Quill and writing

The contemporary Church is B – Baptistic

Authentic religion manifests as a comprehensive way of life.  Every thought, stimulating every practical expression of life in sacrificial service of our king, must be brought into conscious subjection to Jesus Christ.  Thus, Paul affirms, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2Cor 10:3-5).  Notice from this text that authentic (Biblical) Christianity involves mental warfare.  The battle we are involved in is sees its goal in overturning every human enterprise so that, instead of its motivation being the glory of autonomous man, it is transformed by the sanctifying light of God’s word into a work of heavenly reconstruction.  The Saviour’s great commission was that His Church might ‘disciple the nations’ (Matt 28:18) which involves rebuilding Christian civilisation from the ruins of man’s Fall in Eden.  Be in no doubt, God’s great purpose in history is to sanctify His creation and to unite heaven and earth in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:9,10). 

Baptistic theology necessarily minimises this purview.  In its place, it posits Christ’s mission as the mere salvation of souls.  Individualism and presumptionism are the inevitable results.  Individualism marks the spirit of the age.  Alas, in an attempt to diminish people’s reliance on a nanny state, even Margaret Thatcher dared to undermine the essential nature of wider society.  Today, our communities are more fragmented than ever.  Subtly, over decades the focus has moved from families and holistic-communal identity to personal individualism.  Within the Church sphere perennial stress is placed upon the individual’s response to ‘the gospel’.  Has he/she made a ‘decision for Christ?’  Do they have a credible ‘personal testimony?’  The great transaction urged upon attendees at the Church meeting, almost weekly, is to put one’s own personal trust and faith in Jesus.  Having ‘become a Christian’ the great majority of fellow believers suppose that the individual has been born again (regenerated) by the Holy Spirit.  To celebrate the passing of this miracle, the individual is publicly baptised – normally by full immersion – to signify death to the old way of life & resurrection to the newness of life in the Spirit. 

I want to emphasise this point: almost EVERYTHING preached, practiced, petitioned for, sung and celebrated has this central goal in mind.  The preaching almost exclusively runs with this purpose.  The exegesis of any/every passage is made to comport with this perspective.  As a result, the application of Biblical principles (God’s Law) to a whole range of human activities (leisure, banking, science, history, metaphysics, etc) is tacitly overlooked.  ‘Just preach the Gospel’ we are scornfully admonished when such supplementary considerations are raised.  ‘Keep the main thing the main thing’ we are told; all other matters become comparatively peripheral.  Even raising them can be regarded as divisive!

Visible & Invisible Church
But there is a supplementary failing: baptism itself is comprehended as a celebration of the regeneration of the soul.  Consequently, the important theological distinction between the visible Church and the invisible Church is lost.  Baptism is an ordinance which scripturally denotes the entry of an individual into the visible Church.  Regeneration is a secret, sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.  We are not privy to where and how the wind blows.  God tells us plainly in John 1, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (vs 12,13).”  Baptists like the first part which emphasises personal choice: i.e. they ‘received Christ’, etc.  But the more precise presbyterian notices, in the closing clauses, that the choice itself is mysteriously a sovereign work of God.  In recognition of this great truth the great creeds & confessions of reformed antiquity differentiated between (i) the secret (unfathomable) work of God in regeneration and (ii) the more formal transaction undertaken when receiving someone into the local church gathering.  The former is referenced by Christ in His exchange with Nicodemus (Jn 3) and is alluded to in verses such as Deut 29:29 – “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  Concerning the former, only the born-again believer knows whether God’s saving grace has been trusted and properly embraced.  We may/must judge charitably when confronted with others’ profession of Christ, but we simply cannot know for sure who is or isn’t an authentic sheep.  Jesus warned us several times that the same outward appearance (e.g. virgins with lamps or seeds sown in the soil) might ultimately give rise to faithful devoted service of Christ or else to the realisation that, like Judas Iscariot, heaven’s door itself was kissed but never finally passed through. 

The baptistic mindset presumes to know who is regenerate and who isn’t.  In doing so it trespasses on the sovereign providence of God.  And in making its concern perennially the determination of God’s secret counsel it is distracted from other more honourable concerns.  It is indeed one of the subtlest forms of idolatry Satan has ever inspired.  King Solomon warned against seeking to comprehend the secret counsel of God (see Eccl 9:1-2; 11-12; 11:5-6)

Solomon’s conclusion was sound: since we do not and cannot know God’s purposes for particular individuals we must ‘cast our bread upon the waters’ (11:1) and ‘fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of all mankind’ (12:13).  We must grant God His prerogative of bringing ‘every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil’ (12:14).  What does this entail?  It involves searching Scripture to ascertain what constitutes our various duties.  And herein lies the honourable goal of a lifetime of study!

‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you’ (Matt 6:33)

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt 6:9,10).