repent and seek forgiveness.

 

1Co 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. (KJV)

 

2Th 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (KJV)

 

If the matter goes to this point then they are to be removed from the church rolls. This is not something that the Baptists cooked up – it is Bible doctrine – straight out of the Word of God.

 

Because we as Baptists regard the Bible as the sole authority of our faith and practice, always cite scripture for each belief. If it is in the Bible we believe it. If a teaching crops up that is not in the Bible we reject it.

 

II. ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED.

 

Inerrant – Infallible – Inspired.

 

INERRANT (free from error),

INFALLIBLE (incapable of error),

INSPIRED (God breathed),

 

Inspiration Defined: “This means the Bible is without error in its teaching. It is incapable of teaching deception.

 

I stated in the introductory sermon for this series on Sunday PM inspiration is the one item that has become the battlefield in religion over the last 100 years.

 

Seven facts about the inspired Word of God.

1. It is infallible – without error.

2. It is invariable – without change.

3. It is inexorable – without yielding.

4. It is invincible – without conquest.

5. It is inevitable – without failure.

            6. It is incomparable – without equal.

            7. It is invaluable – without price.

 

It convicts – it converts – it corrects – it cleanses – it conceives – it conquers – it comforts.

 

These three basic truths of the Word of God has always been at the forefront of Baptist belief: Inerrency; Infallibility; and Inspiration. It must be the final authority in faith and practice for it is GOD'S WORD given to man to reveal Himself and to instruct mankind in the way of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the instruction manual in righteousness and can not be superseded by any other set of rules or creeds of man. The dictates of man must never usurp the position of preeminence of the Holy Bible. (Quoted from "The New Directory for Baptist Churches", Written by: Edward T. Hiscox 1859)

 

Whatever the Bible affirms, Baptists accept as true. No human opinion or decree of any church group can override the Bible.

 

Inspiration has two applications.

 

            Plenary – “Complete in every respect.”

            Verbal – The very words are inspired.

 

2 Tim. 3:16 says that all Scripture is inspired. Baptist believe that all (plenary) of the very words (verbal) of the Bible are inspired (God breathed).

 

Vs. 16 goes on to say, “and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”

 

            “Profitable” – it is – helpful – serviceable – advantageous – beneficial.

            “Doctrine” – teaching and instruction. Here is the “get – go” of the whole matter. The Bible determines what we believe about any matter. BY ACCEPTING THE TEACHINGS AND THE TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE WE ARE BAPTISTS. Any one that accepts the complete doctrine of the Bible will be Baptist. The Bible is a Baptist Book.

 

            “Reproof” – Proof of conviction – The Bible will convict man of the wrong in his life.

            “Correction” – A straightening up – The Bible will show the right way.

            “Instruction” – Tutoring or training – discipleship – leadership.

            “Righteousness” – The right living. The Bible will provide all the necessary details, which will allow a Christian to become fully equipped for every good work.

 

You mark it down when you see Baptists living outside of the expectation of Christianity they have rejected the word of God that was given to produce righteous and holiness in their lives. God expects every Christian to live a holy godly life. To fail to do so is to take away from the cause and purpose of Christ not only in the life of that individual, but also in that particular local church. 

 

III. THE KING JAMES BIBLE IS THE BIBLE OF BAPTISTS

 

            A. It Is The Bible God Has Blessed For 400 Years.

 

            B. It Is The Bible Baptists Have Historically Used.

 

            C. It Is The Bible That Has Brought Revival To Independent Baptist Churches.

 

            D. It Is The Bible That Has Made This Movement Grow.

 

Few if any have experienced a real Holy Ghost Revival with any other kind of Bible.

 

I believe if we could take any number of Christians who had no preference as to which church they belonged to, and teach them nothing but the Bible for a four year period – just give them a 4 year period of nothing but the Bible verse by verse – chapter by chapter  - then at the end of that 4 year period tell them to go and find a church that matches what they learned during that 4 years – without exception they would choose an Independent Baptist Church. Because the Bible will make a Baptist of a believer.

 

To get any other doctrine out of the Bible one would have to put a different twist on their interpretation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE #2

THE AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

 

 

INTRODUCTION: Note the Acrostic B-A-P-T-I-S-T-S in the Table of Contents above. This is the “A” part of the Acrostic. THE AUTONOMY of each local assembly. 1Ti 3:15 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. (KJV) We have already covered “Biblical Authority”. The Bible is our authority for all of our faith and practice. Someone has said, “If it is in the Bible – it is Baptist – if it is Baptist, it is in the Bible”.  The Baptist faith and practice was given to the N.T. Church by Jesus Christ while He was on earth. I gave you this a few weeks ago, but let me repeat it:  Mt 10:2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; (KJV) The Apostles are clearly defined. The Twelve.

 

Lu 6:13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; (KJV) Here we see it again – this is the twelve.

 

1Co 12:28 And 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. (KJV)  The Church” – what church? The N.T. Church that began when Christ was on the earth. Who were the first to become the N.T. Church? The Twelve. Remember we are under Biblical Authority. The Bible decides for what is correct in faith and practice and doctrine. I said a moment ago: “If it is in the Bible – it is Baptist – if it is Baptist, it is in the Bible”.

 

Now we will look at the autonomy of the Local Church.

 

I. THE MEANING OF AUTONOMY

 

The word comes from two words – Self and Law. It means “Self Governing”. Thus an autonomous church governs itself without any outside human director or control. Every Baptist church is granted the right to be self ruling or self directed. We are independent of all other churches and bodies of men, as to the administration of our own affairs;  and should be free from any other human authority. This church is completely free to conduct ministry as we see proper – as long as ---------What? As long as we follow the authority of the Bible.

 

There is nothing unscriptural for two or more churches cooperation in fellowship, but one church is not to exercise authority over another, nor is an association or fellowship. Each local assembly is to stand before God as an independent entity and is responsible for its own actions. Autonomy does not mean isolation.

 

Each local church is to call its own pastor, carry out its own discipline, preach the statutes of the Word of God and endeavor to serve the Lord as guided by the Holy Spirit.

 

Autonomy means that each Baptist church selects its pastoral leadership, determines its worship form, decides financial matters and directs other church related affairs without outside control or supervision. Being autonomous we recognize no governmental control over faith and religious practices. We are commanded by the Word of God to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God which is God’s. Matt. 22:21.”……. Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” (KJV)

 

Our history has set us apart; We are not Protestants! Protestant means that there was a protesting against the Mother Church – the Catholic Church. Baptists never were part of the Catholics. We were before them. As a matter of fact no church existed before Baptists.

 

AUTONOMY DOES NOT MEAN:

 

That Each Church Decides For Itself What Is True Doctrine. Remembering that the Bible is our sole authority in all matters, including doctrine. 2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (KJV)

 

Illustration:  "Each church must decide for itself what it will teach & practice, No outside entity has the right to question it, review it or rebuke it."

 

The scriptures establish truth -- We must hear, believe & obey them! - 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 14:37.

There is a pattern of sound words to hold fast - 2Ti 1:13 Hold fast the form of sound words, ……..

 (KJV)

 

Through study we learn the truth - 2 Tim. 2:15; cf. Gal. 1:8-9 (Eph. 3:3-4).

Revelation establishes truth - not congregational autonomy!

 

The meaning of Autonomy – Now look at:

 

II. BIBLICAL BASIS FOR LOCAL CHURCH AUTONOMY

 

            A. The Local Church Has A Right To Discipline Its Own Members. Mat 18:15-17.

 

Mt 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

 16 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.

