RETAINING Our Baptist Name
By Davis W. Huckabee, Pastor
HERITAGE BAPTIST CHURCH
Salem, Ohio, 44460
(Delivered in three lectures at the Independent Baptist College, Ft Worth, Texas, on February 22-24, 2000)
INTRODUCTION: This subject, which has been assigned to me for this Seminar, is a most appropriate subject for our day and time, for there is an all too common trend in many Baptist Churches to lay aside this time honored title. It is doubtful if the real reason for this compromise—and that is what it is—is ever honestly admitted. But then, that is always the way of any kind of sin—to hide its evil under a cloak of pretense, or to masquerade it as something else that seems less obnoxious. There are three main reasons for compromise. 1. The Devices of Reprobation, by which I mean that those who, like Judas Iscariot, have never been born again, will succumb to the Tempter's devices by which he deceives them into doing evil for selfish reasons. 2. The Dread of Reproach, which is common in lost and saved alike, for it is a part of man's fleshly makeup. 3. The Desire for Reputation, which is again a common thing in all kinds of people. It is a part of the "pride of life," spoken of in 1 John 2:16. It is to be feared that the most common of these reasons is the unwillingness to "Go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing his reproach."
It must be said that if we should compromise on any cardinal truth of the Scriptures, or on our designation as those who hold to those truths, it might indeed shelter us temporarily from the reproach of the world. But could God bless the efforts that were sheltered under such compromise? It is very easy for us to be entirely too oriented to our own good and glory, so that we may convince ourselves that our compromise is for the glory of God, when it is nothing more than a gutlessness on our own parts. Apart from sustaining grace, we are all cowards and compromisers.
I. THE HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST NAME
Before we get specifically into this history, perhaps it will be needful to briefly consider what is involved in the word "name." Unthinking people sometimes say "Words don't mean anything," which sounds like the pronouncement of a hypocrite whose own words are not very dependable. But the fact is that words are our chief means of dispensing information. A noun is the name of a specific person, place or thing. Names are necessary to distinguish one thing from another. It is an evidence of a special God-given knowledge that when God brought all the creatures He had created before Adam, he was able to give appropriate names to all of them, as we read in Genesis 2:19. Proper nouns are the names of individuals within a specific family to distinguish the individual members of the family.
Let me illustrate this matter of proper names. Many people make a serious mistake by judging everything by our present practice. This is always dangerous, for it interprets Scripture and history by our day instead of shaping our practices by the Word of God and history. We see a lot of this in the religious realm. Paul spoke of some of this sort in 2 Corinthians 10:12. "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." No one of us—No, not all of us of this generation—are standards of what is right and wrong. We are accountable to conform ourselves to the Word of God, by which we will all be judged in a coming day, as Jesus said in John 12:48. "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." Family names are of very recent usage-in the last few hundred years. Originally there were only individual names, such as Peter, James, John, etc. But where there were more than one of a name in a place, something else needed to be put to a man’s name to distinguish him from other of this name.
According to authorities in genealogy, all family names came originally from one of four sources. 1. A man might be distinguished by his occupation. One was Peter the Carpenter, John the Smith, until finally the definite article was dropped. 2. One might be distinguished by some personal characteristic. Simon, called Niger in Acts 13:1, is spoken of familiarly, so that he was probably the same as Simon the Cyrenian in Matthew 27:32. He was distinguished as "Simon the Black," being from North Africa. Others might be William Little, because he was small of stature, or, by irony, because he was larger than usual. 3. Still others might be distinguished by the location of their homes. Henry Overbrook lived in a house that was across the creek from others. James Field’s house was probably away from the other houses in a village, being in a field. 4. And finally, a man might be distinguished from others of the same name by his relationship to someone else. My late father-in-law was Henry Robertson. Originally he would have been known as Henry, the son of Robert. This last is a very common form of names, and most languages have prefixes or suffixes to names that have similar meaning. The Scottish "Mac," the Irish "O’," the German "Von" and others all point to a person being of the family of such and so person.
Now, while all this illustrates much about our modern usage of names, it bears only indirectly upon the primary subject of this lecture. "Baptist" was not a family or proper name, in spite of the attempt of some Protestants to make it so. If you have ever used Matthew Henry’s Commentary you may remember that he consistently refers to the herald of Christ as "John Baptist," as if "Baptist" was his family name. And it must be admitted that some of the King James Translators must have felt the same way, for in Matthew 14:8 and Luke 7:20, they rendered it this way, contrary to the consistent usage of the definite article in every instance in the inspired text where John is mentioned by this title. This is an endeavor to get rid of the inspired testimony that God gave this title to His faithful servant, whom He had appointed to go before the Son of God, and to make ready a people for Him. If you are enslaved to any English translation, instead of consulting the inspired original languages, or else commentators who are knowledgeable in them, you are going to automatically adopt some errors. No English version is as precise as the Greek, for English is a living language, and as such, is constantly changing. The New Testament Greek has been a dead language, and so, an unchanging language, for many centuries. Herein only lies our assurance of a dependable revelation of God’s will for us. It never changes, as our English does.
Scripture emphasizes the importance of a proper name when it says in Proverbs 22:1 that "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches." And God chose a good name for His initial preacher in this dispensation. Names are important, and ought to be respected. I have learned a lot from laymen and laywomen in the churches that God has given me the privilege of pastoring. A lady in my first pastorate was once asked, "What would you be if you were not a Baptist?" She instantly answered "Ashamed!" Truly so, for this is a good honorable name for a faithful servant of Jesus. And Scripture assigns no other such proper name.
Now it is very easy to mistakenly assume something here that is not true at all. You will be told, and may even assume it to be true, that John the son of Zacharias was called "the Baptist" because of his practice of baptizing converts. That sounds very good and logical, but like much human language and logic, it is not Scriptural. Let the Word of God decide how and when and by whom John was given this designation. He did not first call himself by this title, nor was he given this title by the Pharisees and Sadducees, nor by the multitudes that came out to hear his preaching. Neither did the civil authority pronounce whether this title was "politically correct" or not. May God deliver all that are enslaved to political correctness. Inspiration declares in Matthew 3:1-2 "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Before John preached his first sermon, or baptized his first convert, when he first "came" on the scene, he was called "the Baptist." And this declaration was by the Spirit of inspiration, and that ought to be good enough for anyone.
