Elder Oscar B. Mink
Now In Glory
Having been asked by the author to write an introduction to the following treatise, I do now humbly and prayerfully undertake this great task. May God be gracious to me.
There is some degree of heaviness of heart now felt, for many dear brethren who are well loved by the author, and by myself are either directly or indirectly involved in what I believe is a grave error concerning the matter of the authority to baptize. And it seems to me that the fearful times in which we live are accelerating many of God’s dear children into error upon error.
The author has dealt with the subject matter in a manner that I have perceived as being in the highest human expression of love and compassion for brethren, while at the same time showing an earnestness for holding God’s precious provisions for the well-being of His blood bought saints before us. He seems to me to be seeking to magnify God and to maintain before us all His blessed and unchanging order of things.
Being enabled to see my own inabilities to some feeble degree, I readily concede there is always the tendency for saved sinners to plunge into the deep distresses of error. This is not admitted easily, nor will it take anyone by surprise. I am sure that those of you who know me will confess that I fail often, and many times very grievously. May God forgive me, and all of you who have this propensity to err.
My purpose, therefore, is not to take anyone to task, nor to chastise. Rather, it is to exhort, and to lift up those who may be beset with this particular evil. My purpose is to ask all brethren everywhere to consider carefully what the author has presented, and in light of Scripture, judge the work accordingly. Having thus judged, may we be given grace to ask for grace to come back to the Old Landmarks, and walk therein.
I concur that Scripture clearly and unmistakenly declares that authority has been assigned to the Lord’s New Testament churches, and that it is only assumed to have been given to the ordained among the ministry of those churches. The authority to baptize cannot be delegated, nor can the responsibility to do so be abdicated. The commission that the Head of the churches gave requires that this ordinance be kept and practiced in all its purity. Neither can this authority be usurped.
Please consider the Scriptural teaching on this awesome responsibility, and come back dear brethren. I beg you, heed this plea and come back. Come back!
“Christ built His church, committed to it the ordinances, and since that day the authority to baptize and to administer the Lord’s Supper resides in the church that Jesus built, not in any priest or preacher on the face of the earth, but in the church.” William Manlius Nevins,Alien Baptism and the Baptists, page 33.
Pastor Wm. Doyal Thomas
BAPTISM: PREACHER OR CHURCH ORDINANCE?
Elder Oscar B. Mink
Now In Glory
“And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway,even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
BAPTISM: APOSTOLIC OR CHURCH COMMISSION?
It is the consensus of New Testament Baptists, and they have declared with one voice that the mission to baptize referred to in the above text was given to the church. This truth is made noon day clear from the fact that not one of the apostles ever claimed to have authority to baptize independently of the church. It is not denied that the commission was given to the apostles, but it is denied that the commission was given to them as individuals. The apostles were the first members of the New Testament church (I Corinthians 12:28), and it was to the first Baptist church Christ spoke, saying, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them ...”
The apostolic office and commission was for the duration of the life of those ordained to the office, and the apostolic office reached its terminus and cessation with the death of the apostle John around the year 96 A.D.. John was the last of the apostles to die, and the doctrine of apostolic succession propagated by Romanism and given acquiescence by some pope-eyed Baptists (?), is utterly alien to the holy Scriptures. Conversely, it is incontrovertibly taught in Scripture and particularly in the last three verses of Matthew chapter 28 that the commission to baptize is age long. Thus, it is seen that the commission to baptize is perpetual, “even unto the end of the age,” and necessitates the age long existence of the church, which is the exclusive means of conveying the ordinance of baptism.
The commission to baptize is an additional charge, a charge given to an authority above or superior to that of the apostolic office, and the only authority excelling that of the apostles was that of the church. Ecclesiastically speaking there is not anything on earth superior to the local church. The church has no power whatsoever to legislate a single law or ordinance, but the church was appointed by the sovereign and eternal Testator to be the executor of His will concerning all that is ecclesiastical in this present age. It was to the church, Christ said, “Teach and keep all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). The apostles recognized the authority vested in the church by its Head, Jesus Christ, and never once questioned that authority.
Christ said of the church, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Herein is the irrevocable guarantee of age long perpetuity of the church and the exercise of its baptismal authority, for church perpetuity cannot be realized apart from the proper administration of the baptismal ordinance. The apostolic office had no such guarantee of baptismal authority, and in due season the need for official apostleship expired and the office became extinct in the earth. Not only was the church guaranteed age long existence, but it was promised age long success. Christ said to His church, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me ... unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This prophecy has been brought to fruition, not by the continuity of the apostolic office, but it is owing to the everyday presence of the Lord with His church.
