Article 36

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"Baptist or Protestant? A Warning Against Some Subtle Errors!"

There have been numerous articles written which ably show that those once called Baptists never sprang as a Protestant movement or from the Protestant movement. These articles can be researched under various Old School [Primitive] and Landmark Baptist web pages or sites. I say "once called Baptists," not because none exist today, but because many in this day called Baptist have no connection with any original Baptist stance. Some claim a Baptist history but fully reject a Baptist stance. Also, there is no doubt that the term Protestant does not apply to camps never associated with the Papal system. Strictly speaking, and simply stated, Protestant means, "Those who protested against the Papal errors of Rome, at least in some part, and having once been a part of it they removed themselves from it in light of scripture rather than church dogma." Granted, not all Protestants have done so in full light of scripture, thus, a full break from all Papal church dogma was never enacted by these. Nevertheless, some, in light of the scripture they had received, they clearly broke with the Papacy to the full extent of that received knowledge. Nevertheless, there are certain camps who never needed a breaking away from the Papacy, never being a part of it from the beginning. While it must be granted that not all of those never needing such a breaking away can be claimed as true believing assemblies, for some were never a part of Papal error directly but were camps or error in themselves, nonetheless, there has always been those never of Papal error who held to the truth of God's grace in Christ.

Before I even began an attempt to answer what I have implied in the "Title" of this message, let me give some personal background, lest any take clear advantage of my words. I was raised Baptist from my youth, yea, even from infancy I was taken to a Baptist assembly, and I was taught, indirectly mostly but directly at times as I was older, of my Baptist heritage. But lest any accuse me of favoritism because of my past I will share a few facts. (1) The Baptists of my upbringing were free will in doctrine, thus, actually Baptist in name only. One may be Baptist in immersion by water and certain church government policy, but yet be Papal or otherwise in the doctrine of salvation. This is not a true Baptist! Being a part of such a perverse Baptist camp I was never actually told the truth of the whole matter. While our associational Statement of Faith always indicated contrary to free will, we were free will, nonetheless. When I tried, after God had moved within my heart and mind in grace, to press these Statements of Faith as true, I was not only rebuffed but was told to GET OUT! Suffice it to say, the Baptists I knew were not on the top of my list of friends. Of course, I have since removed [or was forced to remove] myself from them, along with a small handful of others. Truly, I have no fond Baptist memories in my background! (2) Although I would be considered Baptistic and Calvinistic [Baptistic Calvinism existing long before the "Calvinistic" argument ever arose to form a particular camp surrounding five [5] specific points of scripture] by some I have ceased to use these titles to define the faith [the body of truth] to which I hold. There is no "Thus saith the LORD" for these expressions as being scriptural above all others, nor of these being scriptural while others are not. I am not ashamed if called either [Baptist or Calvinist], especially as they go together, but I am ashamed, and saddened, that many who profess these have given rise to Subtle Errors within the church of God. (3) Lest someone thinks my intent is to merely defend Baptists, let me say that John, the forerunner to Christ, was called THE Baptist. He was not a Baptist as we now know it, even in its most faithful form from years gone by. Moreover, Christ is the founder of the NT assembly, not John. Christ never baptized, although His disciples did, but even they were never called Baptists! Ever! They were not called, even in the derogatory sense, baptizers. Nowhere in scripture can it be found that the early believers in Christ ever named themselves with any proper name. Thus, my intent is not to defend Baptist against Protestant and the Papacy but to expose some subtle errors within some Baptist camps, although it saddens me that such would even be needed.

