We have been looking at some of the distinctive marks of the churches of the Lord. But why should we be taught to look for those distinctive marks? The Lord started one kind of church, and churches today should still bear those distinguishing marks. One reason that this is important relates to the glory of the Lord. Who can explain that reason? Ephesians 3:21 – “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Another reason to look for the characteristics of Lord’s church relates to truth in general. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. What does that mean? The Lord’s church has been given the responsibility and authority to maintain and administer the Truth of God. Would you say that it is important to look for the Lord’s church? Does the majority of Christendom agree?
It is the right and duty of a Christian church to administer the ordinances of Baptism and the Supper.
The question is: to whom did the Lord give those ordinances? Who was the first Baptist? The Lord Jesus was being accosted by the Jews about the subject of authority. Matthew 21 – “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” Jesus replied to their question with another question; what was it that He asked? “And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?”
Who gave the first Baptist authority to baptize? Who were the members of the first of the Lord’s churches? Did they baptize people? Where did they get their authority to baptize? John 4 – “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.”
Matthew 28 contains a summary of our responsibilities to God and to the world. What does the “great commission” say? “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 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.”
The great question contained in the great commission is: to whom was it given? It is the opinion of many who believe in a universal church that the ordinances belong to Christians. To whom was the Lord speaking when He said, “I am with you alway, even unto end of the world”? To whom was the great commission given? To the Lord’s church. And that being true the maintenance and control of those ordinances belong to that church alone. They can he administered only by that church as such, when duly assembled, and by its own officers or those she may appoint. This gets to be somewhat difficult,
But if a number of church members, even a majority of members in an unorganized capacity; decide to baptize someone, their decision is unbiblical. The ordinance of baptism belongs to the whole church, not any component of that church. Can the church delegate the authority or responsibility to baptize her members to anyone? Does the pastor get to decide who should and shouldn’t be baptized? Does the deacon board decide who should be baptized?
Similarly, no Baptist Association or Convention can ordain ministers, dictate the discipline of churches or administer the ordinances. If Pedobaptist and Catholic organizations are not scriptural churches, then they have no scriptural authority to pretend to serve the Lord in any capacity. They have no more right than a Masonic Lodges to administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper. How are their acts worse than null and void? They are acts of rebellion.
Are there things which disqualify someone from being ordained to the gospel ministry? What are some of those things? Whose job is it to judge those qualifications? What if someone asked our church to baptize them, what should happen if that person didn’t like me or questioned my qualifications? What if a year from now, I confessed that I had not been a Christian until that week, what would that do in regard to all the people that I had baptized throughout the years? Nothing, because it was not upon my authority those people were baptized; it was the church. Do we read in the scriptures where any of the people baptized by Judas were ever re-baptized?
The authority to preach the gospel and to administer the ordinances has been given by Christ to His churches. What should we think of a church which believes that its authority to serve Christ resides in it’s pastor? What should we think of a church which believes that its authority has been given to it by a council of bishops or by the denomination? Church authority belongs to the Lord’s church. That church may start another church, passing its authority on to it, but authority to do the work of God can never be found outside of one of the Lord’s churches.
Christendom is divided into three different ideas about church membership. There are those who believe that contained in church membership is the means of membership, and so lost people should be brought into their membership in order to be saved. Who are the principle group which believe this doctrine? (Catholics, along with some Anglicans & others.) By their definition, what is a sacrament? (Means of grace.) How does this doctrine eliminate the distinction between the church and the world? (Look at nearly any purely Catholic country, or any country where there is a Protestant state church.)
A second theory is that of the Presbyterians. Here is a statement from the Westminster Confession: “The seed and posterity of the faithful, born within the church, have, by their birth, interest in the covenant and right to the seal (of salvation).” What do you think that means? Here are a couple of other quotes: “Children may be lawfully accounted within God”s covenant if any of their ancestors, in any generation, were faithful.” “Infants that are born of believers belong to God before their baptism. Though they had not a father or mother that was acquainted with God, yet perhaps, they had some ancestors who were so favored, and therefore they are members of the church.” How does this doctrine basically end up the same as the Catholic doctrine? Since we call came from Adam and Noah, we all have “Christian” ancestors. Also, what does that doctrine do to their own doctrine of baptism? It becomes pointless.
That brings us to the Baptist or Biblical position on who may become a member in one of our churches. How would you answer this question: Who or what comes first: the church or Christ? What comes first: Church doctrine or the doctrine taught by Christ? What should come first: faith in Christ or faith in Christ’s church? What must come first: salvation in Christ, or membership in the Christ’s church? The thing which separates Baptists from Catholic and Protestant denominations is that Baptists put Christ before the church, and they put their churches before Christ.
In light of this: what does infant baptism effectively do? If we found that the Lord Jesus authorized infant baptism, we could say that Christ “preceded” it. Do we find Biblical authority or even the Biblical practice of infant baptism? If infant baptism is a Christian duty, it must be a POSITIVE duty. What do I mean by “positive duty?” (Explicitly commanded.) Is infant baptism a positive duty? Listen to this quote from the editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review, a man named Bledsow. “It is an article of our faith that the baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the church as most agreeable to the institution of Christ. But yet, with all our searching, we have been unable to find in the New Testament a single express declaration, or word, in favor of infant baptism. This may, perhaps, be deemed by some of our readers a strange position for a Pedobaptist. It is by no means, however, a singular opinion. Hundreds of learned Pedobaptists have come to the same conclusion; especially—-since the New Testament has been subjected to a closer, and a more conscientious and more candid exegesis than was formerly practiced by controversialists.”
Some Pedobaptists say that they can see infant baptism in the New Testament. Where do they usually point in the Bible to justify their idea? After those very hazy references, they go on to admit that for the next two centuries baby-baptism (pedobaptism) cannot be found in church history. Curcelleus, acknowledged to be the most learned Protestant scholar of the sixteenth century, says: “Pedobaptism was not known in the world the two first ages after Christ; in the third and fourth it was approved by few; at length, in the fifth and following ages, it began to obtain in divers places; and, therefore, we [Pedobaptists] observe this rite, indeed as an ancient custom but not as an apostolic tradition. The custom of baptizing infants did not begin before the third age after Christ, and there appears not the least footstep of it for the first two centuries.” To this agree Protestants like Neander, Mosheim and Philip Schaff. Now, if infant baptism was not instituted by Christ nor His apostles, nor known for centuries after Christ, from where did this idea arise? “In vain do they worship me who teach for doctrine the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). If we practice a system of worship or service which has not been established by the Head of the church, are we really honoring Him? Should we be so charitable as to condone unscriptural practices as if they were approved by Christ?
should be baptized and received into the church.
According to John 4:1 what kind of people did the Lord Jesus baptize? (Disciples.) When one thing is specifically commanded or authorized, is this an invitation to become more general? If I said I want this room painted red, does that mean I want red with blue stripes? What did the Lord mean when He spoke about “he that believeth and is baptized”? In the Great Commission when the Lord used the word “teach” all nations, what does that word mean? It means “disciple” or “make disciples.” And what does that commission say? “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and o the Holy Ghost.”
What kind of people were they who the apostles baptized on the day of Pentecost? Acts 2:41 – “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” What did Philip require of the Ethiopian Eunuch before he would consider baptizing him? What made Peter tell his friends at the house of Cornelius that they should go ahead with his baptism?
From Ephesians 4:31, why is it important that only saved people be admitted into church membership?