Pastor 0scar Brian Mink
It is the second time that anguish of heart toward brethren is felt in
this matter. Yet, with a profound longing to serve my Lord and Master,
I take up pen to write an introduction to this book, which is entitled,
PREACHER OR CHURCH ORDINANCE? SECOND TREATISE.
When viewed through eyes, mind, heart and emotion, it would immediately
come to my thoughts - avoid this writing. But, when viewed as an opportunity
to speak the truth of God's Book to men, seeking to aid them in their great
need to be recovered from the grievous error and irregular practice that
I fear many of them are presently caught up in, I bow to the task. And
I pray God will be my guide and will help me, yea, cause me to be compassionate
to those who are deeply imbedded in this error. At the same time, I trust
Him to make me desirous of being found faithful to "contend for the
faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3). Brethren,
please love me enough to help me with my many errors, as I now seek to
help you with yours.
Error is such a subtle and provocative thing. And it is so easy our entrance
into its clutches, and so difficult and painful our extraction therefrom,
that we must be ever vigilant to eschew its pitfalls. Error is very damaging
to the well-being of all its adherents, whether they be individuals or
Error is exemplified frequently by the errorist being found walking in
darkness. By the departure from the light that God has given to safeguard
the pilgrim journey of His saints, the sure portion of those saints will
be to stumble at best, and to fall from their steadfastness at worst. Remember
119:105? Note this good and wholesome word: "Thy word is a lamp
unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
This marvellous verse of Scripture sets forth truth. It plainly declares
that God, having seen through His omniscient eye the grave dangers to be
faced by His people, most wisely and kindly provided for their protection.
"Thy word ..." The psalmist announces the safeguard, "Thy word".
Is there any other? Where is it, if there be another?
It is true that we have the Paraclete - the Comforter to direct us. But
He leads us into the truth, for He is the Spirit of truth. (John 16:13).
It is also true that He does so by using the word of God, instrumentally
in His work And Jesus declared, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy
word is truth." (John 17:17).
God has said, through the psalmist, that His word is a lamp unto our feet,
and a light unto our path. His word sheds light to illuminate the path
that lies before His journeying pilgrims as they travel upon the by-ways
of this world's total darkness. His word "lights up" what lies ahead of
us in order to provide for our over all good. Thus, the general tenor of
Scripture must be ours, and it must be adhered to. We must never call up
one Scripture to contest another, for "no prophecy of the Scripture
is of any private interpretation." (II Peter 1:20).
God has also said that His "word is a lamp unto our feet". The lamp
of God's word is not only to shed "general illumination", but is to provide
"specific illumination", in order to expose each and every individual potential
stumbling point, or pitfall that lies in our path. Think of it! God provides
safety for us. His word is that place of safety.
Now, brethren, exactly WHERE in God's Book is the teaching that authority
to keep and administer the ordinance (baptism and the Lord's Supper) has
been placed, even once, in the hands of the men whom God has sent to be
proclaimers? Remember, the church was brought into existence, was commissioned,
and THEN was given to the churches the various gifts. "And he gave some,
apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors
and teachers;" (Ephesians 4:11).
And why did He so give? and to WHOM did He give? Let's look to the second
question first. He gave the various gifts to His churches. The context
of Ephesians 4 verifies this to be true. And WHY did He give these
gifts? Verses 12 through 16 clearly shows the answer, "For
the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for edifying
of the body of Christ: etc." And the ministry is not limited to the
ordained among that body, but included in "the ministry" is the whole of
It was to the church at Corinth that Paul wrote these words, "Now I
praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances,
as I delivered them to you." (I Corinthians 11:2) The
ordinances must be kept. They must be guarded. They must be observed AS
THEY WERE DELIVERED. To let down the barriers that Christ has placed is
to act treasonably, and each person or church who has so acted is a traitor
to the cause of God and truth.
If error has been our downfall into this treacherous conduct, then we need
to be recovered from that error, to repent of our misconduct, to seek God's
forgiveness, and then to seek His permission to set in order what we have
profaned. May we receive grace to be made to fall upon our unworthy faces
in the dust, prostrate before our Sovereign, pleading His forgiveness,
being assured that "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9). This
sin, having been perpetrated by error, is NOT the unpardonable sin. God
does forgive. He does cleanse. But, He does so "If we confess our sins
Having been taught that baptism is a church ordinance, let us forsake foolish
pride and admit that God set everything in order, and that He has not abdicated
His position, nor has He given us, or anyone permission to set aside what
He has ordained. Let us come down from our high-horse of ecclesiastical
prominence, our self-esteemed position of grandeur, and confess the fact
that EVERY preacher, and EVERY pastor is subordinate to the church OF WHICH
HE IS A MEMBER, and that each and every church is subordinate to Jesus
Christ, our Sovereign Head.
Brethren, let us not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think
Let us not measure ourselves by ourselves. Each and every haughty, egotistical
preacher who fancies himself to be superior to the saints, or to his peers
is acting in a most ungodly, unchristian, unhumble servants manner. And
he is exposing himself to the rebuke and chastening of God.
Dear brethren, please flee from this danger. Do you imagine that God will
forever tolerate you as you seek to usurp authority that He never gave
you? Do you imagine that God will reward you for seeking to "lord it over
No matter how highly you have elevated yourself among men, always remember
that you too are but a man, and that God will allow NO FLESH, not mine,
not yours, not anyone's, to glory in His presence. And if the right to
determine who shall be allowed to observe the ordinances that Christ gave
to His church is ever taken by a mere man, then that man is seemingly placing
himself in a position to take glory to himself. And God will not allow
I state openly and plainly that God's Book declares that the authority
has been given to His churches in the matter of the two ordinances. I am
not vindictive toward anyone who takes an opposing view. But I do state,
in print, to be read and remembered by all, that you are in error. I'm
not mad at you, but you are wrong. Will this cause a loss of fellowship?
I don't know. I hope it doesn't, but I don't know. I know that pride is
a powerful and tenacious enemy. Whether it is my pride, or yours, it must
be put under control; it must be subdued if there is to be unity. An evasion
of the truth that pride is present will greatly hinder unity. An admission
of pride and the errors thusly will aid in bringing about unity.
I desire fellowship and I desire unity "in the faith" among all
Baptist brethren and churches.
Brethren, I love you in the Lord. But I love God more! And I love His churches
more! This is not said with any rancor toward anyone, nor with any self-righteousness
on my part intended. But it is said because I believe that the time has
come to stand up like men and be counted.
If division must come because of difference over this doctrine, then I
go on record as being desirous of being found on the side of God's truth,
rather than being found with men against God. Brethren, this is my conviction,
and upon this principle I stand.
Wm. Doyal Thomas
PREACHER OR CHURCH ORDINANCE?
Pastor 0scar Brian Mink
Preacher or Church Ordinance? Second Treatise
"MUST' Of Formal Ordination As Relates To Baptism, Questioned And Re-examined
Practice Of Pluralistic Church Authority In Baptism, Questioned And Re-examined
More Objections Answered
Your Baptism Is Important
We yet have true Baptist churches,
with the whole counsel of God.
Who with their martyrs blood,
has soaked much of this earth's sod.
So, cheer up, Baptist pilgrim,
all is not lost.
Our journey's end will more than repay,
a million times the cost.
O. B. Mink
Since writing the former treatise on the subject which is also the title
of this Book, with the above suffix (SECOND TREATISE), there
has been much published and spoken in opposition to it by a few men who
are of the contrary opinion. But the poverty of their arguments may be
seen from both Scripture and Baptist history. This book solicits no man's
favor who is unwilling to make the most strenuous search for truth. It
is not written to draw forth or bring out contempt from the opposition.
Some will say hard things about it - this is already anticipated, so it
causes me no vexatious concern. The efforts of the contrary part to obviate
or nullify the evidence presented in my first book against their position,
was as exhibition of weakness. But there is not dogma, true or false, that
does not have its friends.
PREACHER OR CHURCH ORDINANCE?
The only motive I had at the first and yet have for writing on the issue
before us in this work is to present what I believe to be insuperable proof
against the practice of plural church authority in administering the ordinance
of baptism, and the contention that the agent appointed by the church to
administer the baptismal ordinance for it, MUST be formally ordained. It
is not from a lack of charity for those who take variance with me in the
matter, but it is from a need to pronounce at once against errors which
they teach and practice concerning the glorious ordinance of baptism. Ergo,
this SECOND TREATISE on the issue.
I have, since writing the first Book on the subject at hand, received a
lot of correspondence, some positive and some negative. However, by far,
the greater part has been positive. I appreciate both the oral and literary
feedback which my first Book generated, but regret to say, those on the
negative side of the response were not always kind in expressing their
sentiments. But truth never needs the support of a malignant attitude,
and they who manifest such an attitude do more to hinder their cause than
to help it.
I do not expect my persuasive efforts to extirpate the doctrinal errors
opposed by this writing from the hearts of all who hold them, for I know
from what has been publicly and privately written they are deeply imbedded
in the theological frame work of some beloved brethren. Conversely, I also
know many brethren who favor and are contending for the position on the
ordinance of baptism as presented and defended in the former treatise and
I yet hope to dissuade some who hold to either one or both of the baptismal
errors mentioned in the second paragraph of this chapter. There are some
who of late have become suspicious of the practice of plural or extra church
baptism, and are no longer convinced that it is the orthodox position.
Contemporaneously or historically, few they be among Baptists who have
held or hold to the "MUST' of formal ordination of the agent acting for
the church in administering the ordinance of baptism.
It is not my expectation that every reader of these pages will pronounce
the shibboleths herein, or see eye to eye with me in all that is presented,
but I do ask the readers to forebear in rendering a verdict until after
a diligent study of the succeeding chapters have been made. Knowing that
the English language at its best has many defects, defects which a strongly
biased and ingenious mind can avail itself of to distort what has been
said or written, has necessitated the use of the plainest words in stating
what I believe to be the truth concerning the baptismal question dealt
with in this book, and in the former treatise.
I do not consider myself a polemicist, and confrontational theology not
involving a cardinal doctrine does not appeal to me in a great way. But
the subject matter under consideration in this writing, is I believe, of
such import as to demand the strictest attention of every New Testament
Baptist church and pastor. While the moral integrity of a church is to
be at all times beyond reproach, the touchstone is orthodoxy of teaching.
The moral standards of the Amish and Mennonites are without a doubt worthy
of emulation, but their orthodoxy leaves much to be desired, and it is
this deficiency in orthodoxy that has created the impassable chasm between
them and New Testament Baptists. Hence, it is the responsibility of every
true church to use all the strength within their prevail to keep their
orthodoxy intact, "Lest at anytime we should let them slip" (Hebrews
Every Baptist should with frequency ask himself, Why do I believe the doctrines
that I believe? (II Corinthians 13:5). Especially is this true as
applies to Baptist ministers, for they must give an account, not only of
their christian life, but as "stewards of the manifold grace of God"
(I Peter 4:10). In light of this awesome truth, the logical and
necessary questions which follow are: Is my belief in any sense or degree
owing to the fact it affords me a wider range of fellowship and ministerial
exercise? Or because it is accepted in certain circles and advocated by
men in high places? Or does popularity with my peers have anything to do
with what I believe? Do I believe what I believe because a contrary position
would cause me to lose favor with some men of powerful influence? Or do
I believe what I do because it is easy theology, inoffensive, and pleasing
to the masses? I am confident as relates to Landmark Sovereign Grace Baptists,
all of the above questions can be summarily and negatively dismissed. But
even so, this does not alleviate the need of Baptist pastors to periodically
examine themselves as to their doctrine and practice. A re-editing of our
doctrine and practice cannot hurt, but may be helpful. And in the chronological
reevaluation of our theology, the ordinance of baptism should be second
only to the regeneration of the soul (Acts 2:41,42). In the final
analysis, we should be able to say in truth: I believe what I do because
it is the unequivocal teaching of the Word of GOD.
Salvation of the soul is strictly the work of the sovereign God. It is
a transaction between the three persons constituting the Divine Trinity,
into which NO fourth party can ever enter. Men cannot contribute to the
work which must eternally bear the impress of the one almighty hand. Salvation
is the peculiar and exclusive work of God, and man in his native state
is so utterly depraved he cannot have the first correct or decent thought
concerning redemption, much less have a desire for it. Christ appeared
once "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26).
The death of Christ fully and forever accomplished the redemptive purpose
of God, and there shall never arise the need for Christ to die the second
time (Romans 6:9). But the need for the believer to remember His
atoning death is constant. Hence, the glorious ordinances of baptism and
the Lord's Supper. Christ needed no help giving the ordinances to the local
church, and every true church being indwelt by the Sovereign Holy Spirit,
needs no external help in preserving and perpetuating those two glorious
pictures of His cruel, but triumphing death.
Scriptural baptism is the cross work of Christ translated by symbol. Every
time a person is baptized by the authority of a New Testament church he
sets forth symbolically what in reality has taken place in his soul. That
is, his death in Christ is vividly and silently rehearsed. The Lord's churches
are not only commanded to "keep the ordinances," but they are commanded
to "keep the ordinances" without deviation from the practice of
the original and model church. The prototype church Jesus established in
Jerusalem was for a number of years the only church in existence, and was
for that time and during its entire existence fully able to administer
The painting is most praise-worthy which is most like the thing represented
by it. Baptism being a picture or symbol of the atoning work of Christ,
should in all detail be kept by New Testament churches as it was originally
given them. There was not anything external to God which contributed to
the redemption of His people, for the good works (?) of man neither helps
to obtain nor retain salvation. The baptismal picture of the glorious and
exclusive work of redemption was inviolably committed to each and every
New Testament church, and synchronous with this commitment came the responsibility
and ability to keep the picture in its original state.
In light of the fact that a symbol must resemble, sprinkling or pouring
for baptism is an inexplicable aberration. With this all Baptists agree.
In light of the fact "Christ appeared once to put away sin by the sacrifice
of Himself," ana-baptism comes under the heading of misnomers. With
this all Baptist agree. In light of the fact Christ by His vicarious suffering
became the unassisted Savior of His people, and gave the picture of His
passion with no details omitted to everyone of His churches to keep point
by point. And whereas, Christ needed no help in procuring the baptismal
picture, and seeing He gave it to His churches with guaranteed ability
to keep unto the end of the age. Therefore, for any of His churches to
seek help beyond their own entity in administering the ordinances would
be to question the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, or at least it would be
a substantial departure from the normal and right way. With this I hope
all Baptists agree.