God's Church has never been, and should never be, given one proper name to describe them. God's Church is described in several ways based upon the eternal and immutable purpose of God, as -- by Christ: "My church" (Matt. 16:18); by Luke: "the church which was in Jerusalem" (Acts 11:22); by Paul: "the church of God" (Acts 20:28). Note that in the last passage Paul was moved by the Spirit of God to declare the Church as complete by blood, HAVING BEEN [which He (God) hath] purchased with His own blood (also cf. Rom. 8:29-30 and the tense of that passage). Some say this speaks of the Ephesian assembly only and others that it speaks in prospect of the church only. However, this passage indicates that the elect are considered by God as THE Church, even though their actual "calling out" is yet to occur in some cases. The teaching that the Church is local only is not valid. The CHURCH, thus, the whole body made up of individual members [not just the Ephesian assembly, nor local assemblies, nor the called elect] were purchased with God's own blood. Granted, the immediate context of Acts twenty (20) indicates Ephesian believers, but note: "...all the FLOCK...." Certainly the words "all the" refers directly to the saints at Ephesus. God did not make the Ephesian elders overseers of every individual believer of that time. However, is the FLOCK indicative of the Ephesian assembly only in an overall sense? If so, then did God purchase only the Ephesian flock? Of course not. Was the flock at Ephesus not the same as the flock of any other area? It was the same flock. Thus, we have sheep, purchased by God's blood, even before they hear and follow or are called out, though hear and follow they must, and hear and follow they shall to actually become an experiential part of the FLOCK (Jn. 10:16). Thus, there was to be, without failure, ONE FLOCK with ONE SHEPHERD, not several different flocks located in different areas who believe and practice the same thing. But here is the question -- When was the flock at Ephesus, as well as the flock located at, or to be located at, any other location, purchased? When Christ suffered in their stead! All the flock were purchased by God when God the Son shed His precious blood for them and offered Himself to God the Father on their behalf! They were purchased as the flock even before they had been called as the flock. If the Church is local [geographical] only then one CANNOT EVEN BE CALLED until they are a part of a local assembly, or to the least, cannot be a part of the Church (thus the sheep, thus the redeemed, thus, especially the called out) until they are called unto a local assembly. Christ died for the flock and the flock only. God CALLS OUT the sheep [the meaning of the word Church being "called out"] from the darkness of their natural depravity to seek and believe Christ's person and work as revealed in the gospel. They are not called to merely join unto a local assembly of others who were called to join unto a local assembly of others, and so forth. These may well join to the local assembly, and in God's own good time and providence they shall, but to make that a stipulation for being called out (thus, a part of the church) is none less than heresy! The Baptist Bride doctrine of some Baptists is not the truth of God. Some are far more subtle with this heresy than others, but either way is heresy. Heresy which creeps in the back door can be far more damaging for it generally goes undetected until its roots run deep and have spread themselves out. The elect equal the Church in exact number, the elect equal the body of Christ in exact number, the elect equal the bride of Christ in exact number, and so forth. Some may suggest that the number of believers grew in the church at Jerusalem and there was "...added to the church daily..." (Acts 2:47). Granted, those whom God was calling out and thus were being added to the local assembly at Jerusalem grew daily in the sense of that context. However, in a no less true sense, "the called" in God's eternal purpose can never be any number other than that exactly equal to the elect at any given time (Rom. 8:28-30). If the Church is Baptist then the redeemed are Baptist and the sheep are Baptist. This is Papal error with a different name. Baptist "Catholicism" is no less an error than is the Papal. Sadly, while never being a part of the Papal error itself as generally understood of Protestants, many Baptists, in laying hold of an error equal to the Papal error of the one universal Roman church, these claim a special lock on the truth of God as Baptists rather than Romish. THIS IS THE RESULT OF PAPAL INFLUENCE!

So then, when one thinks I am defending the Baptists based upon background they are dead wrong. Did all believers hold to the Baptist title? Of course not! Some were called Novatianists, others Waldenese, others Lollards, others Hussites, others anabaptists, and so on -- with others coming before, others being in between, and so on. Even some of the afore mentioned peoples seem to have had a very hard time with the truth of the grace of God in Christ. Were all immersionists [Baptist]? No! But many were. But even the Pentecostals could say they can trace their "immersion" all the way to the apostles, even their rebaptisms, although they cannot trace their particular denomination that far back. But the same must be said of Baptists. The Baptist denomination cannot be traced all the way back to the apostles. Were all these particular groups Baptistic in doctrine? Of course not, but BAPTISM deals with immersion itself, not the truth of God in the person and work of Christ. Some baptizers, even rebaptizers, were rank arminian free willers. Some in our day seem to have an affinity for H2O and the complete submersion therein. Is complete submersion the way of God? Of course! But to base a continual history of non-conformity to the great religious whore as being the distinction between her and true Zion, and thus the TRUE Church, on a full dunking or an actual dunking when a "misting" has taken place, this is none less than ignorance at best. We can drown the body in water, even in rejection of infant misting, but if one has not knowingly bowed to Christ by the work of God's grace even a good drowning in H2O, and the acceptance of the Baptistic doctrine from salvation to practice, will not suffice for membership in God's Church! God help Baptists to not be taken up with the giving of mental ascent to doctrine, even sound doctrine, as being the KEY to our distinction rather than belief in Christ which flows from a God given faith! The called out are distinguished by Christ Himself and their relationship to God through Christ by grace.

H2O is of vital importance to the human race, but immersion therein is not a condition of entrance into the kingdom of Christ or His church. Christ's kingdom, though certainly more than the church only, His kingdom is no less than the church for sure. Being born from above is the only condition [a condition met by God in free grace] to SEEING and ENTERING the kingdom of God. Being called out by God is certainly the only condition [a condition clearly met by God for He does the calling] to being called out and experiencing being a member of the church of God. The called are those called of God to the fellowship of His Son, not those called unto the fellowship of the Baptists.