 17 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 an heathen man and a publican. (KJV)  There is no mention of some organizational committee – or higher authority.

 

            B. Each Local Church Has The Right To Manage Its Own Affairs.

                       

1. In Missions work.

 

Ac 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

 4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

 

Notice that the church at Antioch made all the decisions concerning the sending of Barnabas and Saul for mission work.  There was no board appointed, no other authority considered other than the church at Antioch.

 

                        2. Choosing Deacons.

 

Ac 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

 2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

 6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. (KJV)

 

                        3. They could choose certain members to represent the congregation in any business matter. Every year I ask certain of our women to serve as hostess for one month during the year. We have that authority as a local church. We elect a treasurer and church clerk every year.

 

1Co 16:3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. (KJV) The church at Corinth chose who would carry the gifts to Paul. There wasn’t a postal system available then as there is now and various people would hand carry the gifts to the missionaries. We do that today. We don’t hand carry it, rather we send it in the mail system to the mother church of that missionary. In the matter of our own missionaries we deposit their gifts into their pre-determined account and they can draw from that by using an ATM card, or whatever system is available in the banking system in that country.

 

                        4. Choosing Pastor. Every local congregation has the authority to call their own pastor.  There is no higher church authority that dictates to each local assembly who will be their pastor. There is no hierarchy that chooses which preacher will go to any certain church. Normally when a pastor leaves the pastorate the church chooses a pulpit committee. That committee seeks a man to come and candidate for pastor. After he has preached at the church - it then votes to call him or to continue seeking. This process continues until a pastor is called by the church. Once the church approves who will be the pastor it becomes official. No other body approves that pastor.

 

            C. Each Local Church Has The Right To Control Its Own Resources.

 

We as a local autonomous N.T. Baptist Church can choose how to spend the money. This is one reason why I do not like sending money to missionaries through some mission board. The mission board can control the money that rightly belongs to the missionary. Most boards will withhold a small percentage to cover the operating expense of the mission board. We determine what we purchase and from whom – we can choose our own servicing bank and we can have as many bank accounts as we choose. We have four accounts – General Fund – Missions Fund – Bldg Fund – A savings account for Bro. Gossmeyer.

 

            D. Each Local Church Can Choose What Ministry They Want To Feature.

 

We don’t have to have a bus ministry just because some other church does. We don’t have to have S/S at 10:00 each Sunday, nor Sunday PM service at 6:00. We can choose any of these ministries as we choose. Many Baptist churches have a Christian Day School. The individual church can choose in that matter. We can choose whether to have 3 – 5 – 7 – or any number of deacons. Or no deacons at all.

 

We don’t have to have a choir – but we can choose to if we so please.

 

We don’t have to use a certain hymnal – we can choose which one. We can use a piano or an organ, or both, or neither one. We can choose who we fellowship with. Or choose not to fellowship with whom ever we choose. We do not have to use any certain printing organizations literature in our teaching system. As a matter of fact we usually use our own. I have printed a lot of material over the years and that is what we use mainly. If we chose we could have a “Giant TV Screen” up here and post the songs on it – We haven’t so chosen and don’t plan to do that. That within its self is not wrong. I personally fear that it would lead to more and more of the contemporary element coming in.

 

We can choose what kind of a “needy ministry” we want. We can help whomever we so please.

 

A lot of churches from other faiths and denominations cannot make these choices. The denominational headquarters makes many of these decisions for each local assembly. Not so with Independent Baptists.

 

I was a member of two or three different SBC churches from 1955-1972. I was ordained a deacon at a SBC church. In those days it was required of a cooperating church of the SBC to send in an Annual Report and to use the Convention literature. Failure to comply with these two requirements over a 3 year period resulted in being excluded from the local association of SBC churches. Which meant that church wasn’t part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Who held the final control of that church membership in that association? The association did. From what I can gather the BBF is not far from that now. Some years ago it was told to me that unless a church supported BBF missionaries they could not have their name in the directory – for whatever that was worth. 

 

            E. The Local Congregation Can Choose By What Method We Function.

 

If we want to have a treasurer we can have one. If we want to have a tall, handsome, well spoken vocabulary person to pastor this church we can so choose, or we can choose someone like me.

 

III. CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF EACH LOCAL BAPTIST CHURCH

 

Col 1:18 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. (KJV)

 

Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (KJV)

 

The Lord directs the pastor through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. The Bible does not suggest that various church groups are to be over the church; such as the deacons, the trustees, a certain committee.

 

The Lord leads the pastor in all matters. I realize that men are subject to lead the church wrongly. But when the pastor is under the leadership of the Spirit of God and the Bible things will go properly and smooth.

I have experienced this – God, in some manner, will make known when a mistake or improper doctrine has been taught, and will lead the leadership to make corrections.

 

IV. SOME POSSIBLE THREATS TO BAPTIST AUTONOMY

 

Threats to Baptist autonomy exist today. They come both from outside local congregations and from within. Internal “clicks” or groups who want to control the leadership that a certain church will cause numerous problems. This usually ends in a church split that destroy many Christians walk with God.

 

No one benefits in a church split – you should never be part of a church split. If it comes to a split and you can’t stay with the mother church then you should leave and go to a completely different church. A split is caused when someone in the church, usually a staff member, takes some of the members and goes a few blocks down the street and starts a church with those members. Neither benefits and it is not of God. Those that are dissatisfied should leave and find another church quietly. 

 

The challenges from outside the congregations come when some organization attempts to dictate to a church what to believe and/or how to conduct its ministry. Secular governments sometimes exert such pressure. Baptists have resisted, holding fast to the belief in religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

 

A threat to autonomy from within a church surfaces when the members do not exercise biblical principles and give in to pressures from outside organizations. Church members ought to overcome any apathy, ignorance or fear that would cause them to abandon the cherished, biblical concept of autonomy.

 

V. THE BENEFITS OF BAPTIST AUTONOMY

 

Autonomy allows each individual congregation to determine how best to reach and minister to the community in which it exists. Autonomy can enhance flexibility and creativity.

 

Church autonomy reinforces the fact that in a Baptist church each member is responsible for the church. You being a member of this church are responsible to each member for your own conduct and behavior both in assembly and in public. When you join a N.T. Baptist Church you are vowing to that body that you will conduct yourself according to the authority of the Word of God. That’s why no member should take the attitude that they can do as they please. That is true only in the realm of the authority of the Bible. If you over step the Bible authority then you will be disciplined according to church discipline, as spelled out in the Bible.

 

May we always have a healthy respect for the autonomy of the local church, and not departing in some unscriptural direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE #3

PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER

 

              

1Pe 2:9 But 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: (KJV)

 

INTRODUCTION: When we Baptists use the term Priesthood of the Believer it sounds strange. But it is an accurate term and also biblical. Each of us are priests.

 

In the O.T. priests offered the sacrifices and performed all ceremonial acts of worship. They were keepers of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. They would burn the incense and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifices upon the altar. But now, because of the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, we can go directly to God as a result of our right standing before Him. All of this was provided through Jesus Christ.

 

I. WHAT DOES PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER MEAN?

 

Priest is defined as “one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God.”  Every believer today is a priest of God and may enter into His presence in prayer directly through our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. No other mediator is needed between God and people. As priests, we can study God’s Word, pray for others, and offer spiritual worship to God. We all have equal access to God whether we are a preacher or not. 1Pe 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (KJV)

 

The High Priest, the head priest, was the only one, however, allowed to enter the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple. This especially sacred place was separated from the rest of the temple and from the other priests and worshippers by a great curtain or veil.

