Friday, July 24, 2020

No permission needed

From R. Albert Mohler Jr. on "Why I Am a Baptist" in First Things:
.... Every great movement probably begins in an argument of some sort, and the Baptists emerged in the context of an argument that was intense, significant, and sometimes deadly. Luther had started it. The Calvinists believed he had not taken it far enough. The English Puritans likewise became convinced that the moderately reforming Church of England was not taking the argument far enough. The Separatists (who would include Congregationalists and Presbyterians) believed that the Puritans who remained in the Church of England were not taking it far enough. The Baptists then separated from the Separatists because they were not taking it far enough. Since then, Baptists have not stopped arguing. They often argue among themselves, but more urgently, they argue for the necessity of conversion, for the believers’ church, for the baptism of believers alone, and for liberty of conscience. ....

In 1646, Baptist churches in London defined saving faith in these terms:
Faith is the gift of God, wrought in the hearts of the elect by the Spirit of God; by which faith they come to know and believe the truth of the Scriptures, and the excellency of them above all other writings, and all things in the world, as they hold forth the glory of God in his attributes, the excellency of Christ in his nature and offices, and of the power and fulness of the Spirit in his workings and operations; and so are enabled to cast their souls upon this truth thus believed.
Such saving faith, the Baptists continued, “is ordinarily begotten by the preaching of the gospel, or word of Christ.” When you find real Baptists, you will find the preaching of the gospel—the declaration of the great good news that salvation and the forgiveness of sins are bestowed upon all who hear the word of Christ and believe, who rest from their labors to make themselves worthy of salvation and by grace through faith receive the mercy of God, by the merits of Christ alone. ....

As others have noted, the Baptists have not been ardent ecumenists. But they have always recognized that there are true Christians in other churches and communions. They have believed that no entity that lacks the preaching of the gospel is any church at all, and that even some churches that preach the gospel are, measured by the New Testament, wrongly ordered. Baptists are not Baptists for nothing.

The rightly ordered church as a gathered and covenanted visible assembly of the saints exercises a comprehensive gospel ministry. The Word of God is preached, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are observed, church discipline is applied, and the congregation advances the gospel through missions and evangelism.

The practice of baptizing only those persons who personally profess faith in Christ became the defining issue for Baptists. Reading the New Testament, they concluded that infant baptism was no real baptism and that baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, was not a sacrament but an ordinance—an act commanded by Christ. The new believer, having given evidence of saving faith and a commitment to follow Christ, is baptized into the fellowship of the church, with the waters of baptism the context for the believer’s profession of faith. Baptism is also the ordinance of entry into the membership and fellowship of the congregation. ....

I believe that Baptists have something important—even crucial—to add to the Christian tradition and to strengthen Christian witness in the world today. Baptists are often a noisy part of the Body of Christ, but I hope we are a needed part as well.

In any event, don’t expect us to ask permission. Put us in jail, take away our earthly goods, do your worst—we will not ask permission from the ­powers that be. Whatever happens in the unfolding of ­history, we will still be preaching the gospel, ­plunging believers under water, telling people about Jesus, and singing the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

As a young man, I heard an old Baptist say, “I was Baptist born and Baptist bred, and when I am old, I’ll be Baptist dead.” At the time, I thought these words trite, tribal, and woefully lacking in theology. Now, in my seventh decade of life, I hear them a bit differently, mixing gratitude to the church with ­defiance of the world. Given the way our world is going, I am ready to stand with that old Baptist, now long gone, and pledge to be faithfully Baptist, faithfully Christian, even unto death. No earthly permission needed. (much more)
"...Baptists then separated from the Separatists because they were not taking it far enough." Seventh Day Baptists would argue that Baptists stopped just a little bit too soon.

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