A Charged Battery Or A Living Connection
"And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." (Acts 13:3)The older I get the more clear and simple some things become. I do not mean that all things are simple, but some things become so. For instance the division between the Biblical, historical Baptist position and that of the Old Catholics seems clearer than ever to me, both in areas of sotieriology and ecclesiology. Furthermore I see how that Protestantism and many so-called Baptists are shot through with ideas borrowed from the Harlot. Those are plain words, but is time, and past, that plainness of speech be used in combating compromise and false doctrine.
We Baptists just cannot seem to learn from history. We ought to know that whenever Baptists compromise, Baptists lose. We ought to look at history and learn that liberal and inclusive views only serve to undermine the truth and weaken the Lord's Churches. The "English experiment" with open communion ought to teach us that to leave off following the pattern of the Scriptures for the sake of fellowship with a wider range of brethren only results in the demise of Baptist Churches. We ought to be able to look at the pulpit affiliation of bygone days and see how much confusion this evil practice has bred. But we continue to sow, water, and cultivate the seeds of our own destruction. Today there are those who would have us believe that Churches are not necessarily involved in the Scriptural founding of new Churches. What they are doing is creating a hierarchy of ordained elders who they think are capable of doing the work Christ left to His Churches to do. Given enough time such a practice will eventually result in havoc in those Churches where this doctrine is tolerated. Perhaps we shall soon have a graduated ministry as elevated as any Romish or Protestant group in history.
Sacramentalism is the belief that grace and salvation are obtained or earned through physical acts such as eating bread and drinking wine or having a priest put water on a baby, etc. Some old-line Protestant groups openly espouse this view, although all of them claim to believe in salvation by grace. Nominal Baptists are not free from the taint of the old Harlot, for we have many today among the people called Baptists who also claim to believe in salvation by grace but who insist that some physical act performed by the sinner will bring about spiritual life. While once there were only the two divergent views, that of the Old Catholics and that of the Baptist forefathers, the one based on humanism and the other based on the Scriptures, in our day we have all shades and variations of compromised positions between the Catholic and the Baptist position. So, if you do not want to be identified with the unpopular Baptist position, you can choose any one of a multitude of compromises between that and the Catholic position. You do not need to align yourself with the Scriptures, just choose what you want to believe and you can find a "church" somewhere in the neighborhood that believes like you do and you will be welcome and comfortable there.
The Old Catholic system of works for salvation (Thomism or Arminianism) is not the only idea from the Harlot that is prevalent today. The Catholics argued that the bishop was the church and not that he existed for the benefit of the church. I see this same trend among some who yet call themselves Baptists in our own day. While Baptists have historically in the main believed that the authority for Christian work was in Christ and that He commissioned His Church and not individuals, that view is changing in some quarters. Some men want ordained elders to be viewed as separate entities from the churches; men who are above the judicial work of the churches; men who need no Church out of which to operate. Thus, in their eyes the ordained elder can do what Christ told His Churches to do. The ordained elder is the Church! He does not exist for the benefit of the Church, he is the Church or at least equal to the Church because he can do all that Christ commissioned His Church(es) to do.
Not too long ago I received an e-mail correspondence from a Brother (and I do regard him as a Brother in Christ) who is the pastor of what is at least called a Baptist Church. He wrote me among other things, the following sentences:
"First let me clear up some matters of misunderstanding. I do not believe that a mother church is necessary for a church to be a church, no one can show that from the word of God. However I do believe that scriptural baptism is necessary for a group of people to be formed into a church. I believe that authority is given in the ordination of a God called preacher and he has authority to start churches."
It is not my intention to argue the matter of the need for a mother Church. Every Church established in the New Testament which we know about was established by a man operating out of and in good standing with a previously existing Church which sent him to do the work he was doing: hence a "mother Church". I see this pattern so clearly that I am of the opinion that only willful ignorance would try to refute the concept that Churches bring forth Churches through the ordained men whom they send forth and who act with the authority of Christ through their home Church. If a man cannot be shown that from the Bible it is must be because his mind is already made up and set in concrete. I think such men cannot see because they will not see. I suspect they have a vested interest in another view and it might cost them too much to espouse the Bible view. It is useless to argue with one whose mind is already made up.
I wish to warn of a slightly different, though admittedly related danger. A careful and thoughtful reading of this Brother's words; noting that he wrote to clarify some things; indicates that this man views ordination in a completely different light than the Scriptures teach. If I may put it simply, he views ordination as if his "battery" were fully charged when the Church ordained him. He has no need of a Church any longer, for his "battery pack" is full and he can, evidently, spend the rest of his life preaching, baptizing, organizing (in his opinion) true churches, administering the Lord's Supper, etc. This Brother clearly states that he believes that the preacher was given authority at ordination. He fails to understand that delegated authority cannot be delegated! That is another subject, and one that needs to be understood. But it is important to note that in actuality (though it would not be admitted) this view makes the ordained preacher an entity to himself, no longer subject to the ordaining Church which is acting on the marching orders that Christ (who has authority) gave to her.
A thoughtful reading of the New Testament will disclose to the candid reader that when the Antioch Church ordained Barnabas and Saul (later Paul) these men did not become entities to themselves, acting apart from accountability or connection to that Church. Indeed they were acting on her behalf in all that they did and said, for it is the Church which does the work of Christ. They were not free lance preachers as this Brother seems to think is proper. They were arms and legs of that (local) Church body, if you please, reaching afar in doing the work Christ left to His Church. Indeed, they returned to that Church, reported to her and were, like all good Church members, subject to her. They could have been excluded had their conduct warranted it. So today, any sensible person will admit that a Church can, if necessary, exclude any member, even her pastor, for sufficient Biblical cause.
