Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Church

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 identifies the church in the following words:

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

In our day the church of the Lord Jesus has come under great attack. It is of great interest to me that these attacks have come not from without the church but rather from within. Some are attempting to remove any emphasis upon the local congregation and are attempting to redefine the church as only the Body of Christ. While this particular attack is not new it is more aggressive today than ever before. Statements such as “not dividing over tertiary doctrines,” “breaking down barriers between denominations,” and “agreeing on Jesus” seem to abound.

Historically Baptists have been identified by doctrine and motivated by mission. While I recognize that we have no creed, it has always been true that Baptist have proudly ascribed to our periodic confessions. They have helped to define who were are and what we are about. It is difficult for me to see how doctrines such as our two church ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper and the two church officers, Pastor and Deacon, and our historic polity which recognizes the individual believer as a participating member are “tertiary.”

Those who desire to break down barriers between denominations are ignorant of history. The reason we have the many denominations of our day is that people have, through study of scripture, arrived at different conclusions as to what it says. Almost without exception these have been honest and sincere people who have felt it necessary to separate from other Christian groups based on a doctrinal difference. While we can and should work with other groups in matters of civil or moral concern, we should maintain our doctrinal convictions. It seems that the clamor for diversity is most often for the Baptists to set aside their convictions for the sake of unity.

One of the loudest cries is “We should agree on Jesus and not divide over other matters.” Which Jesus do we agree on? The Jesus who is full and final atonement for sin or the Jesus who has only made a down payment for our sin debt and we must be baptized, join the church, and live a sinless life in order to be saved. The Jesus who is full and final atonement for sin or the Jesus who died on a cross but we have to have a second work of grace identified by speaking in an unknown tongue to be saved. Forgiveness for sin is found in Jesus’ finished work on Calvary. He paid it all.

Each generation of Baptist life has faced similar challenges. Is it possible that we are more intelligent that our Baptist forefathers, better scholars, more enlightened than those who paid a great price for us to arrive where we are today? I think not. While the Bible is our final authority in matters of faith and practice we should not be so arrogant as to think ourselves wiser and more discerning than those who walked before us. If we fail to learn from history and those who walked before us, we do so at our own peril.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“Do you think yourself wise? Then there's a donkey inside your waistcoat.”

- C. H. Spurgeon


Blogger Tom Bryant said...

Good comments, my friend!

February 26, 2009 at 10:02 AM  

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