According To The Scriptures
More About BaptismIt must be believed and taught that salvation is only by grace through faith in Christ, with even the faith being a gift of God by the Holy Spirit.
That rules out baptism, "praying through," or any other work of man, in the obtaining of salvation. To believe and teach otherwise is to believe in and teach of another salvation, which is no salvation.
Baptism plays no part in the obtaining of our salvation, but is instead, a figure or picture, to be administered after salvation.
Baptism is a means of preaching the gospel in a figure and was ordained by Jesus exclusively to His kind of congregation. Baptism is therefore an important part of the teaching and preaching of the Lord's congregations, and it is essential that it be done scripturally. The Bible, being the final authority for all faith and practice, demands that:
--Only those who have repented and profess salvation by grace through faith in Christ are fit subjects for baptism. (This precludes the baptism of infants, who are neither able to repent nor profess.)
--The only acceptable mode for baptism is immersion in water.
--Only the Lord's congregations have any authority to administer baptism.
--The purpose of baptism is not to obtain salvation, but to teach figuratively by picturing Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection (the gospel), and declaring our dying to sin and rising to walk in newness of life.
To pervert the preaching figure of baptism by disobeying any of these scriptural demands is to preach another gospel.
Although they have been despised, persecuted, and most of the time seen in the world's eyes as insignificant, there has been a continued existence of Jesus' kind of congregation ever since He built the first one as a pattern and declared, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). It is very clear that it was Jesus' intention that His kind of congregation continue until the day that all the saved are called up to meet Him in the air. Matthew 16:18 sounds like Jesus was confident in His ability to preserve His kind of congregation. He surely would not make such a bold statement and undertake something that He would not be able to accomplish. To have done so would have been to ignore His own advice in Luke 14:28-31, where He said:
The counterfeiters of Christianity have assailed and taunted Jesus' congregations with John Smyth and Roger Williams fables, "universal church" theories, and other such absurdities, until the day has come when most, unaware of their own heritage, and weak in the faith, have sold, or are about to sell, their birthright for a mess of unionism and compromise.
If God is able to create man, and accomplish a continued existence of the human race by procreation, through fire, flood, famine, and disease, for six thousand years without any change of method, and is able to save lost sinners and keep them saved throughout all eternity without any change of method, He is surely able to accomplish the perpetuity and baptismal succession of His congregations without any change of method for two thousand years! Is God sovereign or not? He is not just partly sovereign, He either is, or is not. My God is sovereign! "He's got the whole wide world in his hands."
*Jesus built something that He called His ekklesia, which can best be translated in English as assembly, or congregation.
*Jesus built His congregation as a pattern by which He would build all others.
*Jesus' kind of congregation is spoken of as a body, is compared to a human body, is claimed to be a body of Christ, with Him and no other as its head.
*Jesus has given a commission exclusively to His bodies, with the promise of perpetuity.
*A congregation ceases to be Jesus' congregation when He is no longer its head or when it is no longer declaring the true gospel, in word or in picture, regardless of its past virtue or the name over its door.
In following these conclusions, we are immediately led to the fact that when one of Jesus' congregations compromises the truth of the gospel in its preaching, either verbally, or in its practice or typology, regardless of man's opinion or designation, that congregation forfeits its status as one of Jesus' congregations, as well as its authority to administer a baptism that is acceptable to God. Now, this brings it down to the point that we begin to feel uncomfortable, and many will say that that is drawing the line too close, but what does God say? Has God passed some ammendments to His Word, or is the Bible still to be our final authority for all faith and practice?
When a congregation receives a person as a member, whose baptism was administered by another congregation, organization, or individual, that congregation is declaring that that baptism in its entirety (administrator, mode, candidate, authority, and design and purpose) is acceptable. When they declare that it is acceptable, and it is not, they are declaring a lie. People often take offense at the "L" word, but it is a Bible word. The receiving and approving congregation is declaring that the "picture preaching" of the administrator is acceptable, and in doing so, declaring that they are alike, that they are fellows, that one is as good as the other in that respect. Any congregation knowingly, without repentence and rectification of the matter, making such a false declaration, CANNOT be Jesus' kind of congregation, though they may have been yesterday.
The same conclusion must be drawn concerning pulpit affiliation. When a congregation knowingly and willfully places someone in their pulpit who, by their affiliation with some denomination, professes belief in, or allowance for, a salvation that is not wholly of grace (obtained by praying through, holding on, holding out, baptism, membership, sacraments, easy believism, or any other works of man), that congregation is showing approval of the same and is partaker of the evil deeds. To be consistent, I believe we must say the same for those who "minister in song." The same reasoning must be applied in the sending and supporting of missionaries. Participation and dabbling in such practices must be considered as spiritual adultery, just as the idolatry of the Israelites. Any carelessness, compromise, and indiscretion in those regards should be considered as conduct unbecoming of any engaged to be the bride of Christ.
