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It is written:
Colossians 2:6-8-As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Some time ago, I baptized a young man in our church’s local jail ministry. He was very eager to devote his life to Christ and to be saved, and he wanted to learn as much as he could about the Bible and the church he could read about in God’s Word. Being from a different location, he was not sure that he would be able to find a church of Christ in his home state.
One day I walked in and was talking with him and his cell. He was very disheartened, and I inquired why.
Ben (not his real name): Mark, I spoke with some people in my family back in my home state. They said that they were happy that I had been baptized, but they said I wouldn’t be able to be a member of their church.
Mark: Ben, I am sorry for your distress brother. What reason did they give as to why you couldn’t identify with them?
Ben: Well, they said it was because I had tattoos. They decided that I couldn’t be a member there.
Mark: What Bible basis did they give for this?
Ben: Well, they didn’t give any Bible verses. In fact, I showed them the verses that you and I studied about showing that the Bible usually talks about tattoos in a positive sense, but they didn’t accept them.
Mark: So what did they say about your baptism?
Ben: They told me that my baptism doesn’t really count.
Ben: They said that it was their decision arrived at when they voted on me.
Mark: (Surprised) Wait. They voted on whether or not to accept you?
Mark: Where do they find that in the Bible?
Ben: Well, they couldn’t. But they said that it was their decision to vote on, because that is what their church creed says.
Mark: Ben, what church is this?
Ben: The Baptist church.
Mark: My friend, when you were saved, God didn’t add you to the Baptist church. He added you to the church of Christ (like the Bible says-Acts 2:47). This is a perfect example of why man-made creeds are wrong like the Bible teaches (1 Corinthians 4:6). I’m going to try and help you find a church of Christ in your area for whenever you get out of here.
(End Of Conversation)
For years, I had been told that the Baptist church teaches you have to be voted on before they will accept a person into their denomination. As we will see, the Baptist church manual itself says this.
However, what does the Bible teach?
The Book of Acts is known as the Book of conversions. It tells us about the Acts of the Apostles of Jesus as they went about, preaching and teaching His Word and baptizing people into Christ even when they faced terrible persecution. When these believers were baptized into Christ, they would assemble together locally for worship and teaching of the Word of God (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25). From these local churches, they would work together to carry out God’s command to evangelize the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
What does the Book of Acts teach us about baptized believers assembling together in local churches?
Were there votes to determine who was actually to be a member of the church (universal or local)?
Acts 2:37-47-Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
Notice that in the Jerusalem church, the Lord added to the church those who were being saved (Acts 2:41, 47). Those who were being saved were those who gladly received the Apostles Word (Acts 2:41) that believers in Jesus (Acts 2:36) who had heard the Word of God (Acts 2:16-36) needed to repent and be baptized (immersed in water) by the authority of Jesus and as they confessed His Name (Acts 2:37-38). Those whom the Lord added to the church continued to assemble together daily (Acts 2:46) as they continued to worship (Acts 2:42, 46) and learn God’s Word (Acts 2:42-43). This led to their continuing to grow as Christians and to show their faith by their loving obedience to the Lord and their fellow man (Acts 2:44-45).
Were those that were baptized voted on to decide if they were worthy of membership?
The same plan of salvation which made the baptized believers part of the church universal allowed them to be part of the local church.
When we read through Acts, we see the same pattern being followed:
Acts 9:26-31-And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. 31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
Here, Saul of Tarsus had been baptized into Christ (Acts 9:18). He went and tried to join himself to the disciples, but they were afraid of him because he had a known past of killing Christians. Perhaps (and this is speculation on my part) they believed that his conversion was a trick to try and infiltrate the church and arrest and kill their members. However, whatever the reason, Barnabas spoke up for him and from then on Paul began assembling with the brethren.
No vote: no majority decision.
In fact, here the majority had clearly decided to reject Paul! Yet their “vote” was outweighed by the decision of God, who had declared that Paul would be forgiven and have his sins washed away when he was baptized into Christ (Acts 22:16)!
Just a simple conversion (following the pattern of the Bible), and this made a brother in Christ able to be a member of the church (both the universal church and the local church).
Acts 11:20-26-But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. 22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
The Bible here follows the same pattern as seen in the rest of Acts: those who hear and accept the Word of God “believe” and turn to the Lord, and then continue to assemble with the local church.