BAPTISM: STRICTLY A LOCAL CHURCH ORDINANCE
The chief purpose of this writing is to irrefutably prove from Scripture and church history that the authority to baptize does not merely reside in the local New Testament Baptist church, but that the authority to baptize is unalterably restricted to the local church. If Baptists surrender this principle, they surrender all. The acceptance as valid baptism which has been performed beyond the immediate authority of a local New Testament Baptist church, or by a supposed admixture of plural church authority is to open the door to many absurdities and hurtful errors.
No ecclesiastical authority higher than that of the local church is recognized in the New Testament. But even this authority has its limits; it is restricted to the confines of the immediate church. And since the church has NO authority outside of its own body, the church must receive the candidate for baptism by its own independent authority. The doctrine of absolute church independence is to be guardedly cherished, and the least infringement thereon is to be considered a crime of great magnitude.
It is accepted as an axiom by all true Baptists that the church which Jesus organized during the time of His incarnation on earth was vested with the power and authority to administer the ordinances, and there is no record in the New Testament where any of the Lord’s churches ever lost the ability or authority to administer the ordinances. It is revealed in holy writ that some of the churches which were properly organized imbibed many grievous errors, of which the church at Corinth seems to have surpassed them all. Yet, it was to the weak and unstable church at Corinth, Paul said; “Keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (I Corinthians 11:2.
Seeing then that the commission was given to the original church, that is to a particular and individual church, and seeing that this church is the model for all others and that it did not go outside of its own membership for assistance in carrying out the ordinances; it would be, to say the least, a demeaning deviation for a church in the succeeding line of the original model to solicit the aid of another church in administering the ordinance of baptism.
When a Baptist church is organized it assumes responsibility for carrying out the commission, and the baptizing of disciples is a paramount part of that commission. John the Baptist had a special and direct commission from God to baptize, and John’s commission was not transferable or delegable. John zealously assumed his divinely bestowed mission to baptize, and never once asked any other person to take any part of his ministry or to become a substitute for him in his work of baptizing. Like John, the church received a special and direct commission to baptize from no less of an authority than that from which John received his. Jesus appointed a mountain where He would meet with His church, and being clothed with all the authority of heaven and earth, He met with and gave the geographically unlimited commission to baptize to His church (Matthew 28:17-20). And like John, not once did any of the New Testament churches deny or claim impairment of ability to discharge their obligation to baptize, and it is highly unreasonable to suppose that two or more of the New Testament churches held a union meeting to which the churches involved brought their baptismal candidates, and had one of the more famous preachers of their time to do the baptizing for them. Yet, this is precisely the biblical precedent that is needed and goes wanting in what is being practiced by some contemporary New Testament Baptist churches.
There is not, never was, nor can there ever be such a thing as bilateral independence or autonomy. Whatever the enterprise may be, bilateralism demands a measure of compromise of the independence of the parties involved in it. The government of the Lord’s churches is independently democratic, and allows for no official inroads or out-roads. As to polity, the church never needs to consult but one party, and that is the voting majority of its membership. All the governmental actions of a Baptist church are unilateral. Official bilateralism is not only incongruous to the nature of the Lord’s churches, but is a big step toward the undoing of the churches who suppose it to be effected.
No assignment was given to the church by its Head, which the local church cannot discharge in and by its own strength. Each and every New Testament church has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17), and to seek help as though necessary to perform that which has been peculiarly and exclusively committed to the local church would be to question the wisdom of God, and would border on a denial of the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit. Such action, to say the least, is extremely dangerous, and calls for a rebuke from the Head of the church. A church set up by Jesus Christ and honored with His unfailing presence will without a single hiatus have ability to baptize all who apply to it for baptism.
When two churches take official parts in administering the ordinance of baptism to one candidate, whether intended or not, the two churches become an ecclesiastical association. If two churches can Biblically function in this manner, what is wrong in three, five, ten, etc. etc. churches doing the same? If two churches can do it, so can two hundred churches, all having voted in their respective capacitance to have a member of another church act for them in administering the ordinance of baptism.
Pluralistic church authority in administering baptism could greatly reduce the need of foreign missionaries, for one missionary with the approval of his home church coupled with that of all his supporting churches, could baptize for and organize churches for his home church and all supporting churches. If the practice of pluralistic church authority in administering the ordinance of baptism has Scriptural support, it does not seem fair that all the churches which the foreign missionary organizes be out of his home church, when as a rule ninety percent of his financial support comes from outside his home church. If pluralistic authority is valid, why not make all the supporting churches more directly involved in the missionary’s work by baptizing for them all, and if possible organize at least one church for each of the supporting churches?