When the Lord gave the baptismal commission to the first Baptist church
of Jerusalem, He potentially and equally gave it to all of His churches,
and they as distinct and independent bodies were vested with power to administer
the ordinances unaided from without. Governmentally there is perfect equality
between all of the Lord's churches. There may be and often are inequities
in other areas of church life, but the divine blessing of autonomy guarantees
parity of government in all of His churches at all times. Thus it is, not
only is every New Testament church with constancy able to baptize its own
candidates, but is also able to safeguard the ordinances from trespass
Sovereign Grace Landmark Baptists do err, but for the most part they are
sufficiently judicious to distinguish between truth and error. Their divinely
anointed discretion has for two thousand years protected them from demeaning
the ordinances of the church, and this same discretion shall continue to
enable them to keep the ordinances pure, even as they were delivered by
their Head and Groom, Jesus Christ.
I disagree with much of what some of my Baptist brethren hold to be correct
doctrine, but it cannot be found in any of my writings where I maliciously
or even by innuendo vilified the character of any of them. Believing my
convictions of what Scripture teaches is the result of Holy Spirit tutelage,
I am firm in the same, and will with every spiritual atom of my strength
defend them. But I do not hold contempt for every brother who differs with
me as to Scripture interpretation, nor will I be driven to such a soul
It is my prayer as I further pursue this work that I may not be presumptuous
and haughty, but perceptive and humble. That I may be bold, but not belligerent.
That I may not lean to my own understanding, but wholly trust in the Spirit
of truth. That I may be at all times acutely aware that I must give an
account of every word contained herein unto Him Who loved the church and
gave Himself for it. In a word, that I may not pretend to comprehend all
there is to know about the blessed ordinance of baptism.
While there is perfect accord with Baptists as to baptism being utterly
void of saving efficacy, some, I fear have let the God honoring ordinance
suffer diminution of importance by not putting enough stress upon the proper
observance of it. Thus it is, I send forth this feeble effort with the
hope God may use it, at least in measure, where the ordinance is esteemed
lightly, to restore it to its rightful excellence. This book holds the
position that the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper are strictly
local church ordinances.
The lines are clearly drawn. They are deep, broad and distinct. It would
probably be naive on my part to think that the lines would be obliterated
any time soon, but I take hope in knowing they are not irremovable. I only
ask that what I submit herein be subjected to the most vigorous test by
an honest heart. If after so doing, you conclude what I have presented
is sufficiently correct as to out weigh the tenets which are contrary to
it, then you can join me in prayer for those dear brethren who hold the
errors opposed by this volume. If you deem they are right and I am in error,
then I beseech you, pray for me. Either way, I am confident some good will
be accomplished by my expressed objection to the sentiments of those who
hold the position that plural or ultra church authority may be merged or
exercised in baptism. Or that baptism is invalid unless administered by
a formally ordained Baptist preacher.
"Fear not, little flock ..." Fear not ostracism, intimidation, nor
intolerance, for the truth knoweth no shame. "And let us not be weary
in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians
6:9). Baptism and the Lord's Supper, the official pictures of the Gospel
of Christ, shall be preserved and perpetuated unto the end of the age;
and that by the Lord's churches and their unadulterated independence.
"In the apostolic age baptism was administered doubtless not only by Apostles
and other leaders, but widely by those charismatically eminent in the church
... In Tertullian's time, of giving it ... the bishop has the right; in
the next place the presbyters and deacons ... besides these even layman
have the right" (A HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH - By Williston
Walker - 1918, Page 88).
"MUST' OF FORMAL ORDINATION AS RELATES
BAPTISM, QUESTIONED AND RE-EXAMINED.
"And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not
whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to
preach the gospel" (I Corinthians 1:16, 17). Here it is evident
that, although the pastor administers the ordinances, this is not his main
work, nor is the church absolutely dependent upon him in the matter. He
is not set, like an Old Testament priest, to minister at the altar, but
to preach the gospel. In an emergency any other member appointed by the
church may administer them with equal propriety, the church always determining
who are fit subjects of the ordinances, constituting him their organ in
administering them. Any other view is based on sacramental notions, and
on ideas of apostolic succession" (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY - By:
H. Strong, Page 917).
In the above quote by Strong the historic faith of Baptists is well stated
concerning authority to baptize, but I fear Presbyterianism with its preacher
type of church government has made some inroads on Baptist territory, and
has succeeded in diluting the faith of some Baptists by causing them to
adopt the "MUST" of formal ordination as a prerequisite for valid baptism.
One Presbyterian highly respected and widely read by Baptists has this
to say on the subject "Our confession also holds that no one has a right
to administer the sacraments (ordinances) save a lawfully - ordained minister
... The church is an organized society under laws executed by regularly-appointed
officers, it is evident that ordinances can properly be administered only
by the highest legal officers of the church" (COMMENTARY ON THE CONFESSION
OF FAITH - Pages 455-456, By: A.A. Hodge).
But Mr. Hodge cannot be profitably accepted as an authority on the ordinance
of baptism, for he advocated the sprinkling of infants, which is to deny
believer's baptism and which is to make a mockery of the Scriptural mode
J. W. Porter, an illustrious Baptist, makes the following comment on the
subject of baptismal authority: "The speaker believes, and the more he
has studied the question, the more strongly he believes that the commission
to baptize was delivered to the church, and should therefore be restricted
to the church ... If the authority to baptize does not rest with churches,
with whom does it rest? If the authority to baptize has been committed
to the preachers, then they alone should authorize and administer it, and
in turn the churches should cease to usurp the preachers authority" (THE
BAPTIST EXAMINER - July 15, 1978).
Baptists believe that a New Testament church is a body of baptized believers,
administering its own affairs under the Headship of Jesus Christ (Acts
5:14; Ephesians 1:22). Under the Headship of Christ the pastor
has been given a particular authority, and the church that usurps that
authority rejects the wisdom of God, and flirts with spiritual disaster.
On the other hand, the pastor who unduly magnifies his office, and assumes
exclusive authority for himself in administering the ordinance of baptism,
infringes on the independence of his church and bedims the glory which
belongs to Christ in the church (Ephesians 3:21). Such pastoral
presumption is under the disfavor of God.
In the second paragraph of this chapter the following line is quoted from
Agustus Strong - "In an emergency any other member may administer them
(the ordinances) with equal priority." To declare or even infer that in
this quote, Strong is teaching that women and children may be appointed
by the church to administer baptism is to give it a generality not accorded
in the context from which the quote is taken. We welcome fair and impartial
criticism, but when criticism is wrought with an ill motive, then it is
an offence to propriety and serves as an impediment to honest discussion.
I wrote in my first treatise on this subject - "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
a 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" (Pages 9 &
I do not know how the language of the above quote could be more explicit
Note, I said in the quote the person acting for the church in baptizing
its candidates should first be the pastor, but when his service is not
available; then the church may "select a godly male member to
immerse its baptismal candidates." (Emphasis mine). How anyone can misconstrue
these words, and contend they say something which they in no way identify
with or infinitesimally relate, is to trifle with what the words actually
convey. To insist the quote makes allowance for the church to appoint women
and children to act for the church in administering the ordinance of baptism
calls for the indulgence of the plainest nonsense. To claim that the words
de-emphasize the importance of preacher ordination is "dare pondus fumo,"
or giving weight to smoke. Yet, this is what the Editor of the Berea
Baptist Banner has in vain tried to do. (See: B.B.B.
11, Oct. 15, 1984). The dear Editor knows we do not allow women or children
to baptize, and the words rather than demeaning the practice of preacher
ordination, reinforces it Thus it is, I know of no reason for the Editor
to make such implications, except to try and discredit all who disagree
with him in the matter in the eyes of his unsuspecting readers or hearers.
The supposed reply of the BBB Editor to my first book dealing
with baptismal authority was a caricature. Our opposing Brother, says:
"Now the idea is that a church cannot baptize as I believe unless the ordained
minister is willing" (BBB, Page 11). This is an evasion
of the issue. The issue is not the willingness or unwillingness of the
pastor to administer the ordinance, but the contention of the Editor that
formal ordination of the administrator is absolutely essential to the validity
of the ordinance.
It is this doctrine I oppose. I certainly agree with the BBB Editor
when he says the pastor should be willing to baptize for his church. To
say otherwise would be to border on the ridiculous. But there is a difference,
the position of the BBB Editor shuts the church up to one
will, that is, the will of the pastor. The difference is, the church has
a second and superior will to that of its ordained ministry, which will
is the final authority. Where the NEED is such, the church may exercise
its will, and choose a faithful brother to administer the ordinance for
it. This liberty has been given the local church by its Head, Jesus Christ.
But our opposing brother's position would negate that God honoring and
church edifying liberty.
BBB Editor says "I hasten to point out that a church
cannot baptize a candidate unless he agrees to be baptized ... Does this
make baptism a candidate ordinance? ... Does it take baptism 'out of the
hands of the church'? I would be pleased to hear my brethren explain this
problem to my satisfaction." First, let me state, the "candidate" question
poses no "problem" for us. The "problem" referred to in the quote must
apply to the advocates of the absolute "must" of formal ordination in administering
the ordinance, for the contention is the father of a multitude of problems.
The willingness of a person to be baptized is not unalterably binding on
a New Testament church. Baptism is as we have contended all along a church
ordinance, not a preacher or candidate ordinance. It is the church in its
collective and official capacity that determines the fitness or unfitness
of the applicant, and this is done by a vote of the church. A church does
not HAVE TO administer baptism to a person simply because the person is
willing to be baptized. If that were the case, then baptism would be a
candidate ordinance, and not a church ordinance. No person within the church
is allowed to dictate policy to the church, much less a person without
the benefit of church membership. John the Baptist refused to baptize the
willing Pharisees and Saducees (Matthew 3:7,8), and New Testament
churches of today would with the same deliberateness as that of John, refuse
to baptize a person be he ever so willing to be baptized, if they had the
least suspicion the person was yet unregenerate or practicing sin, which
he refused to denounce. Let us ever be aware that the government of the
church is democratic, rather than autocratic.
If formal ordination is absolutely essential to the validity of baptism,
it indisputably follows, if the administrator is later discovered to have
a fault which existed previous to his ordination which would invalidate
his ordination; such as divorce and re marriage, which the BBB Editor
contends prohibits proper ordination (BBB, Editorial Comment
DIVORCE- Page 15). Or if the ordained administrator
was unregenerate at the time of his ordination, etc. Then all of the faulted
administrator's baptisms would be invalid, for the simple reason his ordination
was invalid. This is a dilemma confronting the advocates of the "MUST'
of ordination for baptismal validity. But knowing the Scriptures teach
that baptism is strictly a local church ordinance, rather than a preacher
ordinance we have no problem recognizing as valid the baptism of those
persons baptized by a man unqualifiedly ordained.
J. M. Pendleton says in his church manual, and in his book entitled: CHRISTIAN
DOCTRINES, A Compendium Of Theology, in reference to the
administrator of the baptismal ordinance - "As to a proper administrator
there may be some difference of opinion. By a proper administrator, in
the foregoing definition, is meant a person who has received church authority
to baptize" (Manual, Page 65; Christian Doctrines - Page
342). The generic term "person" as used by Pendleton in the above quote
extends beyond ordained persons, and leaves the administration of the ordinance
in the power of the whole church, where it has always been.
For some years John Spilsbury, a well educated minister, had been pastor
of one of the Calvinistic Anti-pedobaptist congregations. He repudiated
with great earnestness the theory that baptizedness is essential to the
administrator of baptism, maintaining that it was popish in its tendency"
(A MANUAL OF CHURCH HISTORY Volume 2 - Page 289 - Judson
Press, A. H. Newman). To further highlight Newman's statement concerning
Spilsbury's church (1633 - London), and views of his church on baptismal
authority; I submit the following from W.A. Jarrel's - BAPTIST CHURCH
PERPETUITY "As now, owing to sickness or other causes, pastors
have others baptize for them, so Blalock may have baptized for Spilsbury"
When Paul said to the church at Corinth, "I thank God that I baptized
none of you save Crispus and Gaius" (I Corinthians 1:14). He
did not mean to minimize the importance of baptism or devalue the ordinance.
Nor was it his intention to lower the honor of the apostolic or pastoral
office, but his motive in making the statement was to teach the Corinthians
not to place excessive power or virtue in the person administering the
ordinance. Paul clearly states his reason for saying what he did in verse
the next verse - "Lest any should say that I baptized in my own name"
(verse 15). Let us give honor where honor is due. The authority
to baptize is sovereignly rooted in the Headship of Him Who said, "I
will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
And Christ in the exercise of His Headship (Ephesians 1:22), has
delegated the responsibility of baptism to His church (Matthew 28:18-20).
So, let us extol, praise highly, and glorify our Head, Jesus Christ; for
it is He Who has given the baptismal ordinance to the church and He gave
it to glorify Himself in the church and to edify the church. This is the
truth Paul builds a bulwark around in I Corinthians 1:13-17.
Surely, the baptized person is to be thankful to the church, and toward
the administrator for being faithful in carrying out the baptismal part
of the church commission, but his glorying must be limited in its entirety
to Christ. Paul said: "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach
the gospel ..." (I Corinthians 1:17). In this statement Paul
does not mean the baptismal part of the commission did not apply to him,
but that the ordinance did not belong to the apostleship, and that it was
not his primary or special work. He knew the ordinance belonged to the
church, and he would not take it from the hand of the church, and put it
in his own hand. Paul, under the authority of the Antioch church (Acts
13:1-2) baptized a few into his home church, but as soon as a church
was organized, be it blessed with a pastor or pastorless at the time, Paul
refused to do any of her baptizing, as is seen from Acts 18:8. The
text reads - "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed
on the Lord with all his house, and many of the Corinthians hearing believed,
and were baptized." To read into the account which Paul and Luke gives
of the origin or beginning of the Corinthian church an ordained administrator
who baptized the "many Corinthians" who believed, would be to render a
judgment wholly in consistent with the text. It is certain Paul did not
"A matter that produced considerable confusion in some parts of the Association
was now considered, viz., whether baptism was valid when administered by
an unordained person. To which the Association replied: 'that in cases
where the ordinance had been administered in a solemn and religious manner,
that it might be considered as valid, and that persons so baptized might
be admitted as members of the church" (Dover Association - Hanover County
Virginia. HISTORY OF VIRGINIA BAPTISTS - Pages 122, 123.
By: Robert Baylor Semple).
It is the overwhelming consensus of Landmark Baptists that the baptismal
commission was given to the local church(es), and that the perpetuation
of the ordinance was not conditioned upon the church having an ordained
pastor. This being most certainly the case, the ordinance entrusted to
the local church by none other than Christ, I ask; is there ever a time
in the history of a true church when its responsibility to baptize is null?
What circumstances can there be which can abrogate or even abridge that
which God has decreed? There are no circumstances, be they ever so adverse,
which can for a moment make void the authority and responsibility of a
New Testament church to baptize.