Would I rebaptize the "misted" ignorant upon confession of faith in Christ? YES! Without a doubt! If they were dunked in water until their ears had filled with the fluid of H2O, and yet professed a false religion, would I seek their immersion based upon a profession of faith in the Messiah? Most certainly! I was truly baptized only after two (2) actual dunkings in water. But does my affinity to the Church of God began only after I had a good H2O submersion by a God called preacher? Of course not! There is no doubt that the God called preacher who baptized me is dear to my soul. That God called preacher is my friend and tutor in the faith under the Spirit of God, and my fellow and presiding elder in Christ's assembly at Crow, W.V. God has brought me to the church at Crow, W.V., but I was a member of the church (the called out) before I ever came to know my brothers and sisters who now meet at Crow. Peter declares to us that baptism is: "...the answer of a good conscience toward God." Thank God by His grace that a good conscience is freely given first! A good conscience is a called out conscience, a redeemed conscience, the conscience of one of God's regenerated, beloved ones who have heard the glory of Christ and believed Him! Paul said by the Spirit of God Himself: "...Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel..." (I Cor. 1:17). Some unwittingly charge Paul here with melodramatics as he attempted to quell contentions over baptism, but Paul meant exactly what he said. Would Paul have said Christ did send him to baptize if no contention were taking place in Corinth? Of course not. Because of the contentions he even thanked God he had only baptized a few, not because baptism was wrong, of course, but lest any say he baptized in his own name -- FOR -- now Paul gives the actual reason, Christ did not send him to baptize but to preach the gospel. The same must be said of any other ordinance or tradition in the church. When these become the standard then Nehushtan has had its head raised. If one were a WALDENSES, is that the same as being BAPTIST? The two words are not spelled the same way. They are not pronounced the same. They do not mean the same thing for they are not synonyms. They did not exist at the same time. If their doctrine was similar (and it was, but not exact) why do not those who call themselves Baptist today, who claim unbroken roots to the apostles, seek fellowship with, and in some cases actually deny fellowship with, those who are Waldenses in doctrine today although not Baptist in name? Why do they not call themselves Waldenses? Or some other earlier name? Sadly, it is because the term "BAPTIST" means more to them than the truth of God in Christ. Baptist POPES and CARDINALS are POPES and CARDINALS nonetheless! The supposed lock on God's grace and mercy as the church by some Baptists, because of a seven (7) letter word is the height of self righteousness. The subtle heresy here is that men are pointing to the so-called church rather than to Christ. The church, even the one and only true church, is not the way to Christ -- Christ is the only way into the church, both now and forever. If you do not believe some are so bent, just let them get started on the OLD CHURCH and you will see Nehushtan's raised head. Sadly, in some camps, church ordinances (those things one engages in because they are a part of the church, not to be a part of the church) have been reduced from their great privilege to mere ecclesiastical laws of acceptance before God and/or men. Those who endorse such are legalizers and they shall bear their own judgement, whosoever they be.

When a person teaches that being a part of a "true Baptist" assembly is to be the only true church that person has no basis in scripture for the teaching. Does anyone think the term "Baptist" would have been received by Paul the Apostle as an appropriate distinguishing mark? Of course it would not have been! When one teaches that being a "true Baptist" distinguishes the one true faithful assembly, again, no scripture can be given to support this. When one teaches that being a part of a "true Baptist" assembly which if faithfully practicing Baptist ways as being the guide to the fellowship worthiness of any local assembly, no scripture can be given to support this. Of course, all of these arguments for being such, some would say, are given from the idea of actually being "Baptistic" in accord with scripture and not just having the title. Yet, when pressed to the point many of these same persons are never found teaching or practicing other than a strict sectarianism within their own group called by their own name practicing what they say is necessary. They are reminiscent of the disciples who, upon seeing one cast out devils in Christ's name, they forbid him do so because he "followeth not us" (Mk. 9:38). Note even one portion of Christ's reply: "For he that is not against us is on our part" (vs. 40), if indeed he is engaged in naming the name of Christ. Thus, no one can take this to teach two separate groups among the elect of God -- the true received assembly and the others. A severe warning is given to those who refuse the receiving of children [immature ones] (Mk. 9:35-37). This incident brought about John's answer, and this is the context of our Lord's warning (vv. 39-50). Gifts were given to the church in the form of called servants, not because the church is mature, nor is she even established on maturity, but rather with the goal of maturity in mind having Christ as her Head (Eph. 4:1-16). Are incomplete assemblies true assemblies? Of course. If established by Christ! These are the only ones He establishes, for none are complete other than in their position in Christ. The idea that local assemblies can, and must, actually trace some unbroken, apostolic succession of their church down through the ages is false.