The fact that some misuse names and even abuse them, and fly under false colors, in no way justifies others in not being diligent in the proper use of names. I was amused at, and yet admired, the reasoning of one of the members of Immanuel Baptist Church, which was my second pastorate. Once while teaching her children’s Sunday School class, she told them, "Let’s see. Does the Bible say ‘John the Methodist?’ or ‘John the Presbyterian?’ Or ‘John the Catholic?’ No! It says ‘John the Baptist."’ Now while this name gives no reason for any of us to glory in ourselves, for we contributed nothing to it, there is pointed out the fact that our Lord has put a proper name to the disciples who were prepared for the first church. And I cannot see that we should be ashamed to use that same name today if we fit the biblical mold for the Lord’s disciples. We ought to try to add to the honor of that name.
I value my brethren in the faith, but if I must choose between them and God’s truth, I can only say "Goodbye, and may God have mercy on you." I admit to being at once the easiest person to convince of something, and the hardest to convince. Let the Word of God once speak, as interpreted by its Author, and that is an end of the matter to me. But let human tradition, human interpretations, human translations, human reasoning, or anything else of man be proposed in the place of, or as a modifier of God’s Word, and I immediately become impossible to convince. On the basis of 2 Corinthians 10:5 we have a duty always to believe and behave according to God’s Word alone. "Casting down imaginations (margin, ‘reasonings,’ Greek, logismos), and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." That is clear enough, isn’t it?
Now inasmuch as all of the first members of the first church, including the Head of the Church Himself, had only Baptist baptism, does that not make them Baptists as well? I do not know how one can get around this fact except by denying that John was rightly given this title, and that will involve denying inspiration. John was not one of our modern freelance preachers that go out with their own message, under no authority but their own arrogant assumption that they have a call from God. No! John was one of the most humble and obedient of men, and no higher commendation could be given him than that which the Lord gave him in Matthew 11:11. "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
John gives no help to either Catholicism or Protestantism, and for this reason both try to relegate John to the Old Testament dispensation, or to some intermediate dispensation, but neither will allow him to be of the New Testament or Church Age. I wonder if this is why the translators, who were Anglicans and Congregationalists without exception, clearly mistranslated an important word here. But first, let us see what Inspiration says about John’s position, dispensationally speaking. Mark 1:1-2 declares: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." This is a prophetic reference to John the Baptist. He was not the first to preach the Gospel, but John opened the Gospel Age by his preaching and baptizing, for his ministry was to prepare members for the first church, as testified by Luke 1:17, 76-79. How then can anyone put him anywhere else but in the Church Age?
I said that the translators mistranslated an important word here in Matthew 11:11, and it is the word rendered "least" in our English version, and it is out of harmony with John’s testimony, and as well as making contradictory the teaching of the Saviour Himself. The Greek word mikroteros is an adverb in the comparative degree, and cannot be correctly translated "least," which is the superlative degree. (God says what He means, and means what He says, translators notwithstanding.) This mistranslation and its attendant theory, has led to the erroneous idea that the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than John because he is not in the Kingdom of God at all. Being in the comparative degree requires that the rendering be "lesser," or, if it is used as an adverb of time, "later." This latter rendering will harmonize everything. John himself had repeatedly talked about One Who would be "later", and Who would "come after me," and so he is dealing with time. He declared that he himself was nothing and must decrease while Christ was great, and would become greater, John 3:27-31. In Matthew 3:11 he said that One "cometh after me" Who "is mightier that I," and in John 1:30 that "After me cometh a man who is preferred before me: for he was before me."
This is all in exact harmony with what Jesus said in Matthew 11:11. Correctly rendered, this reads "Among those born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is later in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." How could John be the least in the kingdom of heaven, which his ministry inaugurated, Mark 1:1, when Jesus pronounces him the second greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Our Lord’s words are simply that there had not risen a greater than John the Baptist, but that He Himself, Who followed him, was alone greater than him. This is the only way to bring into harmony, both Jesus’ teachings, John’s testimonies, and the correct usage of the Greek. This is a high encomium that our Lord gives John.
Many years ago, in a discussion with a Campbellite, he took the position that we Baptists trace our churches back to John the Baptist. He was very proud that his supposed church was founded on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, and was alone Jesus’ church. But John founded no church. However, he was God’s chosen instrument to call many to repentance and faith, and he then baptized them, thereby preparing fit material for the Saviour to use when, after a year or so of ministry, He called into existence the first Christian church that the world had ever seen. And this was almost two years before Pentecost. No one founded a church of any kind on that first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection. No one but C. I. Scofield and other dispensationalists, who imagine that a church was founded at this time.
Therefore, what do we have? We have the only preacher at that time that was Divinely authorized to administer the ordinance of baptism to saved people, and he was entitled "the Baptist" by God Himself. Does that not make all of his disciples to be "Baptists"? And as is implied in Acts 1:21-22, all of the early disciples from whom the Apostles were chosen were disciples of John, and so, were "Baptists," as was also the Lord Jesus Himself. Does this not make Jesus’ first church a Baptist church? I know not how we can come to any other conclusion. And on the basis of Hebrews 13:8, we cannot believe that our Lord has since changed churches.
Furthermore, at no time afterward did our Lord ever repudiate John’s baptism, either for Himself, or for His disciples, or institute another kind of baptism. Indeed, when He gave the Great Commission to His first church, and thereby to all churches that would ever after be born out of that church and its spiritual descendents, the only natural implication is that they were to reproduce other churches of the same kind—that is, Baptist churches.
Nor is Acts 19: 1ff an exception to this rule. Here we have the only instance of "rebaptism" in Scripture, if it could be called a "re-baptism," for it was done only, as all our Baptist ancestors later did, because the first baptism was deemed defective in some point. The apostle Paul, upon his arrival at Ephesus, found a group of disciples, yet as he came to know them better, he found them in gross ignorance about certain spiritual truths, and upon questioning them found that they had only been baptized "unto John’s baptism." Notice that they had not been baptized by John, for this was almost thirty-five years after John’s death. No! They had been baptized by someone who was trying to perpetuate John’s ministry, which was never meant to be perpetuated.
John’s work was finished when he had prepared those initial members that Jesus chose to constitute the First Baptist Church. All of the facts point to Apollos, a man otherwise correct and of admirable character, as the one who did this, Acts 18:24-26. Even genuinely saved people, who are zealous to serve the Lord may make great blunders through ignorance. We have all done so at times.
We do not know in exactly what the defect in their baptism lay, but the fact that Paul encouraged them to submit to a Scriptural baptism is evidence that whenever a baptism is questionable in any point, a scriptural baptism should be administered.