Is baptism a picture or symbol of the redeeming work of Christ? True Baptists everywhere answer with a resounding affirmative. Then I ask, “Did Christ have a co-sponsor in His work of redemption?” The answer of Baptists to this question is a vociferous and unequivocal, No? Then I ask, “Why should the local Baptist church to whom is committed the keeping of the ordinance of baptism go outside of its own membership to seek an agent to act for it in administering the ordinance, which is divinely given to its jurisdiction?” The baptismal symbol being thusly forced portrays more than what is necessary, and spawns an unintended, but nevertheless a degrading inference as to the perfect and unassisted redemption of Christ.
They who advocate pluralistic authority in administering the ordinance of baptism, and the necessity of a formally ordained Baptist minister to act as agent in the immersion of the baptismal candidate; must show or give evidence from Scripture that the authority to baptize is transferable from a church to its ordained ministry and hence unto another church. Any effort to provide the scriptural evidence for such an action would be an exercise in futility, for the necessary proof which would give authentication to the practice is not even hinted at in Scripture.
The nature of the Lord’s churches is such that they never need to borrow officiality from any sister church. The church who attempts to do so openly admits that it is not at the time an autonomous entity, and for the time they are without an officially ordained ministry are deprived of the authority to disciple and to baptize, for discipling and baptism are inseparably connected in the commission given the church by its omniscient Head.
Baptists believe that a New Testament church is a body of baptized believers, ecclesiastically independent of all other religious bodies, and fully able to administer its own affairs under the Headship of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22). J. M. Pendleton says, “That the power of a church cannot be transferred or alienated, and that church action is final. The power of a church cannot be delegated. There may be messengers of a church, but there can be no delegates in the ordinary sense of the term... No church can empower any man, or body of men, to do anything which will impair its independency” (Pendleton’s Church Manual, Page 102 - Item 3). The contention for pluralistic authority in administering baptism is to contend for and promulgate a doctrine that is close akin to the repulsive doctrine of universal churchism. The pluralistic authority doctrine teaches that the authority to baptize was given to the institutional church; that is to the aggregate bodies of Christ. Such a teaching may not be intended by those who baptize outside of their immediate church, but there is a sense wherein the erroneous doctrine is commended by the practice of pluralistic authority.
“Baptism is an ordinance of, and in, each local church; not of the kingdom” (J. R. Graves, Old Landmarkism - Page 28). The term “kingdom” in this statement by Graves is meant the institutional church, and is thusly stated in the context from which the quote is taken. So it is in this particular, all who believe that baptism is strictly a local church ordinance can identify with this great champion of the faith, the illustrious, J. R. Graves.
I have with the upmost diligence searched the Scriptures, and nowhere in them have I found where the local church needed or asked for any help outside of its immediate membership in administering the ordinance of baptism. All the ability necessary to Scripturally baptize comes with the organization of each New Testament church, and this ability inherently resides with all of the Lord’s churches. It is agreed by true Baptists, even unto the uttermost peripheral that the church has the power and authority to ordain its own officers, and that official church existence is an absolute prerequisite to the call of a pastor. With this premise I know of no variance among Baptists, and acknowledging that it is Scripturally supported, I ask; seeing then that a church must need exist before it can call a pastor, “Is the church at the time of its organization to assume full responsibility for carrying out the commission given it by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20)?” To ask the question is to answer it in the positive.
The day a true church is conceived is the day it becomes responsible to preach all the counsel of God; and baptism is an emphatic part of the divine counsel which every New Testament church is to preach. The responsibility to baptize comes with day one of the existence of every Holy Spirit wrought church, and this God given responsibility is not to be held in abeyance until the church is given a formally ordained pastor. The interim as a rule between church inception and that of an ordained pastor in place is brief, but regretfully there are many exceptions to this rule, and to further compound the problem of rule exceptions, many of the Lord’s pastorless churches are hundreds of miles removed from all sister churches. To contend in such cases as the exception stated above that the pastorless church has not the authority to baptize those whom it has effectually discipled would be to stultify or be repressive of the evangelistic spirit of the church. Not only would the delay in baptizing those who have applied to the church for baptism be fearfully detrimental to the spiritual health of the church, but it would be an unwarranted setting aside of an inflexible Scriptural rule and example, the rule and example where of I speak being, all New Testament believers upon profession of their faith were immediately baptized.