 

With the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, all of this changed. No longer was the sacrifice of animals appropriate, because Christ, the Lamb of God, had given himself as a sacrifice for sin. This was a once-and-for-all act.

 

No longer were priests of the Old Testament variety needed. Indeed, all who believe in Jesus become priests with direct access to God. Human mediators are no longer needed. Mediator? 1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (KJV) We don’t need a man with a white robe, and a stiff collar with a bonnet on his head to be our mediator - we can go directly to God in prayer, confession, praise and worship. What an opportunity!

 

II. COMPARISONS BETWEEN THE O.T. AND N. T. PRIEST

 

The Old Testament Priest must be without blemish – Lev. 21:17-21. Le 21:17 Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.

 18 For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,

 19 Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,

 20 Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;

 21 No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. (KJV)

 

The New Testament Priest has no blemish. Eph. 5:25-27. Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

 27 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. (KJV)

 

The Old Testament required proof of genealogy. Ezra 2:62. Ezr 2:62 These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. (KJV)

 

The New Testament requires proof of genealogy. John 1:12. Joh 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (KJV)

 

The Old Testament required special garments. Exodus 28:40-41. Ex 28:40 And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty.

 41 And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office. (KJV)

 

The New Testament requires special garments. Rev. 19:8. Re 19:8 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. (KJV)

 

The Old Testament required purifying by the blood of the sacrifice. Exodus 29:21. Ex 29:21 And thou shalt take of the blood that is upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him. (KJV)

 

The New Testament requires purifying by the blood. 1 Peter 1:19. 1Pe 1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (KJV)

 

Baptists have insisted that every person who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ has access directly to God. Each is directly responsible to God. Scripture proof - Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (KJV)  The O.T. people couldn’t possible do this without death coming to them.

 

III. WHAT PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER GRANTS THE BELIEVER

 

The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers has two implications:

 

            A. There Is No Need For A Mediating Priest To Stand Between The Believer And God.

 

In Numbers 16 we see an example of the need for a human mediator to stand between the people and the consuming hand of God. (Read and relate the events of Chap. 16.)

 

Read Num 16:1-2 Nu 16:1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men:

 2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: (KJV)

 

Tell the remainder of the event in Num 16.

 

Read Vs. 45-46 - Nu 16:45 Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.

 46 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun. (KJV)

 

Aaron was the only one who could perform this atoning act.

 

At the resurrection of Jesus, the great veil in the temple "was torn in two from top to bottom” indicating that Jesus, the great High Priest, now mediated between God and humankind. " Mt 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; (KJV) God has accepted that act of sacrifice of Christ as a “once and for all” offering.

 

That veil was a wall of partition between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the Tabernacle. Only the high priest could enter through that veil after he had been cleansed. That veil was rent when Jesus Christ died on the cross, and not all who believe and are cleansed from their sins by the blood of the Sacrifice Lamb can enter into the Holy of Holies where the Lord Jehovah waits. There is no requirement for one to go in our place – He has done that once and for all.

 

Heb 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (KJV)

 

Heb 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (KJV)

 

Heb 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. (KJV)

 

I feel sorry for those who have to have a human priest to attempt to grant redemption for their souls.

 

            B. No One Person Has Any Special Claim On Spirituality Or Access To God.

 

Aaron and his descendents had been appointed as the High Priests for Israel. Only they were permitted to render the priestly duties.

 

Aaron was a type of Christ. He was anointed the high priest by Moses under God’s instructions.  Ex 29:7 Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. (KJV)

 

Jesus is our High Priest - Heb 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (KJV)

 

Ac 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (KJV) It was God that made Jesus Christ Lord and Christ. In so doing He made Him to be the High Priest.

 

Heb 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (KJV)

 

Isa 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (KJV)

 

This anointing included not only His ministry as Priest, but as Prophet and King.

No certain Christian has any more claim to the access to God than you or I have.

 

Aaron ceased to be a priest when he died.

Christ became a priest only after He died.

 

Heb 5:5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. (KJV)

 

The Apostle is quoting from the 2nd Psalm.

 

Ac 13:33 God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (KJV)

 

Each of us have become priests after our death to the old life and being resurrected to new life in Jesus Christ, and now we can come individually unto God for forgiveness of our sins. Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (KJV)

 

III. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE BELIEVER PRIEST

 

Each believer is responsible for his/her own actions. Individual believers can go directly to God without the aid of any intermediary. Individuals can and should read and interpret the Bible for themselves without religious officials dictating to them what to believe.

 

Each believer has the responsibility to be committed to Christ and to share Christ through word and deed. Peter stated it in 1Pe 2:9 But 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: (KJV)

 

Each believer is to keep himself in fellowship to all others in the church. He does that through a godly life and walking in the light of the word of God, and by a compassionate spirit toward other believers.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE #4

TWO ORDINANCES

 

 

BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER

 

Acts 2:41-42:  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (KJV)

 

Notice that these early members of the First N.T. Church continued what was established by the Lord Himself. He conducted the first Communion and was Baptized first by John the Baptist.

 

The Apostles Doctrine included Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then baptism by emersion as stated in Matthew 28:19-20.

 

INTRODUCTION: This is the fifth lesson on the subject of “Baptist Distinctives”.  The reason many churches are not very strong in the matter of Baptist doctrine is that these distinctives are not taught often enough. Thus far we have studied:

 

            B. Biblical Authority.

            A. Autonomy Of The Local Church.

            P. Priesthood Of The Believer.

            T. Two Ordinances – Baptism and The Lord’s Supper.

 

Now we will be looking at The Two Ordinances of Baptist Doctrine.

 

Two Ordinances - Believer’s Baptism and The Lord’s supper

 

Each local church is instructed to practice and observe these two important ordinances. These are symbolic, and are purely observances having or imparting no saving grace. They are ordinances (statutes to be followed) not sacraments (that which imparts grace). Baptists have consistently declared that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are symbols and are not  necessary for salvation. They are a vital part of our practice and worship.

 

When the Word of God is proclaimed, those responding by trusting in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice of Himself on the cross of Calvary, give visible demonstration to their belief in that Word through their obedience to these two ordinances. Both of these ordinances picture what was done on the Cross by our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

I. BAPTISM (Baptist Baptism)

 

Before the Lord ascended into heaven, He gave His disciples what we call “The Great Commission”. This can be found in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15,16. The passage in Matthew reads as follows: Mt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  (Teach What?  Salvation. After they have been saved and baptized then we disciple them. Then we do what Vs. 20 says.

 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (KJV)

 

This commission is clearly stated as being in force until the end of the age (literally until Christ returns), thus we are to baptize all those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. A study of the book of Acts clearly shows that this ordinance was faithfully and consistently carried out by all local churches, and was administered to all believers. There is absolutely no warrant in the New Testament for sprinkling or baptizing babies who cannot possibly believed for themselves. It is only those who exercise saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who can obey the Lord in baptism.

 

            A. Must Be A Proper Candidate.

 

One who has been born again, by placing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Sacrificial Lamb. Never does the Bible suggest that being born again comes WHEN the person is baptized, but always precedes baptism. That’s the first part of the command in the Great Commission.

 

            B. Must Be Proper Mode - Immersion.

 

The Bible (Our only source of authority) never suggests any other mode other than emersion. Only the total immersion of a person in water adequately symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord.

