Why Be a Baptist?
Chapter 6: Baptist Peculiarities
"Jesus Christ who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Tit. 2:14). The word here translated peculiar means having "special and distinct characteristics or habits." Thayer defines the Greek word translated peculiar "a people selected by God from the other nations for His own possession." The idea is the same.
Godís people are a people chosen by Him to be unlike all other nations and people, with special and distinct habits and characteristics. Baptists are now and have always been that kind of people. God made them so. They please Him best when they are most unlike other folks. He did not choose them because they were peculiar. They were just like other sinners until He created them anew. When He made them over by the new birth He made them peculiar. He chose them and redeemed them and created them anew as a people for His own possession: and His purpose for every one of them is to conform them to the Image of His Son. That means that by His grace and His Spirit and His Word and His Providences, He is making them more and more peculiar all the time.
The purpose of this chapter is to call attention to and stress some of their peculiarities. The more peculiar they become, the more they become like Christ, the better they please our Heavenly Father, the more heavenly and unworldly they become, the more people take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus. These peculiarities are commonplace with us; but they were not in New Testament days. Neither are they generally known on this earth today except in a very limited territory in the South. Instead of trying to hide their peculiarities and magnify their likenesses and agreements with other denominations God wants the Baptists to maintain their separateness and magnify the things, wherein they differ from all other denominations. If you think the writer has put it too strongly, read these words from the lips of the Son of God. "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division" (Luke 12:51). He came to send division, according to His own testimony. How does He cause division? He causes division by making His people different from other folks. The things wherein they differ are their peculiarities. Why does He cause division? Because He wants His people to be wholly unlike anybody else: "0 ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:11-18). Wherein are Baptists to be a peculiar people? Ought they to glory in their peculiarities or to be ashamed of them? I maintain that their peculiarities are their glory and that in humility and meekness, because they are God given, they ought to be gloried in.
I. The Baptist Gospel is the Only Gospel.
The gospel began with the first Baptist preacher. We are told that Johnís ministry was the "beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1). Is that so or not so? The Bible tells it. The Holy Spirit thought it of sufficient importance to open up the second gospel with that declaration. Is it so? If it is, then there are several very common utterances abroad in the land that Baptists ought to quit endorsing and circulating. If the gospel began with John the Baptist, then the first gospel sermon was preached by the first Baptist preacher. Since Paul says there is but one gospel, the man who doesnít preach the Baptist gospel, does not preach any gospel at all. "Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:7-8). If there is but one gospel and gospel preaching began with the first Baptist preacher, then every man, who preaches the true gospel, got his gospel from the Baptists and preaches the Baptist gospel. If the first gospel was the Baptist gospel, then honest preachers of the gospel everywhere ought to tell, that there is but one gospel and that it came from God to them through the Baptists. If God gave the gospel to the world through the Baptists, then the Baptists are under supreme obligations to God and to the world to give to them the gospel in its purity.
The gospel is a Baptist gospel and Baptists owe it to the Lord Jesus to give the gospel to every creature. That is the ground of missions, according to Paul. It is a debt: a Baptist debt: a debt that Baptists owe to every creature. Listen: "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also" (Rom. 1: 14-15).
Missions are not charity. Missions are a debt Baptists owe a lost world. Missions are preaching the gospel to the literate and to the illiterate. The Baptist debt is not schools, nor hospitals, nor humanitarian service, nor relief for menís bodies. The Baptist debt to the world is the gospel. The gospel began with the Baptists. It is a Baptist possession. Its publishing to every creature is the Baptist debt. This gospel, that began with the first Baptist, not on Pentecost, is to be preached, the very same gospel, not another until Jesus comes again. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14).
Baptism is no part of this gospel. "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect" (1 Cor. 1:17). The gospel is Christís death for our sins and His resurrection for our justification or in other words the finished work of Christ: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The gospel is for the lost, not something we do for Christ but something He did for us. Baptism is for the saved, only the saved. That is why baptism is no part of the gospel. They are not the same kind of folks. The gospel is for the lost. Nobody but the lost. Baptism is for the saved, nobody but the saved.
II. A Baptist Church is the Only Church.
That is the second peculiarity of the Baptists. The church Jesus called "My church" was a Baptist church. The material was prepared by the first Baptist preacher. "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). "And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles. Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor." (Luke 6:13-16). They were selected by Jesus and the names of the first apostles. "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 1:22). Luke tells us that a man could not be one of the twelve apostles unless he had accompanied with them from the baptism of this first Baptist preacher.
This first church was a Baptist church because it was built by Jesus, who was Himself baptized by a Baptist preacher. Its first members were baptized by this same first Baptist preacher. Even Alexander Campbell admitted in his debate with Mr. McCalla, a Presbyterian, that the church at Jerusalem was a Baptist church. No other church except the one Jesus built was built out of Baptist material. No other church except the one Jesus built had a baptism, that came from heaven: "And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" (John 1:33), "But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him" (Luke 7:30). No other church except the church Jesus built was built by one person of the Godhead. Since no stream can rise higher than its source, the only church in this world, that is a divine institution, are Baptist churches: for no other church, except Baptist churches had one person of the Godhead for its founder. No other church except Baptist churches were founded in Palestine. No other church except the church Jesus built had in its foundation Christ and the apostles. "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20). Since the expression "the church of Christ" is never found in the singular in the New Testament, but in the plural, we know that the church, which Jesus called "My church" is an individual, local, organized, and assembling body. The only church in the New Testament, that is called a body of Christ was a local church. "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Cor. 12:27). The definite article is left out, so that the literal of that passage is: "Ye are a body of Christ and members in particular." In other words each local body of Christ is composed of individuals, not a universal body, composed of churches or other organizations. The church which the Lord Jesus built was not only a Baptist church, but He promised that "the gates of hell should not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). He kept that promise.