It logically follows (not theologically), if a church cannot baptize without
an ordained minister, and the pastor of a church resigns his office for
the pastorate of another church, leaving his former church without an ordained
minister, that he takes the authority to baptize from the church he resigned
to the new church of his pastoral labors. Perish the thought, for such
is a flagrant abuse of church authority. As long as a church has a New
Testament status, (and many they be who for extended periods of time suffer
the vacancy of their pastoral office) yet, they are at all times "the
pillar and ground of the truth," and baptism is an indispensable doctrinal
rock in the foundation of every New Testament church, One of the vitals
of every New Testament church is its ability to baptize.
Under the heading of BAPTISM, Hastings Dictionary Of
The Bible makes the following comments on the subject. "The commission
to baptize was given in the first instance to the eleven (Matthew 28:16-20),
but we are not sure no others were present. Moreover, it is in virtue of
Christ's presence ('Lo I am with you always') that they have the
right to baptize; and this presence cannot be confined to the apostles.
We are not told who baptized the three thousand at Pentecost; and the apostles,
if they baptized any, can hardly have baptized them all. Apparently, Ananias
baptized Paul, but this is not clear (Acts 22:16). He was 'a
certain disciple' (Acts 9:10), and presumably a layman. Peter
commanded Cornelius and his company to be baptized (Acts 10:48);
and we assume that it was done by the brethren from Joppa, who are not
said to be presbyters or deacons. From the silence of Scripture respecting
the minister on these and other occasions, we may infer that an ordained
minister is not essential" (Pages 242-243).
I call your attention to these words in the quote from Hastings "Moreover
it is in virtue of Christ's presence ('Lo I am with you always')
that they have the right to baptize." Who would be so crass as to deny
the veracity of these words? I sincerely doubt that one Baptist could be
found who would not gladly affirm the statement.
The inescapable conclusion drawn from this fact is, it is the presence
of Christ that enables a church to baptize. and not necessarily that of
an ordained minister. We are determined to give due honor to the ordained
ministry of the church, and to own its heavenly bestowed authority, but
never can we equate ministerial authority in the church with that of Him
Who purchased the church with His own blood.
We will have more to say on the theory which contends that the validity
of baptism depends on the administrator being formally ordained, in the
fifth chapter, under the heading: MORE OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.
PRACTICE OF PLURALISTIC CHURCH AUTHORITY
BAPTISM, QUESTIONED AND RE-EXAMINED.
"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 cannot be, in the proper use of
the term, delegates ... The church at Corinth could not transfer her power
to the church at Philippi, nor could the church at Antioch convey her authority
to the church of Ephesus. Neither could all the apostolic churches combined
delegate their power to an association or synod or convention. That church
power is inalienable results from the foundation-principle of Independency
- namely, that this power is in the hands of the people, the membership.
If the power of a church cannot be transferred, church action is final.
That there is no tribunal higher than a church is evident from Matthew
18:15-17" (J. M. Pendleton, CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES, pages
338 & 340).
Churches in their aggregate, or plural part of the whole number were never
given authority to baptize by the Lord. The church in the institutional
sense is not the custodian of the ordinances, nor is there Scriptural precept
or example which gives the least currency to the idea. The commission to
baptize was not given abstractly, that is, it was not given to the church
of God as an institution, but to His churches in their particular capacity
and location. To guarantee the success of the baptismal commission the
Lord promised His age long and sovereign presence to each and everyone
of His churches (Matthew 28:18-20). As to authority every New Testament
church is complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10), they are indwelt
by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 3:16; John 14:17), and
thereby have the fullness of Christ dwelling in them (Ephesians 1:23,
1:19). In view of this great truth, I ask how could it ever become
necessary for a church so blessed with the presence of Christ to borrow
any kind of authority from anything outside of itself? The Lord Himself
is THE HIGHEST authority, and all ecclesiastical authority is derived from
God and is in the strict sense fully and indisputably His. To contend circumstances
may develop which would necessitate the borrowing or use by one New Testament
church the authority of another New Testament church, is equal to saying,
the time may come when God will need to borrow authority from Himself,
False premises beget absurdities.
When dual or plural church authority is used in administering the ordinance
of baptism, what oral formula is pronounced by the agent of such authority?
If the contention is, although two or more churches are involved, it is
yet done by singular authority. I yet ask, what baptismal formula is pronounced
by the administrator? If it is done by singular authority, it is done independently
of all churches involved except one. This smacks of freelanceism, and the
administrator could use as his baptismal formula, "By the authority invested
in me I baptize you."
Some of the pluralists contend that an ordained Baptist minister can officiate
and administer the Lord's supper in a New Testament church of which he
is not a member, as long as he does not eat the bread or drink the wine.
I am sure the same pluralists would loudly raise an objection to a suggestion
that a hydraulic lift be installed in their baptistery whereby the candidate
could be immersed and emersed
the assistance of a personal administrator. I join my objection to theirs,
and say with them - There must be a personal administrator in order to
meet New Testament requirements for baptism. Thus it is, we both agree
that the administrator acts as the officiant of the church in administering
the ordinance, and thereby takes a vital part in the ordinance. Likewise,
when a Baptist preacher, ordained or not, acts as the officiant in administering
the Lord's supper in a church of which he is not a member, he takes a part
in the ordinance whether or not he ingests the elements. Such an effort
to observe the Lord's supper does away with close communion, and cannot
by the most liberal view be classified as a closed communion. The ordinances
are local church ordinances, and not denominational ordinances or associational
ordinances, even though they be only two churches in the association. If
a church can vote, and thereby grant authority to baptize its converts
by a person who is not a member of the voting church, it can by the same
vote grant authority allowing non-members to partake of the Lord's supper
in their church. Such a thought arises only out of the blinding dust of
associationalism or conventionism.
The Lord in giving the procreant commission to Adam and Eve, gave it potentially
to each respective family, for every human family of the future resided
in that first family at the time the commission was given. The Lord gave
the baptismal commission to the first Baptist church of Jerusalem, and
in so doing He gave the commission to every one of His churches in their
particular and exclusive nature. Not withstanding, they all had their residence
in the first Baptist church at the time the commission was given. Holy
Spirit regeneration makes the subject a member of the family of God, but
it takes Scriptural baptism to add the regenerate person to a local church
family. It was understood at the outset of the pro-creative commission,
that each family was to add to their own membership independently of the
family next door. I believe in familyism and in the good neighbor policy,
but they MUST have their limits. And so it is with church families, each
one is to add members to its own church family, independent of all other
When the Holy Spirit regenerates one of God's elect He brings to pass in
that one what is determined for all the elect, namely, regeneration. When
Christ established the first church in Jerusalem, He brought to pass in
that first church what was determined for all of His churches, namely,
a visible autonomous entity. The first Baptist church was a complete church
within itself, and so are all churches which have emanated from that first
church. The first Baptist church of Jerusalem gave birth to the first Baptist
church of Antioch, and when the Antioch church came into being it was a
complete church in and of itself. Paul referred to this newly originated
church as, "The church of God that was at Antioch" (Acts 13:1).
It is highly probable that the Antioch church along with the Jerusalem
church was referred to when Paul abstractly said, "I persecuted the
church of God, and wasted it" (Galatians 1:13).
In Matthew 16:18 the Lord used the word "ecclesia" in the abstract
or generic sense, but not to the exclusion of the concrete or specific
use of the term. The abstract and concrete use of the term "ecclesia" in
the New Testament are not antagonistic, but complimentary. The utility
of the term is not adversely affected by New Testament usage, for in every
place where it is used the sense or construction placed on the term is
made plain. We often speak of the "elect of God" in the abstract
or generic sense, but we do not mean all the "elect of God" are
one body or organism. The concrete sense of the term is preserved, for
there is no way that any two of God's elect can become one organic whole.
Siamese twins are a genetic abnormality, but not any more so than two churches
officially united are an ecclesiastical abnormality.
Every church having Jesus as its Head, is an autonomous entity, authoritative
deficiency is alien to its nature, and there can never in the existence
of such a church arise the need of borrowing authority from anything outside
of itself. This truth is attested to by the fact there is nothing in the
ecclesiastical sense bigger than a New Testament Baptist church. There
is no need to borrow among equals, and when such is effected, the loaning
church claims a superiority which does not exist, and the borrowing church
assumes an inferiority for itself which does not exist. The practice of
borrowing authority calls for a compromise of all churches involved, a
compromise which is an affront to the Headship of Jesus Christ. This is
why two Baptist churches cannot join in official or organizational union.
The need does not, nor has ever existed, for the obvious reason a Baptist
church has the ultimate ecclesiastical structure in its immediate being,
and this structure remains intact as long as Jesus is the Head of the church.
For a church to go outside of itself for baptismal authority is an attempt
to improve upon the self propagation ability which Christ gave to His churches.
Baptist churches can, and they should cooperate in achieving common goals,
but they cannot be coerced to do so by legislation or intimidation. Baptist
churches for the sake of their individual independency must reject every
overture made toward them which would in any way whatsoever violate or
restrict their autonomy. Baptists believe in the independence of the local
church, and this independence necessitates self government and self propagation.
These are the vitals of every New Testament church. All any person need
do is to give a brief and unbiased study of Baptist history to see that
Baptists have been competent in both of these church sustaining areas.
Wherever then there is a New Testament church there is union with God,
and whenever a church is in union with God there is nothing in its divinely
given commission that it is not at all times authorized to do.
May a church who authorizes a non-member to baptize for it, also authorize
a non-member to vote in their church business meetings? If a church can
use a man who is not a member to baptize for it, and thereby give voting
status to the subject of the non-member's baptism, it would not seem inconsistent
for the church to allow their borrowed administrator a vote in granting
the candidate admission to its membership. Just how far does the authority
of a church extend in allowing non-members to act officially in church
affairs? All legislation of the New Testament is committed to the local
church, and each church is empowered or given executive ability by the
Holy Spirit to carry out every precept of that legislation. Every New Testament
church is an executive an efficient administrator of God's spiritual government
on earth, and this executive status and efficiency enables every church
to conduct all of its affairs by or from within its own membership. For
a church to go beyond its immediate membership for official help, is to
go beyond the Scriptures.
There is a wide and ever present need for cooperation of churches. The
need for church cooperation is more pressing in mission work than in any
other area. But there are other areas where churches may, and should if
able, cooperate one with another. Areas such as publication work, radio
ministry, Bible conferences, revivals, etc. Yet, while cooperation in various
endeavors by churches is Scriptural and a tremendous blessing, it is to
be clearly understood that all cooperative work is under the exclusive
authority of one church. Cooperation of churches, yes. Plural authority,
When a church has an ordained minister of another church baptize for it,
does the church for whom the minister baptizes have any ecclesiastical
or disciplinary authority over the minister? If not, then the church has
a man officially acting for it over whom it has no authority whatsoever.
On the other hand, if the church for whom the borrowed minister baptizes
claims to have authority over him, then the borrowing church claims to
have authority over a person who is not a member of their church, but who
is in fact a member of another church. This is a dilemma I would rather
not be confronted with. It is an imposture that can be straightened only
by practicing restricted baptism. That is, by keeping baptismal authority
where God put it, that is within the boundaries or governmental limits
of the local church.
Beloved brethren, would it not be folly on our part to demand for the local
church disciplinary authority over every person who sits at its table in
observance of the Lord's supper, and then use means over which the church
has no authority to get supper participants? Namely, extra church baptism.
While the church as an institution is to evangelize the whole world (Matthew
28:18-20), official interdependence of churches is not necessary to
this end, nor is it warranted in the commission.
There is merit in official synergism as relates to secularism, but to apply
this same principle to the mission work of the Lord's churches is to set
the wisdom of man above that of God (Isaiah 55:8,9; I Corinthians
1:21,3:19). Mission work, including baptism, which is done under the
official direction of plural churches is unscriptural, be they two or two
hundred churches. Officiality for ecclesiastical mission work is restricted
to the local independent church, and no part of it can with Scriptural
approval be farmed out to any cooperative, no matter how reasonable it
The Scriptures will not lend themselves to the service of carnal reason.
Men may endeavor to bend, warp, distort, and use every conceivable guise
to elicit from the Scripture support for their false theories, but Scripture
cannot be made to ally itself with error. On the contrary, Scripture is
the indefeasible and untiring enemy of all religious error. The Scripture
never takes a benign view of error, even though the error be judged nominal
Cooperation between churches is to be sought, but not at the expense of
ecclesiastical usurpation. The surrender of any measure of church independence
is by far too great of a price to pay for cooperation which from the outset
runs counter to Scripture, and is under the frown of God. Cooperation bought
at such high expense is to invite the sowing of thorns in the participating
churches, which will in due season choke out other truth, and demand further
surrender of church independence. There is plenty of room for churches
to practice unofficial bi-formity, but it is absolute nonsense to speak
There is plenty of ground upon which New Testament churches can fellowship,
and this fellowship should be sought and cultivated. But when fellowship
between churches takes on an official nature, it at that point falls below
Scripturally authorized fellowship, and is not only worse than no fellowship,
but is a fellowship which cannot but promote perniciousness. Any fellowship
that takes baptism, the Lord's supper, or any part of mission work out
of the hands of the local church, or makes the local church dependent on
anything outside of itself for the administration of the ordinances or
circumscribes its missionary authority is a fellowship that is fallacious
and devoid of Scriptural endorsement.
Baptism is a definite ordinance which is by the Head of the church, clearly
and unmistakably restricted to the precincts of the local church. For a
church to ask a sister church for help in performing the ordinance is to
give baptism an abstract nature, a nature which is utterly incongruous
to it, and detracts from it. Such inadmissible handling of the ordinance
will weaken rather than strengthen the churches.
The United States sends Ambassadors and diplomatic agents to other countries,
and other countries reciprocate by sending like officers to the United
States. The diplomats can take no official part in the government of the
countries which they visit, nor can they help in executing the laws or
ordinances of the country they visit. Neither are they subject to the laws
of the country they visit, but enjoy diplomatic immunity from the laws
of all nations, except their own. Some nations with the same political
philosophies or ideology exchange teachers, and as with the diplomats the
teachers have no authority which they can exercise in the country they
visit. Nations, especially those allied in a common cause may recognize
the judicial acts of those nations as long as they do not contravene the
laws of its own government or infringe on its national independence. Example,
if the British government charged and convicted one of its citizens of
a capital crime, mutuality of immigration laws prohibit any sister nation
from granting the convicted person citizenship as long as the penalty goes
wanting in any part.
A Baptist church is the purest democracy on earth, and Baptist churches
are the only heavenly mandated authority on earth sending forth ecclesiastical
ambassadors. But it is to be clearly understood that in contemplating authority,
none can be correctly given to the ambassadors which extends beyond their
immediate church. They may preach, teach, or act as an advisor to and for
a sister church, but he has no de facto power beyond the church body of
which he is a part. The rule of respect and love for sister churches should
ever be so strong as to honor their discipline of and over their own members.
