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Jesus, who was the builder and the head of His church, had and does have all power and all authority. Before He ascended, He commissioned the church He had built to continue and to carry out the work He designed it to do. It was Jesus’ design that His church and its successors be the sole administrators of scriptural baptism, "the baptism of John," which was "from heaven" (Mark 11:27-30). John 4:2 tells us that "Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples." It may be well to notice that we have no record of "Jesus himself" ever organizing any church but the one at Jerusalem. Jesus appointed His church and its successors as His only representatives, as His bodies, to do His business during His physical absence. The giving of a commission, with the intention that it be successfully executed, necessarily implies, even demands, the giving of the power and the authority required to accomplish the task. This does not mean that Jesus gave away any of His power or authority in the sense that He is subsequently in possession of less power or less authority than before. Some, either misunderstanding, or perhaps trying to build a "straw man" they can tear down, have attempted to caricature those who contend for the doctrine of church authority as usurping the Lord’s authority. Surely no one would perceive the swearing in of a deputy and assigning him certain duties as weakening the authority of the sheriff that deputized him. Why should there be any misunderstanding of the same principle when it comes to church authority?

The scientifically sound and proven and scriptural principle of "like begets like" should be beyond dispute by the open and honest mind. Many Landmark Baptists have properly taught the application of that principle in the perpetuity and succession of Jesus’ true churches, using illustrations such as the propagation of the human race, dogs, honey bees, or some other species. Baptists of all kinds have long used and accepted the term "mother church" in the context of church organization and succession. Some who oppose the doctrine of a chain-link succession and the requirement of church authority in church organization ridicule the use of such terms and illustrations by distorting, twisting, and misinterpreting them. One brother has said, ". . . I believe, that a church is not a physical thing such as a body, and to talk of reproduction of a church as a physical body is an absurdity. Churches are formed not conceived. . . . Churches do not necessarily have a formal connection with any other church but have a connection of baptisms." Another has written, "When folks try to prove something by comparing it with something that is totally different, it ends up looking and sounding ‘ridiculous’. If the pro-generation and lineage of animals and humans which requires both a father and a mother, proves the ‘chain-link’, vote-by-vote succession of churches, then it is appropriate to ask, ‘Where is the father church?’"

I agree with the "Remarks on the Use of the Term ‘Mother Church’" by Curtis Pugh in Three Witnesses for the Baptists. Brother Pugh wrote:

Some Brethren object to the use of the term "Mother Church." While they are correct in their point that the term is not used in Scripture, neither are such words as "the rapture," "gambling," "rape," etc., but the concepts are dealt with nevertheless. Many scholars, including non-Baptist R.C.H. Lenski, have maintained that John addressed the letter we call 2 John to a church under the simile of an "elect lady" with "children" (v.1). ("Lady" is nowhere used of a woman in the Bible, unless here). This "elect lady" had an "elect sister" who also had "children" (v. 13). If this view is correct, there can be no argument as to the propriety of the term "mother church."

Furthermore, the false church-system is given the name "Mother of Harlots." While we would disassociate ourselves completely with her, nevertheless, the concept of motherhood in relation to churches, although false ones, is set forth clearly in this instance. It seems clear that the concept of each church being or having the capability of being a "mother" is Biblical even if the term itself is not used. The reader will note that churches are likened to a "bride." Certainly the Biblical pattern is that no church was ever established without previous "church connection" or authority from an already existing church—a "mother church."

In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as a "wife" of God, and so is Judah. Isaiah 54:5-6 says to Israel:

For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.

In Jeremiah 3:8 God said:

And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

In verse 11 He said:

The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

Verse 14 says:

Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you. . . .

In Jeremiah 31:31-32, God said of Israel and Judah, ". . . I was an husband unto them." In Hosea chapters 1 and 2, Israel is pictured as the cast off wife.

Ephesians 5:22-33 clearly and unmistakably compares "the husband" and "the wife" to Christ and "the church." In 2 Corinthians 11:2, the church at Corinth is told:

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Revelation 19:7 shows that there is to be a "marriage of the Lamb" to "his wife." We cannot simply dismiss the use of the term mother church and illustrations of reproduction as an absurdity and as ridiculous, without ignoring these and many other verses of Scripture. Is a church of our Lord’s not spoken of and referred to as a physical body throughout the New Testament? In 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, a New Testament church is likened to a living, physical body, performing normal body functions. In 1 Peter 2:3-6, a New Testament church is spoken of as living and having life. A church of our Lord’s is not merely an organization, but, having spiritual life, it is an organism.

Jesus, as head of His first church, sometimes gave special orders or instructions and sent certain individuals with certain instructions for a certain mission. In Matthew 10, He gave His twelve disciples certain power and authority. Verse 1 says:

And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.