At this point it needs to be noted that there are four things that enter into Scriptural Baptism, and without any one of which, that baptism is defective, or "alien." First, there must be a Scriptural subject—a saved person—for none were baptized in Bible times but those who professed to have trusted in Christ to save them. Second, there must be a Scriptural purpose—to picture the Gospel symbolically, and to confess one’s own submission to the Gospel, and to acknowledge one’s hope of the resurrection. Here is where one of the first errors crept in: unsound preachers taught that baptism saves, and so, began to bring unsaved people into the churches until finally there were none but unsaved people in them, and so, Catholicism was born. Third, there must be a Scriptural mode—immersion—for this is the only meaning of the Greek word, any English dictionary, as well as any Greek lexicon being witness. When I was preparing my manuscript that became "Studies On Church Truth," I consulted every Greek Lexicon and Greek scholar that I could find, and out of hundreds of them, I found only one exception to this. One or two early editions of Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon gave "sprinkle" as a possible meaning of the Greek word baptiso, but all other Greek authorities so ridiculed this as a possible meaning that Liddell and Scott promptly corrected this is all subsequent editions. And, Fourth, there must be a Scriptural authority—a scriptural church. Since John died, only the Lord Jesus has been the authority for this ordinance, and He authorized only His churches to administer it. No minister except John has ever had the intrinsic authority to baptize. A pastor is only a church’s agent to perform the immersion, and a church may authorize anyone it pleases to administer baptism, although it is most commonly the pastor who does so. Lest any should misunderstand, perhaps this church authority should be stated. This can be done by the minister prefacing the ordinance by saying, "(Name) upon your profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in obedience to His command, by the authority of this church, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
I have gone through all of this because Protestants and Catholics alike hate the witness of John’s ministry, and some of them try to bring it into contempt by misinterpreting Acts 19. Some say that these were actually John’s converts, and that Paul therefore ordered them to be re-baptized that they might have a Scriptural baptism. But on the contrary, Paul clearly acknowledged the scripturality of John’s baptism in verse 4. "Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." It was not John’s baptism that was defective here, but the imitation of John’s baptism. Tragically, there are a lot of modern day imitations of scriptural baptism, some of them even being called Baptist baptism.
It has always been the practice of heretics to choose biblical terms for their groups, but that does not make them to be sound churches. A Biblical title does not make a Biblical Christian, or a true church. In our city, we have a group that calls itself "The Church of the Abrahamic Faith." A wonderful sounding church name! But one of our members, after talking to a member of this group, said it wasn’t very biblical in its beliefs and practices. Yes, and even sincere but mistaken men may call their churches Baptist churches when they are not really so. In January of 1983, I was called to pastor the Second Street Baptist Church of Salem, Ohio. But the members told me at the time that since coming to understand church truth better, they were in serious doubt that the church had been scripturally organized when it began over twenty years before, and they said that they would follow my recommendation in the matter. After checking every source that I could find, this was confirmed, and what had passed as a Baptist Church all those years, was found to be nothing more than a mere human organization, began by a zealous, but ignorant, preacher. We disbanded and obtained authority from the historically old and sound Bryan Station Baptist Church of Lexington, Kentucky, organized in 1767, and were organized out of it a few months later.
Now if all this makes you proud to be a Baptist, you ought to repent, and go over your lessons again, and recall what Proverbs 16:5 says about God hating everyone that is proud in heart. In none of this is there a grain of reason for human pride. God had to run every one of us down to convert us, and many of us just stumbled ignorantly into the membership of a true church, and some of us had to be whipped into submission to a true church in spite of desires otherwise. No! We ought rather to be humbly thankful for God’s grace in leading us into one of His true churches, and we ought to guard against anything that would cause us to dishonor its good name.
We did not choose the name Baptist, but were led by God’s grace into churches bearing it, and so, we have no right to cast it off. Of course, sometimes unsaved people come in surreptitiously into the Lord’s churches, and these are often the ones who are unwilling to bear any reproach for the Lord’s sake. It was true of the First Baptist Church of Jerusalem, for Judas Iscariot was never saved. And Paul spoke of some people like that in Galatians 2:4: "And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage."
Anciently, pirate ships often flew false flags in order to deceive other ships until they could capture them and make merchandise of them, and only then would they raise their Jolly Roger flag. It is always hypocrisy to fly under false colors, but there are many spiritual pirates who do so. This is nothing new, for Peter spoke of such in 2 Peter 2:1-3. "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not." No one but a fool counterfeits something that is worthless. Satan has been well called "the ape of God," for he counterfeits every spiritual thing that he can, in order to bring reproach upon that which is truly of God.
We see several important facts about these that Peter mentions. First, their character. They come in privily, or craftily, or secretly, and they do this by feigned words (Greek plasos, from which our English word "plastic" comes. It refers to words that may be molded to fit the occasion.) Second, their deleterious work. Many will follow their pernicious ways, thereby bringing reproach upon the Truth. Third, their motivation. Through covetousness they make merchandise of the people who are deceived by them. Fourth, their solemn end. Swift destruction as judgment and damnation will soon befall them. Life at its longest, is still terribly short compared to eternity, and immediately upon its end, the spirit of man stands before God, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and a judgment is made as to whether that spirit is permitted to enter into Heaven, or whether it is consigned to Hades (Heb. 9:27). This not the final judgment, but is, as the inspired text says "a judgment"—a determination.
We see many spiritual pirates in our world. Many years ago, Harry Emerson Fosdick became pastor of the Riverside Baptist Church in New York City. He was a rank modernist, and was the one who, in his denial of the Saviour’s deity boldly said that "Someday the bones of Jesus will be found in a Palestinian grave." By his own declared unbelief, he could not have been a saved man, for belief in the Lord’s resurrection is part and parcel of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). In time, Fosdick led that church to remove the name Baptist from its name, and henceforth it became simply "The Riverside Church." To be honest, I was thankful that they did so, for that church could not be a true New Testament church if it tolerated such an infidel as its pastor. It had long since ceased to be a church in God’s reckoning, else it would not have even called such a man as pastor. Unfortunately, there are many churches that continue to claim to be true churches after they have long since departed from the faith.
Sometimes this departure from the faith results when an overzealous but unsound preacher and twists a lot of human proselytes into professions of faith. Many years ago I realized that I could talk people into joining the church, but I also had to admit that I was ashamed of every convert that Davis Huckabee ever made. Only the Lord’s additions to the church are worth having. Now it may flatter the preacher’s ego to have a lot of professions of faith, but there may be deleterious effects. In several instances, as soon as these unsaved additions to the church gained the ascendancy in numbers, they voted out the Baptist pastor, and made the church to be a heretical church of some kind, even taking off the name Baptist. Unfortunately, sometimes they continue to proclaim themselves Baptists, though they have become predominantly something else, to the shame of all true Baptists. Generally it is a blessing to true churches when such compromising churches drop the name Baptist.
