Why Be A Baptist?
Chapter 2: Why I Am a Baptist
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20). My text is "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:20).
Peter told us "to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Pet. 3:15). That is a good reason why every Baptist ought to be able to tell why he is a Baptist. Every Baptist ought to be able at any time to give his reasons for being a Baptist: and contrariwise, since the Master never established but one church, every man, who isnít a Baptist, ought to be able to give reasons, good and sufficient to satisfy the Lord Jesus at the judgment, why he is not a Baptist. For if the church that Jesus built was a Baptist church, then no churches but Baptist churches are churches of Christ and every man will have to face the Lord Jesus at the judgment and tell Him why he joined some church founded by an uninspired man, instead of the one founded by the Lord Jesus Himself.
There is much talk now-a-days about a community church. Why should not Baptists, go in with all others and organize one church in every community? If it were left to us nothing would be more delightful. We like to agree and get along with other people. But it isnít left to us and to our consciences. The Masterís plain command to the first church was "to teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
Church membership is not left to your consciences or your whims or your reasonings; it is a matter of loyalty and obedience to Jesus Christ who bought us and saved us with His own precious blood. Conscience is not a standard of right or wrong for any man, for conscience is a creature of education and needs teaching. The conscience of the ignorant, or uninformed would say one church is right or none, and the conscience of the man who is taught would say another. So you see conscience cannot be a standard by which men are to regulate their church membership. A standard must be that to which all men can come, and which when submitted to will make all men do what the Lord, Himself, says do. That is why Jesus said, "teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." The Bible is the standard and menís consciences never get right until they get right with the Bible and then they all agree.
The fundamental and distinguishing Baptist doctrine and the one underlying all other Baptist doctrines is this: "The Bible, the Bible alone, is our only and all sufficient rule of faith and practice." If you canít find it in the Bible it isnít Baptist doctrine; if it is Baptist doctrine you can find it in the Bible. That is the shibboleth of this message. Our authority for making this our distinguishing teaching is our marching orders, given us by the Lord Jesus, the Head and Founder of the First Baptist church.
The man God sent to make ready a people out of whom the Lord Jesus organized His church was called by God Himself the Baptist. "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea" (Matthew 3:1). Mark you, he was not called the Baptist because he baptized. He was called the Baptist by the Lord before he ever baptized anybody, before he ever preached a sermon. He was called the Baptist because of the work God sent him to do. "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John" (John 4:1). His mission was the same kind of a mission that Baptists have always had. John was a Baptist because his mission was to make and baptize disciples. Baptists are the only folks on earth who are still working at that kind of a mission-who make men disciples, then baptize them and baptize nobody else except disciples or Christians.
John the Baptist baptized Christ and all the twelve apostles and Christís church is built on them, "Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20). Since the material for the church Jesus built was made ready by a Baptist preacher it was Baptist material and the church organized out of it was a Baptist church. The church that Jesus called "My church" was therefore a Baptist church. To that church He gave His marching orders: "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28:18-20). His marching orders are His program for that church and every other Baptist church until He comes again. His orders are very explicit.
Baptists are commanded to teach all things the Lord Jesus has commanded: they are not commanded to teach anything He hasnít commanded. That is why I say Baptist doctrine includes all things commanded and taught and practiced by Christ and His apostles and excludes everything else. If it isnít in the Bible it isnít Baptist doctrine: if it is Baptist doctrine you can find it in the Bible. Our orders tell us to go and preach the gospel to every creature: thatís why we are Missionary Baptists. A member of this church or any other Baptist church who doesnít believe in missions or who doesnít do something for missions is a hypocrite and disobedient to the last orders of the Head of this and every other Baptist church. The Bible tells us that "Jesus made and baptized disciples" and His orders to us are to "go, make disciples" and then baptize them. "Disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). A disciple is a Christian. The Oxford Bible in Matthew 28:19 gives these words as the literal translation, "teaching all nations, or making Christians of all nations." Jesus baptized none but disciples or Christians. He commanded us to baptize none but disciples or Christians. For that reason Baptists baptize no infants, no seekers, no sinners, no probationers, nobody except those who claim to be Christians; because Jesus, the founder of the first Baptist church, did not baptize anybody but disciples or Christians. He left us an example and told us to walk in His steps. That is why Baptists are sticklers for regenerated church membership. Jesus started us that way and told us to "observe all things whatsoever He commanded."