 

Jesus wasn’t partially buried. They didn’t sprinkle dirt upon Him.

 

Illustration: Phillip and the Eunuch in Acts 8:35-39.

 

Ac 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

 39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. (KJV)

 

            C. Must Be Proper Authority.  Matt 28:19-20.

 

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

 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (KJV)

Who was this command given to? Not the disciples – Not to any other individual – but to the N.T. Church. I have already shown you that the twelve were the first members of the N.T. Church.

 

A Local Church.

 

Baptist Baptism = The above requirements. Several denominations baptize by immersion only. However, we as Baptists do not accept other baptisms. For the reason of the different doctrines concerning salvation, eternal security, the authority of the Scriptures, etc.

 

Baptism is the first command of obedience by a child of God after he has been saved.

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

 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (KJV)

 

Baptism is our identity with Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour; also with His people, His Church, and His teachings. Ac 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (KJV)

 

Baptism is a burial in water, (Immersion) in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Ro 6:3  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

 4 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.

 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (KJV)

 

Baptism is an act of following our Lord’s example to fulfill all righteousness. Mt 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

 15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

 16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (KJV)

 

Baptism is a testimonial to your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (KJV)

 

Baptism is the outward expression of an inward conversion. 1Pe 3:21 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: (KJV)

 

Baptism is the picture of the Gospel; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Ro 6:3  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

 4 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.

 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (KJV)

 

Baptism is the door into God’s Church and necessary for participation in the Lord’s Supper. Ac 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (KJV)

 

            The adding to the church came after the baptism of the three thousand souls.

 

Baptism is a portrayal of your death to the old life, burying your past, and rising to a new life in Christ.

 

Ro 6:3  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

 4 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.

 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: (KJV)

 

In the Book of Acts there are at least ten examples of a convert being baptized. There were no examples of extremely small children or babies being baptized anywhere in the Bible.

 

II. THE LORD’S SUPPER

 

There are three conditions to the privileges of the Lord’s Supper. Unless these three conditions a person should not partake in the Lord’s Supper.

 

A. Salvation. Being born of the Spirit, and having become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Without this a person cannot be a member of a Baptist church, neither can a person partake of the Lord’s Supper without having been saved.

 

            B. Baptism. Being buried with Christ in water, on a profession of faith in Him. Baptism must precede Church membership, and grants the privilege of the Lord’s Supper. No one can participate without having been baptized into the membership of a local N.T Baptist church.

 

            C. Godliness. Orderly walk and godly conversation  (Or conduct) as a Church member. If a person is disorderly in their Christian life forfeits the privilege of the Lord’s Supper. 1Co 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

 (KJV)

 

It must be understood by all that the observance of the Lord’s Supper is not an act of salvation. It shows the Lord’s death till he comes again.

 

THE ELEMENTS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER.

 

Unleavened bread and fruit of the vine which is pure grape juice.

 

There are those who teach that the wine (juice) and the bread become the blood and body of Christ. That is of course completely false and has no biblical merit.

 

These two elements are symbolic of His body and His blood. The unleavened bread symbolizes the purity of Christ, for He was without sin. Heb 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (KJV)

 

The juice from crushed grapes symbolizes the blood that Christ shed for our sin.

 

Most Baptists believe and practice that the Lord’s supper is to be observed by members of that particular  local body. It is not intended for all believers regardless of church affiliation. The authority for that is that all teaching given on the subject was given to a particular local body of believers, the Church of Corinth.

 

Two different times in 1 Cor. 11 Paul uses the term, “…when ye come together…” Meaning when they assemble. That speaks of a local assembly. Namely, the church at Corinth. Further notice in Vs. 23. 1Co 11:23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: (KJV)

 

“Delivered unto whom?”  The church at Corinth. Paul is teaching a local church how to observe the Lord’s Supper. This would exclude any and all outside of the local membership. This is also illustrated in Exodus 12 – which is the First Passover. Ex 12:43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: (KJV) No stranger of persons who were not Israelites could participate in the Passover. All participants had to be of the families of Israel.

 

The Lord's Supper was instituted by the Lord Himself, just prior to His death on the cross, Matthew 26:26-29. Mt 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. (KJV)

 

It is designed to be a memorial to His sufferings and death, and is a time when each true believer solemnly reflects upon what the Lord did for him, and upon his relationship with the Lord. It is easy to forget what a great and terrible price the Lord Jesus paid for our sins. The Lord's Supper therefore provides us with an opportunity both to witness to our belief in Christ's death and substitutionary sacrifice, and to examine our own selves to see that we are in a proper relationship with Him.

 

In the earliest days of the church it is likely that this ordinance was observed daily. However, the observance of the Lord's Supper became more infrequent with the passage on time. The key passage dealing with this ordinance in the New Testament is I Corinthians 11:23-34, where the risen Lord had communicated this information directly to the apostle Paul (note that this was done after Pentecost, and hence demonstrates that this ordinance is to be observed, like baptism, until the Lord's return). It is important to note that there is no frequency of observance laid down in the Scriptures, but as often as it is celebrated believers are to carefully observe the Lord's instructions.

 

With reference to Hebrews 10:10-14, 18 we see clearly that there was only ever one offering made that could take away sin. That offering was the perfect sacrifice of Himself by the perfect Son of God. Baptists, in common with all who would hold the Scriptures dear, reject totally the unbiblical teaching that the bread and the wine either actually, or are understood to become the actual body and blood of Christ, and that hence Christ is crucified afresh each time communion is observed. This teaching denies the perfect, and finished work of Christ on the cross. It cannot be stressed highly enough that the Lord's Supper is purely a memorial feast, and the bread and the wine are only memorial elements.

 

I have preached on these two subjects over the last several years, but do want to review some of the principles that the Bible gives on these important doctrines.

 

                                                                                                                                                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE #5

INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY

 

 

INTRODUCTION: This is Lesson Six in the Series of Baptist Distinctives. Thus far we have studied the Acrostic:

 

B – Biblical Authority.

A – Autonomy of Local Church.

P – Priesthood Of the Believer.

T – Two Ordinances – Baptist – Lord’s Supper.

I – Individual Soul Liberty.

 

Now we will look at Individual Soul Liberty.

 

Every man has the right to hold such religious opinions as he believes the Bible teaches, without harm or hindrance from any one on that account, so long as he does not intrude upon, or interfere with, the rights of others by doing so, and follows the church doctrine and policy. It must be understood that each man or woman is entirely responsible before God for both their decision whether or not to become a Christian, and what they do and believe after they become a Christian.

 

We must also understand that “Individual Soul Liberty” does not mean that any individual can behave in any way he chooses. The Bible is clear on the truth that every person is responsible for their choices, and will give an account to God. Wrong choices and sinful behaviour will result in discipline from the Lord, and perhaps even the church. Every person is free to choose to do or believe what he wishes, but he is not free to choose the consequences of those choices. This liberty does not give a Christian a license to sin. Ga 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (KJV)

 

All men have the right to believe whatever religious opinions they may entertain, providing they be not contrary to common morality, and do no injustice to others, nor contradict the church faith and practice.

 

The individual, born again believer, has within himself the Holy Spirit, which is fully capable to teach the truth of the Word of God to that individual (Rom 8:9 - John 14:26). Ro 8:9 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. (KJV)

 

Joh 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (KJV)

 

It is not that there is no need for teachers in the church, for God has certainly placed these in the body of Christ for that purpose (Ephesians 4:11-12); however, God ultimately imparts truth to the heart of the individual and that person is responsible as well as accountable for that truth.