However, there is no need for the above mentioned delay in administering the ordinance of baptism, for the authority lies with the church, and not in its ordained ministry. This does not mean, even by the farthest stretch of the imagination that it is not important who the agent is that baptizes for the church. It is readily and correctly conceded that the pastor is the MOST proper person to baptize for the church, and when the pastor is willing, able, and available, to function in immersing the baptismal candidates for the church, he should NEVER be by-passed in this high honor. It is first the pastor’s privilege and obligation to act as the agent of the church in administering the ordinance of baptism, and this particular agency does not pass from the pastor’s province except he becomes physically unable or spiritually disqualified. But when such liability deprives the church of its pastor, then and during the pastorless interim the church may exercise its heaven bestowed authority, and select a godly male member to immerse its baptismal candidates. Again, let me say for emphasis sake, all honor accorded the pastoral office by the Scriptures should be gladly and at once granted the pastor whom the Lord has given the church. The superior distinction conferred on the pastoral office by the Head of the church would be immeasurably negated by a church who passes over their pastor for another man to stand in his place in the baptistery, that is, when the pastor is qualified and able to perform this duty. Such action by the church, even though the pastoral substitute be highly esteemed in the church, would be an affront to God, infinitely humiliating to the pastor, and would reduce the pastoral office of said church to a mere figurehead. God forbid that any of His churches would act so unwisely.
BAPTISM: A CHURCH ORDINANCE, NOT A PREACHER ORDINANCE
In matters of discipline, the Lord said, “Tell it unto the church” (Matthew 18:17). This immutable mandate is applicable to all the Lord’s churches, and is to be adhered to by them during their earthly existence. The question which logically follows is, does the disciplinary responsibility of the church cease at the time it becomes pastorless? To be consistent, all who insist that baptism performed by a Baptist church without the benefit of an ordained minister is invalid, would have to answer the question with an explicit, “Yes.” For to say that the commission was given to the church, and that the church which is devoid of an ordained pastor cannot of itself add to its membership by baptism, is in essence to say, being without the benefit of an ordained pastor the church cannot practice excisive discipline. Which would in effect, soon bring the church to ruin. In order to preserve the purity of His church, and to guarantee its perpetuity unto the end of the age, the Lord endowed it with the power to attract all who will be a part of His blemishless bride and power to repel or purge from the bride every spot or person that would bedim her glory. The exercise of the aforementioned powers is not conditioned upon the church having an ordained pastor, but upon the faithfulness of the church to Him who purchased her with H is own blood. Offending members of the church who snub the law of reconciliation as delineated in Matthew 18:15-17, must answer to the church, and they who would become members of the Lord’s church can only realize their desire by making petition to the church. All Baptists agree it would be better for the church to have a pastor to baptize for it, and to lead the church when invoking its disciplinary authority, but an ordained minister is not absolutely essential to the receiving of members by baptism, or the exclusion of offending and irreconcilable members.
The church which wittingly or unwittingly restricts its baptismal agency to formally ordained ministers forfeits its own authority in determining who shall or shall not be baptized into its membership. If a church cannot baptize without an ordained minister, it unavoidably follows that the church cannot baptize with an ordained minister unless he agrees to do so. Thus, in strict and final analysis it is clearly seen that the ordinance of baptism is taken out of the hands of the church, and given to the pastor. The church is to see that it does not usurp the authority of the pastor, on the other hand and vitally more important, the pastor is to exercise the upmost care in seeing that he does not usurp the authority of the church. The viability of the church depends on keeping the authority of the pastor and church in proper balance, and the pastor who acknowledges that his authority is subordinate to that of the church and submits thereto greatly enhances his leadership calling.
The ordinance of baptism was not given to the eleven (Matthew 28:19), as ordained elders, but as baptized disciples in official church capacity. This is no hypothesis, but a maxim accepted everywhere by Landmark Baptists. Therefore, it can be said without fear of contradiction, all Scriptural baptism administered in New Testament times was by a regularly baptized church member. But it cannot be said without depending greatly upon assumption that all Scriptural baptism administered in New Testament times was performed by an ordained minister. And let us remember, a thousand assumptions do not equal one truth.
The contention that Ananias who baptized Paul (Acts 9) was an ordained minister has for its ultimate defense, assumption only. It is pure assumption to say the twelve apostles baptized the three thousand that was added to the church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), but it is perfectly safe to say they were baptized by authorized members of the church. To say that Peter baptized Cornelius and his household is to read something into the Scripture that is not there. It is not clear from the record (Acts 10) whether Peter or the six brethren who accompanied him did the baptizing. But it is within Scriptural bounds to say, Cornelius and his household was baptized by church authority whether or not it was Peter that immersed them.
