by C. C. Carroll
Questions to be answered in this article:
Show what were the different origins of Baptists and the Protestant denominations.
Show how a Baptist church is an executive rather than legislative body. What does this imply as to God's Spirit in church administration?
Show how this church is adequate for all ages.
Show how the Gospel refuses to be bound by ecclesiastical decrees or interpretations.
Give the first requisite to a New Testament church.
Why do Baptists hold baptism as the second requisite?
Show that the Lord built John's disciples into His church.
Show the lack of New Testament ground for a "church" of churches.
Show how the Catholic claim of the "church's" right to change Scripture requirements was followed by Protestants arguing that the changed requirements are Scriptural.
Tell how the Holy Spirit guides and provides for the needs of the New Testament type of church.
Should Baptists seek those advantages that result from centralized ecclesiastical authority? Can church growth through other than the revealed divine pattern be acceptable to God? Should we seek to catch the world by conforming to worldly wisdom?
Show that Baptist principles and the Baptist church pattern must be the same in the twentieth century as they were in the first.
Beginning with the idea of the "Kingdom of Heaven" as invisible, unorganized, and destined to become universal, and reckoning the church as only another name for the same thing, Christianity has by many been, reduced in conception, to a kind of atmosphere of sentiment; a vague effluence too ethereal to be formulated into a doctrinal form, or to find concrete expression in a visible organization. Such Christianity usually contents itself with the current revelations of the "Christian consciousness" in lieu of the written Word . . . The often urged notion that a "united front of Protestantism" against Romanism, or of Christianity against heathenism, will be irresistible, is itself a relic of heathenism. It is the old "trusting in horses and chariots," which the Scripture condemns. No massing of inherent weakness can bring strength. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." Jesse B. Thomas, in The Church and The Kingdom.
nature of the church. Back of
the question why Baptists are not Protestants lies that of the nature of the
church which Christ built. It is important that we understand what is His divine pattern for the church and that we frequently bring
our own churches to the test of conformity to this pattern. The term "
the church pattern. Baptists contend
that there can be no proper standard for the Bible-believer of what constitutes
the church other than that set forth in Scriptures. They claim that the
Scriptures themselves determine in principle the laws that govern the
Its adequacy for all ages. If it is said that men in the first century, however devout and wise, could not co-ordinate an institution that would be adequate and adapted to all of the changes that would ever come in the world, it is granted that this is true. But it is our claim that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself organized the church and that He endowed it with all of the powers it would require to accomplish its ordained work. In Colossians 2: 13-20 Paul set forth our Lord's headship over the church and His authority over all created things in heaven and on earth in these words:
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 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. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Gospel not bound by men. Baptists cannot accept as authoritative any centralization of power in hierarchy, arch-episcopacy, council, synod, convention or consistory, claiming the right of interpretation. The Gospel is not bound. No principle of interpretation that requires any post-Biblical additions to teachings or methods of reaching the meaning of the teachings in the New Testament about the church, has any weight with Baptists. Any claim of Apostolic succession that would take to itself authority to make decrees is as devoid of authority to bind Baptists in their doctrine of the church as would be the claims of a sect of the Jews that they sat in the seat of Moses. The law of the Spirit of Life in Jesus Christ, which has set us free from the law of sin and death and from the spirit of bondage, operates to teach the children of God in the right interpretation for themselves of the Word of God. Therefore, Baptists hold that the New Testament is the sole authority on the laws that govern the churches. It is their constitution and bill of rights, their constant court of appeal and end of all controversy.