 

I. THE DOCTRINE OF INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY

 

A. Definition.

 

Basically it means that God has given freedom and the ability of persons to know and respond to God’s will. The Genesis account of creation makes clear that this freedom carried with it a great responsibility. Each of us are responsible for our choices, our decisions whether good or bad. If we exercise the freedom to obey Him we have life – if we use our freedom to deny Him, the result is death.

 

1. Every individual has the liberty to choose what his conscience or soul dictates is right according to scripture. 

 

2. Soul liberty does not permit the individual to bring division to the body.

 

Let me give you an example from nature: What happens when your appendix or gall bladder rises up against the body. The body makes the decision to have them medically treated or even removed. This same thing would be true in the church.

 

Any time a person does rise up against the church or church leadership – they should expect severe consequences from God.

 

3. 2 Pet. 1:20. 2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (KJV) This verse must be understood in light of proper context. Verse 21 refers to the Holy Spirit revealing the Word, therefore it must be through the Spirit that it is understood.

 

2Pe 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (KJV)

 

Private interpretation means self-explanation apart from God, which will lead to the wrong conclusions, or division in the church.

 

An example is found in:

 

1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (KJV)

 

I Corinthians 2:14 declares that biblical truth is understood by spiritual means. When people say, “I can’t understand the Bible” – they are saying they do not have spiritual discernment.

 

B. Individual Soul Responsibility:

 

1. Responsible to prove to self – the matter questioned. 1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (How does one prove all things? – by the Word of God.)

 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. (KJV) These were written to individuals in a local church.

 

2. Responsible for individual growth - 2Pe 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (KJV)

 

3. Responsible for searching the truth - Ac 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (KJV)

 

Each individual should seek insight from members of like faith and practice – both present and past. I seek this insight from many books I have in my library, and sermon tapes.

 

4. Responsible for your personal assurance - 2Ti 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (KJV) Paul did something to persuade himself.

 

How is this done? By searching – by proving all things – individual growth – seeking what the Spirit would have you to know.

 

If you are saved, you can learn the word of God because the teacher lives within you. You do not need a pope, (or like figure who claims to have spiritual infallibility or superiority), to be the only source of proper interpretation of Scripture.

 

C. It Means Freedom to Choose.

 

1. Freedom to read the Bible; to interpret the Bible; freedom to approach God; to serve God.

2. Implications: Every person is responsible for himself.

3. We would not baptize a baby thus preventing it of its freedom to choose. Realizing of course that baptism always follows a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

4. We would oppose any form of State Church.

5. We would oppose the intervention of a Priest or anyone else to represent us before God.

 

D. Our Consciences Must Be Free To Answer To God.

 

Every individual will give an account for himself. 2 Cor. 5:10, "So, then, every one of us must give account of himself to God."

 

Follow very closely as we read this next scripture.

 

I Corinthians 3:11-15 - 1Co 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; (You are free to build either way – God gives you that choice)

 13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (Your building will be tested)

 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (KJV) (You must live with your choice)

 

Our reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ will be based on how we exercised our individual liberty.

 

KEY VERSES: ROMANS 14:1-23

 

v.5... Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind...Our convictions must be our own based on our understanding of Scripture. What you truly believe you will practice; everything else is just religious hot air. If you don’t practice what you say you believe – you are dishonest, or you don’t believe what you say you do.

 

“I believe in tithing” – do you tithe?

“I believe in missions” – do you give to missions?

“I believe in biblical authority” – do you live by it?

“I believe in reaching the lost” – but do you try to win the lost?

 

Ro 14:10 ……for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (KJV)

 

Each individual believer will stand before God alone to give a personal account of his life. Your choices and decisions will be the main issue at this judgment.

 

This frightens me greatly. Not my sin – but my works – there is only thing that will keep me from fulfilling His will completely – my sin.

 

v.12... Personal accountability - Ro 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (KJV)

 

v.13... Ro 14:13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. (KJV)

 

Instead of being critical and judgmental, let us be an encouragement and one that edifies. Don't Be A Hindrance, But A Help!

 

v.14... I know, and am persuaded... Paul had already settled some things in his own mind and therefore had personal convictions on these matters.

 

V.15... Ro 14:15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. (KJV)

 

1Co 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. (KJV)

 

Walking charitably should be the principle by which we live our daily lives and how we deal with those around us.

 

The freedom to make decisions and choices are always to be based upon what? Biblical Authority. No where are we permitted to make choices contrary to the Word of God. When we do so we can expect the judging hand of God upon our life.

 

Biblical Authority gives authority to the husband – to the church – to the pastor of the church. Each of us are to make whatever choices we make in light of the teachings of these authorities. Civil laws are included in these choices also. You break a civil law and you will pay for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE #6

SAVED CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

 

                               

B – Biblical Authority

A- Autonomy Of The Local Church

P- Priesthood Of The Believer

T- Two Ordinances

I- Individual Soul Liberty

S – Saved Church Membership

 

One word about Biblical Authority – Hearing the Word of God has more impact upon one’s conviction than would a live illustration of the same truth – The Rich Man’s 5 brothers – Jesus told him that if they would not hear Moses and the Prophets they would not listen to one who returned from the dead. The spoken Word is more impactible than would one returning from Hell with a warning. 

 

Every Baptist Church has some unsaved members. Every church I have ever been a member of some of the membership got saved after having become a member of that church. Several of the members of this church got saved after joining the church. In most of these cases the individual realized afterward that he/she wasn’t saved and then made a profession of faith, and that is what should happen if a person joins a church unsaved.

 

The Bible teaches church membership. In Acts 2 they were added (joined) the local membership. There is no occurrence or indication in the N.T. of any believer in fellowship with the Lord choosing not to become a member of a local church. That doesn’t appear to be an option. Heb. 10:25 would seem to expel that idea. Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (KJV) Believers were expected to assemble at a local church. Every example given is of a believer who had been baptized into a local church. Church membership is a Bible doctrine, and should not be ignored in practice nor in teaching.

 

The Lord did not name the N.T. Church – He did not give us a name – He gave us a doctrine. Over the years others named us Baptists.

 

I. MEMBERSHIP QUALIFICATION

 

What kind of persons can be admitted to church membership? All Bible examples hold to the qualification that the person or persons must have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, baptized by Baptist Baptism, and committed to living a godly life and a life of service to the Lord Jesus Christ. Any other class would be denied, and if in the church, unqualified, with evidence, would be removed. Explain – If a person or persons applied for membership falsely and later it was discovered that they had falsified their qualification and was not willing to make it proper they should be removed. To receive membership that is not qualified destroys the spiritual character of the church, and would impede unity of the believers. Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (KJV)

 

Membership is granted to individuals by three methods:

 

            A. Salvation By Grace Through Faith In Jesus Christ Followed By Baptism.

           

            B. Transferring Membership From Another Baptist Church Of Like Faith And Practice.  This is of course has reference to Baptist Churches only. There are some non-denominational churches that baptize by immersion, but Baptists cannot accept their baptism, because of the differences in doctrinal matters. i.e. Salvation by grace Vs. works salvation. There are some who hold that salvation is completed by baptism   We can’t accept that. Many don’t hold to eternal salvation for the believer -  Ac 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (KJV) They practiced what the church taught them.

 

            C. If A Person Had Been A Member Of A Church That No Longer Exists – upon their testimony of salvation by grace and baptism by a like Baptist church membership would be granted.