Who baptized the twelve disciples referred to in Acts 19? Was it Paul, or Apollos, or some other brother? The Scriptures do not say who it was that administered Scriptural baptism to them, but in light ofI Corinthians 1:13-17 the strong probability is that Paul did not baptize them. We are left to assumption as to who the person or persons was that actually baptized them, but no assumption is needed to affirm that church authority was in place, and whether or not Paul baptized them or some un-ordained brother, their baptism was Biblically administered.
There are other cases in the New Testament where people were Scripturally baptized without a positive declaration that the administrator was an ordained minister. But further multiplying of doubtful cases where assumption must be depended upon for baptismal validity would be vain if the foregoing mentioned is not sufficient to gender doubt as to the imperative need of an ordained administrator to effect proper baptism. The plea or argument made in this treatise is not that the church can justly or deliberately shun its willing, able, and available pastor and habitually opt for another male member, be he ordained or not, to administer the ordinance of baptism for the church. While there is, indeed, no explicit divine precept which disallows the church in unusual circumstances to select a male member in good standing to administer the ordinance for it, the New Testament example, while not complete and invariable, is of such magnitude as to leave the church without an alternative in the matter while it has a qualified pastor.
It is true that some early American Landmark Baptists contended that the validity of baptism necessitated an ordained administrator; but this was the time of Baptist associational beginnings in this country, and in the main it was the Associations and their ministerial hierarchies that resolved disputes in the churches, and handed down to the churches official answers to all their theological questions.
These associations made up primarily of ordained ministers, lorded it over God’s heritage by dictating much of the policy of the churches comprising their Associations. Ecclesiastical mission boards, conventions, and associations are not merely extra-Scriptural or un-Scriptural, but are anti-Scriptural. There is no basis in Scripture for their existence, and in the exercise of their power over the churches they assume much of the Headship that belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ. A church cannot belong to an association and be autonomous at the same time. An associational edict cannot be handed down to the local church without contravening the law of God, and any legislation in violation of God’s law is perilously illegal and should be consistently opposed.
Ecclesiastical associationalism is the product of a departure from the plain, simple, independent, self-governing polity of the local church. This departure has found near full expression in the Roman and Anglican churches, and Baptist Associationalism is close akin to the episcopacy of these heretical churches. A brief and honest study of the history of Baptist Associationalism in America will bring the student to the conclusion that it was and is a government of preachers or bishops, and rest assured no ruling party is going to legislate laws or hand down decisions contrary to their own ambition, or exalted status.
So it was, when the early American Baptist Associations were asked the question of Scriptural authority in baptism, many of them said it was necessary that the administrator be a formally ordained Baptist minister. The Concord Association of Louisiana says in Article 4 of their Confession of Faith: “We believe that believers are the only proper subjects; and immersion the only Scriptural action of baptism; and the only legal administrators of the ordinance are the regularly ordained ministers of the gospel in full fellowship in and with the United Baptists.” This they said in 1832, History Louisiana Baptists, Page 246. In this article the power of the Association over its churches is clearly demonstrated. Not only does the Association hinge the validity of baptism upon the extra-Scriptural requirement of an ordained administrator, but the article demands that the administrator be in FULL fellowship with the Association. It is this kind of Associationalism that spawned the Southern Baptist Convention and its despotic rule over member churches. But in the beginning it was not so, as is seen from the following quote:
“During the rise and growth of these corruptions, the churches for three centuries remained as originally formed, independent of each other, and were united by no tie but that of charity: while they were so constituted, corrupt practices did not prevail in some to the same extent as in others, particularly in those communities situated in the country, where objects stimulating ministers to rivalship, seldom presented themselves” (A Concise History of Baptists, Page 31 - G. H. Orchard).
Associationalism being anti-Scriptural is in the spiritual sense a Pandora’s Box out of which comes all kinds of church ills. This is not to say all that the associations did was evil, but it is to say, all that any organization does to circumscribe the independence of the local church is an attempt to rob God of the glory which belongs to Him in His blood bought churches (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 3:21). The local church is “the pillar and ground of the truth,” not the Association, (I Timothy 3:15).