What others may call us, because of certain things to which we adhere, should never be a matter of shame for God's people. But God help us when we take these titles to ourselves and make them the standard. God's call is that His people "come out of her" who is His enemy (Rev. 18:4). Sadly, some have twisted this to say they must "come to us" if they are ever to be truly a part of God's called out ones. Also, if being "Baptist" rather than "Protestant" is key to being the church then one who is a part of she who is God's enemy now could never later be a part of His church. Even if they later became "Baptist" they are yet, and would always be, "Protesters." Are we then to say that this refers only to local churches themselves, Christ's churches being able to all trace their roots to the apostles as being "Baptistic"? Then we are back to square one having the denominational tag, because of certain practices rather than being called out unto faith in Christ's person and work, as the key or standard! The mind set of local churches only as being the church continually perpetuates the subtle error of "Baptist Catholicism." While the church (even in its local aspect based upon her doctrine) was never originally a part of the Papal error (because she preceded the Papal error and continued during the Papal error) this cannot be used to deny that Christ can establish a local assembly of believers in Christ from among those once a part of the Papal error, who can then trace her roots all the way back to Christ based upon their doctrine directly from scripture rather than indirectly through the supposed Baptist camp. Being able to trace one's roots all the way back to the pocket of the Apostles is of no value outside of Christ. Why would anyone seek to prove they are not Protestant but Baptist? There can be only one actual reason. They find comfort in their supposed background as their link to God rather than truly confessing that their actual background is one of personal rebellion against God and salvation by the free grace of God in Christ. Not one local church can trace their geographical roots all the way back to Christ. All we can trace to Christ is our doctrine. Although that doctrine may be new found for us, it is, of course, as old as time itself, yea, even eternal. To study the fact of God's church existing before the Papal error and enduring through that time is certainly of value, but it is not the standard of one's membership in the church. The often employed term for early Protestants being "Reformers" is indeed a misleading phrase. The Papacy, never being a part of the church of God, needed no reformation, and many reformers were misdirected in thinking they could take Rome back to the truth since she was never there to begin with. The church of God needs no reformation, and Reformed Baptist is no less a misleading phrase because an errant Baptist who again becomes a true Baptist has become nothing more than a Baptist. Being Baptist does not make one right in God's sight. Many churches may need instruction, improvement, and so on, but if established by God's grace in Christ they are the church. Reformation, however, is a human endeavor, but regeneration and conversion are the work of God within the soul of His people.

The word church has only one meaning as before stated -- called out. But the idea that the church is either local or universal, and it cannot be both, is based upon the predisposed opinions of men rather than the preponderant testimony of scripture. The word church is used to describe the total number of all God's elect (Eph. 5:25). In this passage, the sense it signifies is the calling out itself. However, Christ loved the church first, thus He gave Himself for it before some were actually called out in time. Some say this was in prospect of the elect becoming the church, but this is not what this scripture says. The church existed, in the mind and eternal purpose of God, as the church from all eternity. Paul did not write: "...even as Christ loved those who would be the church...." God did not give scripture so that we might read between the lines to form our own opinion. One can make the scripture say just about anything they wish with that kind of approach. The infallible nature of scripture itself, coming from the purpose of God as His revelation of Himself, reveals that God moved men to write exactly what God intended. When will men stop interpreting scripture to suit their own opinions? Only when God moves in grace! In the mind and eternal purpose of God all the elect are called (Rom. 8:30). Certainly the eternal purpose was in prospect of God's will being actually carried out in time, in its purposed order, but God's purpose is eternal as an established purpose (Eph. 3:11). The eternalness and certainty of God's purpose signifies something beyond the finite creatures ability to comprehend (Ecc. 3:15; Rom. 11:33-36), but it is revealed that men might fear before God (Ecc. 3:14). The word church is also used in a geographical sense (I Cor. 1:1-2). The local aspect of the word church signifies her uniting as the called out ones unto the Lord. However, one may be a professing member of the local aspect, and even be received as a member, and yet not be truly a member of the church which God purchased with His own blood. Christ the Lord said of the church: "...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). We also hear from Christ to the church in Laodicea that He would: "...spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16). Some may suggest these words were written to the angel (messenger) of Laodicea and they are correct, but the words are words said to the churches (Rev. 3:22). It was not the mere casting out of the messenger here but the actual vomiting up of the Laodicean church which was to come. Christ addresses them according to their profession, but also in light of the fact that some among them were truly His own, and He exposes the false profession of the rest (Rev. 3:19-21). Christ's own would repent, but the Laodicean church would be spued out nonetheless. The promise to the overcomers was not the continuation of the Laodicean church but the overcomers' siting with Christ on the throne. There is no need for reconciliation of the two different texts but merely taking God's word for what it says in its own context. Some, in trying to make every passage using the word church to mean the exact same signification, they have greatly erred from the faith. They would even teach that the spued out are loved and yet accepted by God. This is in rejection of the clear context of Revelation 3:14-22. Sadly, some Baptists view the subject of the church from a strictly Baptistic view of the church rather than from scripture and thus have infected themselves with a plethora of errors. While claiming to reject the Papal error [while making great boast to have never been a part of it] of the One Holy Catholic Church whose Graces must be met some have allowed themselves to be infected with a similar error -- The One Holy Baptist Church -- with the errors which naturally flow from such a perverted teaching.