And a widespread problem in the larger Baptist denominational groups is that these have knowingly hired men who were clearly antagonistic to Baptist truth, and have paid these to teach their ministerial students to cut their own Baptist throats by denying many of the Baptist fundamentals. God pity those "Baptists" that give their money for this cause, or who even tolerate it.
And while we are considering the history of our Baptist name, it ought to be said that it is a matter of curiosity to some that there were no denominational names used of Christians in the New Testament, but a moment’s reflection will reveal the reason.
There were no different Christian denominations to be distinguished one from another by different names for two or three hundred years. In the beginning, and for two or three hundred years, the only religious groups besides Christians were the Jews and the pagan religions. For this reason, only general names such as "believers," "saints," "the way," and "Christians" were applied to the Lord’s people. Not until the second and third centuries when so many began to compromise on Bible Truth did the more conservative Christians begin to accept names such as "Montanists," "Novatianists," and "Donatists" to distinguish them from the more liberal "Orthodox" or "Catholic" party.
Beginning about this time Baptists’ most common name came into use. As a result of the sounder Christians refusing to recognize the baptism of the more lax party because they felt that most of them had not had a real salvation experience, they only accepted candidates from the other party for membership in their churches by profession of faith and baptism. Hence, they began to be called ANABAPTISTS—rebaptizers. But this was actually not an appropriate name, for they never repeated any baptism that they believed to be a true and scriptural baptism. However, it did seem appropriate to the undiscerning, and so, it was very commonly used of our spiritual ancestors.
This name was commonly used until after 1300 A.D., when all other professing Christians ceased using immersion, and so, the Baptists were no longer ANA-baptists—rebaptizers—but were now simply the only ones truly baptizing, according to the literal meaning of the word. The others having all adopted sprinkling or pouring for the initiatory ordinance of the church. It took another two hundred years before the "Ana" began to be commonly dropped from the name, and even as late as the Seventeenth Century it was still common for our spiritual ancestors to be called "Anabaptists." Colonial records often speak of Baptists in this way. By this, the Catholics and Protestants almost seem to make a tacit confession to the Baptist practice of immersion being the only truly scriptural way of practicing this ordinance, since they alone continued to have this word that means immersers applied to them.
Our spiritual ancestors have been known at different times and in different places by numerous names, generally being called by the names of prominent leaders, or by localities where they flourished. Thus, we read of them being called Montanists, Novatianists, Donatists, Lyonese and Leonists, Arnoldists, Henricians, Petrobrusians, Waldenses, Albigenses, Lollards, and possibly Paulicians, and others. Most all of these were remarkably sound in doctrine, and sanctified in morals, their most bitter enemies bearing witness to these facts. As a result of this, they were as different from the so-called "Orthodox" and "Protestant" parties as night and day, or as pagan and Christian. But all were grouped together as "Anabaptist."
The reason for this radical difference is that the Catholic party had, from a very early date, taught salvation by baptism, and consequently, it only took one or two generations to totally corrupt the churches, so that they had almost no truly saved people in them. Though some of the Protestant Reformers believed in salvation by grace through faith, their followers quickly reverted back to the old Catholic practice of infant baptism, and so, quickly corrupted their churches as the Catholics had done. So long as this was the practice of all the others, while Baptists continued to accept people into their churches only by immersion based upon a credible profession that they had had a real experience of saving grace, naturally there would be radical differences between them and all others. Many modern Baptists talk very young children into professions of faith, and manipulate a mere vocal profession of faith out of adults without a careful examination of whether they have had a real experience of grace. This is a tragic moving backward toward the common corruption of both Catholics and Protestants. In one of my pastorates was an older lady who claimed to have been converted at age four. And I never saw any evidence to the contrary, but for every such person, there dozens who made early professions of faith, but who later learned that they were unsaved church members for years. And tragically, many never are brought to this realization, and so, die in an unsaved condition.
II. WHY SOME GIVE UP THE NAME "BAPTIST"
We cannot look upon the heart, and so, for this reason, we cannot know exactly the reasoning that goes on behind any action. And Scripture warns us against taking a judgmental attitude toward others. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth" (Rom. 14:4). And later on, the believer is admonished to rather make sure that he does not cause a weaker brother to fall. This, however, is in a context of incidentals, and not regarding things clearly revealed in the Word of God. There are a lot of areas where we must learn to bear and forbear with our brethren, for in the day of judgment, it is doubtful that any of us are going to get an A+ in all areas of faith and service to the Lord. Doubtless we shall all be found faulty in some areas. But in things regarding "the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), it is not our option to compromise under any circumstance. To do so is to practically repudiate the Lordship of our Saviour, and to reject the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Bible History gives us an insight, however, into the reason why God’s people may sometimes be tempted to compromise. The Old Testament often illustrates the New Testament (1 Cor. 10:6, 11). From the time that God granted Israel a glorious deliverance from Egyptian bondage, for some four hundred years she enjoyed many and great blessings as a Theocracy—a nation ruled by God. But, in the days when the sons of Samuel were judges over the nation, the nation compromised on all this. "Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (1 Sam. 8:4-5).
The problem here was a failure in the leadership of the nation, as the wicked sons of Samuel abused their office, and lost the confidence of the people. These began to envy what seemed to be the better circumstances of the pagan nations around them who were ruled by kings instead of by God-appointed judges. Without doubt this sometimes enters into some churches' discontent today, for we are all notorious for gazing upon other fields and thinking that the grass is so much greener over there. I confess that, as one who has always pastored small, struggling churches, I have been guilty of this. However, one time several years ago when I was struggling with this, I was reminded that the greener seeming grass might be artificial turf. It often is.
Another Scripture illustration of compromise is to be seen in Solomon. Three things are to be seen in him. First, His Capabilities (1 Kings 3:7-14). When he came to the throne, he asked for wisdom to be able to serve God. God was pleased with his request, and granted him wisdom above any other king. Second, His Compromise (1 Kings 11:1-4). Contrary to the command of God, he took many wives, most of whom were princesses of the nations round about, and so, these were marriages for political expediency. Kinfolks do not generally go to war with one another, and so, these insured peace with neighboring nations. But these did not result in the desired ends. Third, His Confession (Eccl. 1:1-3). Indeed, there is a tone of pessimism throughout all of Ecclesiastes, for compromise is always frustrating, and so it was to Solomon.
Satan is a past master of not only deceit, but also of promoting envy in God’s people. It was by promoting a discontentment that he moved Adam and Eve to disobey God, and so, to lose their home in a perfect environment. It worked then, and it works today. Other religious denominations are not confined in their activities by the Word of God as Baptists are, and so, their denominational standards will generally allow them to make whatever changes are necessary to satisfy carnal people. Baptists have always held that our supreme goal is not to satisfy ourselves, but rather to obey God, and to do those things that He has commanded us to do for his glory. Boasting is excluded by the law of faith (Rom. 3:27), and that is always hard on the pride that is such a large and influential part of every one of us.