An assembly of believers. In the search to find what the church is, what it should know and do, and how it is to accomplish its mission, we first discover that it is an assembly of believers associated with Jesus Christ and spoken of as His body and bride. The assembly is so related to the Holy Spirit as to be called His tabernacle, and so related to God the Father as to be called the house of God. The New Testament church was composed of members who had received the glad tidings of the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world, and who had made confession of their sins in repentance toward God, and of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and were baptized. It is with definiteness that leaves no room for argument taught that the preaching of the glad tidings and the initiation of the ordinance of baptism were established at the hands of John the Baptist, nor is there any doubt that God had given John his authority to preach and to baptize. It is taught that he was set apart for his work from his mother's womb. His forerunner work had been foretold in Old Testament prophecy, which presented Him as a herald of God's new dispensation of grace in the redemption of lost men. From John until the consummation of all things in Christ the administration of God's grace is declared to be in the hands of the King to whom and through whom and for whom the church assembly is the authorized witness to mankind from the time of its enduement by the Holy Spirit. This new dispensation was to fulfill the old through the coming of the prophecy-announced King according to God's unchanged plans.
Christ placed baptism in the church. The fact that Jesus was baptized by John separates baptism from the actual sacrifice of the Lamb, and leaves it forever as an ordinance to picture the likeness of His death and burial, and of His resurrection. Later, as the head of the church assembly of baptized witnesses, Jesus expressed His sovereignty over the act and its perpetuation, but did not Himself baptize the disciples resulting from His preaching. That the authority to perpetuate the act was His alone is made clear in the fact that John never sought to organize his disciples into any kind of organization, nor did he authorize any of them to baptize others. To the contrary, John pointed his disciples to Jesus as the person in whom they had been planted and to whom they had been joined in the likeness of His death and the promise of His resurrection. Jesus committed the stewardship of baptism to the church assembly and authorized and directed its perpetual observance. This He did in the Great Commission to His assembly. The authority for the act, therefore, inheres in the stewardship of the church and its perpetual observance is guaranteed in the perpetuity of the church--which in turn is guaranteed to His disciples in the promise of the ever-living and ever-reigning Christ.
John's disciples built into the church. It is the writer's purpose to show that the Lord Jesus called out the baptized disciples of John and built them into an assembly upon the sole foundation rock of His being the Christ, the Son of the living God. At Caesarea-Philippi He explained to His disciples what was the foundation basis of edification of the church. It was himself, and the God-imparted power given to men to receive Him. Vast credulity is required to enable one to imagine that the Lord Jesus turned away from explaining this one and sufficient foundation, that He might follow a tangent of explanation about Peter that would in effect leave out the foundation. That is to say, it would require that one of the living stones to be built upon this foundation (Peter) should himself become that foundation and able to bear the whole superstructure. Peter himself had no such illusion concerning the matter, nor did any of the other Apostles or disciples. Neither did Paul, the Apostle born out of due season, but personally indoctrinated by the Lord Himself. For Paul wrote of the Lord Jesus as the foundation of the church and explained the relationship of the Apostles to that foundation. Paul was in thorough accord with Peter's testimony in doing this. Only the Anointed One, the Christ, could be the Head of the Church, and the Rock upon which the Church is built. John the baptizer saw the anointing of the Christ, saw the Lord coming up out of the water, and the Holy Spirit descending upon Him as a dove, and he heard the confirmation of His anointing in the words of the Father, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
for a "church" of churches.
