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 Jack's Main Memorial Page

THE CHURCH'S ORDINANCES

by

Charles J. Arnett
Retired Pastor of
Union Baptist Church
Adapted from a message
Preached at the Xenia Area
Pastor's Fellowship
in 1981

INTRODUCTION: This paper is some thoughts on the two ordinances that Baptists universally agree are the two ordinances for today. One of the distinctive characteristics of Baptist is that they believe there are two ordinances for today. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the two ordinances for today. Now we will consider each briefly Historically and then Biblically.

BAPTISM HISTORICALLY CONSIDERED: Historically there have been two things that Baptists tend to agree on concerning baptism - its mode and its subjects. Alexander Carson, in his classic, "Baptist: its Mode and its' Subjects,"(1) sets forth the traditional Baptist arguments for the mode as immersion and for the believers as subjects. He sets forth these two things in the way most of us would state the distinctive, "Believers Baptism by Immersion." However, that doesn't totally describe what we believe. Trine immersion fits that definition. Also, historically Baptists have usually agreed on the significance of baptism. Baptists are agreed that baptism is the public, symbolic identification of the believer in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, historically there is disagreement in some areas and not really a clear position in other areas. Is baptism a church ordinance? Most of us would say yes, but John Gill said that baptism was not a church ordinance; and that baptism was not a door into the church. Gill also claimed the administrator, not the church, had the responsibility to ascertain faith in the candidate (2). Hezekiah Harvey, advances convincing arguments for the responsibility of baptism lying in the church.(3) Also the circular letter of the Philadelphia Association of 1802, concerning Holy Spirit Baptism, suggests that I Cor. 12:13 speaks of the Holy Spirit leading an individual to be baptized into the local Church (4). Hiscox refers to baptism as introducing us into the church ordinance.(5) There are also inconsistencies in Baptist history and disagreement concerning the administrator of baptism. The Philadelphia Association, in 1732, said if the administrator was unbaptized that there was no baptism. Yet in 1765 the same association said that immersion by a church of England minister was valid baptism. So there are things that we cannot find a lot of help on in history. The help we get from history is as a prod to make us think about these things. Also, historically we cannot find much discussion on Cambelite or Hyper-Arminian baptism. Harvey does convince us that the church is responsible to determine the validity of the baptism of a candidate for church membership and not the responsibility of the candidate himself.

BAPTISM SCRIPTURALLY CONSIDERED: Let's consider two areas that history doesn't give us much help on. The authority for Baptism and the identification of baptism with a body of doctrine.

First, let us consider scriptural authority for baptism. Take your bible and carefully read Mark 11:27-31. First of all, Jesus did not ask silly questions. His question is important. I don't think we can read this section in a normal, historical-grammatical way without agreeing with the conclusion of the religious leaders. The conclusion they came to was the conclusion the Lord wanted them to come to. It is the conclusion of rational men. Obviously Jesus is teaching that "VALID BAPTISM IMPLIES THE TRUTH OF THE MESSAGE ASSOCIATED WITH THAT BAPTISM." We cannot escape the truth; if the message in not valid, then the baptism is not valid. (We are in no way limiting the power of the Holy Spirit to sift the truth out of a perverted gospel and apply that truth to a deceived heart and grant genuine faith and repentance.

Let's apply the above principal to Cambelite, those who believe in baptismal regeneration, baptism and Hyper-Arminian baptism. Hyper-Armenian is going beyond the Arminanism of the remonstrance at the council of Dort. Hyper-Arminanism claims you can lose your salvation. We have to ask this question. If the Cambelite has proper authority to baptize, why don't you believe the Cambelite's water gospel? Also, if the Church of God, Freewill Baptist, and Pentecostal Churches have scriptural authority for baptism, why don't you believe their temporary gospel? (Be saved today and lost tomorrow.)

Read Galatians 1:7-9. Now by any stretch of Christian charity can we believe that any church that preaches another gospel has divine authority for baptism? Of course not! In his booklet, "Another Gospel," the late Dr. A. W. Williams of Cedarville College showed very effectively that the doctrine of the insecurity of the believer is another gospel. Gal. 3:1-3 et. al. The Pentecostal themselves point out the difference in their gospel and ours when they calls theirs the "Full Gospel" to distinguish their gospel from others.