Therefore, it is so easy for thoughtless, and sometimes outwardly carnal church members to look about them and see the artificial turf of almost totally humanistic religions, and so, to demand "make us a church like the large, ornate, worldly, manpleasing, and seemingly numerically prosperous Protestant churches around us." And while this is sometimes done against the advice of a faithful pastor, at other times it is done at the instigation of a discontented pastor who has tired of bearing reproach for the name of Christ. It took some grace to endure it when a Catholic friend boasted of St. Paul’s Church having "overflow crowds at two morning services." But why is this? Because it caters wholly to the flesh, and Christ’s word and will has no place there.
As even the Apostle to the Gentiles acknowledged as a continuing problem in himself, there is nothing good in our fleshly nature, and this is manifested by a will that is against the Lord’s workings (Rom. 7:18). And, brethren, if Paul had this problem, you can be sure that it will be an even greater problem to every one of us. The flesh is never willing to bear discomfort, or material loss, or reproach, and it will use all sorts of specious reasoning and excuses to justify itself in this. Often this will be manifest in a desire to compromise on our spiritual responsibilities. The words "to will is present" are an indication that this is a constant problem. A statement that came on my E-mail recently from Brother Earl White’s "Morning Meditations (1-27-2000)" is appropriate. "I know we all sometimes wish that we could make a once for all decision to live for Christ and never have difficult decisions to face again. It is just not that way. We must make the right decisions daily. But the glimpses that the simplest Christian gets of Christ as he daily serves at the door as a door-keeper in the house of the Lord makes it all worth it."
My first experience with this problem happened in my first pastorate many years ago when I was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Kirk, Colorado. Our church was 150 miles from any church of like faith and order, and when we heard of a supposed independent Baptist church across the line in Kansas thirty miles or so away, we tried to cultivate some fellowship with it. At a young people’s fellowship, they had a native Fiji Islander, the grandson of a cannibal, who worked with his own people. I don’t know if I ever heard how they came into contact with Alfreddie Yaya, but they had supported him for some years. During the time of the fellowship, after the preaching service, as I visited with him, he declared that "I am Baptistic in my beliefs, but I do not use the name as I am able to reach more people by doing so." Not even the most regions are exempt from the temptation to compromise, for no place is remote enough to get away from Satan.
I was quite young in the ministry, but my beliefs had solidified enough that I was immediately depressed at this evidence of compromise, and my confidence in this church that thought so highly of this man was lessened. As I thought about this situation, I was made to wonder how the Lord could bless this knowing and willing lying deception as to one's true condition. If one holds to a denominational position, he should not be ashamed to admit it, and if those in error do not like it, let them take the matter up with the Lord and see if they get any satisfaction. Not only so, but if one is ashamed of the denominational position that he holds, is it not the most rank hypocrisy to secretly hold to it while denying it in practice? And may we not ask any such person for his Biblical authority for either compromising upon God’s truth for the sake of finding favor in the eyes of those who are unwilling to stand for the truth. Or, if that is not the case, then for his authority for playing the hypocrite by his inconsistency?
And while not bearing directly upon the name that one goes by, yet certainly we see a biblical instance of one not being consistent in his profession in Peter’s actions at Antioch, for which Paul rebuked him. "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled (Greek, sunupokrinomai—to act the hypocrite with) likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation (Greek hupo-krisis—hypocrisy)" (Gal. 2:11-13). This shows that not even an apostle is immune to temptation to compromise because of the fear of man. And we see what often accompanies this—the baleful influence on others (v. 13). But it is interesting that Peter showed an amazing ignorance of his Popish prerogatives, if he was the first Pope, for so far from hurling his anathemas and excommunications against Paul for rebuking him, he later speaks of Paul with great respect and affection in 2 Peter 3:15-16.
Paul himself was involved in a situation that was of a similar principle. The Judaizers who claimed to accept Jesus as the Messiah, were offended at Paul for his refusal to preach circumcision as necessary to acceptance with God. He and Barnabas had no small confrontation with them, and the Antioch church finally sent a delegation up to Jerusalem to find out if this was what the church there believed, as the Judaizers had implied (Acts 15:1-2). The unanimous decision of all the apostles and elders that gathered to discuss this matter was that salvation was by grace, and by grace alone, and this eliminated all trust in human performances of any kind or degree (Acts 15:8-11). This information was then sent throughout the Gentile churches (Acts 15:19-29). This attempt by the Judaizers involved a denial of the whole system of grace. So it often is in compromise. The fact is, that grace enters every realm but one-there is no grace in judgment—and no one can preach any subject but this without grace entering in, unless he preaches mere legalism.
Later this same problem surfaced among the Galatian churches, and some claimed that Paul actually preached circumcision. But he denied this, saying that if he had preached circumcision as a means of justification, then the offence of the cross would have ceased, and he would not have been so bitterly persecuted (Gal. 5:11). In this we see intimated a possible reason why some will compromise—an unwillingness to suffer reproach or persecution for the cause of Christ. But this is nothing less than the rising up of the flesh in rebellion against Christian duty. Another thing is implied here, and that is that the unbelieving world will always be offended by faithful preaching. Hence the cause of all the persecution of Baptists of the past. All could have been prevented by compromise. But—then the Gospel would have perished, and would never have been brought by someone to the little Lubbock County, Texas, community of Woodrow, and I would have been forever lost. The fact that the Gospel was faithfully propagated so that I could be saved, ought to forever obligate me to faithfulness.
And be not deceived, Brethren, the name "Baptist" is an offence to many in other denominations. For the fact that true Baptists have generally always stood true to Christ automatically condemns all those who are so gutless or so greedy that they will not take a stand for the truth lest they be reproached or lose their positions of esteem in the world. We all have the duty of going outside the camp of the religious world where it has apostatized from the truth, as did our Lord. "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach" (Heb. 13:12-13). Serving the Lord obediently has always required a lot of grace in order to overcome our natural fearfulness and cowardice. Our Lord dealt with this in Matthew 10:22ff. Here we see: (1) The world’s hatred for our Lord’s people (vv.22-23). (2) Our likeness to our Lord in this (vv. 24-25). (3) The need for a proper fear (vv. 26-28). (4) The need to take a public stand for the truth (v. 27). (5) God’s providential care for all His creation (vv. 29-31). (6) The sure consequences of both courage and cowardice (vv. 32-33). This puts the compromiser on very solemn ground. (7) The certainty of religious division when God is given first place (vv. 34-36). Most of us have seen this last situation as families were split wide open simply because part loved and obeyed God, and others only wanted the name of being Christians without bearing the responsibilities of it.