Otherwise every member will be a law unto himself.
Baptism administered by a local New Testament Baptist church is Scriptural,
whether or not the agent acting for the church is formally ordained. Therefore,
NO NEED can ever exist which makes borrowing of authority expedient, much
less compulsory. Borrowed authority is a spurious substitute, a mean imitation
at best, for which there is no Biblical warrant or sound reason to use.
When we leave the governmental confines of a local New Testament church,
or try to amalgamate church authority, we have left off proper church authority,
and have taken the license of unlimited sanction and may use it in doing
whatever suits our fancy. All that is needed for every official church
action is, authority that is primary and ordinary, and not authority that
is secondary and extraordinary.
"To each local church is committed the SOLE administration and guardianship
of the ordinances" (JR. Graves - The Lord's Supper, Page
11 - 'SOLE' - Caps mine).
"The church of God in a city, means the whole church of God is there, and
if the whole church of God is there, then none of it is anywhere else ...
THOSE DESPISE THE CHURCH OF GOD WHO APPEAL FROM HER AUTHORITY. There is
no higher court. Every appellant says by his actions, which speak louder
than words, there is a higher court of Authority than the church of God.
Christ says in Matthew 18:17: "Tell it to the church, and if
he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and
publican." That settles the case. There is no higher tribunal and no
other tribunal. The church of God is the Supreme Court of heaven on earth
... THOSE DESPISE THE CHURCH OF GOD WHO USURP HER FUNCTIONS. The church
is the steward - the custodian of the faith. The doctrines and ordinances
were committed to her. All authority was left with her. (J. B. Moody -
CHURCH, Chapter on Church Loyalty).
Baptism is the door by which a saved person enters the church, and the
autonomous church does not need help apart from its own entity to open
its baptismal door. If one prop is needed from without the immediate church,
who is to say how many props may be needed? Administering of the ordinances
has been specifically assigned to each and every New Testament church by
their omniscient Head, and any delegating of this assignment or the adding
of any supplement thereto is to misread the Scriptures and mismanage the
ordinances. The particular church is a body of Christ, in which dwells
"the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 3:16; 12:27), and
it was to the particular church at Corinth, Paul said: "Keep the ordinances,
as I delivered them to you" (I Corinthians 11:2). The Corinthian
church was doctrinally weak, and it is not certain they had a pastor at
the time of the Pauline admonition, but it is sure the Sovereign Holy Spirit
was with the Corinthian church, and His presence makes every church functionally
Concerning baptismal theory opposed in this volume, some may ask, What
does it matter if we believe it? It matters much. What caused the universal
visible concept of the church, with its hierarchical and tyrannical church
government? The universal invisible concept of the church is an off-spring
of Rome's universalism. Rome's ecclesiasticism is owing to exaltation of
its priests., whereby preacher and people are separated by an unalterable
gulf. Protestantism, with its bogus baptismal practice, and heretical forms
of church government is lame in both feet It has set down in Rome's ecumenical
wheel-chair, and is being gently wheeled back to its harlot mother. The
point is, both Romanism and Protestantism deny the entity autonomy, and
independence of the local church, this cannot be done with any degree of
success apart from undue preacher exaltation, and prostitution of the baptismal
There is an old proverb which says, "A bird in the hand is worth two in
the bush." The implication in this saying is to plain to be missed. One
Scripture revelation in the heart is worth more than a thousand theological
hypothesises in a book. One baptism performed by the exclusive authority
of one New Testament church is not merely better than all baptisms administered
by plural church authority, but is the "one baptism," alluded to
by Paul in Ephesians 4:5.
While in this chapter I have written at great length, I could yet append
it with a favorable anthology from Baptists and other historians which
would in volume surpass this chapter. But instead, I have elected to conclude
it with a quote from a contemporary and scholarly brother, who has made
a serious and in-depth study on the subject of authority to baptize. The
author of the quote is Elder Doyal Thomas - of Wayne, West Virginia; and
it is used by his permission.
"Now when Christ established His church, He placed each and every member
in that one body, (not one universal body, but one body AT JERUSALEM) and
then commissioned that one body to do all those things that He would ever
be pleased to assign His churches the duty and privilege to perform. I'm
saying that that church at Jerusalem was equipped and enabled to do everything
that any church would ever be equipped and enabled or AUTHORIZED TO DO!
Just as His church did not "evolve" from an embryo into a living, vibrant,
active body, neither did it need to "develop" the order of its acting.
It did not need to, nor did it, learn how to do the things that God ordered
by learning process. He gave His church explicit instructions as to functionary
procedures. Nor did it draw upon outside resources! What resources were
available for this church to draw upon, seeing there was no other church
in existence! It was an autonomous body. It did the Lord's work!
I'm saying that every true church today can do all those things that our
Lord has commanded, that every one of those churches MUST do those things,
or else be out of the order that He established. What needs to be done
that His church cannot do? Why must 'expediency" be put ahead of authority?
If His church cannot do what He established that church to do, then is
there not a deficiency present? What a shame and travesty to even suggest
such a thing.
In short, the authority to baptize, and to administer the Lord's Supper
is not, nor has it ever been in the hands of a preacher. The authority
has been duly assigned by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and what He has
assigned cannot be, in any way, further delegated. One church cannot authorize
another to function in the matter without going outside the authority that
Christ gave her. To do so is to be in subordinate to the Lord and Master.
plain, but I believe it is true!
It is recognized, and I believe all will agree, that when a church has
one to be baptized, or when the Lord's Supper is to be administered, that
the pastor, would properly be the human agent to perform for the CHURCH
this duty - this privilege. But, if there be no pastor, then a male member
of the church can, and must be authorized to administer the ordinance ...
A true church is not left at the mercy of those outside the body to function!
If so, then the church is not an autonomous body, but is a "dependent"
body." (End quote).
Brethren, let us express our sentiments rather than suppress them. Timidity,
as a rule is a virtue, and silence at times is golden, but they are something
else when used in curtailing truth.
IS IT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH TO ORDAIN ITS MINISTERIAL
CANDIDATES, OR DOES THE RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY OF ORDAINING MEN TO
THE GOSPEL MINISTRY BELONG TO A COUNCIL OF ORDAINED MINISTERS MADE UP FROM
Brother Cockrell, the Editor of the Berea Baptist Banner, has
clearly stated what he believes to be the answer to the above question.
He says in his reply to my first Book on the question of baptismal authority:
"It is my candid opinion that some men run away from appearing before an
ordaining council because they fear they cannot meet the qualifications
and hence be ordained. They may have problems with their double or triple
marriage. They may have some moral problems, or even some doctrinal problems.
I can think of but a few reasons for their shunning a council of good and
godly men by which they are to be examined and ordained. It might be well
to ask some men who downgrade being an ordained Baptist minister if they
ever appeared before an ordaining council, or, in other words, were they
ever ordained to the ministry." (B.B.B. Page 10, Oct. 15,
Why the esteemed Editor would inject this self defeating statement into
the baptismal authority controversy is an enigma to me. However, he has
made his position unmistakably clear as to where he believes the responsibility
of ordaining ministers lies, and that is not with the local church, but
with a council of preachers made up from various churches. Three times
in the above quote the Editor plainly says, the formal setting apart a
man to the gospel ministry is done by what he calls "an ordaining council."
He goes as far to say, or at least he glaringly implies, if a preacher
has not been ordained by a council as defined above, he is, just simply,
not ordained. So as to show I am not reading more into his words than what
is in the quote, I resubmit one of his misconstruable statements, i.e.
"I can think of but a few other reasons for their shunning a council of
good and godly men BY WHICH THEY ARE TO BE EXAMINED AND ORDAINED. It might
be well to ask some men who downgrade being an ordained Baptist minister
if they have ever appeared before AN ORDAINING COUNCIL, or, in other words,
were they ever ordained." (Caps mine). Note: the last four words of the
quote is not a question, but a subtle denial of the validity of minister
ordination performed by a local church independently of the officialdom
of an extra-church council. The local church does not need a Sanhedrin
to direct its functions.
It is the "candid opinion" of the BBB Editor, "that some
men run away from appearing before an ordaining council because they fear
they cannot meet the qualifications and hence be ordained." I ask, who
is better qualified to judge of a ministerial candidate's qualifications,
the church which holds his membership and with whom he has spent an extended
part of his church life, and in most cases all of it, or a council of preachers;
of whom some may have never seen the candidate before the date of ordination?
We are NOT OPPOSED to a church asking other ministers to act as advisors
in ordination procedure. We do not object to visiting ministers interrogating
the candidate, but what we do object to is the usurpation of the authority
of the ordaining church by a mock council.
We never ask a Baptist pastor, By which council were you ordained? But
we ask him, By the authority of which church were you ordained? If we ask,
By what council, he might think we were a little popish, or tainted with
Episcopalianism, and I would not blame him for thinking thusly. The custom
of official councilorship as relates to the ordination of Baptist ministers
comes from within the whited walls of pseu-do associationalism, and is
nothing more than traditional rubbish which should be tossed into the scrap
heap of anti-scriptural innovations, along with everything else that encroaches
on the autonomy and independence of the local church.
We readily and gladly admit that a council made up of pastors from other
churches may advise and assist the ordaining church in many and varied
ways, but the council CANNOT assert any authority or officiality in or
over the ordaining church. As to the officialdom, it is strictly a local
church function. To say otherwise, is to unlawfully take the prerogative
and liberty which God has given and placed in His particular churches,
and place it in the hands of a tribunal who is not amenable to any ecclesiastical
authority. Where is the wisdom in the vote of a local church to ordain
its ministerial candidate, and then subject itself to a council which has
veto power and may abort the design and determination of the local church?
Such veto power does not Biblically exist, and the council necessity doctrine
suffers the same extreme barrenness as that of the "MUST' doctrine of formal
ordination of the administrator of baptism.
The errors of absolute essentially of formal ordination of the baptismal
administrator, and the imperative need of an authoritative council in order
to ordain men to the gospel ministry, arrogates for the ministry that which
belongs to the Lord's churches. While these errors are not injuriously
equal to the sacerdotalism of Romanism and Protestantism, they are akin
to it, and certainly not as innocent as their proponents would have us
believe (I Peter 5:1-3).
A Baptist church has no judicatures, except that of the membership. The
voting majority determines the polity of the church, and not the pastors
or officers of the church. This being true with the officers of the immediate
church, how much more is it true concerning officers who are not members
of the particular church, even though they organize themselves into an
impressive council. Which is the lesser of the two evils, to make too much
of ordination or too little of it? I cannot say, nor do I need to say,
for the Bible clearly reveals what the measure of respect, honor, and authority
is to be accorded the bishopric. The church is to acknowledge and manifestly
own the authority which God has vested in the pastoral office, but in so
doing the church is to be careful not to compromise its own authority.
What a glorious thing it is when both pastor and church see the demarcation
lines which God has drawn to regulate their respective authority.
The pastor and all other officers are amenable to their membership church,
and this subservience does not deprecate the authority or bedim the unequaled
honor inherent in the pastoral office. The amenability of the pastor to
his church should not be grievous, but joyous, lest a rivalry between the
church and the pastor be developed. The pastor and his church are not in
competition as to who can exercise the most authority, but when their peculiar
authority is held in proper perspective it will serve to stimulatize the
church rather than schismatize it.
No God honoring pastor wants his people goose-stepping before him, because
he knows heavens marching orders were not despotically given to him, but
to the democratic power of the church. Nor will a God honoring church want
to enervate their Holy Spirit given pastor, and have him cowering at their
feet. Neither church nor pastoral authority can long endure abuse, for
God will not allow His appointments to suffer prolonged impediment, and
whatever is necessary to correct the abuse will be rapidly and efficiently
meted out by the Head of the church.
It appears from the B.B.B. that Brother Cockrell subscribes
to Brother J. M. C. Breaker's "general authority" theory, for he borrows
the term from Brother Breaker, and uses it approvingly in the B.B.B. (Page
7 - 10/15/84). Whence cometh this supposed "general authority"? It must
come from and by the arbitration of a spurious ordaining council, for it
cannot be Scripturally given by a local church. Some generals are just
too general, and the one under consideration is a case in point.
This supposed "general authority" is exceedingly wide. Sufficiently so
as to allow pastors and ordained Baptist preachers to baptize for their
respective churches, and other Baptist churches without specific authority
from their membership church. The basis or justification for this unregulated
practice is the inherent virtue or intrinsic merit claimed for preacher
ordination by an official (?) council. The logical order contended for
is, formal council ordination begets general authority, and general authority
begets preacher liberty, so as he may baptize whenever and wherever he
may find a candidate and a church that will receive the baptized person.
Or as with Brother Breaker, a receiving church is not necessary in every
case. This is the practice J. M. C. Breaker advances in his article. He
contends in a given situation as that of the Ethiopian eunuch a person
may be baptized and not admitted to or added to any church (Breaker's Article,
Page 251 - Paragraph 2). Brethren, is not this a strange brand of Landmarkism?
Such a practice cannot be supported by Scripture nor Baptist history, and
it should be abrogated by or expurgated from every church afflicted with
The above statement correctly charged to Brother Breaker is but a sampling
of the errors which are in his whole article on The Administrator of Baptism.
And yet Brother Cockrell says: "My disagreement with Brother Breaker was
not of any serious nature. There were some weak statements in my opinion
in the original article, and a few of these were omitted from the original
article which appeared in the BBB" (Page 7 - 10/15/84). There
were and are a lot of, not only weak statements in Brother Breaker's original
article, but a lot of glaring errors; some of which will be referred to
later in this book.
The J. M. C. Breaker's ordination credential authority is seen in the embryonic
state in the first century, but it did not gain any great strength until
the churches of various provinces began to do away with church separation
and independence. This resulted in the coming together of various churches
in official union, out of which was born the prelacy, and out of the prelacy
came Rome's hierarchy. There is historical unanimity attesting to the veracity
of the contention that the greater part of the churches of the second,
third, and fourth centuries apostatized by sacrificing their independence
upon the altar of God defying synergism.
The error of arbitrary class distinction between pastor and people survived
the dark ages, but so did the Lord's churches. The error has survived Protestantism,
Southern Baptist Conventionism, multifarious Baptist associationalism,
and is now trying to penetrate New Testament Landmark Sovereign Grace Baptist
churches. But it is with these Landmark churches the error meets its Waterloo,
for it cannot survive the hell defying fiat of their Sovereign Head, the
Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:20-23).
Mosheim, a Lutheran historian says: "The people were undoubtedly, the first
in authority: for the apostles showed by their own examples, that nothing
of the moment was to be carried on or determined without the consent of
the assembly; and such a method of proceeding was both prudent and necessary
in those critical times" (Mosheim's Church History, Page
21). In this statement Mosheim refers to the apostolic and first century
churches, and it is not coincidental, but providential that there are a
people by the name Baptist in the twentieth century contending for the
same faith. That is, democracy and not clergy rule.