Secondly, let us consider the subject of identification. Again, read in your Bible Acts 19:1-5. Note the "unto what" in verse three. Certainly Paul is asking them to identify the doctrine behind the administration of their baptism. When considering the validity of baptism we have scriptural warrant for asking "unto what ...?" We should ask, "What was the doctrine behind the administration of your baptism?" Should any Baptist Church receive Baptism that is not identified with the identification the Bible places on Baptism?

You can interpret verse five in one of two ways. The common view, this was rebaptism; John Gill view is that verse five is part of Paul's explanation of verse four. Regardless of your understanding of verse five, verse three remains the same. (If rebaptism, then only the slight difference of time invalidated the ordinance. If rebaptism, Paul was very particular.)

Let us look at Romans 6:1-10 for more on the subject of identification. Now verse nine shows the finality of the gospel. This whole passage tells us that valid baptism symbolizes an identity in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. No Baptist can deny that Romans 6 teaches us that baptism is identified with the finished work of Christ. We have died with Christ to sin. We are not under law but under grace. We reject trine immersion because multiple immersions doesn't symbolize the death, burial and resurrection of the lord Jesus Christ.

Now in the interest of fairness let us interview some non- Baptist administrators.

Mr. Baptist: Mr. Cambelite, does your baptism picture the finished and sufficient work of Christ? Mr. Cambelite: "No! Baptism is an essential part of your salvation."

Let us move on. Mr. Baptist: Mr. Free Will Baptist, does your baptism symbolize the finished and sufficient work of Christ? Mr. Free Will Baptist: "Why no! - you can lose your salvation."

Can anyone really believe that Cambelite or Hyper-Arminian baptism is valid baptism? Do we count one of the three immersions of the Brethren's to be valid? Then we can not believe that God validates the immersion of a hyper-Arminian in spite of their teaching that the death of Christ is not sufficient to take a believer to heaven.

Now, we affirm that the Holy Spirit may, in the exercise of his sovereignty, sift the truth from those erroneous doctrines about the sufficiency of Christ’s death and give true saving faith. But the prerogative of God no way affects the Church responsibility. Remember when Moses was told to strike the rock once, he struck it twice and God was displeased with him. God is very particular about those things that symbolize the death of Christ.

Baptism does identify the candidate with the body of doctrine of the administrator and the Church doing the baptizing. Baptism must be by the authority of heaven and that is determined by the doctrine of the administrator and the Church doing the baptizing.

THE LORD'S SUPPER HISTORICALLY CONSIDERED: Historically Baptist have held the lord's supper a church ordinance. However, historically Baptist have not always agreed on the elements.

John Gill said it was an indifferent thing whether the bread was leaven or unleaven (6). It has been during the last century that it has been disputed - wine or grape juice. However, the elements are not the subject of this paper.

Proposition: historically Baptists have agreed to Strict Baptist principles as applied to the Lord's Supper. There has been notable exceptions - John Bunyan and Robert Hall." Now I want to define Strict Baptist principals.

Some years ago the secretary of the Strict Baptist Mission of England stopped by my office and I quizzed him on closed or close and he said they accepted either one. Strict Baptist principals simply says that the church has a responsibility to fence or guard the table and to make clear the prerequisites for participation. The prerequisites are: Scriptural baptism and an orderly walk in a New Testament Church. Now close or closed fits that definition. I was very specific; I asked if our custom at Union Baptist was in accord with their Mission. We invite scripturally baptized brethren who are in good standing with a Church of like faith and order to participate in the ordinance with us. He said we would be accepted. I want to consider scripturally that on which there has been historic Baptist agreement.

Let's look at some quotes first.

Hiscox says, "Baptists insist that they neither may, nor ought to, invite to the Supper any except persons converted, baptized, and walking orderly according to gospel rule. They believe the Church is bound to judge of the fitness of those admitted to its ordinances as well as those admitted to its membership. ... Baptists are firmly convinced, that, to maintain the purity and spirituality of the Churches, it is absolutely needful to restrict the Communion to regenerated persons, baptized on a profession of faith, and walking orderly Christian lives in Church Fellow ship."(7)

How serious has this been?