Independent Baptists endeavor to discourage pomp and ceremony within their churches. They are exceedingly careful in keeping their dogmatism out of shaded areas. Over and against these safeguards is the imperativeness placed on formal ordination of the administrator of baptism. The absoluteness of the formal ordination position places on the shoulders of Baptists a historical burden they cannot bear. It makes the claim of Baptist church succession or perpetuity to carry the back breaking proof, not only of an unbroken line of baptisms, but also link by link connection in the chain of formal ordination of administrators of baptism. Baptist history has never shackled itself with this unnecessary burden, and the Baptist wide, age long, and consistent disclaimer of Baptist history, is: “All that Baptists mean by church ‘succession,’ or church perpetuity, is: There has never been a day since the organization of the first New Testament church in which there was no genuine church of the New Testament existing on earth.” (Baptist Church Perpetuity, Page 3, Chapter 1 - W. A. Jarrel)
“Every minister is equal in point of privilege with every other member of the church; but as minister in his official capacity, he is subject to, and inferior to the church. His individual acts or decisions have no more binding force than those of any other member” (D. B. Ray - Baptist Succession, page 234).
As to the administrator of baptism, A. C. Dayton says: “We have, on our part, taken it for granted that the Church may appoint any member she pleases to administer the rite. We only contend that she shall not go outside the Church ...” (Alien Baptism - page 1 66).
Speaking of baptism and the Lord’s supper, J. R. Graves comments, “They can be administered only by the organization as such, and when duly assembled, and by its own officers or those she may appoint, pro tempore” (Old Landmarkism, page 39). In the same volume, he further says, “A church is alone authorized to receive, to discipline, and to exclude her own members. This power with all her other prerogatives, is delegated to her, and it is her bounden duty to exercise it; she cannot delegate her prerogatives... What is delegated cannot be delegated ... A minister, therefore, has no right, because ordained, to decide who are qualified to receive baptism and to administer it ... A distinguished scholar in the South, in order to find a ground upon which to unite the advocates of ministerial authority to baptize whom they will, and the advocates of church authority alone, proposes that the pastor be allowed the veto power; i.e., the right to reject whom he pleases. This would virtually place the keys of the church door, and all the ordinances of the church in the hands of the pastor, and put the whole church at his feet. He would be a petty pope indeed, and no pope ever had more control of the ordinances than he would have. Nor would he be long in making his power felt; his arrogance and self-sufficiency as well.” (Pages 37 & 38)
Hezekiah Harvey (1821-1983), a Baptist of great repute, says: ‘There is no express command, nor absolutely decisive example, restricting the administration of the ordinances to the ministry” (The Church, Page 71).
It behooves Baptist churches to lay aside every weight and shackle that doth so easily beset them, and to go on with the business of making and baptizing disciples. This is the responsibility of every New Testament church. The local church is to keep the ordinances as they were delivered, and the least modification is disallowed. It is more especially the duty of every God called minister to see to it that he does not become the vitiator of the ordinances, for to pervert that which he is, above all other people called to protect, would border on treasonable conduct.
BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER - LOCAL CHURCH ORDINANCES
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the local church, and are in their every aspect restricted to the sacred enclosure of the administering church. Concerning the Supper the Bible demands strict or closed communion. Members of other churches are not permitted to take the least part in the communion service of another church. There is neither Scriptural precept nor example which allows a member from another church to partake of the elements of the communion table of a sister church, or to officiate at the table of a sister church. With this assertion, as far as my knowledge goes, complete unanimity prevails among contemporary Baptists, for I have not read nor heard where any present day New Testament church went beyond their own immediate membership for help so as to give validity to their observance of the Supper. I ask then, should there be less strictness in administering the ordinance of baptism, which ordinance is a compulsory prerequisite for admission to the Lord’s table? Certainly not.
Once again I quote J. R. Graves, who is one of Landmark Baptists greatest and forcible writers. Brother Graves says: “To each local church is committed the sole administration and guardianship of the ordinances. This will not be questioned, save by a few who hold that baptism, at least, was committed to the ministry as such; that they alone are responsible for its proper administration ... All the instructions and directions, both as respects the doctrine and the ordinances, Paul delivered, not to the ministry, but to the churches.
It would be useless to reason with those who could deny, with these Scriptures before their eyes, that the ordinances were not delivered in sacred trust to the churches, as such, and not to their officers; and that they are held responsible for their right observance” (The Lord’s Supper a Church Ordinance, pages 11-13). On page fifteen of this same book, Elder Graves says, “My privileges are limited to my church.” Every Landmark Baptist should have a copy of this book in their possession.
It is nowhere revealed in the New Testament who administered the Lord’s Supper in the apostolic churches, but it is clearly stated therein that the authority to administer the ordinance belonged exclusively to the local church. The primary ordinance Paul had in mind when he spoke to the Corinthian church, saying, “Keep the ordinances, as I deliveredthem to you,” was the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:2).