(Note: Please remember that the word “believe” as used throughout the New Testament-and especially in Acts- is usually a word describing obedient faith on the part of those who turn to the Lord through repentance and baptism. See Acts 2:38, 41; 8:11-12, 35-38; 16:30-34; 18:8; 19:1-5; 22:16; with Acts 2:44; 4:4, 32; 9:42; 10:45-48; 13:12, 48; 14:1, 23).
Again, we see the same pattern.
Now, how is this different from what the Baptist church teaches?
Let’s hear the words of the Baptist church manual on the subject.
“church-membership It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,” and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, “baptism was the door into the church.” Now, it is different; and while the churches are desirous of receiving members, they are wary and cautious that they do not receive unworthy persons. The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their “experience,” and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members. And while they cannot become members without baptism, yet it is the vote of the body which admits them to its fellowship on receiving baptism.” (Edward T. Hiscox, The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, 16 (Kindle Edition); Good Press)
Friends, place notice several things with me about this quotation.
First, the Baptist church manual acknowledges that the way that people were granted membership in the local church in the first century was through the act of believer baptism. Clearly, as we have seen, this is what the Bible teaches.
Second, acknowledging that this was the way God’s inspired Word teaches, the Baptist manual then says…”NOW IT IS DIFFERENT” (emphasis added).
No, it is NOT different now.
When the Apostle Paul dealt with the Gnostic and Judaizing false teachers who had infiltrated the church at Colosse, he was clear that the Christians needed to abide in “the faith” as they had been taught (by the Apostles). The phrase “the faith” was used to have reference to the Word of God delivered from the Lord via the Apostles, i.e., the Word found in the New Testament Scriptures:
Acts 6:7-Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Notice how “the Word of God” is interpreted by Luke here as “the faith” M.T.)
Acts 13:6-8-Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. (Again, notice that the sorcerer tried to turn away the proconsul from “the faith” which is identified in verse 7 as “the Word of God-M.T.).
Acts 16:4-5-And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. (Here, the “decrees” i.e., the written words of the Apostles which were given by inspiration, are identified as “the faith” M.T.)
Philippians 1:27-Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, (Please consider that this passage clearly associates “the faith” with the Gospel of Christ, M.T.)
Colossians 1:23-if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Please notice that the phrase “the faith’ is used synonymously with “the hope of the Gospel” in this passage. M.T.)
All of these passages are clear that when people try to change the Word of God which He has given to mankind, we must RESIST and OPPOSE those efforts.
It may be objected that there are passages in the New Testament which deal with local situations which have changed over time. This is very true: yet the fact is, the New Testament provides very clear language when dealing with such local situations and indicates that they are local situations! Indeed, the fact that the New Testament stipulates what topics are dealing with a limited and local phenomenon show us that they understood their teachings to be universal (except in the cases which they specified)!
Does the plan of salvation involve a local situation for a local group?
It involves individuals of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), spanning the whole world and every creature under Heaven able to hear and receive the Word of God (Mark 16:15-16)!
Bottom line: the Baptist church does not have the right to claim “now things are different” and change the plan of salvation and church membership when they freely acknowledge that the Bible teaches differently!
Finally, the privilege of being a member of the church is God’s prerogative, not man’s. When the Bible teaches that believers in the Gospel of Jesus who repent and are baptized are added by God Himself to the church (Acts 2:37-47), then men don’t have the right to “vote”on whether or not such a person is worthy.
I got a news flash for everyone who thinks they can vote on if they believe a person is worthy of salvation and church membership: THE PERSON WHO WAS BAPTIZED IS NOT WORTHY TO BE SAVED, AND YOU ARE VOTING ARE NOT WORTHY TO BE SAVED!
What makes you think that you have the right to cast out the person that God’s Word says that He has accepted?
What makes you think that you have the right to reject someone who has obeyed the same Word of God that (presumably) you who vote have obeyed as well?
Friends, the belief that some people are “worthy” to vote on whether or not God has accepted a person tells me that there is a serious ego problem going on.
So yes, I oppose the Baptist church when it so vehemently stands against the Bible. I oppose any denomination of man, and along with my brothers and sisters in the churches of Christ, I lovingly but firmly suggest with the Word of God:
Let’s get rid of the Baptist church manual.
Let’s get rid of the Methodist Discipline.
Let’s get rid of the Westminster Confession Of Faith.
Let’s get rid of Catholic tradition and the papacy.
Let’s get rid of the Book of Mormon.
Let’s get rid of every creed, every man-made document that divides believers, and every denominational barrier.
Let’s return to the Bible with all of our hearts.
Jeremiah 6:16-Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.‘
2 Timothy 3:16-17-All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
1 Corinthians 4:6-Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.
2 John 9-11-Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.