 

II. THE THREE METHODS EXPLAINED

 

            A. Salvation By Grace Followed By Baptism.

 

This type of membership is normally when a person accepts Christ as their Saviour. They may have been saved in a church service, or maybe in their home, or work place. This is a person who knew he was lost and going to Hell. A person who understood what being lost means and understands the penalty of being lost. They had a conversion experience.

 

They heard the Gospel presented and being under conviction of their sin realize their need for salvation and turns to Christ for forgiveness of sin. That’s salvation or getting saved.

 

Then they present themselves to a local N.T. Baptist Church for baptism. Following baptism they will be added to the membership of the church. Ac 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (KJV)

 

            B. Transferring Membership From A Baptist Church Of Like Faith And Practice.

 

This person has already been saved and baptized into a N.T. Baptist Church. For some reason they have felt the need to leave the church they are member of and join another such church. Normally this is when the family moves to another location, or a different city. They then seek out a N.T. Baptist Church of like faith and practice of the one they left. If there is no such church in their new location – then they probably should not have moved the family. God will never place you where there is not a proper church for you to be part of. Unless for the purpose of helping start a church in that area. I have preached this for 30 plus years and have heard it preached for 30 plus more years – but some still come to me and tell me God is moving them – when in truth He isn’t.

 

Too many Baptists leave a church and search out a new one when they should not have done so. Most of the reasons for leaving a church by members are done unscripturally. If there is doctrinal error being taught, or the church has become immoral and no effort to correct it then a person would be justified in leaving. I don’t know that leaving because they felt they were not being fed is reason or not. The church is to teach and not feed. Paul condemned believers for having to be fed by him. All of the epistles deal with church unity of the membership, and gives instruction how to handle any problem that may arise. You are to feed yourself during your own personal study time. I have heard so many say that they weren’t being fed at their present church. That’s not probably not the reason they want to leave. They don’t like something that is being done and the only reason they can think of is lack of spiritual nourishment. Most of the time it is because they don’t want to surrender themselves to the program of the church which may cost them money, time , and or energy. So they look for a church that is not doing much or doesn’t require much of them.

 

Many leave because they do not like the pastor, nor something about the program. That probably is not reason enough either . There will never be the perfect situation for you to enjoy.

 

Back to the method of transferring membership. This person will attend the new church for a period of time until they know what the church teaches, believes, and practices. Then by the leading of the Holy Spirit will present themselves for membership with the promise of a transfer from their old church. The new church then contacts the old church telling them that this person or family has applied for membership at the present church. The old church replies by transferring the membership to the new church. The membership is not effective until the transfer has been made by the former church.

 

If their was a problem at the former church that disqualified them from fellowshipping with the church then the old church informs the new church of that problem stating that it can not issue a transfer because of a certain sin or mal-practice from the member. A lot of churches don’t do that, but it should be done. That keeps a person from transferring their problems or sin to a new church.

 

We don’t want to take in members here who have been trouble makers at their former church. It is the responsibility of the former church to inform the present church of any situation that may have existed.  

 

            C. If A Person Had Been A Member Of A Church That No Longer Exists – Upon Their Testimony Of Salvation By Grace And Baptism By A Like Baptist Church Membership Would Be Granted.

 

There is a problem with this method. It does not expose any situation that may have occurred while still a member of the other church. We have taken some members here on statement when the former church was still in existence, but I checked out the situation from both the pastor and other members of the church. As far as I can determine we have not taken any members who were being disciplined or had been removed from the rolls due to conduct.

 

We have had some leave here to prevent being disciplined, and if they ever join a church and request a transfer we will not be able to recommend a transfer.

 

Some would say, “Is this biblical?” Sure it is. There is a bunch of Scripture that would authenticate this: Matt 18:15-17;  1 Cor 5. 1-13; 1 Thess 5:14; 2 Thess 3:6; Titus 3:10.  The system is set up to force every member to be in a right relationship with God and with fellow man.

 

III. HOW DO WE DEAL WITH MEMBERS WHO MAY NOT BE SAVED AND THEY JOIN THE CHURCH ANYWAY?

 

Man never knows who is saved and who isn’t saved. In Matt. 13 Jesus deals with this in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. He is telling us that during the church age there will be false believers in churches. It is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to be absolutely certain that those who seek membership are truly saved people. Jesus instructs to let the wheat and tares grow together and they will be separated during the Rapture. That is true with Christians – it is also true with churches. There are tare churches everywhere.

 

This does not mean that we ignore signs that would truly indicate that a person is unsaved, or to ignore open sin by any member. I have already mentioned how that is dealt with.

 

IV. WHAT SHOULD THE CHURCH EXPECT OF ANY MEMBER WHO JOINS THAT CHURCH?

 

            A. That They Have Had A Salvation Experience.

 

Phillip and the Eunuch – The eunuch gave testimony that he believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and Phillip baptized him.

 

Paul gave testimony of his conversion.

 

A person who has recently been saved comes to a N.T. Baptist Church and makes an open profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This is expected of any person uniting with any church.

 

            B. They Were Baptized In A Biblical Manner. Acts 2:41-47.

 

We expect that of any person coming to join.

 

 Ac 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (KJV) Baptism is an expected follow-up to a profession of faith. This shows the public identification with Christ and the local Church. A refusal to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism is to show either an unsaved heart or a rebellious one. Neither will constitute a proper church member. When you joined this church you verified that you had a proper baptism. If that was not so – or since you have realized your baptism wasn’t scriptural then you need to make that right according to the Word of God.

 

            C. They Will Live A Godly Life In Obedience And Service.

 

Every Christian should live a godly life and give themselves to service for the Lord.

 

Every Christian should be obedient to the Word of God. Failure to do so will indicate a spiritual anemia, and the person should deal with the matter in his private life, of repentance and correction.

 

Every Christian should be serving the Lord in some manner other than just church attendance. Most members stop serving after having joined. Serving is more than an obligation, it is also a privilege. Mt 23:11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. (KJV) Each are expected to serve.

 

Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (KJV) We are to be pursuing humility.  There is a promise to the humble.

 

Those who refuse to serve in various manners are saying that they are rebellious to the cause and will of God. Every member can do something and more than just one thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE #7

TWO OFFICES – PASTOR AND DEACONS

 

 

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: (KJV)

 

B – Biblical Authority

A- Autonomy Of The Local Church

P- Priesthood Of The Believer

T- Two Ordinances

I - Individual Soul Liberty

S – Saved Church Membership

T – Two Offices – Pastors and Deacons

 

According to our text verse there are two Offices within each New Testament Baptist Church - Pastor and Deacon.

 

The N.T. gives clear qualifications, and duties for both these offices. As regarding the spiritual oversight of local churches, there are only two church officers mentioned in the New Testament, Pastors and deacons. Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: (KJV)  Paul left Titus in Crete to insure proper order and leadership. That was done through the leadership of the pastor who was Titus. 

 

I. PASTOR

 

Pastors, also called elders or bishops (overseers), Acts 20:17  And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. (KJV)

 

Titus 1:5-7, are the spiritual under shepherds (see I Peter 5:4) God calls to take care of (feed, tend, lead) the flock, Ephesians 4:11-14; Acts 20:28. This is a full time and responsible position that is essential to the well being of every local church. The qualifications for pastors are laid down in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 (see also John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28), and reflect the immense importance of this ministry.