This all has a bearing upon this present matter. The question is, Whom do you most fear? Man or God? This will be the determining factor in whether we stand true or compromise. I had already done quite a bit of work on these lectures when I read Brother Darter’s editorial in the October-December, 1999, issue of The Independent Baptist Voice, but I could not help but think how very appropriate to this very matter was his quotation of Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." An ancient writer of the Fourth Century said: "Fear God and you need fear nothing else. But if you fear not God, then you must fear all else." True! God has never called anyone to make the truth palatable to the flesh.
Many people want to be generic Christians, for they think that Brand name Christianity is too costly. They are like a wealthy old maid caretaker of her equally well to do mother who both lived in the community where I first pastored. Evidently the mother had experienced God’s saving grace, for the daughter often expressed a desire to have her mother’s expectation of coming glory. Lena's mother was on her deathbed, and, since she loved Queen Ann cherries, she told her daughter to go to the community general store and buy a whole case of them so she could enjoy them in her final days. But when the daughter learned the cost of the cherries, she said, "Those are too expensive to buy a whole case," and she only bought three cans. What was the problem? First, it was not her money that was involved, although she expected to inherit it in time. Second, she was not being a loving and obedient child to her mother. Third, and most importantly, she was not authorized to determine if this was too costly. The spiritual problem that we are now dealing with finds a correspondence to this. We are supposed to be presently occupying till our Lord returns, and taking care of His business for Him (Luke 19:12ff), and we are dealing with that which He has instituted. Love to God should compel obedience. "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14). And I see no indication in Scripture that God has ever authorized anyone to shop around for the cheapest form of Christianity.
As the Owner of all things, cost is no object with God. He paid the highest price ever paid for anything for our salvation, as we read in John 3:16. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And 2 Corinthians 9:15: "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." Yet Christians are often unwilling to pay the price for discipleship. What is that price? Matthew 16:24 answers, "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Part of the cross that Christians are to bear is the reproach of the world because we belong to Christ, and are endeavoring to follow Him. That entails a lot of self-denial.
By contrast, what will it avail if a person has the worldly reputation and esteem of a combined Martin Luther King, jr., a Billy Graham and a Norman Vincent Peale, if he is not in submission to the will of God? One will suffer loss of reward at best, and may even lose his soul. Note what Matthew 16:25-26 goes on to say. "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Obedience to the will of God is the chief characteristic of Christians, as we read in Hebrews 5:9. "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." Present obedience proves that one has part in Christ’s redemption.
Perhaps the reason why some churches decide to lay aside the name "Baptist" so that they may escape the reproach of the world, is because they are like the Sardis church. In Revelation 3:1 it is written of this church that "I know thy works, that thou has a name that thou livest, and art dead." This church is only mentioned in Revelation 1, and here. It had begun as a true church that was living for the Lord, but here the Lord casts a sad reflection upon it. Though it still had a few members who were living as they should, verse 4—perhaps some of the older, original members—yet the church itself is now dead in the Lord’s reckoning, which is all that really counts. What had happened? It had once been a sound, serving, church, but someone compromised, and others followed him in it. This is how compromise always works.
Let me illustrate this from the life of a great Baptist, but one who compromised on one point. John Bunyan was a deep theologian and great practical preacher, who wrote sixty major works. I have the three volume set of his complete works. He spent twelve years in the Bedford, England, prison as the authorities endeavored to silence his preaching. To be in prison under the conditions then was bad enough, but he had to watch his little fourteen year old blind daughter, Mary, walk barefoot through snow at times, as she, led by her younger brother, came to obtain the tagged shoelaces that Bunyan made. These, the children sold for a few pennies in the hopes that they could buy a loaf of bread, which was sometimes all the food that the family had. That had to be very hard, but Bunyan refused to compromise. However, he did try to play footsie with Protestants around the Lord’s Table, as he was one of the most outstanding open communionists of the day among Baptists. As a result of his compromise in this matter the Baptist church of which he was pastor ceased to be a Baptist church after his death. What a high cost to compromise!
And I am aware that one of the most common attempts at justification of this compromise is the plea that "The souls of men are so much more important than mere doctrine, or names, and my love for souls moves me to do anything to gain a few more." That may sound good to fleshly reason, but our Lord Who has commanded us to stand firm in the truth, has already shown us His own infinitely higher concern for the souls of men, so that love for souls is not in conflict with doctrinal faithfulness. Indeed, no one ever has been, or ever will be, converted apart from God’s truth, but many have been eternally damned by a perverted Gospel that began as a compromise of what was considered unimportant matters by men of the religious world.
And another thing that enters into this is that we presume to be wiser than our Lord, if we think to determine what can, and what cannot be retained in our preaching and practice. If we compromise, why should He put forth any of His power to make what preaching we do to be effectual? The best preaching that man can do is just so much wind unless the Spirit of God empowers it, and why should He do so if we will not obey God's revealed will. Well did Jesus ask in Luke 6:46: "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Real submission to the Lordship of Christ is not a matter of profession, but of practice, and this will involve taking our place among those who are the historic people of God.
III. HOW CAN WE USE THE NAME "BAPTIST" TO BEST ADVANTAGE?
It is always important that we have the proper attitude in anything that we do. Attitudes make all the difference in whether we are commended or condemned for what we do. In Israel we see an illustration of how easy it is for people to lose their prospective in regard to serving God. One of Israel’s failures was that she selfishly turned aside unto doing only what pleased the flesh. We see God's indictment of the nation in Malachi 1:6: "A son honoreth his father, and servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? And if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests that despise my name." The relationship between God and His people demands a proper attitude on their part. Self-seeking always prevents giving due honor to the Lord, which is why the Lord’s first requirement for following Him is self-denial (Matthew 16:24). It is easy, even in one s conviction, to be motivated solely by self-seeking, and to have no regard to the glory of God. Lost people can often be talked into doing things just to ease the conviction that they feel. Be clear about this. God does not save souls primarily to keep them out of hell. He saves primarily for His own glory. He saves few of those who are highly esteemed in the eyes of man, but He saves those of us who are, by nature nothings, that He might make something of us by His grace, and so, for His glory. So it is written in 1 Corinthians 1:29, 31: "That no flesh should glory in his presence. . .That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
History repeats itself with monotonous regularity, and today we live in a very self-centered age when God’s honor and glory is generally secondary to the will of the flesh. This self-seeking of individual honor is an effective preventive to living by faith, which is God's requirement for every one of us. Listen to what the Saviour Himself said in this regard in John 5:44: "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" This cannot be too strongly emphasized. Too many of God's people are trying to make a name for themselves in one way or another instead of honoring the name of the Lord that every saved person bears, and the name that He has given to His people in their capacity as an organized people-Baptist churches. Many are "willing to pastor the largest church in town for the glory of God." But how many have you heard say that, "I'm willing to pastor the smallest church in town if God is glorified thereby"? That is strangely inconsistent, isn't it? But it simply evidences our pride.