The only church on this earth that was founded at the right time during the personal ministry of Jesus Christ: at the right place-Palestine: by the right person-the Lord Jesus: of the right material-the born again, who brought forth good fruit before their baptism: and to which the Lord Jesus promised unending perpetuity, was the first Baptist church, which Jesus built out of the material made ready by John the Baptist. Baptist churches are the only churches on this earth, whose baptisms like a gold dollar are worth one hundred cents to the dollar the world around. The only church on this earth that Jesus could join if He were here, on His baptism, is a Baptist church, for all others say Johnís baptism is invalid. Baptists say the only baptism that is valid is Johnís baptism: for it is the only one that came from heaven. Baptist churches are the only churches on this earth, that will not be plucked up by the roots, when Jesus comes, "But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13).
III. Salvation the Condition of Baptism.
A third peculiarity of the Baptists is that they are the only church in Christendom, that never have in all their history and do not now, make baptism a condition of salvation, either of adults or infants. Baptists have ever taught that babies who die in infancy, as well as all other unaccountable persons, go to heaven when they die. The only sin they have is the Adamic sin and Jesus as the Lamb of God took away that sin for the whole world: "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adamís transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one manís offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one manís disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:12-21). Jesus tasted death for every man in bearing the penalty of the Adamic sin for the race. Every man who goes to hell, goes there for his own sins, not for Adamís.
The Baptist shibboleth for 1,900 years has been blood before water, Christ before the church, salvation before baptism. In the Old Testament type of redemption in Exodus 12, that order is very clearly stressed. The blood did two things; it protected them from the wrath of God and delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. Paul interprets that experience for us. "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:1-11). The blood was applied in Egypt. They were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and the sea three days afterward. That passage also throws some light on the meaning of baptize eis ("for remission"), "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38). Israel was baptized "eis" Moses: "And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10:2). Moses had been their Mediator, deliverer and leader for some time. They were baptized eis Moses, not "in order" to get him to be their Savior and deliverer, but because he was their Savior and deliverer. If we interpret Acts 2:38 in the light of Israelís experience and every Old Testament type and shadow, as well as in the light of the whole body of teachings in the New Testament, it must mean be baptized because of the remission of sins.
Prof. A. T. Robertson of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, there is no greater Greek scholar in this country, said in answer to a query in Western Recorder: "It is perfectly good Greek to translate Ďeisí because of in Acts 2:38." The Gospel of John was written to sinners to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. The only mention of individual, personal baptism in that gospel is where it is said "Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John" (John 4:1). That reveals two facts. First, only those, who had been made disciples or Christians, were baptized by John the Baptist or authorized to be baptized by the Lord Jesus. Second, in this whole gospel, in which again and again the personal conversations of Jesus with individuals or groups or crowds are recorded, He never mentions baptism. There can be but one explanation to that, namely, that baptism is not for lost men, but for saved men. This was His uniform teaching and practice always. All others except Baptists, either baptize sinners, as one of the conditions of salvation or baptize babies. One of the outstanding peculiarities of Baptists has always been, that they make salvation a condition of baptism, rather than baptism a condition of salvation.
IV. Baptists Are Individualists.
This too is peculiar to Baptists. Alas, that some Baptists, who are not very well informed, do not live up to it. Their churches would be saved lots of trouble if they did. Their anxiety for numbers and greed for gain is shown: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:10). Baptists never baptize children on the faith of their parents. There are no proxies in the religion of the Lord Jesus. Every individual repents for himself and believes for himself and is baptized for himself and that too as a voluntary act of his own. Baptists do not teach that a wife ought to join the church with her husband or vice versa. That was one of the heresies of W. H. Whitsitt that caused him to lose his position as President of the Louisville Seminary and Professor of Church History in that institution.
Baptists are individualists. Jesus was an individualist. He plainly taught everywhere that homes ought to be divided, two against three and three against two, rather than disobey the truth or be disloyal to Him: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. 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. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:32-39). He taught very clearly that His disciples ought to follow and obey Him, even if it broke up homes: "And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospels, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:34-38), "And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospelís, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first" (Mark 10:29-31), "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee" (Luke 10:25-35). Every duty is an individual duty of the individual soul to Jesus Christ our Lord. He should be obeyed at any costs and at all hazards. Jesus said: "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things, which I say?" (command) (Luke 6:46). "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sam. 15:22-23).
V. The Bible Is the Final Authority.
Baptists are the people of the Book. The Bible is the final word on every subject on which it speaks. There is no appeal from it. It is the court of last appeal because it is the perfect Book.
"If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). If the Scripture cannot be broken, it cannot be amended or reversed or changed. It is the final word on all questions of truth or doctrine or duty or life. Jesus said so. It is an unchangeable authority. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17-18).
W. C. Wilkinson in his book, "The Baptist Principle," says that this underlies all other Baptist principles. We base and build all other teachings and obligations on this fundamental and final principle, namely, that the Bible is the final authority on every question. The Bible, the Bible alone, is our only and all sufficient rule of faith and practice. Nothing beyond "It is written," was the answer of the Son of God to the devil in every test. In other words, the Son of God said, the Book is final. No amount of argument or explanation or sophistry can answer or do away with the Book. The Bible is Godís final answer on all questions. It needs no supplement. When the rich fool in hell wanted Lazarus sent to his brothers to warn them not to come to that place of torment, Jesus said No, they have the Book. If they will not hear that, they will not hear at all. No supplement or addition to the Bible. "It is written" is Godís final and authoritative answer on all subjects.