What Kind of Baptist Are We, Really? A Solid Answer for the Dilemma of Baptist Mania
(The following meditation was authored by Brother Stephen Pham) “28 But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.” (Jeremiah 2) In this day and age we are surrounded with a flood of professors that claim the Baptist name (Isaiah 9:6-7), but within this denomination (speaking of Baptist churches indeed) we see a wide variety of differing opinions and practices. We have Independent Fundamental Baptists, Southern Baptists, Strict and Particular Baptists, Landmark Baptists, Old School Absolute Predestinarian Baptists, Old Line Primitive Baptists, Missionary Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Six-Principle Baptists, so forth and so on. It has been said of the Baptists that if they are good at anything, they are good at causing splits and splinters! Then there are a handful of churches that claim to be Historic Non 501c3 KJV-Only Baptists, but they also have differing views among each other. To add to the Baptist mess, there are churches that profess Sovereign Grace but do not accord with the apostles’ doctrine of grace. There always seems to be a gospel regeneration rat lurking around the corners: these predestinarians need to clean house. So, what it all boils down to is, what would be the best description for our particular camp (the Cincinnati church) which would clearly distinguish us from other Baptist groups? How about a Pauline distinct-reading baptistic church that strives to be stedfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship? Though we are most similar to what is known as the Old Line Primitive Baptist camp (the Conditional Time Salvationists), we do not go by such name due to their departure from the apostles’ doctrine on a few points: Namely, Eternally Begotten Sonship (Matthew 1:21-23), Holidays (Galatians 4:8-11), Associations (Isaiah 8:9), Unnecessary deacons (Acts 6:1-3), and Robert’s Rules of Order (Colossians 2:8). Because elaborating on these points will digress from the thought for the day, let us stop there. Let it be known that we do not believe that if a church has doctrinal and practical errors, that it is not a new testament church indeed. Churches addressed in the new testament writings have held to a variety of errors and needed to be corrected (See the letters to the Corinthians, Galatians, and five out of the seven churches in Revelation for proof). Just because a car has bad dents, tires, and alignment, does not mean that it is not a functioning car: these things can be fixed! We are Pauline because we strive to adhere to the gospel given by Paul the apostle, whereby we are stablished in our faith. This gospel is not limited to the preaching of the cross, but includes the whole mystery of God revealed to Paul and found in his writings (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:1-7). It is by Paul’s revelation that we know how to walk and to please God; not by a creed or organized set of opinions (1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2). The old testament writings are secondary to our religion: through these we may learn patience and comfort in our fiery trials of faith, and are warned to not follow after the errors of our spiritual ancestors (Romans 15:4; 16:26; Hebrews 12:1 c/w Hebrews 11; I Corinthians 10:1-11). That’s right, you don’t need to pump your Baptist head full with a thousand rare, out-of-print, or well known, books on Baptist history and doctrine; because you’ve all you need in that 1611 Bible. With that said, let it not be misunderstood that we are in accord with the Hyper-Dispensationalists that Paul’s writings should be our only rule for doctrine: for all scripture is profitable for doctrine (II Timothy 3:16). Paul did not go into depth about the command to wash the saints’ feet or baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (which the other apostles did reveal: I Timothy 6:3-5; John 13:13-14; Matthew 28:19). However, Paul’s writings should be our lenses to properly interpret the other places of scripture (II Corinthians 3:11-12). We should be described as distinct-readers because we understand the Bible by separating and analyzing words in a given book, chapter, and verse by their proper meaning (primary by default, secondary by necessity, not convenience) and grammatical construction (Galatians 3:16; II Timothy 1:13; Nehemiah 8:8). We believe inconsistency or neglect of this practice leads to doctrinal error. A child of God who is seeking rest in a church which is in Jesus Christ should see a red flag when the minister believes that hermeneutics is subject to preference (II Peter 1:20); and that no church has a monopoly on hermeneutics. If a church emphasizes the weightiness of proper bible study (Luke 10:26), they might be accused of claiming a monopoly on hermeneutics. If Jesus did not view proper bible study as that important, he would not have asked the lawyer how (denoting method) he read the law. Be it understood that this method of study is not a novel principle made up by a renegade Primitive Baptist elder from the south, because the ancients like William Tyndale taught such a scriptural principle. For your information, William Tyndale wrote like a Baptist (taught baptism by immersion), not a reformed Catholic like Luther (infant baptism): “’I perceived, says he, ‘how that it was impossible to establish the lay-people in any truth, except the scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text. For else, whatsoever truth is taught them, these enemies of all