 

There is absolutely no warrant in Scripture for the hierarchies that have evolved in some denominations or groups of churches. Each local church should have their own pastor (larger churches may well have more than one man on their pastoral staff), but no pastor should control groups of churches or denominations.

The Scripture makes it clear that pastors (elders, bishops) should be remunerated wherever possible, and the local church should fully appreciate the value of the pastoral ministry by recognizing this, I Corinthians 9:7-14; I Timothy 5:17, 18, Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.  For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. (KJV)  (note that the word honour here means wages). A church that will not adequately support their pastoral staff will not prosper spiritually, 2 Corinthians 9:6  But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

 

            A. Qualifications Of A Pastor.

 

1 Timothy 3:1-7  This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (KJV)

 

                        1. Character.  Vs. 2-5.

                        2. Gifts. Vs. 6-7.

 

            B. Purpose Of The Pastor.

 

The pastor is the caretaker , overseer, of the church. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd I Pet. 5:4, The pastor is the undershepherd.

 

Pastors are given to churches as a gift to bring members into spiritual maturity. Eph 4:11-16.

 

Ephesians 4:11-12  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (KJV)

 

            C. The Duties Of The Pastor.

 

                        1. Lead.

 

Hebrews 13:7  Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. (KJV)

Hebrews 13:17  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. (KJV)

 

                                    a. Lead by example. 1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (KJV)

 

                        b. Lead by taking the oversight.  1 Peter 5:2  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (KJV)

 

The pastor must exercise his leadership. No pastor can lead just because he is the pastor – he must take charge. If he doesn’t some else will take the lead. Strong leadership results in a strong church. Weak leadership will produce a weak church.

 

Sometimes a pastor that leads authoritative is accused of dictatorship. That’s not true. Most supervisors or foremen on the job are not looked at being dictators if they do their job right. So why should a pastor who is leading in a biblical manner be considered such? 

 

2.      Feed.

 

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

 

                                    a. Give himself to the ministry of the Word. Acts 6:4  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. (KJV)

 

                                    b. Feed the church. John 21:15-17 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.   He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.   He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.(KJV)

 

                                    c. Hold fast the faithful word. Titus 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (KJV)

 

                                    d. Preach the Word.  2 Timothy 4:2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (KJV)

 

                                    e. Do the work of an Evangelist.  2 Timothy 4:5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (KJV)

                                   

II. DEACON

 

Deacons (servants), are chosen by the local church to help alleviate the heavy drain on the pastor's time and resources, and to enable him to spend the necessary time in prayer, preparation, and ministering the Word of God, Acts 6:1-7. The qualifications for deacons are almost as stringent as those for pastors, I Timothy 3:8-13, and again reflect the importance of this office and the great responsibility entrusted in those so appointed.

 

            A. The Meaning Of The Word Deacon.

 

It comes from the Greek word -  diakonos” – it means “servant” or “minister”.

 

             B. The Role Of The Deacon.

 

The Pastor is the leader of the church – the deacon is the servant of the church. The Pastor ministers in spiritual things – the deacon in temporal things. Care for the widows and serve tables.

 

Acts 6:1-3  And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. (KJV)

 

In many church these roles are reversed at the expense of the unity of the church. No church will be operating smoothly when a deacon, or deacons, or deacons wives are in control. 

 

            C. The Qualifications Of The Deacon.

 

1 Timothy 3:8-13  Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;   Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.  (The word faith as used here is the same as the word Gospel. It means this that deacons are also supposed to actively involved in spreading the Gospel. “In a pure conscience.”)   And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.  Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.  For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (KJV)

 

Acts 6:1-7. Additional qualifications.

 

            Full of the Holy Ghost.

            Full of faith.

            Full of wisdom.

 

The deacons are to be under the leadership and direction of the Pastor.

Deacons are to be proven. 1 Timothy 3:10  And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. (KJV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAPTIST DISTINCTIVE #8

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

 

 

Matthew 22:21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. (KJV)

 

Speaking from the steps of the United States Capitol in 1920 to 15,000 people in the open air, Texas Baptist pastor George W. Truett declared: (quote)

 

“‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,’ is one of the most revolutionary and history-making utterances that ever fell from those lips divine. That utterance, once and for all, marked the divorcement of church and state. ... It was the sunrise gun of a new day, the echoes of which are to go on and on until in every land, whether great or small, the doctrine shall have absolute supremacy everywhere of a free church in a free state.” (end of quote)

 

God has two ordained bodies on earth that He uses to govern His people. The legal government of a country is responsible for law and order, and the practical well being of its citizens,

 

and the churches which are responsible for the spiritual well being of those of their members. The churches are also entrusted with the responsibility of evangelizing the world through missionary endeavors. The Lord Jesus taught with great clarity the need for people to pay their dues to both the legal government and to God, Matthew 22:15-22. Believers are to obey the rules and ordinances of human governments, so long as these laws did not require them to believe or practice those things that are contrary to God's laws, Acts 4:19,20; 5:29; Romans 13:13:1-7; Acts 23:5; I Peter 2:13.

 

As far as I can tell from the Scripture God described what part the civil law would have in the lives of all believers, and as long as they, the civil law, remains within that boundary we should honor such. 

 

Baptists firmly believe that neither the state nor the church has a right to pass laws that obligate people to conform to a religious belief, much less to persecute those who do not conform to such. Individual believers do have the right to vote and to express their views as citizens of a country, but they do not have the right to persecute those of a contrary belief. Similarly, governments have the right, and indeed the responsibility, to make just laws, and to require taxes to be paid to support the legal structure necessary to do this, but they do not have the right to control a church, much less to persecute those who hold to their own beliefs. All citizens of a country should be free to believe and practice their religious beliefs without fear of coercion or persecution.

 

At every level of government there are bureaucrats swarming about our schools, homes, offices and even our churches, trying to control our lives and make sure that this entire nation becomes dependent upon their master, the state, for meeting all our needs. I am amazed at how the Christian church today is buying into this doctrine. We are rendering unto Caesar what belongs to God.

 

Have you noticed how the politicians refer to children as "our children?" My wife and I raised four kids into adulthood and on each of their birth certificates we are listed as their parents. No place does the documents mention the state as being any relation whatsoever. Then why does the state keep referring to my children as theirs?

 

I.  SEPARATION – AS DESCRIBED IN THE SCRIPTURE:

 

The doctrine of Separation serves to keep a Baptist church pure from relationships and influences that are alien and/or harmful to its obedience to Scripture and honoring of Jesus Christ.

 

Separation has historically emphasized the importance of civil government having no authority, influence or control over any aspect of a Baptist church. As such, it opposes any establishment of a state church, but believes that the Godly influences of Scripture, and churches and people obedient to the Word of God should influence government in order to have beneficial civil authority.

 

Separation should also be understood from Scripture to compel believers in Christ to practice the principles of Separation in two other areas:

 

1. Personal Separation of the Believer, unto God and from the unbelieving world that surrounds him. Contrary to an isolationism, it is the understanding of a clear loyalty to Jesus Christ and Scripture that must prevail in all of our relationships, and keep us from compromising our Biblical principles.

 

2Co 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (KJV)

 

This one area of separation is probably the most damaging to most churches, and real revival among the fundamental churches. Personal separation also knows as personal holiness.

 

This requires a real dedication and disciplined commitment to fulfill in individual lives.

 

Le 20:7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. (KJV)

1Pe 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (KJV)

 

This is an expectation of any child of God regardless of what faith or belief he hold to. It is a biblical command and must be followed.