There is only one true redeemed church which is visibly manifested in many localities, with the latter being addressed by locality in the singular sense when one was in question or as churches when more than one locality was in question. There is no dualism in this statement just as a man and woman coming together in marriage constitute one flesh. They are one flesh manifested in two people. My family after the flesh, especially those of like faith in Christ, we are truly one family manifested or seen in several different families. We did not become one family from many families coming together by a common bond. We were born one family who in God's providence have been separated by distance into different families who yet remain one family. There are no blood redeemed churches as such, but we were all redeemed as the one church of God. There are not several different bodies of Christ located in different localities. There is the one body of Christ manifested in its many members. Different localities of believers, being seperated by geography, are thus differently manifested bodies of the one, universal body of Christ. The body of Christ is His church (Col. 1:24). However, to approach the scripture with the view that the word church must always have the same signification is not so (see Acts 19:32,39,41). Thus the church is an assembly, and not always a Christ believing assembly. Even an unassembled assembly is called the church (Acts 8:3). The whole church gathered together at Jerusalem (Acts 15:2,22) and at Corinth (I Cor. 14:23) but yet we have every reason to believe that the whole church for whom Christ died was not gathered there.

The churches of God, in this plural description, are always addressed by God by geography. Never by any one doctrine or number of doctrines, never by any particular ordinance or practice, never under the name of men, EVER! So why do men do this, Protestant, Baptist or otherwise? They do it by human invention. Even when names or titles were given by others early believers never took these names or titles as their normal mode of defining themselves. The truth is, no matter what your background, being Baptist or Protestant gives NOT ONE INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS access to God. Christ alone is access to God. To know Him, yea rather, to be known of Him, goes far beyond being Protestant or Baptist. The church is not a Baptist church but the church of God. The church is Christ centered with Him as her only Head (Eph. 1:22-23). Even in its local aspect she is to be Christ centered, and anything which even seeks to compete with Christ is idolatry. Sadly, as Israel of old did, so do some today. Nehushtans have taken rise and the people worship them rather than God. Many subtle errors are thus worshiped rather than God: the church and her background; a long background in proper church ordinances; a long background in doctrinal accuracy; names given to God's people by others as a matter of scorn and reproof. These things, as well as the brazen serpent, were ordained of God, but they were never ordained as the center of faith and worship.

Will Baptists begin laying down their beloved title and seek their connection to God and His people, yea, His church, solely through Christ, even in its historical and doctrinal background? No! This will not happen. But here and there God in His grace is moving individuals and local assemblies to desire an actual "Thus saith the Lord" for their direction. The subtle error is manifested when you express to someone that you have thrown off the Baptist title and they respond with horror and dismay that you could even think of denigrating God's church. Have you denigrated God's church? Of course not. That one has not denigrated God's church even as Hezekiah did not denigrate God's ordination of the brasen serpent as a type of Christ when he broke it into pieces. But what you have done is shown your rejection of that which is most dear to their soul rather than their rejoicing being in the person and work of Christ. Dear reader, if you have stuck with me throughout this discourse I ask you this question. Is Christ and Him crucified most dear to your soul? If so, then let nothing, even things ordained directly by God but twisted by men, be allowed to come between you and your desire to know Him. Being a part of a Baptist assembly is by no means dangerous to the soul in and of itself, but being a part of one gives you no credit before the Almighty, even if you could trace your roots all the way back to the apostles. Nevertheless, being caught up with the subtle errors of some is, at best, a stumbling block to growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our blessings flow from Christ our Head whom God the Father has given all preeminence, to and in the church. To Him be ALL the glory, both now and forever. Amen.

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