truth quench it again, partly with the smoke of their bottomless pit, that is, with apparent reasons of sophistry and traditions of their own making, founded without ground of scripture; and partly in juggling with the text, expounding it in such sense as is impossible to gather of the text, if these see the process, order and meaning thereof.’” Quoting Tyndale was superfluous, because Paul our pattern (Philippians 4:9) used this method of study; he gave the sense of the prophecy given to Abraham (Genesis 13:15), “16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3). Note how Paul discreetly distinguished a plural concept from the intended singular object; thus giving the sense of the reading. We are baptistic in that we believe that water baptism has a proper mode, faith, recipient, administrator, and result. The proper mode is by burial in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19); and rising up from the water to signify the putting away of sin to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). The proper faith is in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:36-39); who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead on the third day according to the scriptures (I Corinthians 15:1-4). The proper recipient is a man or woman who is grieved over offending a holy God with their dead works and seeks to be reconciled with him (Hebrews 6:1; Acts 20:21). The proper administrator is an ordained minister whose authority comes from a divinely preserved succession of ministers going back to the apostles of the first century (Matthew 28:20; II Timothy 1:6; 2:2). The proper result is addition to a company of properly baptized disciples (Acts 2:41). The truth that baptism is an answer of a good conscience (I Peter 3:21) is simply a description of what baptism is, not an ingredient to the order. Water baptism does not require a “proper design” to be valid, but it does require a proper result: some Baptists falsely so called like to juggle the doctrine and wrest it to their own destruction (II Peter 3:15-16). Any so called water baptism that is missing one or more of these points is invalid. Just in case you think making an issue out of fine points in doctrine is ridiculous, let us look at a few scriptures for principle: “2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. 3 Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. 4 Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 5 And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 6 And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. 8 Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.” (Leviticus 11). Moses was commanded to teach the children of Israel discernment with regards to clean and unclean beasts. Though a particular beast met most of the requirements for cleanness, if it was lacking just one of the points, it was counted unclean. Granted, the old testament is no longer binding on the congregation (church) of Israel (II Corinthians 3); but these things are written for our learning. Since we are to consent to the wholesome words of the Saviour (I Timothy 6:3-5), let us heed his admonition recorded by Matthew: “19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Chapter 5). If a disciple from another church (that holds doctrine contrary to ours) wishes to translate their fellowship to our church, and their baptism from that church agrees with the points above; a “rebaptism” is unnecessary. We are a church in that we are a congregation (Hebrews 2:12 c/w Psalm 22:22); not an earthly building. Moreover we strive to be stedfast (unmoveable) in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship because that was the practice of the first century Christians (Acts 2:42), according to the apostle’s command (I Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 3:12-15). Yes, we can be in fellowship (mutual association) with the apostles right now because we are (present tense) come unto the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven (Hebrews 12:22-24). There is a church in heaven right now with whom the apostles are assembling; we are simply non-resident members of that assembly. Most Baptist churches emphasize history (the records of men) for their doctrine and practice, rather than the real Apostles’ Creed - the Holy Scriptures. A Pauline distinct-reading baptistic disciple is truly a peculiar sort of Baptist. He gives no heed nor regard to historic confessions of faith, neither traditions of the elders. Furthermore, Paul is his guide (I Corinthians 11:1), he is strict in his bible study, and he has a baptism indeed. In closing, let us consider the words of a wise ruler recorded in a Baptist history compiled by the faithful and true witness (Revelations 3:14): “10 But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests, which minister unto the LORD, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business: 11 And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him. 12 And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.” (II Chronicles 13:10-12) God himself is with us for our captain (Indicating that God is our captain directly). Never mind Elder Gilbert Beebe, CB and Sylvester Hassell, the Waldensians, neither even our Welsh fathers from the valley of Olchon! However, may the great Head of the church, Jesus Christ, bless the memory of these ancient saints (Proverbs 10:7); for they were faithful to the light God gave them. In order to properly honour the memory of these folks, let us be faithful and fervent for the light God has given us.