Jesus walked sixty miles to be immersed in the River Jordan by the first Baptist preacher. That explains why Baptists are sticklers for immersion and for Baptist baptism. They were started that way and the Master told us to do as He said. The Bible, our guidebook, makes baptism so clear and plain that anybody can read it out of the Book, if they want to. That is why so many of the common people are Baptists. I could tell you this morning, if I had the time, how that when there were no Baptists in Germany, John G. Oncken, made a Baptist by reading the New Testament, started to England to find a Baptist preacher to baptize him. I. N. Yohannon, a Persian, converted under a Presbyterian missionary, read the New Testament and came from Persia to New York to get Baptist baptism. In the island of Cuba, Diaz became a Baptist from reading the New Testament. That is why in the state of Parihyba, Brazil, men converted under a Presbyterian missionary and made Baptists by reading the New Testament, sent for a Baptist preacher in Pernambuco to come up and baptize them. Baptists take the Bible as it reads and donít try to explain it away. The Bible says: "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized" (John 3:23). Baptists believe what the Bible says and hunt "much water," when they go to baptize. The Bible says: "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him" (Matthew 3:13). That is why Baptists go to the water instead of bringing the water to the candidate. The Bible says Jesus was baptized in Jordan: "And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan" (Mark 1:9). That is why Baptists baptize in water instead of putting water on the candidate. Years ago Brother A. J. Preston met a prominent Presbyterian judge in the city where he was pastor at that time, who said to him, "Have you seen the Birmingham morning paper? Did you read where De Witt Talmage immersed a man in the River Jordan the other day?" Bro. Preston said: "Judge, I want to ask you one question. How is it that when you read in a daily paper that a Presbyterian preacher in the 19th century baptized a man in the River Jordan, you say he immersed him: and then when you read in the Bible that in the first century a Baptist preacher baptized the Lord Jesus in the River Jordan, you deny that He was immersed?" The Presbyterian judge has not answered him yet. The Bible says that Philip and the eunuch went down into the water: "And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38). That is why Baptists do it that way today. The Bible describes baptism as a burial and resurrection: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3-4). That is why Baptists insist that immersion only is baptism. The Bible says that Jesus after His baptism came up straightway out of the water: "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him" (Mark 1:10). It takes "much water", "going to the water", "going into the water," a burial and a resurrection and a "coming out of the water" to make a Bible baptism. That is why Baptists will not have any other kind. There isnít any other kind in the Bible and Baptists will not accept for doctrines the commandments of men. "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).
The Bible says: "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:12). For that reason Baptists have no god-fathers or god-mothers or sponsors and do not believe in any proxies in religion. We do not baptize babies nor believe in infant membership because that puts a preacher or a priest or an ordinance or a church or a sacrament between the soul and God; and the Bible says: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).
Baptists believe that infant baptism is a sin against God and against little children; because it takes away from the child the privilege and duty of obeying Jesus for himself in baptism after he has repented and believed in Christ for life and salvation. Because Baptist churches take the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice, they are the only churches that in all their history have never connected salvation with baptism, either for infants or adults; but have always contended that salvation is essential to baptism rather than baptism being essential to salvation. Godís order is always salvation first and then baptism. "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). Peter gave us a reason for the baptism of the household of Cornelius that they had already received the Holy Spirit: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (Acts 10:43-47).
"Obey God Rather Than Men"
Because the Bible says: "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9). Baptists do not believe that one church is as good as another and think it makes lots of difference what church you join. Since all other churches except Baptist churches were established by men-to join any of them is to obey the commandments of men, and the Bible says, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Baptists do not believe that a wife ought to join the church with her husband unless the Bible teaches what his church teaches, because the Bible says: "If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). The first loyalty and allegiance of every blood-bought soul is to Jesus Christ and he ought to obey Christ, even if he had to forsake father and mother and wife and children and all kinsmen according to the flesh to follow Christ. Paul said when it came to following Christ, "he knew no man after the flesh." A man or woman should follow Christ in the matter of what church he joins, even if in so doing it means a house divided against itself. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a manís foes shall be they of his own household" (Matthew 10:34-36).