BBB Editor says: "Since my uniting with Sovereign Grace,
Independent, Landmark Baptists, I have gleaned here and there a weakness
upon the importance of the ordination of Baptist preachers" (Page 10- 10/15/84).
I cannot affirm or deny what the Editor claims to be his experience since
uniting with Scriptural Landmarkers, but I can speak for myself. I have
been with Sovereign Grace Landmark Baptist churches for thirty three years,
and have taken part in more Preacher and Deacon ordination services than
I can remember. In all this time I have never heard one of our kind of
churches or pastors speak lightly of the practice of ordination. It is
gladly admitted, the churches with whom I have had the blessing of fellowshipping
have discouraged pomp, and unnecessary ceremony; but I know not one church
amongst them all who would not rejoice to have a ministerial candidate
in their membership, and take special delight in broadcasting the date
of his public ordination to the gospel ministry.
The Editor also speaks of "some men who downgrade being an ordained Baptist
minister (Page 10 - 10/15/84). Again I do not know who the Editor refers
to in this statement, but I have not met one pastor or preacher in any
of the Lord's churches who have not highly esteemed the ministry to which
God had called them. If the Editor's reference to some men who downgrade
being an ordained Baptist minister is meant to include me, it is an unjust
reference, for he in person; along with Elder Doyal Thomas, and myself
attended a preacher ordination service less than two years ago. In my preaching
assignment in this ordination service, I said: "NO MATTER HOW NEGATIVE
AND UNATTRACTIVE THE OFFICE MAY APPEAR TO THE WORLD, THE SPIRITUAL COMPENSATION
HERE, AND THE ETERNAL REWARD HEREAFTER IS SUFFICIENT INCENTIVE FOR FAITHFULNESS
IN THE OFFICE. SATAN'S EXPERTISE IN BELITTLING AND DEGRADING THE OFFICE
HAS NOT IMPAIRED GOD'S ABILITY TO CALL MEN UNTO THE OFFICE. THERE ARE SOME
MEN, EVEN IN THIS ERA WHEN SOVEREIGN GRACE BAPTISTS ARE RELIGIOUSLY OBNOXIOUS
TO SO-CALLED CHRISTENDOM, IN WHOM GOD CREATES A DESIRE FOR THE OFFICE OF
FOR THE TRUE BAPTIST PASTOR TO TRADE OFFICES WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE
UNITED STATES, WOULD BE A SHAMEFUL DEMOTION FOR THE BAPTIST PASTOR. THERE
IS NO GREATER INSTITUTION IN THE WORLD THAN A LOCAL NEW TESTAMENT BAPTIST
CHURCH. BE ITS MEMBERSHIP THREE OR THREE THOUSAND, AND WHILE THE WORLD
LOOKS UPON ITS PASTORAL OFFICE AS IGNOBLE, IT IS BY DIVINE RECKONING
HIGHEST OFFICE A MORTAL CAN HOLD. AND AFTER ALL, IT IS HOW GOD SEES THINGS
THAT REALLY COUNT.
THE PASTOR'S OFFICE IS A CHURCH OFFICE. HIS SPHERE OF AUTHORITATIVE SERVICE
IS RESTRICTED TO THE CHURCH WHICH HE PASTORS. I Timothy 3:5 TELLS
HIM HE HAS BEEN CALLED TO "Take care of the church of God." THIS
DOES NOT MEAN HE CANNOT HELP SISTER CHURCHES. IN FACT PASTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE
TO ASSIST AND PROMOTE OTHER TRUE CHURCHES WHENEVER THEY CAN, BUT NEVER
IS THE PASTOR TO FORSAKE HIS OWN FLOCK. HE HAS BEEN SET OVER A PARTICULAR
FLOCK TO TAKE CARE OF IT, AND THAT FLOCK IS EVER TO BE HIS PRIMARY CONCERN."
In another ordination sermon I said: "I Timothy 5:17 tells us the
Pastor is to receive 'double honor' from the church. Scripture commands
honor be paid to father and mother, but it commands 'double honor'
be paid to the God fearing Pastor. To give 'double honor' to the
Pastor as commanded by the Lord means:
(a.) That a church member should be twice as reluctant to disagree with
the Pastor, as with any other man on earth. On the other hand it means,
the members should be twice as ready to defend the Pastor as he would his
dearest brother or sister.
(b.) Simply stated, it means in all things where honor is due the Scriptural
Pastor is worthy of double honor." I have for more than three decades consistently
contended for the paying of due honor to the ministry, and stand ready
to rebuke any man who would dare to malign this blessed office. I am only
interested in the vindication of truth, so I leave it with my unbiased
Baptist brethren to judge whether or not my position on preacher authority
lessens the importance of the pastoral office, or in truth magnifies it.
"WHO ARE TO ORDAIN? Ordination is the act of the church, not the act of
a privileged class in the church, as the eldership has been sometimes wrongly
regarded, nor yet the act of other churches, assembled by their representatives
in council. No ecclesiastical authority higher than that of the local church
is recognized in the New Testament, This authority, however, has its limits;
and since the church has no authority outside of its own body, the candidate
for ordination should be a member of the ordaining church" (A. H. Strong
- SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY Page 920).
"It makes no difference that a man already holds the office of Pastor,
he is said to be unordained if he has not gone through the ceremony of
being questioned and recommended by a council of preachers." I ask, where
do we find such mandatory thing in God's Book?
"What is the truth? This: A man is properly ordained to the work of a preacher
when he is approved and appointed to that position by the Baptist church
of which he is a member. That church is the only organization in the world
that has the authority to ordain or appoint him to that work. I don't say
it is wrong for him to submit to the questioning of a council of preachers
or brethren, but I do say it is surely not required. So if there were only
one remaining true church in the world, the ordaining of God called preachers
could still continue. That church, regardless of size could issue a certificate
of ordination if the preacher desired one. The man would be as scripturally
ordained as if he sat under a thousand councils" (THE BAPTIST PREACHER,
James F. Crace, Editor).
Now I will present a quote of a professed Baptist, who is very highly esteemed
by the ministerial elite of the Baptist Bible Fellowship group, the offices
of which are in Springfield, Mo. The man says: "I do not believe a local
church (if it is Biblical) can be a pawn in the hands of a denominational
hierarchy, nor is it a 'spiritual democracy'. Biblically the local church
is an autonomous THEOCRACY - God ruling the local assembly through the
pastor" (GOD GIVEN PASTORAL AUTHORITY, Page 25- Dr. Kenny
Every New Testament church is to be theocentric, but their God given form
of government is democratic or congregational, if you please. The church
is not a theocracy, nor is the pastor a theocrat. Israel was a theocracy,
and had their God given priests and judges through whom God ruled the nation.
If the church was a theocracy as contended by Elder McComas, then the church
would have no recourse whatsoever from the pronouncements of the pastor.
Such a doctrine and practice cannot help but lead to Diotrepheism (3
John 9-1 1), and reduce the membership of the church to governmental
passiveness. While the church is to make SURE it accords the pastor all
the honor which the Scriptures claim for the office, and set in place every
defence necessary to keep out Korahism (Numbers 16:1-3; Jude
11), it is not to equate the pastoral office with that of the High
Priest of Israel. A pastoral executive order is as much out of place in
a New Testament Baptist church, as that of a Deacon Board with its supposed
decretal power. The all wise God vested his governmental power in the membership
of each local church, and in so doing He protects His churches against
any and all who aspire to arbitrary authority within His churches.
The framework of church government is quite simple. Actually all official
decisions belong to the membership of the church, and the judgment of the
voting majority is final. There are no higher powers, such as Associational
President, State Missionary, cliques, committees, Deacon Boards, Board
of Elders, etc., which the church must go through for ratification of its
majority action. To adhere to this simple rule is to own the governmental
Headship of Christ, and any divergence therefrom is to contravene the law
of Christ and diminish His preeminence in the church. The pastor may disagree
with the majority rule, but he is as much bound by it as the most feeble
member. This does not mean the church is infallible and never errs in its
conclusions, but what it does mean is, they who take variance with the
majority decision of the church are to humbly submit to it while awaiting
an opportunity to courteously reintroduce his variance to the official
There can be no central government in a New Testament church, for the whole
church is the executive body. Christ is the conceptualist of this form
of church government, and every member should be satisfied with it.
An honest and thorough etymological study of the word "democracy" will
discover that it has its roots in the Greek word "ekklesia". It was in
the ancient government of the Greek city-states that democracy was first
practiced, and this government was administered by the free citizens duly
assembled for the purpose. This assembly was called "the ekklesia," and
in those early times there was no misunderstanding as to what the term
meant. The word in its Greek verb form "ekkaleo" means to "call out," or
"summon." "Ekkaleo" is a compound verb' formed from two Greek words, "ek"
and "kaleo". These two words in their composite being meant to "call out."
The purpose of this calling out or calling forth was to convene an assembly
to transact official city business. In view of the foregoing and correct
definition of the term "ekklesia," it would be tautological nonsense to
say. "This ekklesia was the official assembly." It would be tantamount
to saying, "Water is wet."
How the Lord's Ekklesia (church) can be confused, and made to mean a theocracy,
ruled over by the pastor; is not only beyond me, but out-curves the universal
invisible church theory. Let us be reminded the people who originally practiced
ekklesia form of government were already Greek citizens, they were not
called out in order to make them what they already were by birth and citizenship.
The universal invisible church theory confuses soteriology with ecclesiology,
and thereby leaves no room for any complete ekklesia of God on earth. Ekklesia
has not so much to do with the inward call of the Holy Spirit in regeneration
of God's People, as with the calling out unto baptism those who are already
saved. Notwithstanding, evangelism and witness are the first duties of
the Lord's churches.
The theocracy theory confuses the church with Israel and its ancient priesthood.
The invisible theory of the church confuses it with the unrealistic notion
of a body utterly dismembered, invisible, scattered over all the earth,
whose parts are diverse and antagonistic to one another. Both theories
are outrageous, absurd, and steals the attention which belongs to the true
churches of Christ.
One church historian says: "In the matter of church polity, Baptists also
attempt to take the New Testament as their guide, and to follow the simplicity
of apostolic times. In the apostolic period, the believers of any locality
formed an assembly or church. There were no officers in these churches,
except elders or bishops, and deacons. Each church enjoyed an ABSOLUTE
AUTONOMY, AND NO EXTERNAL AUTHORITY EXISTED. In cases of need, a church
called on others for help, and the other churches recognized their obligation
to render aid. In doubt and difficulty a church asked advice, and other
churches acknowledged their duty to give counsel" (Henry C. Vedder - THE
BAPTISTS - Pages 15 & 16). Caps in the above quote are
mine. I call your attention to the spelling of the last word in the quote,
it is "counsel," not "council. Loving and humble counsel, yes, a thousand
times yes! But official and dictatorial council, no, a thousand times no!
The autonomous church needs no governmental auxiliary from without, but
heartily welcomes the hand of sister churches which is empty of officiality.
E. H. Bancroft, speaking of the apostolic churches says: "There were positive
relations of churches to each other involving noteworthy points of contact
and cooperation. It appears from the preceding discussion that the mutual
relation of the apostolic churches was that of independence and equality,
and this view is confirmed by the general tenor of Scripture teaching,
and by the way in which the churches are mentioned. Yet there was a certain
union and interdependence of these local bodies. It was not organic nor
governmental, but rather that of a community of life and interests."
Speaking of apostolic authority the same author says: "Of course, all churches
were under the supreme headship of Christ and under the superintendence
delegated by Him to the apostles, but this authority was moral and advisory
rather than controlling and mandatory, and was exercised with marked moderation"
(CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY By: Bancroft - Page 276).
The churches of the apostolic era enjoyed a relationship that was most
intimate, but "was not organic or governmental," nor did the apostles exercise
any controlling or mandatory power over the churches. So it is, churches
which claim they can through their ordained ministry form a council in
which is vested the authority to ordain or reject ministerial candidates,
claim more for themselves than did the apostles of Christ.
"In Acts 12:23 it is said that "they ordained them elders in
every church," having reference to Paul and Barnabas; this does not
mean that Paul and Barnabas did as modern bishops, etc., do now, but it
means that the churches, by a show of hands, elected elders as is proven
by the original Greek" (J. E. Cobb - A NEW MANUAL FOR BAPTIST CHURCHES,
Every person who is a member of one of the Lord's churches has been made
to drink of "the one Spirit," and was admitted to the "one body"
by the "one baptism" which the Lord gave to everyone of His churches
(Ephesians 4:4-5). The above mentioned experiences makes one a member
of the "body of Christ, and members in particular" (I Corinthians
12:27). This being so, they will have the "same care one for another"
(I Corinthians 12:25) which is demonstrated in and by the members
of a living organism. Pastoral aloofness or failure to fellowship with
all the members can never be reconciled with the spirit of the New Testament,
nor with the history of Baptist churches. The camaraderie of members in
the body of Christ can and should infinitely surpass all carnal organizations,
even the most fraternal.
Inasmuch as the church is likened to a human body, each part being necessary
for the proper functioning of the whole; there can therefore be no independent
members in the body. The spiritual health of the church is unalterably
connected to harmonious interdependence of all its members. For the limbs,
eyes, ears, etc. of Christ's body to lose the desire for power of mutual
edification will have the ill effect of spiritual stagnation or arrested
The Lord's churches are distinct entities and autonomous bodies, yet they
need and desire the fellowship of other churches. Persecution has often
forced reclusion or abstention of fellowship upon and between the flocks
of God, but Baptist history reveals that with each interval or respite
from persecution the churches would once again seek and cultivate sweet
intercourse with their ecclesiastical equals. However, (and it is a vitally
important however) the corporate life of each church was restricted to
its own membership. The term ecclesia fitly expresses the authoritative
extent or limit of a New Testament church. The called out and assembled
church are members one of another, but they can never Scripturally be members
of any ecclesiastical organization external to their own church, even though
it be an ordaining council formed out of or from beloved sister churches.
And it is certain a New Testament church cannot Scripturally be a part
of the ultra, mundane, and powerful organizations who falsely claim to
be Baptists, while denying in doctrine and practice the things which give
vitality to the church. Co-operation with sister churches, yes. Coercion
from without, no. Paul, knowing that the cause of Christ could be best
served in and by the immediate church, and that officiality of service
was restricted to the local church, exultingly says: "Unto Him be glory
in the church ... " (Ephesians 3:21).