However, as we observe others who are bringing reproach upon our denominational name, we have to be careful that we do not allow wrong attitudes to develop in us. Nowhere do we find God calling any of us to a ministry of calling the kettle black, which often smacks of self-righteousness. Our own pots are too besmirched to qualify any of us to do so. Not only so, but this also tends to distract us from what we are called to do. You may have noticed, as I have, that those who are the most critical of others often do not have a very positive ministry of their own. Sadly, it is sometimes a deep-seated spirit of envy that moves a person to be critical of others who may seem to be accomplishing what he is not. Is not this criticism of others what is warned against in Romans 14, where, after rebuking a judgmental attitude in verse 4, Paul was inspired to emphasize personal responsibility in verses 12-13? "So then every one of us shall give account of himself [not others, for God calls no one to be a tattletale] to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or occasion to fall in his brother's way." And the fact that this only deals with incidentals does not detract from its applicability to more important things. And it must be remembered that it is our Lord Himself Who alone walks amid His churches with feet of brass [which symbolize judgment] (Rev. 1:13-15). Beware of usurping Jesus' judgment ministry.
There are instances where our denomination generally would be better off if a so-called "Baptist church" did not bear this honorable name. But because the Lord’s churches are required by Biblical principles to be independent of all other spiritual authority on earth, we have no way to compel erring churches to remove "Baptist" from their churches when they have departed from the faith. I confess that there have been times when I was ashamed of the actions of such a church, and wished that they did not bear the denominational name that I cherish. However, I am convinced of God’s perfect wisdom, as well as of His absolute sovereignty, which enables Him to remedy such situations as pleases Him. He does not need my puny strength or paltry sagacity to protect His name and the name of His churches. Let me rather see to my own doing, recognizing my own great need for His grace and strength and wisdom. Often God allows evil to play itself out simply to manifest the evil to which fleshly wisdom and pride will come if given its head. The flesh must always be controlled.
Even a Judas Iscariot, who was about the ultimate in self-seeking, may be used in God's great eternal purpose, if just to warn ambitious and avaricious souls of the high cost of such attitudes and actions. After his departure to go "to his own place," as we read in Acts 1:25, the Lord led that first church to replace him, and then to get on with their business to which they had been appointed. And it is interesting to observe that the Jerusalem church did not engage in an extended period of bemoaning the deleterious effects of Judas' apostasy, nor run around expecting that his hypocrisy was going to destroy the Lord's work. There have always been apostates, and always will be until our Lord returns, and there will be more and worse ones as we approach the end of the age. So much so, in fact, that our Lord Himself asks in Luke 18:8f: "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find the faith (so the inspired text reads) on the earth?" He was not asking if there would be any believers on earth at that time, but rather whether the body of doctrinal truth—"the faith" as it is often referred to in the New Testament—would be around. It is most instructive to check out the appearances of "the faith" in a concordance. "The Faith," as T. T. Eaton brought out almost one hundred years ago in his little book "Faith and The Faith," which has been recently reprinted, is the object of our belief, and so, is the church's doctrine. This is simply Bible doctrine, and therefore Baptist doctrine. At our Lord's return will He find sound Baptist Churches? How this thought challenges every one of us to be more faithful. Our beliefs must rest on "The Faith" or be misplaced. There is no faith apart from a proper object. Our greatest need is to see to ourselves, lest we be found faulty because we have allowed our sinful self-seeking to turn us aside from our God-given faith and function. When that shout of the archangel sounds, and the resurrection trumpet blares out the good news, will you be found faithfully at your task. Or will you be found to have buried your talent, and sat down upon the stool of do-nothing to pessimistically await your home-going, while criticizing those who are serving God, albeit perhaps imperfectly.
Is the answer to the problem of departure from historic faith a compelled uniformity? No! Both Catholicism and Protestantism have been historically renowned for their endeavors to enforce uniformity of belief and practice, by physical force and threat of eternal perdition. Yet this has not worked for them. But Baptists have been much more successful because the power and wisdom of God has generally accompanied their labors, as the Head of the Churches promised in John 16:13-14. "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak; and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." The unity of the Spirit spoken of in Ephesians 4:3-7 necessarily requires a unified people, and this is impossible in a mixture of denominations of various creeds. The Christian ideal of unity is, therefore, impossible on Catholic and Protestant terms.
As much as we would like to prevent any dishonor to our Lord and to His churches, we cannot enforce conformity to the truth by any outward force. Multiplying religious inventions or organizations is not the way to insure uniformity or to protect our Baptist name and heritage. That would be a betrayal of two of the most basic of our principles—obedience to Scripture, and the independence of the churches. But where the Spirit of God is given the lead, there will always be unity of faith, and this results in unity of practice. Hence, only the conformity that results from obedience to the truth will ever succeed. But this will require self-denial, subjection to Scripture in all things, submission to the Spirit’s interpretation of Scripture, and to His leadership in regard to all Christian work, and therefore, subjugation of all thoughts to the obedience of Christ, as demanded in 2 Corinthians 10:5. There is therefore no room for pride in anyone.
It is hard to live honorably if one does not have an honorable name. Up until this shameless age in which we now live, when so many rush into the news media to announce the illegitimate children that they have begotten, the lack of an honorable name was considered a great handicap. Illegitimately born people had a hard life simply because they did not have an honorable name. It is sad to say that most of professing Christendom is bastard-born church-wise, for every religious denomination except Baptists is compelled to trace its origin to some man who started the group several centuries after our Lord began His church. And do not misunderstand me! I rejoice in every truly born again person of whatever religious denomination he may be. I have several precious Christian friends who are not Baptists. But many of them who are saved are saved in spite of what their church teaches, and not because of it. Many are saved because someone bootlegged the Gospel in to them.
The Lord has given an honorable name to His people and His churches, and we are all obligated to live up to that high name, for which over fifty million martyrs died to preserve its faith so that we today could inherit it. Brethren, we are heirs of the martyrs of the past, and shame, shame, on us, if we betray them by selling out our spiritual ancestors and spiritual heritage for a mess of spiritual pottage.
Protestantism has sought to justify itself in all its varied forms by a misinterpretation of the parable of the mustard tree in Matthew 13:31-32. The mustard tree is interpreted to be Christianity, which from a very small beginning grew to great size, having many branches of various and heterogeneous kinds, but all being supposedly good, true, faithful Christianity. According to this theory there is the Methodist branch, the Presbyterian branch, the Baptist branch, etc. But this is not only contrary to Scripture, it is contrary to horticultural fact.