Jesus sent them forth with specific instructions of where to go and where not to go. Verses 5-6 say:

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

He told those He sent what to preach. In verse 7, He said:

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

He gave instructions concerning the financial management of their work. Verses 9-10 say:

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

In the remaining verses of Matthew10, Jesus gave further instructions regarding their mission. Mark 6:7-13 tells of this instructing, commanding, and sending out of the twelve:

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats. And he said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgement, than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

In Luke 10:1-24, after instructing, commanding, and giving them certain power and authority, Jesus "appointed other seventy also, and sent them." Verse 1 says:

After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.

Verses 2-16 tell of Jesus’ instructing, commanding, appointing, and sending of that other seventy, and in verse 17 we read that they returned later to give a report of their mission activity:

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

We have no record of Christ ever having withdrawn or revoked the ordination of that "other seventy" whom He had ordained ("appointed") and sent out "two and two" as representatives of the church He had organized. It is most probable that many churches were organized by these thirty-five pairs of ordained men when "they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." There may very well have been some organized by them even before then. Acts 8:1 does say that "there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem," rather than just simply saying, "against the church." Before the persecution and scattering, another seven men had been ordained. Acts 6:5-6 says:

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

By that time, Jesus had ascended and such matters as ordaining, appointing, sending out, and church organization were delegated to His churches, with the authority to act as His body, rather than executed by Him in person, as had previously been done. Notice in Acts 6:5-6, that it was the pleasure ("the saying pleased") and choice ("they chose") of the entire membership of the church at Jerusalem ("the whole multitude"). That chosen seven were "set before the apostles," no doubt to examine and determine their moral and doctrinal soundness, "and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them." We can be sure that that was the method prescribed by Jesus, and that He taught the apostles many things that we can know only by the teachings of the apostles and the practices of the churches in the New Testament. These are things Jesus taught the apostles while "being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." Acts 1:1-3 says:

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

Another example of the exercise of church authority by church vote after Jesus’ ascension is found in Acts 1:15-26. Those verses describe the procedure followed by the church in ordaining Matthias as an apostle to take the place of Judas. In verse 20, Peter presented the need to the congregation of "about an hundred and twenty," to select a replacement. The qualifications were stated in verses 21 and 22. In verse 23, they appointed two for consideration. In verses 24-26 we see that they prayed and then finalized the matter with a formal and official vote. Acts 1:24-26 says:

And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

The exercise of church authority in doing the Lord’s business of baptizing, ordaining and sending men, and organizing churches after His ascension is seen throughout the remaining chapters of the book of Acts. It was earlier noted that there was a number of churches around at the time of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 ("Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria"). In Acts 10, the Lord sent Peter to Cornelius’ house to preach to the people there. Peter did not go by himself. Verse 23 says, ". . . certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him." Those "certain brethren from Joppa" are mentioned again in verse 45 as "as many as came with Peter." After seeing evidence of the salvation of those who were at Cornelius’ house, Peter asked those "certain brethren from Joppa," in verse 47:

Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

Those new believers were baptized into the Joppa Baptist Church and then probably organized into a new church at Caesarea. Instead of Peter just baptizing those new believers himself, verse 48 says, ". . . he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." They were baptized by church authority, not Peter’s authority. The propriety of the matter was questioned by some in the church at Jerusalem, but when Peter got there, he "rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them."

Acts 11:19-21 relates how that "a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord" at Antioch. Verse 22 says:

Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.

Here we have an example of the exercise of church authority in choosing a certain person and sending him out on a particular mission. A church was organized there, and taught by Barnabas and Saul. Verse 26 says that for "a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people."

Later, in Acts 13, Barnabas and Saul, as members of the church at Antioch, were set apart and sent out by that church under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Acts 13:1-3 says:

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

Acts 13 and 14 tell of many places that Paul and Barnabas went on that missionary journey. The people that God saved were taught, baptized, organized into new churches, and taught more, by Paul and Barnabas under the authority of the church at Antioch. Acts 14:23 says they "ordained them elders in every church." There are, of course, many details that we are not told about that missionary journey, but we do know that a full report of "all that God had done with them" was given to the sending church at Antioch. Acts 14:26-28 says:

And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples.

Every Baptist must admit that Acts 13 and 14 is an example from Scripture of churches being organized, established, and approved of by the express intentions and actions of another church, and that by the leading of the Holy Ghost. I think most would agree that that is the best method to follow.