Near the close of the first century ministers had already begun to lord it over God’s heritage (3 John 9-11). By the third century many of the churches had gone into apostasy, and one of the early errors of those who departed the faith was that the administration of the ordinances required ordained officiants. As to the Lord’s Supper, their cry was, “No ordination, no validity.” This view gradually became popular, and those who presided at the Lord’s Supper were called “priests” who had special powers. This eventually led to church hierarchies, popedom, and transubstantiation.
Concurrent with this development there were the Lord’s churches who kept the faith once delivered to them, and protested against the arrogant assumption of a special priesthood. Baptist churches ordain their ministers, but the laying on of hands by the church does not give him monopolistic authority over the ordinances of the church.
The ministry in its official exercise is a function which belongs to the church of its membership. Administering the ordinances is certainly a part of the ministerial function, but not in the absolute sense. As in all situations it is the consent of the majority that determines the course of action to be taken by the church, and when the services of the pastor cannot be obtained, the church may without sacrificing any measure of validity or efficacy connected with the ordinances, select a ministrant from its membership to act pro-tem in administering the ordinances.
Let us adhere with an undeviating tenacity to all Scriptural requirements in observing the ordinances, but let us not go beyond the inspired record, and unduly overload the ordinances, or become so preoccupied with outward forms that the real significance of the Lord’s Supper as proclamation of the Gospel is lost.
In saying “the ministry in its official exercise is a function which belongs to the church of its membership” is not to say the pastor cannot preach for and fellowship with other churches of like faith and order, nor is it to say he cannot act as an advisor to other churches. Such conduct by churches and pastors is common to the New Testament. But it is to say, a pastor of one church has not the right to cross the demarcation lines of another church, which God has set in each of His churches to keep the ordinances pure.
The husband is the divinely appointed head of the family of which he is a member (I Corinthians 11:3), and unless he is a bigamist, he realizes that his headship is restricted to his immediate family. Being mentally sane, he would not think for a moment of going over to the family next door, who through some means or another has been deprived of husband and father, and try to tell the family it has no right or ability to officially appoint one of its members to act for the whole family in civil or legal matters. In our crumbling society the family unit has lost much of its cohesiveness, and has been governmentally inhibited in the practice of many of its God given rights, but it is yet legal for the family to choose from its membership one to act as its executor. It is also the intrinsic right of a New Testament church while pastorless to appoint a moderator, and endow him with temporary authority to administer the ordinances of the church. In so doing the church would prevent a floundering period, and it can act thusly without unscriptural anomaly.
The Lord’s Supper and Baptism was given by Christ to the local independent Baptist church, and made observingly immune to the interdependence of churches. “The local church is the only body known to the Scriptures which has any competency or jurisdiction in the government of her two ordinances” (George W. Truett- The Supper of Our Lord, pages 20 and 21). Official interdependence of churches is alien to the Scriptures. Interdependency of churches is an expediency which must stop short of interfering with the office work of the local church, and when it exceeds that limit, it not only becomes excessive, but is potentially disastrous to the affected church. Interdependence can be complimentary to or healthy for the Lord’s churches, but if left unchecked, it could lead to not only inter-church baptism, but also inter-church communion.
Baptism is the door into the church, and when the Lord gave the commission to baptize to the local church, He gave it infrangible authority over its own door. Baptism being a prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper, and being thusly connected, the church which seeks external help in opening its own door, declares a weakness in and of itself to provide Supper participants.
That true churches have no disciplinary power beyond the bounds of their own membership is a fact readily acknowledged by Baptists, and with harmony and undeviating strictness these bounds are honored by the Lord’s churches. Nevertheless, pastors who baptize for churches other than their own and the churches for whom they baptize are faced with a dilemma as respects discipline. THE DILEMMA: whose discipline is the minister under when baptizing for a church other than the one of his membership? If he is under the disciplinary authority of his home church, then the other church(es) for whom he baptizes has a man officially acting for them in their church body over whom they have no disciplinary authority. If it is said, the minister who baptizes for a church other than his own is under the discipline of each respective church for whom he baptizes, then the church for whom he baptizes and is not a member of, may exercise discipline over a person who is not a member of their immediate church. To avoid this dilemma, let each local church keep the ordinances as they were delivered by the Head of the church, and that is in the particular jurisdiction of each church.
THE BAPTISMAL PICTURE
Baptism is a symbol or picture of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a picture of the Lord in His sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection, whereby His people are redeemed and justified. He gave this picture to His bride, that is, the local church. He charged His bride to keep it as He delivered it to her, unspotted and un-mutilated. The bridal charge is age long, and He has given His bride the power to keep His picture clean and to prominently display it when the occasion calls for it.