Let mutual love and loyalty exist and be fervently cultivated by all of
the Lord's churches. But it is vain to talk about loyalty to Christ unless
our official service is restricted to one particular church, for it is
in the local church the ecclesiastical Headship of Christ is exercised,
and all other ecclesiastical organizations are bereft of that blessed Headship
and have in place of it set up human authorities.
There is a Spanish proverb which says that a bird may fly to the ends of
the earth, but only in a nest can it raise a family. A church may representatively
go to the ends of the earth, but only and by the exclusive authority of
the home church can members be added to its family or ministers ordained
in it. Devotion to sister churches, YES! Dictatorship from sister churches,
Official (?) ordination councils are breeders and incubators for other
ultra church organizations with power to subvert the independence and autonomy
of the Lord's churches.
As we said before and repeat for the sake of clarity. We approve of asking
the elders of sister churches to unofficially assist in the ordaining of
preachers to the Gospel ministry, Their advice and counsel is oft times
most helpful, and their encouragement of the candidate is of inestimable
value. We have no objection whatsoever to the visiting preachers questioning
the candidate concerning doctrine and deportment. And we appreciate it
when they accept the invitation of the ordaining church to lay loving hands
upon the head of the God called and church ordained preacher. But what
we do object to is hierarchical like council, even if it goes by the name
Baptist, which wrests from the local church the power to ordain its own
The church at Antioch ordained Paul and Barnabas to the Gospel ministry
without the aid of a multi-church council (Acts 13:1-3). The notion
that only men who have been formally ordained may lay hands on the ordination
candidate is without basis in Scripture. In the ordination of Paul and
Barnabas, Symeon, Lucius, and Manaen; laid hands on them, and these three
men were not apostles and far as Scripture information extends, not even
ordained ministers of the Gospel. Nor are we to suppose they acted in private,
but in the presence of the congregation whom they represented.
Timothy was ordained to the Gospel ministry by the church in which he was
a member (I Timothy 4:14). It is evident that the church which ordained
Timothy had a plurality of elders at the time who represented the whole
church in laying hands on Timothy. The fanciful notion that Paul ordained
Timothy on the recommendation of two or more churches, is read into the
text by those who assume it to be there. The Scripture which Brother Cockrell
refers to as proof that Paul laid hands on Timothy in ordaining him to
the ministry (II Timothy 1:6), has nothing to do whatsoever with
ordaining him to the ministry, but has reference to a spiritual gift which
Paul had at sometime imparted to Timothy by the laying on of his hands.
Brother Cockrell says: "Paul and Barnabas officiated for the churches in
ordaining elders or pastors in Asia Minor (Acts 14:23)." The word
"ordained" in Acts 14:23 is a translation of the Greek word
"cheirotoneo," and is in some versions translated by the word "appointed."
The word means to appoint by a show of the hands. For further study of
the word see any good Greek lexicon, but for now I refer the reader to
PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by A. T. Robertson - from whom I
quote in regard to Acts 14:23 and the word "ordained" as used in
"Cheirotoneo is an old verb that originally meant to vote by a show of
the hands, finally to appoint with the approval of an assembly that chooses
as II Chronicles 8:19."
No doubt Paul and Barnabas influenced the churches to follow the example
of the Antioch church in the ordaining of men called of God to the ministry,
and that they along with other men of the church laid hands on them. It
is in this sense only can it be correctly said that Paul and Barnabas ordained
elders or pastors for the churches. To say Paul and Barnabas ordained men
by their own power is to say far too much, for it would mean that they
had no respect for the authority of the local church. The authority of
and respect for the local church is honored by the apostles throughout
the New Testament era of the church.
"The second divine prerogative of a church of Christ is - to elect and
commission - i.e., ordain - her own officers ... and that she is absolutely
independent of all other bodies, she must be authorized to elect and to
commission her officers without being required to call upon some outside
party" (J. R. Graves - OLD LANDMARKISM, Pages 36-37).
At the outset of this chapter I want to set the record straight concerning
some matters and men. It is NOT my purpose in the least to destroy or diminish
the ministry of any of the Lord's churches or God called preachers and
pastors. On the contrary, I believe the contention that baptismal validity
goes wanting unless the ordinance is performed by a formally ordained minister
is hurting the Lord's churches and pastors. By challenging this contention
I hope to help their churches, rather than hinder them. Many pastors who
know me personally will attest to the fact that I have oft times without
official status tried to settle disputes between churches and pastors,
and especially is this knowledge familiar to the principals involved in
Likewise, I am convinced that the plural church authority practice is detrimental
to the health of the Lord's churches. And because the practice is not susceptible
to Scriptural proof I oppose it in this rejoinder, along with the claim
that an official council of elders is essential to the proper ordination
of ministerial candidates.
Contrary to what the Editor of the B.B.B. has said, I oppose
the three above mentioned postulates without respect of persons. All one
need do is to read my former treatise on this issue to see that over half
of the book was spent in refuting the argument in favor of plural church
authority. At the time I sent the copy of my first book on the baptismal
question to Brother Cockrell, I also sent copies to Elders Joseph M. Wilson,
James Hobbs, and Fred Halliman. Whether or not Brother Halliman received
the copy I mailed him, I cannot say, but I do know Elders Wilson and Hobbs
received their copies; for they in quick succession wrote me stating their
objection to my objection of plural church authority. Nevertheless, as
for as I know, neither Brother Wilson nor Brother Hobbs has ever published
any writing in defense of the plural church authority position. Nor has
either brother written anything favoring the contention that formal ordination
of the administrator of baptism is necessary to the validity of the ordinance,
and that for the simple reason, they disagree with the contention.
Conversely, Brother Cockrell has on numerous occasions set forth in public
print statements and articles propagating and attempting to defend both
plural church authority in baptism, and the unbaptistic idea that baptism
is invalid unless ad ministered by a formally ordained Baptist preacher.
Some samplings of his statements are now submitted for consideration by
the reader. In a pamphlet which he gave the title, A MESSAGE FROM
THE PASTOR, Brother Cockrell says: "Scriptural baptism is
the immersion of a saved person in water by an ordained Baptist minister
as an act of obedience upon the authority of Christ transmitted through
a true New Testament church." We agree with this definition per se, but
the term in the quote which states "by an ordained Baptist minister," is
seen to mean from an over all study of what the Brother has written on
the subject, that a person who meets all the requirements except that of
being immersed by an ordained Baptist preacher is yet unbaptized.
In support of my interpretation of the above quote I offer as a witness
another statement by our dear brother, i.e., "Our people contend that there
are five things essential to Bible baptism.
First, there must be Divine authority as given to Baptist churches (Matthew
Second, THERE MUST BE a Scriptural administrator - AN ORDAINED BAPTIST
MINISTER (Acts 13:1-3; I Corinthians 1:16).
Third, there must be a Scriptural actor - a born again believer in Jesus
Christ (Acts 16:31-33).
Fourth, there must be a Scriptural action - a complete immersion in water
Fifth, there must be a Scriptural aim - not in order to be saved, but because
you seek to declare salvation already obtained by faith in Christ (Galatians
This quote taken from a pamphlet with the title
WHO ARE WE? Page
7 (Caps mine). In telling us what he thinks constitutes Scriptural baptism,
Brother Cockrell uses the word "must" five times, and to him what the word
demands in one instance is just as essential in every other instance. The
unavoidable conclusion being, an ordained Baptist minister is as necessary
to baptism as the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. One thing for
sure, he leaves no room to misunderstand what he says, and that is according
to him, unless a person is baptized by an ordained Baptist preacher all
the person gets out of the immersion is wet.
Speaking of those who were baptized by New Testament Baptist church authority
without an ordained administrator, Brother Cockrell says: "I personally
do not want a person in my church who was baptized by a male member, or
a female member, any more than I would want my church to use grape juice
in the observance of the Lord's Supper" (B.B.B. Page 11,
10/15/84). Here it is said by Brother Cockrell that he would as soon have
a person in his church that was baptized by "a female member" as he would
a person who was baptized by an unordained, but godly male member who administers
the ordinance in the absence of the pastor. In this broad and sweeping
statement he in our present time eliminates a lot of faithful brothers
and sisters from ever being members of his church, and makes them unworthy
of membership in any of the Lord's churches. Then too, it is a great probability
that the apostle Paul, Cornelius, or many of the three thousand who were
baptized on the day of Pentecost could never be members of his church,
for it CANNOT be proved from Scripture that these people were baptized
by the hands of an ordained preacher.
I have been reading Baptist authors for more than thirty years, and particularly
their views on the ordinances of the church. But at this date I do not
remember one of these authors who dogmatically and undeviatingly held to
the FIVE essentials which Brother Cockrell says is necessary for Scriptural
baptism. The Baptist main stream, historically and contemporary, enjoy
a near perfect consensus as to the Scriptural prerequisites constituting
valid baptism. These prerequisites are four, not five as the Editor of
the B.B.B. acrimoniously contends for.
I will now delineate the four prerequisites which comport with Scripture
and Baptist history. I am confident that every Baptist from milk to meat
know these four prerequisites by heart, but at the risk of being monotonous
I set them before the readers eyes again.
FIRST: A Holy Spirit regenerated person.
SECOND: Proper authority, a local New Testament Baptist church.
THIRD: The correct mode - total immersion of the baptismal candidate in
FOUR: The right motive - to show that his faith is in Christ, His atoning
blood, and resurrection.
Elder T. P. Simmons in his great book entitled A SYSTEMATIC STUDY
OF BIBLE DOCTRINE sets forth the four prerequisites which I have
referred to as constituting Scriptural baptism (Pages 368-392). Brother
Simmons refers to the four prerequisites as: THE ADMINISTRATOR, THE SUBJECT,
THE DESIGN, and the MODE. As to the administrator Brother Simmons made
the following comments, "Baptism is a church ordinance ... baptism is the
ceremonial door into the church. This being true, and it also being true
that the church is a democratic body, it follows that it has charge of
its own door ... Of course the church as a whole cannot baptize. It must
perform the ordinance through those whom it authorizes ... "
The predominant position of Landmark Baptists agree with Brother Simmons'
four prerequisites, and they who advance a fifth essential, such as preacher
ordination, are in a minority void of solid arguments to defend their position.
The fifth prerequisite contention is like any other spiritual error, when
it goes to the Bible for aid, it is like going to the Sahara Desert in
search of vegetation, it finds none. It is a door to further error, leading
deeper and deeper into the error of Diotrepheism, a consequent to be despised
and shunned with all the strength of being. It is but the pouring of wine
into old bottles, the bottles are sure to break. The Baptist poet, John
Milton, secretary to Oliver Cromwell, said in objecting to the over lordship
of Presbyterian elders in their churches, "Presbyter was only priest writ
large" (Presbyterians, Page 51). The fifth prerequisite
as to validity in baptism may not in great degree compare to the priesthood
of Anglicism, but it is a distant cousin to it.
Brother Cockrell, like his mentor, J. M. C. Breaker; after strenuously
contending that baptism performed by a church without the benefit of an
ordained Baptist preacher is invalid, states: "Like Brother Breaker, I
would not say that baptism authorized by a church and administered by a
male member is invalid ... I would say that such should be a rare exception"
(B.B.B. - Page 11, 10/15/84). Well now, I thought, this is
a monumental concession on the part of our Brother. But on second thought,
and after considering contextually what he has said on the subject, I knew
it was but reasoning in a circle.
If Brother Cockrell would consistently adhere in teaching and practice
to what he expressed in the above quote, much of the variance between our
views on baptism would disappear, for he in the quote expresses precisely
what we have been contending for all along; and that is, a true church
may baptize its candidates by an unordained man on rare exceptions. The
rare occasion being, when its pastor is not able or available. "0 consistency
thou art a jewel," and in this case a very rare and yet unobtained jewel.
In a letter to me under the date of February 24,1984, Brother Cockrell
tells me I can anticipate a reply in the BBB to my former
treatise on the baptismal question, he also says in the same letter that
his "Views on baptism being confined to church authority and an ordained
Baptist preacher," has caused a campaign to be waged against him. Note
the word "and" in the quote referred to in this paragraph. The word is
a function word to indicate connection or addition. The sense of the word
as used by Brother Cockrell in this quote is, church authority without
being added to or connected with preacher ordination as regards baptism
is null and void.
While I agree with Brother Cockrell that the pastor should when able and
available administer the ordinance of baptism for the church he pastors,
because the pastor is the primary teacher in the church, and there is no
better way to proclaim the Gospel in symbol than by administering the ordinance
of baptism. We have never said or thought as Brother Cockrell has accused
us of saying or thinking that baptism performed by an unordained male member
of a New Testament church is better than baptism performed by the pastor.
It is he who says that baptism performed by the pastor is the "best" baptism.
(See: B.B.B. - Page 11, 10/15/84). 1 did not know there were
degrees in validity, nor that there is a good baptism, a better baptism,
and a baptism that is "best" of all baptisms.
There are no half-Baptists or Baptists-and-a-half, there are only Baptists.
There are no inferior and superior baptisms. It must be the "one baptism"
which the Scriptures demand or it is not valid baptism. Baptism performed
by an unordained man when the services of the pastor cannot be obtained,
having New Testament authority, is as valid as baptism can be. Would it
not pose an ongoing and grievous problem for a church if it had some members
who had what Brother Cockrell calls the "best" baptism, and some members
who had a baptism which according to Brother Cockrell was less than best?
But thank God, this problem cannot arise in churches that hold to the "one
baptism" of Ephesians 4:5, that is, baptism administered by
the exclusive authority of one of the Lord's churches.
The four prerequisites constituting Scriptural baptism simplifies and systematizes
the ordinance. The supposed fifth prerequisite, that is, formal ordination
of the agent acting for the church gives it a transcendence which puts
it in an orbit that is beyond full control of the church. The fifth prerequisite
stigmatizes the ordinance by giving it a mark which elevates the preacher,
and detracts from the glory of the church. It burdens the ordinance with
superfluity by making it demand more than what the Scriptures require.
In the strict sense there is no authority but God. All earthly authority
is derived from or delegated by the one absolutely sovereign God. Noah's
commission to build the Ark was divinely delegated, and Noah could not
sublet or sublate any part of his God given contract. The same was true
with John, and his commission to baptize. John's baptismal authority was
derived from God (John 1:6), and he could not subcontract it. During
his imprisonment by Herod, John did not appoint an interim baptizer, for
he knew his authority could not be delegated. As with John, so it is with
the church. The Lord gave the commission to baptize to His churches, and
He shut it up authoritatively to the collective membership of each church.
The church cannot reassign its God given commission to its pastor, nor
can the church delegate any part of its baptismal commission to a sister
church. To do so would be to assume a liberty not granted by the Head of
the church, and it would be laying of the pruning knife to the principles
and rules of interpretation which our Baptist champions have held to in
study and debate. The Lord has specifically given the ordinances of baptism
and the memorial supper to His churches, and no admixture of authority
can be found in the New Testament whereby we can say the divine specific
has been abrogated by the inclusion of something else.