In all the ten parables that Jesus taught in this "Kingdom of heaven" series in Matthew, Mark and Luke, He taught, not the great expansion of the kingdom of heaven, but the continual corrupting of it. So it is here, for the birds come into this mustard tree and break down and corrupt and defile it. Not only so, but this tree is, in all its branches, still the mustard tree, with no indications that any branch differed radically from any other. Nature will not tolerate even inter-grafting of radically different plants. For years, my hobby has been fruit trees, and because I found that purchased trees were not only unreasonably expensive, but most were mislabeled or defective, I began grafting my own. At one time I had 330 varieties of apples alone, all grafted with up to seven varieties to a tree. But the grafting was only successful within the specific kind of fruit. Stone fruits, such as peaches, apricots, plums, and others could not be grafted on apples, or vice versa. Even Scripture teaches in Romans 11:17, that the olive must be grafted on olive.
Protestantism, however, has endeavored to graft itself on to true Christianity, without regard to how alien it is to Biblical Christianity in regard to its beliefs about God, sin, salvation, church truth, and all the other great verities of the faith. Without doubt some, perhaps most, of the Reformers were genuinely saved, but they were tragically ignorant of Scripture truth in several areas, and they proudly wanted the esteem of the world, and so, were an easy prey to compromise. It is recorded that Martin Luther, the first Protestant that the world ever saw, first courted the favor of the Anabaptists. Let me pause here to say, as I'm sure you all realize, that BAPTISTS ARE NOT PROTESTANTS! They never have been. They never can be if they are real Baptists. "Protestant" is only applicable to some religious denomination that originated out of Catholicism in protest against her corruptions in the Sixteenth Century or later, or which descended from a group that had done so. All are Rome's daughters or granddaughters, and they are presently being summoned to "come home," and will do so in the end of this age so as to constitute a great world church under the Antichrist.
But as I started to say, in the beginning Martin Luther courted the favor of the Anabaptists, and was inclined to join them until he saw what the cost would be. They were all a hated and reviled people, without the learning that characterized the false churches. Nor did they have the vast numbers of adherents that infant baptism brought into false churches, including many high-born people who commanded the world’s respect. They were only a simple and peaceful people who had all professed to have experienced salvation by grace alone, and had been immersed upon profession of their faith. All these things made membership in the Baptists too humbling and too costly for him, and so, Martin Luther and his followers ended up creating their own church, and persecuting the Baptists almost as severely as had the Catholics.
I have said all this in order to call attention to the fact that Scripture says that "The whole family [of God] in heaven and earth is named" after God Himself (Eph. 3:14-15). There are no denominational names, because of the unity of the Spirit where it is a true Christianity. See the seven unities in Ephesians 4:3-6. All Protestantism is defective on some of these things. Our Baptist name is only necessary as an earthly designation, to distinguish us from others. Sadly, many true saints either ignorantly or willfully refuse to be known by this honorable name. When a person goes under an alias, it always makes questionable his honesty. Now no one of sense believes that only Baptists are going to heaven. To hold such a theory is to imbibe Catholicism's proud theology, for she originated the idea that membership in a true church was necessary to be saved, and that none could be saved outside of "The Church."
An ambiguous or meaningless name cannot gather respect for others of its kind, which is one of the several reasons why a distinctive, denominational name is needed in this present world. Either as individuals or as churches, "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself" (Rom. 14:7), and so, we must take into account the effect of our actions on others who share our beliefs. The news media, because it is wholly under the domination of Satan, delights to blazon abroad any wrongdoing by anyone bearing the name "Baptist." There are both positive and negative sides to being publicly known as Baptist, which is why those of us bearing this honorable name have a great responsibility to do nothing that could be even misconstrued as evil. "Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thess. 5:22).
It used to be enough for people to be called "Baptist," for most people recognized this as defining a definite religious people. But then many so-called Baptist churches compromised and entered superchurch organizations, such as conventions, associations, fellowships, etc., by means of which they could be more conveniently, though unconsciously, herded into unscriptural beliefs and practices. Satan loves such organizations because they enable him to control people, for if he captures the organization, he controls all that belong to it. Now none of us really enjoy so standing out from others as to be accounted misfits, non-conformists or rebels and that is the almost unconscious power that any such superchurch organization exercises over its adherents. Thus, it is often reasoned by those in such organizations that "We don’t want to go contrary to the convention—association—fellowship, etc.—and so we’ll go along with the program even though we don’t agree with it." And so, departure from The Faith is gradually but surreptitiously accomplished.
Later, some conscientious Baptists disavowed this tendency to organizationism that had such a corrupting influence on churches, and so, these began to be called "independent Baptists"—another honorable designation, which I am proud to bear. But then it wasn't long before some of these began to get machinitis as the itch to be more than a pastor of one lowly flock moved some to start other ecclesiastical organizations that would invent offices with higher sounding titles than "Pastor" or "Elder." Carnal ambitions to be Popes—to be overlords over other brethren—is not dead even among Baptists. How true are the wise man's words in Ecclesiastes 7:29: "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions." The religious realm is filled with human inventions, all of which are, by their very natures, indictments of the wisdom of God, as if God didn’t know how best to do things.
The best of all ways to use our Baptist name is to so use it that all will be compelled to respect it because it is made honorable by those who bear it. We all need the ambition that David had in Psalm 26:8, when he said, "Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth." God's glory is localized in His House. It has always seemed to me that this is the Old Testament equivalent to Ephesians 3:21 which says, "Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." If God's glory is our primary concern, then we will bring all our own deliberations, desires and deportment into submission to God's will. If not, then our self-serving agenda will dishonor the honorable name that God has given to His churches, and which it is our privilege to bear. People of carnal attitudes will resort to one of three means of getting away from the convictions wrought by the Word of God. They will resort to: (1) ISOLATION as they try to get completely away from the Word of God. Or, to: (2) INSULATION as they try to insulate themselves from the Word by means of worldliness. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 13:22. Or, to: (3) INOCULATION as they imbibe enough false doctrine to counteract the Truth.
In closing a warning. In Luke 9:26 our Lord said "For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in the Father's, and of the holy angels." Does not this include the "word"—Baptist—by which He has designated His people in Scripture? When our Lord returns He will call for us all to stand before Him to be rewarded for our faithfulness to Him. Then all those who were ashamed to take their stand with Him and with His faithful people because they didn’t want to bear reproach for His sake, will be ashamed, and will suffer loss of reward. In which class will you be found?
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