But this Catho-Baptist position regarding ordained men makes these men self-sufficient and free from the judicial work of any true Church. If, as the Brother wrote, "... . authority is given in the ordination of a God- called preacher and he has authority to start churches" this man is no longer in need of or subject to a Church. A true Church; even his ordaining Church; could not exclude him for heresy or for immorality and because his "battery pack" was fully charged at his ordination, he can continue to start true churches. He needs no real, living Church connection. He received authority at his ordination and that is that. That seems to me to be the clear position of the brethren who espouse this currently popular Catho-Baptist position. That seems to be the stated position of this Brother according to his words. They may not wish to admit it, but if the man received authority at his ordination, he needs no Church after he is ordained. After all, according to this view, his "battery pack" is fully charged with all the authority he will ever need!
To admit that exclusion from a true Church would nullify his ordination would be an admission that this Brother operated under Christ's authority through a "mother Church." Neither this Brother nor those like-minded with him will dare admit that at exclusion his "battery pack" would be drained of its authority. To do so would admit to the need of a "mother church." Those who try to hold the Catho-Baptist position - i.e. that authority is given to a man at ordination; are on the horns of a dilemma! But they created the dilemma by trying to maintain that a man can act for Christ apart from a living connection with a Church; a "mother church" if you please.
This Brother says he received authority at his ordination. Where did he get the idea that he got authority at ordination? The Bible says Christ has the authority and told His Church to carry on His work. The Bible says the Holy Ghost calls men to preach and that when the Church of which they are a member recognizes this and ordains them and sends them out, they are sent out by the Holy Ghost (see Acts 13:4). There is nothing here about getting a "battery charged" with authority! There is no idea in Scripture that those sent forth severed their relationship or responsibility as members subject to the judicial work of their "sending Church." There is no vertical transference of authority here. Christ has the authority and tells His Church(es) what to do. Churches do their work through their members and some members are to be set apart for special work!
To me the Biblical, historical Baptist view is best likened to having a living connection with Christ and His authority through whatever Church sends a man forth. This "living connection" is in contrast to the "fully charged battery pack" view. I suppose in our minds, for lack of a better picture, it might be likened to a heavy- duty extension cord; but that is not a living connection. Someone more medically inclined might find a better picture within the human body - i.e. that of connecting nerves, tissues, or even blood vessels. This would be more in line with the Scripture which likens a Church to a body having parts with different duties. In this scenario the authority comes from Christ the Head through the (local) Church which is pictured as His body to that member of the body whose job it is to serve as an ordained elder. But the simpler, more crude if you please, electrical cord will do for the present purposes. The ordained man has no authority apart from Christ. And that authority (Christ) spoke and told the Church(es) what to do. Thus the ordained man is subject to the executive and judicial work of the Church which sent him forth. He did not send himself forth. He is not an entity to himself. He is not self-sufficient. He is not free to do the executive work Christ left to His Churches nor the judicial work either! He cannot act apart from connection with a true Church and follow the New Testament pattern! This connection is membership and good standing (subjection to the Church). A fully charged battery of authority was NOT received at any New Testament ordination! Only the Harlot has produced such an idea of a man having authority independent of a New Testament Church.
It is interesting to me that those of us who hold to the idea that a man must act in connection with a previously existing Church are libeled as being popish or tending toward the Catholic position when in fact the Catholic position is that the authority is in the Bishop. The Catholics say, any informed person will know, that the Bishops, Cardinals, etc. make up the Church; not the unordained members. It is the Bishop who ordains priests and dedicates the altars in Romish assemblies. (Without an altar which has the Bishop's blessing and
has been given relics from the Bishop there can be no Mass and no Mass means to a Catholic no church!) Titles to Catholic properties are vested in the Bishop. Thus they govern apart from a vote of the membership. The actual popish or Catholic position is that position espoused by the Brother quoted above. For he has set himself and all ordained men above the (local) Church, exempted himself and all ordained men from the executive and judicial work of the Church, and made himself self sufficient. He needs no living connection with a Church. His battery is fully charged and he thinks he can do the work only men with a living connection to Christ could do in the New Testament.
And so we are presented in our day with another deception straight from the old Harlot herself and swallowed eagerly by those who do not want to be subject to a true Church of Christ. Brethren, these are evil days and it seems to me they are the closing days of the mess man has made of this world. We shall surely stand before the Great Head of the Church one day. Let us be faithful to follow the pattern of the New Testament. Ordination does not confer authority, it is the recognition by a Church of the call of the Holy Ghost on a man. It is the Church setting that man apart for special work, but that man cannot divest himself of a connection with a true Church and do the work of Christ. For Christ gave His Church the work to do and every ordained elder is just as subject to the Church of which he is a member as any other member.
It is "in the church" that Christ receives glory, not in the work of free lance men whose "battery" was fully charged at ordination and who operate or think they can operate apart from one of the Lord's true Churches. Let us continue as our forefathers have done - that is in the pattern set forth for us in the New Testament. Let these Catho-Baptist brethren say and do what they will. Surely we cannot go wrong following the New Testament.