The setting up of a centralized authority that presumes to speak for and pass
out laws to the local church assembly which Christ built, is entirely without
New Testament authority. But it is in consonance with the material power by which
men seek to secure impressive world results and it has therefore not failed to
seduce many groups of professing Christians. The papal system, with
Other errors from hierarchical assumptions. When vaulting human ambition changed the New Testament pattern of the church into the papacy, it was inevitable that it would be followed by other unwarranted assumptions of authority in church organization and life. This exhibited itself, contrary to the New Testament teaching, in the change of ordinances, doctrines, terms of discipleship, and in entangling alliances between Church and State. It is unfortunately true that not all of the Christian fellowship which came out by way of protest from Romanism, cleared their skirts at all points in relation to world-conforming heresies. In the New Testament we find in the churches certain officers and servants, whose functions are clearly exhibited. Some of these were to be in perpetuity under the setting apart by the assembly. But we find no provision for this except for pastors and deacons, the service of which two classes of ministers is definitely prescribed. Baptists have brought themselves into grief and confusion whenever they have failed to confine the work of pastors and deacons to that which is exampled and prescribed for them by the Holy Spirit in the written Word. Most Protestant bodies, following the Roman example, have numerous ecclesiastical officials with recognized ecclesiastical authority, all of which is without New Testament authorization. Baptists place individuals in places of responsibility and honor them for faithfulness in spirit and service, but none of these has any ecclesiastical authority over the church. Roman Catholics, claiming authority under God to change whatever "the Church" wants to change, turns from New Testament baptism--which was always by immersion--to the sprinkling substitutes therefor. Catholics did not and do not claim that this is Scriptural. Therefore Protestant bodies, influenced by the Catholic change, yet refusing to claim authority to change the Scriptural requirements, found it necessary to claim that their substitutes for Scriptural baptism were valid on the ground of sound scholarship. They have done so and a sorry mess they have made of it. The matter is mentioned here for its light upon our thesis that Baptists are not Protestants. Aside from their personal spiritual weaknesses, which they share with other Christians, Baptists are without reason, temptation, or even excuse, for turning away from the New Testament pattern in order to conformity to whatever happens to have popular vogue in the world about them.
Churches are built and grow under the Holy Spirit. Witnessing power came to Christ's assembly in the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Churches were rapidly multiplied under the direct jurisdiction and empowering of the Holy Spirit. He guided them in indoctrination, polity, comity, stewardship, spiritual understanding and knowledge, and in the scope and method of their witness. It is vital to understand that the multiplication of churches was the direct result of the increasing number of believers. The believers increased through the preaching of the Gospel by the church, which in its witness-bearing was honored and sustained and guided by the regenerating and sanctifying Holy Spirit. Thus each believer had in himself the witness and life of an incorruptible seed. When he became a disciple, he also became a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. The assembly of baptized believers became the house of God, the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. Both the believer and the church became capable of receiving spiritual communications from God through His Son, by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit measured the gifts to those whom He set in the church for its edification as a witnessing body. Thus order and not confusion resulted in the early churches, through gifts of the Spirit which Paul enumerates in l Corinthians 12:27, 28: "Now are ye the body of Christ and members in particular. And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." The use of the gifts are explained in the preceding context, and it is later shown how they pass away when their purpose is accomplished.
two church ordinances. Our
Lord has set two ordinances in the church. Baptism precedes church membership,
but it is administered under the authority of the church to those who profess
repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Credible profession of faith in
Him constitutes discipleship and follows next in the order of the Great
Commission. Disciples are next taught to observe all things whatsoever Jesus
has commanded His church. The Lord's Supper was instituted by Him, and
committed to the Apostles to deliver to the church for its observance. It was
so committed to Paul, and how he delivered it to the churches is illustrated in
the case of the church at
We should avoid
man-made patterns and follow the divine.
Baptists acknowledge their obligation of obedience only to churches of Christ
which He has patterned in the New Testament. Yet they need to be watchful lest
by imperceptible processes they shall be found seeking the apparent advantages
of ecclesiastical hierarchy and centralization. These advantages are on the
side of worldly appearance and not of inner spiritual reality. The
principles in the first century and the twentieth. The successors of those disciples whose testimony was
[Pastor Wilson's comments: This excellent article appeared in Re-thinking Baptist Doctrines, a book published in 1937 by The Western Recorder, a Southern Baptist periodical. The book is a compilation of the writings of some of the leading pastors and educators in the Southern Baptist Convention. It is indeed sad that the convictions expressed in this article and in the others that appeared in that book are completely foreign to Southern Baptists of our day.]
Re-thinking Baptist Doctrines,
the book from which this article is extracted, has been republished by