Whenever those practices surface within a body, where there still exists a congregation of true disciples who are committed to going "fully after the LORD," there will be a reaction. The true disciples will rebuke and try to counsel and correct those in error. If the counsel is accepted, repentance and rectification will take place. If the admonition is not accepted, those in error are to be rejected (Titus 3:10, Romans 16:17, and II Timothy 3:5). If the true disciples find themselves the minority, and their admonition rejected, they must "come out from among them," and be separate (II Corinthians 6:17), and the Head, and the authority will go with them. That is what happened to the Novations, Donatists, and others, in the third century. Their refusal to accept the defective baptism of those in error resulted in the label of Anabaptist, which has been given the Lord's congregations all the way into the nineteenth century.
Study Revelation 2:1-7, with the interpretation given in Revelation 1:20. In those verses, Jesus dictated a letter addressed to the pastor of the congregation at Ephesus. In that letter, Jesus made the accusation that, "thou hast left thy first love." The first love of any person that has been saved by the grace of God should be a love for God and all that He is. I John 4:19 says, "We love him, because he first loved us." We can not really love the real Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, without a jealous and fervent love for truth. In John 14:6, Jesus declared that He, Himself, is the truth. The love for truth, especially in regard to salvation and the gospel, will be directly proportional to our love for God. The plea and advice given to that pastor was, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works" (preach and uphold all the truth). The consequence of not doing so was that Jesus would remove His congregation from that place, "quickly," and we can be sure that Jesus, and its authority, went with it.
Just the fact someone calls something "the gospel" does not make it the true gospel. Just the fact that someone calls something "baptism" does not make it acceptable to God. Just the fact that someone calls something "a church" does not make it the Lord's.
So, what happens when a true congregation of Jesus' shows its approval of the preaching or the baptism of something that claims to be the same, uses the same name, and claims to be of like faith and order, but are known to be guilty of the errors discussed above? I believe the answer is obvious. Irregular congregations are not to be given approval or recognition by Jesus' congregations. We are to "mark" them, and "avoid" them. The scriptural reaction is:
Before going this far with the subject, someone will usually say, "Perhaps you have not considered all the implications of this." I have. I have seriously considered the implications (and there are many) of this stand, and have made an intense study of the subject. We had better be concerned with the implications of rejecting and disobeying an unchanging God's instructions in such an important matter! What will be God's reaction to those who are willing to advance a false gospel? "The pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15) must uphold the truth. We must take side with God, even if it causes the sky to fall on the front steps, and causes the creek to run backward.
Truth cannot be altered. Our fear of implications or disregard for reality does not change the truth. It appears that these doctrines are often shunned or rejected out of fear that one's own baptism will be proven irregular. If such information were to ever be made manifest that would indicate that my baptism is improper, I pray that God will grant me the soundness of mind to get it done right and to not worry about implications.
Congregations finding their garments dirtied by their affairs with false religion and false doctrine must "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works." For disciples finding themselves in unrepentant company, it is high time to "come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. . . ."
Many have assumed that Jesus has given His congregations all power in heaven and in earth, but He has not. Jesus declared, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," but He has never transferred or assigned all power to anyone or anything. He has given much power to His kind of congregation, but He is still the head. Jesus certainly has not authorized His congregations, or anyone else, to disobey, or to change the rules as we go. As already seen, Jesus not only gave His congregations the exclusive authority to teach and to baptize, but has commissioned them to. They are, of course, by design, authorized to do such things as purchase and own buildings and property, use electricity, choose furniture, have a bank account, and other things of expediency, but never to disobey, or to teach false doctrine. Jesus' congregations have the authority to bind only in accordance with what has been bound in heaven. They have the authority to loose only in accordance with what has been loosed in heaven. Our binding and loosing must be confined to the limits predetermined by God in heaven (Matthew 16:19, 18:18).
Many, many congregations and pastors have been seduced into apostasy by peer pressure, association, pride, and ambition, resulting from participation in various schemes that men have invented for the execution of mission work, training, pension plans, and other programs by boards, or co-operative arrangements rather than adhering to Jesus' method. Jesus authorized His congregations, exclusively, as the only kind of organization authorized to do His work. They are His bodies. Jesus has not given His congregations the authority, nor permission, to delegate, or re-assign that authority to anything other than one of His congregations.
To be consistent with the belief in an unchanging God, with unchanging ways, and an unchanging plan of salvation, we are forced to admit that the qualifications, consequences, and implications of apostasy are the same today as they were when the New Testament was written. God has not issued a "grandfather clause", nor does He make any exceptions just because someone continues to use (abuse) a good name. Those who refuse to have Christ as their head today are just as much in error as those from whom the Novations and Donatists withdrew in the third century.
Since the succession of authority is lost in apostacy, and in consideration of the facts of history, it is conclusive that the only true congregations of Jesus in existence today are found among those known as Baptists, and sadly, we must say, most congregations by that name have also fallen away. [see History]
If we use the New Testament as the "measuring stick," the latest date that we could credit the Catholics, either Roman or Greek, with any possibility of having any succession of authority is about the year 251, before they were ever known as catholic, when the irregular and apostate congregations, being rebuked for their errors, refused to repent and submit to Christ as their head and choosing, instead, to do as they pleased. In 313, only sixty-two years later, they openly acknowledged Constantine as their head rather than Christ.
None of the Protestant denominations existed until the sixteenth century, with whatever authority they may claim coming from the Roman Catholics who had no authority from God, and possessing a "baptism" that was no baptism.