Before and after we published our first book opposing plural church authority
and the "must" of formal ordination of the agent acting for the church
in administering the ordinance of baptism, Brother Cockrell has written
and printed articles in his paper against the position taken by the book.
He has also in the interval of time between the publication of my first
treatise and the date of this publication written a number of letters to
various preachers wherein he raises objections to the stand which the book
took on the ordinance of baptism. In one of the letters which he sent to
a number of preachers he made the following statement, "I would like very
much to hear the answers of Pastor Oscar Mink to these questions, but I
am sure I shall never see them."
Brother Cockrell did not send me a copy of the letter, even though in making
the above statement he was ethically bound to do so. However, we will forgive
him this, and overlook his audacity and cock sureness. But I do believe
if he would take an open eyed second look at the first book we published
on the subject, he might see that which he never expected to see. Nevertheless,
we will answer them again, even though the ingredients be much the same
as before, except for a seasoning which prevents benumbing of the spirit.
Re-capitulation can be made interesting, and I will try fervently in this
case to make it so.
In support of preacher baptism Brother Cockrell appeals to the case of
John the Baptist, and his commission to baptize. He says, "John the Baptist
- a non-church member (I John 3:29) - baptized many of the members
who went into the organization of the Jerusalem church ... What church
was John the Baptist a member of when he baptized Christ? Did John practice
'preacher authority in baptism'? We answer: John the Baptist is the only
man, the only Baptist preacher to baptize with direct God given authority.
While the members of the first Baptist church had John's baptism, and through
or by succeeding Baptist churches, John's baptism has been perpetuated;
yet since the death of John the Baptist there has been no preacher authority
like that which God gave unto him. Since the days of John all authority
to baptize has been restricted to the Lord's churches in their singular,
respective, or peculiar capacity.
Since the first Baptist church which Christ established in Jerusalem, Baptist
preachers have all down through the centuries baptized people, but they
have done it by the authority of their membership church, and not by their
own authority. Brother Cockrell admits John's baptism "is not the ideal
case" to refer to for support of extra or accessory church authority. I
ask, where in the New Testament is the "ideal case"?
"... Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John. Though Jesus
Himself baptized not, but His disciples" (John 4:1-2). The worthy
of the worthiest was not worthy to untie the shoes of John the Baptist,
yet John was a mere man as all are which are born of the flesh. While Christ
was (sinless) man, He was at the same time, God manifest in the flesh"
(I Timothy 3:16). Christ, the Head of the church granted authority
to his churches to baptize, and it goes without saying, He who grants authority
has in himself authority to do that which he grants. Jesus had the authority
in and of Himself to baptize, but He deliberately refrained therefrom.
The most probable reason Jesus refused to baptize was, it might have made
unhappy divisions among His followers. Some who had the Baptism of John
might have considered themselves less honorable than those who had the
Master's baptism. Christ guarded against this division, and Paul followed
His example (I Corinthians 1:12-17). I do not mean to infer that
pastors or preachers should not baptize, on the contrary, I contend that
they should, but they should not baptize by their personal authority, lest
they take to themselves the preeminence which belongs to the church.
The more a preacher lifts himself up above the authority of the church,
the lower he sinks into the quagmire of self importance and egotism. We
contend for church autonomy, not preacher autonomy. We do well to remember
that God Himself is the final authority, and that the divine library reveals
that all ecclesiastical authority is restricted to "The church of the
living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15).
The church is God's spiritual illuminating company in this evil age, and
the preacher who assumes officiality beyond the exclusive authority of
his membership church has in measure obscured the light. Preacher baptism
commenced and ended with the ministry of John the Baptist, and was superseded
by the authority which Christ gave to His churches.
A strong loyalty to the pastor should at all times be manifested by all
members of the church, but the pastor who is determined to glorify God
in the church, neither solicits nor will tolerate a blind loyalty, for
then he would be a little pope with a Baptist name. There can only be one
final authority in a Baptist church, and that is the majority rule of the
church, and every member, including the pastor, is bound by that rule.
The authority of the pastor is a distinct authority, and unique in some
respect, yet it is never superior to the majority rule of the church. Democratic
rule, yes! Autocratic rule, no!
The strong emphasis which Landmark Baptists place on the church has greatly
disturbed and troubled other groups going by the name, Baptist. They charge
Landmarkers with over-emphasizing the church. They say, Landmarkers talk
about the church when they should be talking about Christ. The truth is,
Landmarkers stress the importance of the church because of the ill concept
which so-called Baptists have of the church, and because they know the
church of the living God is the glorious bride of Christ. All true Baptists
are determined to manifestly own the high and lofty position which the
Scriptures accord the blood bought church of Jesus Christ.
In an effort to support extra church or augmented authority in baptism,
Brother Cockrell, says - speaking of the transfer of membership by church
letter: "By receiving the letter that church is saying that the other church
baptized someone into their church." This is a penury objection at best,
but we will in brief consider it. A valid baptismal certificate can never
bear the name of but one church, and that is the church that baptizes the
person and not any of the churches which he may later be a member of. It
is by baptism a person enters a Baptist church family, and they enter it
without official assistance from any other church family. To receive into
church membership a person by letter from a sister church, simply means
that the receiving church recognizes and honors the official action of
the sister church as relates to baptism of the person they are receiving.
It cannot be said in any realistic sense, that when a family officially
adopts a child that they are adopting it for another family. The adopting
family would dismiss such a contention as utterly absurd, and rightfully
so. The name of the adoptee is legally entered in the family register,
and while he or she may become part of another family, the family of which
the adoptee becomes a part of will never claim that the adoption was for
their family. Baptism is performed for and by one church only. The officiality
of the baptism being Scriptural can never be canceled, nor does it ever
need to be repeated, and in view of this fact, all true churches are bound
to honor the action of the church which originated it, and henceforth the
baptized person shall give the name of the baptizing church when asked,
WHOSE BAPTISM DO YOU HAVE? The baptized person may have had membership
with a number of other churches in the meantime, but none of their names
can be used correctly to answer the above question.
Baptists have all through their history contended for believer's baptism,
and in so- doing have tenaciously withstood the heresy of infant baptism.
With equal tenacity they have denounced all forms of proxy baptism, and
its kindred evils, such as baptismal sponsors and godparents. There is
no room for spiritual surrogation in the economic relationship of Baptist
The most belaboured objection raised by Brother Cockrell against the practice
of restricting baptismal authority to one church is, that baptism and teaching
are authoritatively co-equal as given in the commission, and that an ordained
minister has as much right to baptize for a church as he does to preach
for it. In impeaching this argument all the principles which he alleges
in favor of it falls apart, for they are inseparably connected. In disproof
of this supposed irrefutable argument, I submit to the concerned and diligent
searcher of church truth the following propositions for consideration.
First: baptism and teaching are not in the commission authoritatively co-equal.
If it was so, then every sermon or Bible lesson taught in the church would
need immediate and specific authority of the church. That is, every single
sermon or lesson delivered in the church would require particular approval
of the church, and at the very time of delivery.
Second: all authority for preaching and teaching in this age has been given
to the Lord's churches. But this authority is not as detailed or specific
as the authority which regulates baptism. In every instance where baptism
is to be performed, an approving vote of the church is necessary, but not
so with preaching or teaching.
Third: there is a broad distinction between the two terms "teach" and "teaching,"
as used in the commission (Matthew 28:19-20). The term "teach" as
first used in the commission has to do with the discipling of "all nations."
This discipling was to bring a person to Christ in the relationship of
pupil to teacher, and this discipleship is in the main accomplished by
individual witnessing, whose authority is inherent in their membership.
This discipling enterprise is incomparably sublime, and is the first and
primary work of the church. The whole inhabited earth is the "field"
of baptistic evangelism, and in realizing this divinely assigned end, unofficial
cooperation of the Lord's churches has no limit.
The discipling chronology as delineated in the commission, is as follows
- the church either directly or by the personal witness of its membership
makes disciples or pupils of all who believe their testimony. The second
step in the order is, those who have believed and desire membership in
the church, are upon approval of the church, baptized and thereby added
to the church. Then following through with the discipling of the baptized,
even though they are yet "babes in Christ," the church begins to
teach them "all things" of the commission. That is, "the whole
counsel of God." When this outline is faithfully and wisely adhered
to, the effect will be, the making of mature disciples, i.e. pupils, learners,
and followers of Christ.
In the discipling process stated above the only action necessitating a
specific vote of the church is baptism. The first teaching is the common
responsibility of the membership of the church. The second teaching phase
is in great part done by the pastor. The vote of the church to call a pastor
is a vote for him to teach the church, and he does not need the vote of
the church every time he enters the pulpit. However, he does need the approving
vote of the church every time he baptizes a person. Thus it is, officiality
as respects teaching and baptism are not the same, but varies in application
to church functions, and time or times of invoking it.
Fourth: one thing is profoundly sure, and that is, New Testament churches
have Scriptural precedents for inter-church preaching and fellowship. But
the New Testament is void of precept and precedent authorizing inter-church
or plural church baptism. Plural church authority in baptism is an innovation
predicated upon human tradition. But let us remember antiquity of tradition
or custom, being logically pleasing and expeditious, does not necessarily
make it right. Too much (any measure is too much) of what some Baptists
are preaching was received by vain conversation and tradition from Convention
and Association fathers, and serves to deface the authority of the local
church. God forbid!
In Acts 15:1-12 is given the record of Paul and Barnabas preaching
for churches other than their membership church, including the church at
Jerusalem, but there is nothing said about them baptizing for any of these
churches. Acts 9:31-32 tells of Peter going through all quarters
of the country where churches were located, and no doubt preached for them,
but no where is it said he baptized for the churches he visited. What has
been said of Peter, Paul and Barnabas as relates to baptism, may also be
said of Silas, Timothy, Titus, etc. They visited many churches, but never
baptized for any of them.
It does not usurp the authority of a church to have a visiting preacher
speak for it, but when it comes to baptism, that is altogether different;
for baptism is the official door into church membership, and the power
to open and close the baptismal door belongs in its entirety to each church.
There is no such thing as partial authority to baptize, which would be
the case if two churches contributed authority in forming the sum and whole
which is needed to baptize. The Lord's churches being made up of finite,
fallible, and failing people, are bound to have short comings, but let
them not admit of a weakness that does not exist; namely, inability to
Luke 24:47-49 and Acts 1:8 is a reiteration of the preaching
part of the commission, and there is nothing in these Scriptures which
militates against preaching fellowship of the Lords churches. Nay, the
contrary is strongly implied, for the carrying of the Gospel to all ends
of the earth is a joint effort of all true churches, and nothing is more
conducive in attaining that glorious result than being exhortatively preached
to by the pastor of a beloved sister church.
No where in all of Holy Writ is para-church authority exemplified, much
less textually stated. In this present age all ecclesiastical authority
has been placed in local New Testament churches, and nothing in this age
shall ever supersede that authority. That authority, while localized and
restricted in exercise to each body of Christ, is in its aggregate nature
or quantity efficiently suited to the broad purpose given in the commission
Further proof could be adduced from Scripture nullifying the contention
that teaching and baptism are authoritatively co-equal as given in the
commission, but Baptists untrammeled by human tradition, bias, or fear
of man, will no doubt see the error of this teaching, and not be confounded
by it. And what the Holy Spirit has made obvious, needs not the reaffirmation
BAPTISM IS IMPORTANT
Baptism is vitally important. Every believer or regenerate person is commanded
to be baptized (Acts 10:48). Therefore, it is incumbent upon all
who would be baptized to make absolutely sure they are baptized by the
proper authority. Baptism is either of man or of God's appointed agency,
which agency resides exclusively in the Lord's churches.
"The ordinances of baptism and the Supper were not entrusted to the ministry
to administer to whomsoever they deem qualified, but to the churches, to
be observed by them - as they were delivered unto them -" (I Corinthians
11:2). (J. R. Graves - PILLARS OF ORTHODOXY Page
217 - Published by B.M. Bogard).
Brother J. M. C. Breaker and the venerated J. R. Graves are often poles
apart on the doctrine of Landmarkism, and never more apparent than on the
question of authority in baptism. Brother Breaker says: "The intimation
is plain, that the practice of baptizing belonged exclusively to the ministry"
(Page 249, ADMINISTRATOR OF BAPTISM). Note the word
"exclusively" as used by Brother Breaker in the above quote, it is a strong
term, and as used in the quote makes the authority of the ministry superior
to that of the church. 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" (THE LORD'S SUPPER A CHURCH ORDINANCE, Page
Baptist perpetuity does not mean there has never been a day since John
the Baptist wherein there was not a Baptist preacher (although I doubt
there has been such a day), but that there has not been a day since Christ
established His church in Jerusalem while on earth, wherein there has not
been the same kind of a church somewhere in the earth. When Christ said,
"I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against
it" (Matthew 16:18), He plainly meant that His church would
triumph against all the forces of evil which would assail it, and would
be found faithful unto the end of the age. It is the perpetuity of the
church which is divinely mandated, and this mandate includes baptism, for
without baptism a church cannot come into being, nor exist indefinitely.
But it is not so with the ministry, for many a church has been organized
without even a prospect of a pastor, and churches may endure an extended
hiatus without a pastor, but they cannot long survive without administering
the ordinance of baptism.
Let us pray that God will give all of His churches pastors, for a God given
pastor greatly enhances the maturity of the church (Ephesians 4:11-12).
But let us not deny nor negate the baptismal authority of a pastorless
church, and thereby consign the already handicapped church to a slow, but
Again I quote J. M. C. Breaker, whom Brother Cockrell contends is a staunch
Landmarker, and whom he commends to readers of the B.B.B. Breaker
says: "The law of baptism, thus far considered, and which we have seen
requires the administrator to be the accredited agent of a gospel church,
IS INTENDED TO APPLY WHERE SUCH A CHURCH IS TO BE FOUND, or where access
can be had to such a church, and to such an administrator; BUT WE MAY SUPPOSE
A CASE (as that of Roger Williams and his friends) where persons desire
to receive the rite, and WHERE THERE IS NO QUALIFIED ADMINISTRATOR to perform
it. CAN IT BE LAW FULLY ADMINISTERED UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES? I THINK
IT CAN, and for the following reasons; John the Baptist was not baptized,
and yet the rite was lawfully administered by him ... under certain circumstances,
then, I THINK BAPTISM BY AN UNBAPTIZED AND UNACCREDITED PERSON WOULD BE
VALID; that is,
(1,) where there is no true church or minister;
(2,) where it is impossible for the parties desiring it to obtain the services
of a qualified administrator from abroad, or where there is no knowledge,
on their part of such an administrator;
(3,) where the intention of those receiving the rite is thereby to form
themselves into a gospel church; and
(4,) where the person thus administering the ordinance does so in good
faith, and in practical submission to the teaching of Christ, that is,
he must be one of the number forming the church, and as such must himself
receive the rite in turn, which John the Baptist would have done, had not
his peculiar mission, prevented" (ADMINISTRATOR OF BAPTISM, Pages
261-263 - Caps mine).