A husband and wife whose conjugal state is permeated with true love, is very rare in this day of immorality, but thank God there are enough of these kind of marriages, sufficient in number to keep themarriage institution intact. Suppose the husband of one of these marriages had a special picture made of himself for his wife, gave it to her for a personal and lifetime possession, would she not treasure it with all of her heart? Of course she would.
The true and loving wife would not think of altering the picture in any way whatsoever, for she knows in so doing the picture would no longer be a true image of her beloved husband. Would not a wife be less than honest, who on the occasion of her husband’s departure for an extended and time consuming destination, and having at the time received from his loving hand a special portrait of himself which he had purchased at a great cost, if she gave it to her sister to take care of?
While this analogy may not bring into sharp focus the relationship between Christ and His church, I believe it is yet potent enough to cause some who as yet have not questioned the practice of a church farming out its baptismal ordinance to an ordained preacher of another church, to be suspicious of it, and see it as an unscriptural innovation.
In the natural realm, two women cannot give birth to the same child, and in the spiritual realm, two churches cannot merge or combine their officiality and by that spurious officiality organize a New Testament church. The vanity of such an effort would be further compounded when one church baptizes for the other. The best they can get out of their efforts is surrogate motherhood for the new church, but in the divine economy there is no need for spiritual surrogation.
False notions of religion are often advocated by sincere and distinguished people. People worthy of emulation in the greater part of their lives do err in some things, and even Paul did not ask any man to credulously follow him (I Corinthians 11:1). When men of unimpeachable character propagate an error, and while no subterfuge is intended by them, their support of the error gives it a much wider acceptance.
The brethren of my acquaintance who contend that the validity of baptism necessitates “an ordained Baptist minister,” are men of unquestionable integrity. I know that artificiality in matters of church polity and practice are repulsive to their minds, but when error is imbibed, these commendable characteristics, rather than impeding the error give impetus to it. It is my heart’s desire and my prayer to God that these beloved brethren may see their erroneous course in this matter, and turn from it.
“The pastor of a church, as its official agent, is the proper person to baptize, and thus administer its initiatory rite. But a church is not necessarily restricted to this functionary. In his absence, it can, for the time being, authorize one of its deacons or private members to act for it. But whoever may be the administrator, he must be one who has been duly authorized by the church, that is, by the party receiving or initiating the candidate.” (The Berea Baptist Banner, Vol. 4, No. 10, Page 10, First Paragraph - October 15, 1 983. J. M. C. Breaker, Author - Elder Milburn Cockrell, Editor).
All that we contend for in this writing is articulated by J. M. C. Breaker in the above quote, but from reading the entire article by Elder Breaker as recorded in The Christian Review, Volume 24, April 18, 1959; it is easily seen that he did not mean for the paragraph to come out the way it did, for while being correct, it is a glaring contradiction of much of what he says in the article.
In fact, the article is so replete with contradictions I am surprised that any part of it was printed in the Berea Baptist Banner. A few of the contradictions contained in the article are quoted below, so as to prove my allegation.
“As in the case of the Eunuch for example, the person baptized could not and did not immediately attach himself to a church; for that was the best he could do; and that he could not immediately enter the house, was no reason why he should not enter the porch, and thus be ready for full admission whenever the opportunity might offer.” (Page 251, second paragraph, J. M. C. Breaker, taken from the same article quoted above). Such contention is ridiculous, promotes free-lance baptism, and it would, if let stand, destroy the ecclesiology of Baptists.
“The commission, then, authorizes none but regularly baptized preachers of the Gospel to administer the ordinance of baptism.” (J .M .C. Breaker, taken from the same article). Consider this statement in the light of the first quote of Elder Breaker’s, as used in this present writing, and it is very likely you will conclude without a second thought, Elder Breaker is certainly not an authority on the ordinance of baptism. As to contradictions in Elder Breaker’s article, ad infinitum, but the above will be ad hoc for now.
“Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 3:21)
“If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (The Head of the Church, Matthew 18:17)
In the writing of this article, I have tried to avoid churlishness, and there is neither malice nor rancor in my heart against brethren of the contrary part. But being burdened for the Lord’s churches, andconsidering extra-church baptism to be an error which diminishes the God given independence of New Testament churches, these lines are prayerfully sent forth. May He who is the only lawgiver and Head of the church be pleased to bless everyone who may read this article, is my sincere prayer.
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