 

The church will be no more holy than is the weakest member. Paul deals with the matter of church member separation on more than one occasion.

 

Ecclesiastical Separation which limits the fellowship and cooperative ministries of local Baptist churches to those which sustain Biblical doctrines and prohibits fellowship and cooperation with those religious organizations which advance to cause of a unified world church at the expense of Biblical doctrines.

 

II.  WHAT IS MEANT BY CHURCH AND STATE?

 

What is meant by the terms “church” and “state”? The term “state” refers to governments. The Bible indicates that governments are ordained by God to provide law and order (Romans 13:1-5).

 

Government leaders are to act for the benefit of the citizens (1 Peter 2:13-14).

 

Baptists and other Christians are to honor and pray for government officials (1 Timothy 2:1-3; 1 Peter 2:17), pay taxes (Matthew 22:17-22; Romans 13:6-7) and obey the government except when obedience would be clearly contrary to God’s will (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29).

 

Historically, Baptists have affirmed their loyalty to the state.

 

The term “church” refers to religious organizations. For Baptists, this includes both local congregations and various entities established for religious purposes, such as schools, both elementary and higher, and institutions for ministry. Baptists teach that the nature of “church”, according to our biblical mandate, is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8), to teach doctrine and develop believers (Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:11-13) and to minister in Christ’s name (Matthew 25:31-46). The church is to rely on the sword of the Spirit and not the sword of the government in carrying out its mission.

 

Ideally, the relation of church and state is mutually beneficial. For example, the state is to provide order and safety; these are useful to the church in carrying out its mission (Acts 13-16). And the church contributes to a positive social order by helping to develop law-abiding, hard-working, honest citizens (Ephesians 4:24-32; 1 Peter 2:11-17).

 

Baptists contend that this mutual benefit works best when the institutions of church and state are separate and when neither seeks to control the other. The state is not to dictate doctrine, worship style, organization, membership or personnel for leadership to the church. The church is not to seek the power or the financial support of the state for spiritual ends. Such is the model set forth in the New Testament.

 

The very nature of the gospel and of church calls for such a relationship. The Bible reveals that humans are created by God with a competency to know and follow his will (Genesis 1:27). Following God’s will should be a free choice, not coerced by either church or state. Salvation in Christ is the result of free choice to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-10). Thus, neither church nor state should ever interfere with the free proclamation of the gospel or with the freedom of people to accept or reject it.

 

Likewise, churches ought to be composed of people who have freely chosen to be baptized and to congregate (Acts 2:41-42). People should support the churches by voluntary contributions of tithes and offerings (2 Corinthians 8:1-15). Only Jesus is to be Lord, never any government or ecclesiastical organization (Ephesians 4:11-16; Philippians 2:8-11).

 

III.  THE HISTORY OF CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS

 

The biblical ideal of church-state relations has seldom been realized. In the earliest years of the Christian movement, the church suffered persecution from the Roman government. In the fourth century, the Roman government decreed not only toleration but also a privileged position for the Christian movement.

 

This led to a union of church and state, that is to a union of the prevailing government with the dominant form of Christianity. The arrangements varied through the centuries but one thing remained constant—all forms of religious expression except the “official” one were persecuted. People who believed in freedom of religion, such as Baptists, were regarded as traitors by governments and as heretics by the government- supported churches.

 

The use of the power of the state to enforce religion sapped the spiritual vitality of the established state churches and added a host of unsaved people to the churches. Furthermore, efforts by governments to protect the established religion of a country resulted in wars and civil strife that undermined the governments. Thus, the union of church and state was and is harmful to both.

 

IV.  BAPTISTS AND CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS

 

Baptists suffered severely under the union of church and state. They campaigned vigorously for religious freedom, not just for themselves but for all people. Their goal was freedom, not mere toleration.

 

The record of the Baptist struggle for religious freedom and the separation of church and state is a story of courage and persistence. A host of people with courage stayed with their convictions in the face of stiff resistance from both religious and government authorities. They did so because they believed that they were being true to the teachings of the Bible.

 

For example, Thomas Helwys (c. 1556-1616), a Baptist pastor in London in the early 1600s, publicly advocated religious freedom. In England, the king was not only head of the government but also of the Church of England. Helwys insisted that the king had no authority over the spiritual dimensions of life. He sent to the king a copy of a book he had written, adding a handwritten statement, “The king is a mortal man, not God.”

 

King James placed Helwys in prison, where he died because he would not abandon his convictions.

 

A few years later in America, Roger Williams (1603-1683) was forced to leave Massachusetts Bay Colony because of his views favoring church-state separation. Williams established both the first Baptist church in America and the colony of Rhode Island. The colony afforded religious freedom to all. He wrote advocating a “hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.”

 

Years elapsed, however, before the “wall of separation” became a national reality. When the Constitution of the United States was placed before the people for ratification, it contained no provision for religious freedom. Baptists joined others in an effort to defeat ratification unless there was a guarantee of religious freedom. Thus, the First Amendment was made to the Constitution, stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

 

V.  CHALLENGES TO A FREE CHURCH IN A FREE STATE

 

The struggle for the separation of church and state is far from over.

 

The ideal that Truett expressed on the Capitol steps of “absolute supremacy everywhere of a free church in a free state” has yet to be realized. In some countries, union of religion and government prevails, and there is little or no religious freedom. In others, mere tolerance, not full religious freedom, is the law of the land. A continuing temptation exists to use the tax money and power of the state to carry out the ministries of churches.

 

To work out what the concept of separation means in an ever-changing world is an abiding challenge. By separation of church and state, Baptists do not mean the separation of God and government. Baptists are not oblivious to the gray areas in the relationship and the various interpretations of what separation means.

 

However, Baptists, using biblical authority, continue to emphasize that neither church nor state should exercise authority over the other, to stress that the church should not depend on the finances or power of the state to carry out its mission, and to point to history’s record that a free church in a free state proves a blessing to both.

 

Conclusion

 

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, especially of religious freedom. Baptists, therefore, ought to resist efforts to co-mingle church and state and to strive for a friendly separation of the two that results in religious freedom.

 

“Church and state should be separate….

 

A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal….”  Joh 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (KJV)

 

B . – BIBLICAL AUTHORITY – How well are you following this particular membership responsibility.

 

A . – AUTONOMY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH – Your responsibility in this is to get behind the church and to follow what the church endeavors to do.

 

P. – PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER – You are to keep yourself in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in that you can pray and commune directly with He or the Father either One.

 

T. – TWO ORDINANCES – Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. Have you participated in both of these ordinances as prescribed by Scripture?

 

I. – INDIVIDUAL SOUL LIBERTY – Are you exercising your own right and responsibility to present yourself a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto the Lord? To keep yourself in a right relationship with the Lord and the Church.

 

S. – SAVED MEMBERSHIP – Do you know for sure that you are a saved member. Can you relate back to a particular time when you know that you received Jesus Christ as Saviour and placed your total trust in His shed blood on the cross for remission of your sins?

 

T. – TWO OFFICES – PASTOR AND DEACON – Each member’s responsibility in this particular part of our distinctive is that you pray for each of these individuals daily.

 

S. – SEPARATION – Two areas of this – Personal and organizational. Your personal participation in this will keep the church purer and each of us must do all we can to keep the church and state separate – by electing officials that will honor this freedom.

 

You have had eight studies on the matter of our Baptist Heritage – it is very important that you carry this on to and through your children and your home. It will be defeated in the home rather than in the state.