Chain-link successionists have been criticized for dogmatically insisting upon following the pattern of Acts 13 and 14 and rejecting the possibility of alternate methods or exceptions for unusual circumstances. It has been said that if chain-link successionists were truly consistent in their patternism, they would pattern after the first church, allowing for direct or "vertical authority" coming from Christ Himself, rather than by one of His churches. We could just as well argue that the egg came before the chicken, or that we are to expect our children to come from the dust of the earth. The situation is different now. Jesus no longer physically walks and talks with us in person as He did with the first church. Jesus has left His churches to act as His "body," as His legally appointed representative until His return.

Having previously established the scriptural propriety of the use of such metaphors as "mother church," comparing a church to a physical body, and illustrating church perpetuity with the propagation of the human race, let us consider the following analogy. Genesis 2:7 says, ". . . and the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." God made Adam a wife and in Genesis 1:28 commanded them to "be fruitful and multiply." Jesus personally organized His first church and commissioned it to be fruitful and multiply. Ephesians 5:29-32, speaking of marriage of husband and wife, says, ". . . and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Today, a woman should not expect to find a husband in the dust and a man does not expect to have a wife made from his rib. Neither should we expect Christ to organize churches today by a supposed "vertical authority." 1 Corinthians 11:8 says, "For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man," and verse 12 says, "For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God."

The assertion has been made that "in times of severe persecution or unusual circumstances," true churches have been formed by two or more scripturally baptized believers covenanting together and receiving approval directly, or "vertically," from Christ. Probably the best argument from scripture to support such a theory is that the Bible does not say that it did not ever happen, so it might have. We could about as easily prove that the apostles had automobiles and computers.

Can anyone provide documentation of an instance wherein that, because of severe persecution or unusual circumstances, baptized believers have had to organize a church by covenanting themselves together without the approval of a previously organized church? Is God’s will and purpose subject to circumstance? Would it not be far better to live and even die as a scripturally baptized member in good standing of a true church, although having been involuntarily severed from it by persecution or unusual circumstance, than to be guilty of perverting or disobeying God’s revealed order and plan? In Genesis 15:5, God said to Abraham, ". . . and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them…, So shall thy seed be." Abraham believed God (v.6), but when it seemed apparent that his wife Sarah could not bare him a child, Abraham, thinking it necessary in order to accomplish God’s plan, "went in unto Hagar, and she conceived Ishmael" (Genesis 16:4). When God’s order is ignored in church organization, a spiritual "Ishmaelite" is likely to be the result, and the troubles will be many and long lasting.

Another Bible lesson that is so very relevant to the subject at hand is found in 1 Samuel 13:8-14:

And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

It is of extreme importance that we wait upon God and not alter His instructions in doing His work. God is under no obligation to honor our hasty actions and lack of faith in the precision of His plans. Like circumstance, good intentions do not validate nor excuse unauthorized methods. If there be any who are tempted to endorse an alternate or questionable method of executing the Lord’s work, let us urge consideration of 2 Samuel 6, where David "set the ark of God upon a new cart" (v.3). 2 Samuel 6:6-7 says:

And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

As grand, glorious, and fitting as it may have seemed, God had not authorized the method of moving the ark on a cart. It was to be carried on poles. In Exodus 25:8-16, God said to Moses:

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it. And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof: and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it. And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them. The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.

The same diligence and attention to detail is in order when transporting "the house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15) throughout the ages.

The covenanting of themselves together of saved, scripturally baptized persons is part of church organization, but it is by no measure the whole of it, nor the cause of it. We may say that repentance and faith are part of salvation, yet that is not the cause of it, but is instead a result and evidence of the choosing, redeeming, quickening, calling, and drawing that has been done by God. Similarly, we may consider the "covenanting themselves together" as part of church organization, not as that which causes the group to be a church of Christ’s, but, rather, a manifestation of that which God has wrought.

When opposition to a chain-linked succession is voiced, it is often accompanied with the phrase, "formal and official, vote by vote." As to formality, I do not know of any who would claim that the sending of missionaries, granting of authority for church organization, or any other church action, must always be executed in a "Robert’s Rules of Order" formality in order to be valid. The mind of a church may be officially expressed by paper ballot or uplifted hands ("they gave forth their lots" Acts 1:26), or by unanimous agreement, as in Acts 13:1-4. It could be by shaking of heads, for yes or no. It may be expressed by one saying, "We ought to," another saying, "Well, let’s do it," and the majority following in agreement. A church might give its official approval of a matter by a silent response to the question, "Can any man forbid…?" as in Acts 10:44-48.

In Acts 6:1-8, the church at Jerusalem, in some manner, made an official choice of seven men to be ordained. It was not the apostles who chose the seven men. "The twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them" (v.2), explained the need, and "the whole multitude…chose" the seven to be ordained.