Listen to the Philadelphia Baptist Association, "In answer to a query from one of our churches: What measure ought to be taken with a sister church who holds and actually admits unbaptized persons to the Lord's supper? we observe, That such a church may and ought, in the first instance, to be written to by a sister church, exhorting them to desist from such a practice, and to keep the ordinances as they were delivered to them in the word of God."(8)

J. C. Philpot stated, "And the open communion Baptist, who, in his own case, preserves the divine succession of first discipleship, and then baptism, when he joins or presides over a mixed communion church, destroys what he has thus built up, and makes himself a transgressor ... It is the strict Baptist alone that follows the precepts of the Lord of the house ... ."(9)

Dr. J. Stowell I said "Probably the majority of Bible- believing Baptists hold to close communion in their practice." (10)

THE LORD'S SUPPER SCRIPTURALLY CONSIDERED: The scriptural principal explained. We see in 1 Cor. 5:8-13 the horizontal element, or Church responsibility. Now certainly "no not to eat" includes the fellowship of the Lord's Supper. Therefore, it is clear we are identified with those that partake of the Lord's Table with us. Notice also 1 Cor. 10:16-21 - again we are identified with those we fellowship with at lord's supper. Do you want to be identified with hyper-Arminianism? Would you commune with free-will Baptist or Primitive Baptist? 1 Cor. 11:17-21 points to the doctrinal problem in verse 18 & 19 and the practical in verse 21.

If I walk into a mixed Baptist church [Baptized Christians and Christians with invalid baptism] at communion, do I not find division? A trine immersionist, a paedo-Baptist, or a hyper-Arminian. Is this not division? Why yes - then it is not the Lord's Supper.

Let us consider the scriptural precept in Matt. 28:19, 20. Now here is divine order. Discipleship (getting people saved) - baptism - then church communion (teach obedience of the Lord's Supper). We have been warned by J. C. Philpot to not "sacrifice truth on the altar of false charity"(11) What Baptist has not used the order in Matt. 28 to argue against infant baptism? Then why not be consistent with it? In his appendix to Thomas Watson's body of divinity, C. H. Spurgeon said, "in understanding this passage, if we follow order, where, above all places, the most precise order might be expected, we must understand Christ's will to be, that we first make disciples, then baptize, etc. that order is not here to be regarded it devolves on the opponents of order to prove".

Now let us consider Scriptural Precedents. The Lord Himself was baptized before the Lord's Supper. Can it be wrong to follow the order of the Lord? When you read the gospel accounts of the initiation of the lord's supper you see that it was a restricted (Strict) communion. The owner of the upper room wasn't invited; Mary, His mother, wasn't invited. Consider more Scriptural precedents. Please read Acts 2:41, 42. The obvious order is receiving his word (salvation), baptism, and then breaking of bread. If breaking of bread isn't limited to the Lord's Supper it at least includes it. Can anyone deny this N.T. Church was found on Strict Baptist principals ? Salvation - Baptism - Church communion (Lord's supper).

Also note there was doctrinal unity. We belittle the ordinances when we disassociate them from doctrinal unity in Christ. Read Eph. 4:3-5 and note; one faith proceeds one baptism. In Acts 10:44-48 and Acts 11:3 we see that baptism proceeded Christian fellowship. Again in Acts 16:31-34 we see that baptism proceeds Christian fellowship. Communion is the ordinance of Christian fellowship.

There is no scriptural principal, precept or precedent for open communion; why practice open communion when strict communion fits the scripture.

CONCLUSION: I know we have not touched on many questions, such as who does have the authority for baptism - wine or juice - closed or close. but I hope that we can at least think about some of the things. It saddens me to attend ordinations and find that most candidates haven't really thought of these things.

I know that our GARBC came out from the Unitarian filled NBC; and the idea of separation was the number one concern; but that is no excuse for keeping Unitarian practices in the ordinances.

1. Alexander Carson,BAPTISM: ITS MODE and ITS SUBJECTS,(The National Foundation for Christian Education,1969)

2. John Gill, Body of Divinity, (Atlanta, Georgia: Turner Lassetter, 1965) 896,

3. Hezekiah Harvey, The Church: its polity and ordinances, (Rochester, N.Y.:Backus Book Publishers, 1982 reprint) 18, 117 et. al.

4. A. D. Gillette, Editor, MINUTES of the PHILADELPHIA BAPTIST ASSOCIATION from 1707 to 1807,(Atlas, Michigan: Baptist Book Trust) 375-376

5. Edward T. Hiscox, The New Directory for Baptist Churches, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1970) 128

6. Gill, 917

7. Hiscox, 452

8. Gillette, 200

9. J. C. Philpot, Strict Communion,(London England: Gospel Standard Publications, 1967) 6

10. Joseph M. Stowell, Baptist Distinctives, (Des Plains, Illinois: Regular Baptist Press, Adult Student Oct.-Dec. quarterly, 1965) 50

11. Philpot, 4