Baptists reject all other baptisms except Baptist baptism because there is no other kind in the Bible. Jesus and the twelve apostles had Baptist baptism. For that reason we receive no other except Baptist baptism. To reject Baptist baptism is to follow the Pharisees instead of Jesus. "But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him" (Luke 7:30). All rejecters of Baptist baptism are therefore followers of the Pharisees instead of Christ and "despisers of the Church of God," which was built by Jesus out of persons, baptized by the first Baptist preacher: "What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not" (1 Cor. 11:22), "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (1 Cor. 12:28), "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22).
Why Baptists Vote Receiving Members
Baptists are a Democratic people. "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:8). Baptists have no bosses or overlords. For that reason, Thomas Jefferson got his idea of democracy from a little country Baptist church in Virginia, whose Saturday business meetings he used to attend. While this government is not a pure democracy, but a republic, Baptist churches are pure democracies; that is, "a government of the people and by the people and for the people." They elect their own officers. Peter was no pope or bishop. He called himself a fellow-elder with other Baptist preachers: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed" (1 Pet. 5:1). He did not appoint a successor to Judas Iscariot; but the 120 members of that Jerusalem church nominated two brethren and then after prayers gave their lots and the lot fell upon Matthias: "And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:15-26). Peter did not appoint seven deacons; neither did the apostles as ruling elders or a college of bishops elect them, but the twelve called the multitude of disciples together and they chose the seven deacons. "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them" (Acts 6:1-6). Baptists not only follow the Bible in electing their own officers; but they also track the Scriptures by receiving and dismissing their own members. "And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple" (Acts 9:26). Paul tried to join the church at Jerusalem, but they refused to receive him because they were not satisfied about his conversion. Paul tells the church at Rome "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations" (Rom. 14:1), showing that the church received folks into its membership. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul tells the church at Corinth to exclude an unworthy member and to the church at Thessalonica "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us" (2 Thess. 3:6). If it isnít in the Bible, it isnít Baptist doctrine; if it is Baptist doctrine, you can find it in the Bible.
For that reason, Baptists, believe in Close Communion. Jesus Himself was a close communionist. He did not invite His mother, or the man in whose house He instituted the Lordís Supper to be present at that supper. How could you have closer communion than that? Our marching orders put salvation and baptism before the Supper. The church at Jerusalem in carrying out its marching orders had first salvation, all that "gladly received his word," then baptism, then church membership, then continuance in the apostlesí doctrine, and continuance in church fellowship before getting to the breaking of the bread. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostlesí doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:41-42). Paul told the church at Corinth, "For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lordís supper" (1 Cor. 11:18-20). Open communion therefore is an impossibility. Open communion is the eating together of those who are divided into different sects and teach different and oftimes contradictory doctrines. All doctrines that differ from the Bible and the Baptists are heresies, and Paul says if there is division or heresy present it is not possible to eat the Lordís Supper. So it is either close communion or it is not the Lordís Supper.
Finally, Baptists, believe that if a man is once saved, he is always saved. No doctrine we hold is more abundantly supported by the Scriptures than this one. Jesus said of the man once saved that "he shall never perish"; that he "shall never thirst" and therefore can never go to hell because in hell they do thirst. "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24); that he shall "in no wise be cast out"; that "neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:28-30), Paul shows us that all God foreknew will be called, justified and glorified. Beginning back in Godís foreknowledge and reaching out beyond time to final glorification, Paul plainly says that not a single one whom God foreknew would be saved, will ever fail to reach final glorification. Therefore apostasy is impossible. "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39). He shows that nothing in life "death nor life," nothing in heaven or hell, "angels, nor principalities nor powers," nothing in time, "things present nor things to come," nothing in space "height nor depth" and then for fear something had been left out he adds "nor any other creature," which includes the believer himself, "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Baptists believe those once saved are always saved, because the Bible says so.
Baptists take the Bible alone as their only rule of faith and practice. That is why I am a Baptist. If you canít read it in the Bible it isnít Baptist doctrine; If it is Baptist doctrine you can find it in the Bible.