Beloved Baptists, can we say the above statement by Brother Breaker is
merely a "weak statement," and yet be honest with our churches, and what
we have taught them concerning Landmarkism? Is Breaker's Landmarkism, your
brand? Do you consider Breaker's statement quoted above to be of no serious
nature, or do you consider it to be heresy? One of the best ways to teach
is to ask questions which contain the answer or part of the answer. To
ask the questions posed in this paragraph of an informed Landmarker is
to imply the absence of ignorance in the matter on the part of the Landmarker.
The questions are asked to further highlight the grievous error Brother
Breaker glaringly propagates in the statement. Re-read the statement, and
rejoice that God has delivered you from deep water protestantism.
Brother Breaker says on page 245 of his article referred to above, "It
is certain that the commission to baptize was addressed exclusively to
the eleven." If so then, the commission to baptize was coterminous with
the lives of the "eleven," and the Quakers are correct in contending baptism
ceased with the death of the apostles. Or the Roman Catholic church is
right in contending for apostolic succession. But it is not so, Baptists
have never been faced with such an unreasonable dilemma, for the simple
reason, the commission was not given "exclusively to the eleven," but to
the whole church at Jerusalem. The commission was not given to the "eleven"
as apostles whereby general authority was granted them to act independently
of the church. The "eleven" at the time the commission was given were meeting
in official church capacity, or they were official representatives of the
church. Either way, the commission with its ordinance of baptism belongs
to the local independent landmark church, and the importance of this truth
cannot be overemphasized.
Baptism is not a nose of wax, which can be modified to fit every circumstance.
Baptism, as respects regeneration has no merit, but it is yet a high and
lofty ordinance, and is crucial to holy living, or proper dedication unto
God. So it is, we should give serious attention to the doctrine of baptism,
and make sure our baptism is the "one baptism" which God honors.
"The practical evil that is cropping out of the theory, in some quarters,
to the great disturbance of the churches, is that ministers claiming to
be officers of the kingdom are assuming control of baptism, and baptizing
whom they please, whether in a Baptist Church as was the immersion of Dr.
Weaver, of Louisville, Ky., by Prof. James P. Boyce, without consulting
the church, - or fifty miles away. But the unscripturalness of this is
evident from the fact that the ordinances, both, or all, were delivered
to the churches and not to the ministry; and ministers, therefore, have
no more authority to administer baptism, to whom they please, and where
they please, than to administer the Supper to whom and where they please.
It is presumptuous and unscriptural assumption of power that does not belong
to them. Our churches should be admonished that "Eternal vigilance is the
price of their safety," in this regard, as well as others" (J. R. Graves,
OF ORTHODOXY, Page 223 - Published By Ben M. Bogard).
Graves says in referring to the three thousand who were baptized on the
day of Pentecost, "There were more than twelve administrators, for it is
written that in that upper chamber at Jerusalem there were "an hundred
and twenty" present, and on the day of Pentecost "they were all with one
accord and in one place" (Same Work as quoted from above, Page 191). It
is plain to see, Brother Graves did not believe baptism was shut up to
the ministry, and his position is amply supported by the scriptures and
"There are a number of questions which may be asked in relation to the
two ordinances, such as these:
What is the proper method of observing baptism and the Lord's supper?
Who is qualified to administer them?
Who are fit subjects or recipients of them?
And to whom does the responsibility for their proper observance or administration
These questions will be answered variously according to the different interpretations
of the passages upon which the answers are based. Suffice it for us to
say in general that these are church ordinances and are therefore not to
be administered or observed in promiscuous assemblies, and according to
the pattern furnished by the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is the custodian
of the two ordinances, and is responsible for their administration"
THEOLOGY, By E. H. Bancroft - Page 243).
"We believe that all Christian converts under regular process were baptized.
But, it seems under Christ and the apostles, the underlings did the baptizing
in the main. Christ did not baptize personally. The apostle Paul baptized
only a few ... Peter commanded the household of Cornelius to be baptized,
but did not do it himself. The Eunuch was baptized by Philip, one of the
seven deacons on an Evangelistic tour. In the remainder of the instances
of baptisms, it is not stated who did the baptizing. It seems to me, in
view of the above facts, to confine the right to baptize to the bishops
or elders and such as they may deputize, is a reversal of the apostolic
order. Are not apostolic practices safe?" (CHRISTIAN BAPTISM,
by W. O. Baker - Page 18 - 1893).
As to Brother J. M. C. Breaker's article - Administrator of Baptism.
cannot with any degree of certainty be determined where he is coming from
in his treatise, or to where he is going, but contradictions galore arise
in the process. At one point and then another it appears as if he is pro-Landmarkism,
and it is "full steam ahead," but then as you read on, there is discovered
in his arguments a gaping hole like that in the side of the Titanic, and
he proceeds to sink his own ship. He quotes Scripture, and then later on
out argues them a hundred fold. In the over-all article Brother Breaker
renders a grave disservice to Landmarkism and the Lord's churches, for
the heaven given authority regulating baptism is left in utter disarray.
The quotations taken from the article as given in this book should suffice
in convincing the reader that Brother Breaker is not a dependable guide
in the matter of baptism. Nevertheless, Brother Cockrell promotes the article,
and says that his variances with Brother Breaker were not serious
Baptism is an extremely serious matter, so much so that omniscience sent
a vanguard in the person of John the Baptist to prepare by baptism the
people whom Christ would later form His church from. The same absolute
or unalterable prerequisites divinely fixed to safeguard John's baptism
are in place today, only the authority has changed from John to the Lord's
churches. The Lord's churches by undeviating adherence to the baptismal
pattern given them by their Head through the Scriptures, have provided
heaven with more martyrs than all else combined.
Can Baptists of today, who have so great an history and heritage, say as
Brother Breaker does without dangerously diminishing the importance of
baptism; that Philip did not baptize the Eunuch into a church, but baptized
him with the hope he would whenever the opportunity presented itself join
a church? I THINK NOT! Or in circumstances like those faced by Roger Williams,
who knowingly had an unbaptized man (Ezekiel Holliman) to administer immersion
to him, and he in turn immersed Holliman and ten others? I THINK NOT! This
is Breaker's kind of Landmarkism, but it is most certainly not Baptistic.
It is the kind of practice which Brother Cockrell says, is of no "serious"
consequence. (Ibid.). Baptism is important, for hinged on it is intimate
fellowship with Christ, His church, brideship, and the coveted "well
done" at the mercy seat of Christ.
With all sincerity, generosity, concern for and a good feeling toward all,
and antipathy toward none; this indictment is sent forth. I am aware of
its many defects, nevertheless I submit it to all who will expend the laborious
effort required to read it, and pray God to vouchsafe it His blessing.
But also let me be emphatic in saying I know nothing in this treatise,
especially that which relates to doctrine, that I desire to recall.
I have tried to avoid being clumsy and rambling, and come to close grips
with the subject matter, rather than do a long distance analysis. The doctrine
of baptism, as far as so-called christendom is concerned is in chaotic
blackness, and it is for this reason, Baptists need to make their position
on the ordinance lucid and unquestionably distinct. This I have tried to
do herein, and hope to have erased some of the obscurity from the ordinance.
Some may consider this reply to be a volley of denunciation or redundant.
I plead guilty to the charge, but it is a guilt of no ill to which I plead,
for in the arsenal from which this volley was taken, there remaineth; as
it seems, the whole. Redundance, yes. But it is sent forth with the hope
of turning aside all who would mishandle the authority of the church, and
thereby dilute its independence..
To formulate this remonstrance I needed not to ask Brother Cockrell's permission,
for he, assuming his arguments were insuperable, invited me to try and
unravel them. But what he did not see in his conclusions was, near to all
of them was clamoring for not only examination, but rejection. Thus it
is, in caring for our souls we are to know "no man after the flesh."
In light of this truth, I strongly urge every reader to carefully weigh
all that is advocated in these pages. In a commercial flight from one city
to another, a few do the thinking for the many (Pilots, Co-pilot, Engineer,
etc.), and that is as it should be. But in our flight from the city of
destruction to the celestial city, we cannot safely trust our spiritual
welfare to the thinking of a few men or any number of men, no matter how
deft they may seem to be in charting the course. "Do not err, my beloved
brethren - everyone of us shall give an account of himself unto
God" (James 1:16; Romans 14:12). One lesson Baptists
learned a long time ago is, they who speak the loudest do not necessarily
speak for the majority.
The controversy under consideration has not to do with morals or integrity,
but with the doctrine of baptism, And so it is, vilifying or defamation
of character serves no purpose where arguments are not convincing. Truth
needs not to resort to vicious invectives to make it acceptable, all it
needs to make it both admirable and acceptable is to be presented fairly,
and free from the dark clouds of sophistry. If arguments are to be rejected,
the one and only valid basis for rejection is the infirmity of the arguments.
Any other motive for rejection of said arguments, is but an effort to hide
the real facts involved.
My aim in sending forth this book is to be constructive rather than destructive.
My desire is for unity among Baptists rather than division, and I am willing
to allow all the latitude which can honestly be allowed to maintain or
achieve this cherished unity. However, we must realize that aggressiveness
for unity, is not per se aggressiveness for correctness in doctrine, and
unity obtained at the expense of orthodoxy is unprofitably high priced.
This book is not intended to be a declaration of non-fellowship with brethren
or churches who may take variance with what it contends for. We are living
in a day, it seems, when the least dissension is a bar to fellowship. But
in fact, nothing should serve to break fellowship with a sister church
which does not impeach her claims to be a New Testament Baptist church.
Fellowship is not a verb, nor can it ever be a verb, for the simple reason;
fellowship is something we have, and not something we do. True churches
are sisters in the faith, not because they hold the same opinions about
every minute detail of doctrine and practice, but because they have the
same Father and Head, Jesus Christ. the Jerusalem church being older and
wiser in the things of the Lord than the church at Corinth, made allowances
for the infantile conduct of the Corinthian church; and the Corinthians
were used of the Lord to aid in the relief of "the poor saints"
at Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26; I Corinthians 16:1-3). Paul
rebuked the Galatian churches, but in so doing he said, "I have confidence
in you" (Galatians 5:10).
Paul was dogmatic on all the Lord had revealed to him, and there was no
price so great which could induce him to knowingly transgress the least
commandment of His glorious redeemer. Paul knew how to deal with the Lord's
churches and people without sanctioning their errors, and he stood ready
to make every innocent concession necessary to the enhancement of the ministry
to which the Lord had called him.
Paul was willing to go along with Jewish traditions as long as they did
not lead toward Sinai or the Mosaic law. He would go along with the Gentiles
in their abstaining from meats sacrificed to idols, so as not to offend
their weak consciences, Simply, Paul was willing to circumscribe his christian
liberty in matters of no moral significance, where no doctrinal compromise
was called for. He would do this so as to "save some" from being
unnecessarily offended, and thereby "gain" them or preserve his
opportunity to declare unto them "all the counsel of God".
Paul would do anything this side of Scripture violation which would contribute
to the furtherance of the Gospel, but he would not compromise doctrine
nor christian principle to curry favor with any man, be he the great apostle
Peter, or his beloved missionary companion Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39;
I believe it is good to have and hold unyielding inflexibility on what
the Scriptures teach relative to doctrine and practice, and it may be an
occasion would arise making a break in fellowship unavoidable (God forbid).
But the evidence prompting such an action should be indisputable and overwhelming,
so as to leave no doubt the action was correct and warranted.
Pride is the mother of an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and the
intolerance of such egotism will not allow for the least infraction of
its preconceived opinions. The proud man says, Every person who expresses
variance with what I hold to be truth, attacks me personally. When in fact,
all the while, the blame does not rest with his brethren, but with his
own stubbornness and cantankerousness.
Baptist history proves they have known all along that Divine grace and
human pride were antagonistically exclusive. The history of their humility
and self abnegation is proven by their pacific demeanor or sedate life
style. Surely, it is conceded some have been afflicted with churlishness
and acrimony, but these have been rare exceptions to the rule, and in the
main Baptists have come down to the present time with their dogmatism and
humbleness unruffled. Someone may say, But that is paradoxical. Paradoxical,
Yes. But thank God, Baptists have proven it to be true by their millions
of yielding martyrs.
While Baptists are neither arrogant or bigoted, they will not compromise
that which has been revealed to them by the Spirit of truth. They will
not surrender their convictions to sentiment or fear, and punctuate their
preaching with apologetical words or gestures. Baptists take all pain so
as not to be unnecessarily offensive, but they would rather a multitude
be offended, than to give up any element of the Gospel which they have
been called to defend. They know the pastor who bends to accommodate the
errors of others, cannot make those people in his own congregation straight
who are bent. But they are not unscrupulous, and will assiduously consider
all viewpoints which run counter to their own. This courtesy they expect
from their would-be gainsayers, but regretfully it goes wanting in the
In climax, let me once again assert, we believe in "One Lord, one faith,
one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5). Scriptural baptism consists of
the following, no more or no less:
First, a Scriptural subject - a Holy Spirit regenerated person.
Second, the Scriptural mode complete immersion of the believer in
Third, the Scriptural motive - not the washing away of sins, but the answer
of a good conscience toward God. Not baptized in order to be saved, but
to show forth in symbol the salvation which has already been wrought in
the heart by the grace of God.
Fourth. the Scriptural authority, namely A New Testament Baptist church.
Bible baptism requireth no more than these, and any additions to or deletions
from these four prerequisites makes the baptism of the person highly suspect.
I urge the reader to take all circumstances into account, and judge accordingly.
Our Lord said: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous
judgment" (John 7:24).
I will now close this Second Treatise on baptismal authority by quoting
Elder LeRoy Pack - Pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church of Chesapeake,
"Who baptizes? The preacher doesn't baptize, the church baptizes. I don't
know how you folks feel about it, but I feel very strongly about it. I
wouldn't baptize any of you folks here into this church, for I am not a
member of this church. The only way I would baptize you would be for our
church to receive you, I would baptize you into our church, and then you
could ask for and we would get you a letter down here. I wouldn't baptize
anybody into this church, I don't have that authority, YOU CAN'T AUTHORIZE
ME TO, for I am not a member of this church, you see. Not a member at all,
it is none of my business, I am just preaching for you."
(Taken from a sermon preached in the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church of
Hazard, Ky. 11/28/ 1983. Used by permission of Brother Pack. Caps mine).
THIS IS THE BAPTIST WAY, SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS THE BIBLE WAY.
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