Why Be a Baptist?
Chapter 8: The Baptist Program
"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).
"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19.)
The Baptist program includes all the commands of the Lord Jesus. "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matthew 23:8). This program may be epitomized in four words: "Go: Disciple (get Folk saved): Baptize: Indoctrinate." The first three of these are discussed in other chapters of this book. We can not put too much emphasis upon them. They are vital, essential, fundamental. The Great Commission is the Baptist Magna Charta. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" is just as truly the command of the Lord Jesus as any other part of that commission. But who pays any attention to it? The average Baptist preacher or Baptist church not only does not pay any attention to this command of his Lord, but openly and flagrantly disavows all obligations to pay any attention to it. So obsessed have we become with pleasing men and so little regard do we have for the Lord Jesus and His Word that multitudes of pastors and churches have whittled out of our Lordís commission the part that tells us to observe all things whatsoever He has commanded. A common saying of what Samuel Johnson calls "the bigots of laxness" is: "In essentials unity, in non essentials liberty, in all things charity." A more traitorous utterance to the authority of the Lord Jesus was never spoken. Who are you and who am I to say that any command of the Lord Jesus is nonessential? If He thought it of sufficient worth to command it, how dare you insult Him and treat His Word with contempt by calling it a nonessential and refusing to obey it?
There are no nonessential commands in Godís Word. The Masterís commands are like the members of my body. The members of my body are not all essential to life. You may lose a leg or an arm or an eye or an ear or your tongue or even your reason and still live. But what would you be worth to your family or friends or anybody else if you were eyeless, legless, armless, brainless and tongueless? So with the commands of the Word of God. The commands to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are the only two that are essential to life: but there are no nonessential commands. Every command of the Lord Jesus is essential for the purpose for which He gave it. Our usefulness, happiness, activity, fruitfulness, growth and power, all depend upon our obedience to all the things that our Lord commanded. And we sin to our own detriment and hurt and the hurt and pain of others, if we count any command of His of so little importance that we think we can disobey it with impunity. There are no nonessential commands. There are non-vital commands; because some of them are not essential to life. But there are no nonessential commands. They are all essential for what the Lord gave them for: and He expects us to obey every one of them. But note what He commanded.
I. Teach All His Commands.
He commanded His preachers and His churches to teach all things whatsoever He commanded. No choice was left to us. Whether it suited us or suited our members or suited our auditors or not, He commanded His churches and those who teach them to teach all that He commanded. We are under just as much obligation to teach what the Bible says about bobbed hair or immodest dressing as we are to teach what it says about the incarnation of Jesus or the resurrection of the body. The Judgment will not be a very comfortable place for any man or for any church that is silent about any command of Godís Word, because it is unpopular. The First Baptist preacher spoke out on the divorce question when it cost him his head. Divorce was one of the all things John was commanded to talk about and he fearlessly did what he was told to do.
II. Teach to Observe.
We are not only commanded to teach all things He commanded; but we are commanded to observe them ourselves and teach others to observe them. The observance is the obedience. What Jesus wants is obedience. Obedience is the test of love to Him: "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15), "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14). John the beloved said that the man, who professes to know and love Jesus and does not obey Him, is a common liar and is wholly destitute both of love of Christ and of the love of the truth: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3), "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Fatherís which sent me" (John 14:23-24).
Because John loved so much, he talked very plainly about the hypocrite, who claims to love the Lord Jesus and yet refuses to obey Him.
III. Observe All Things.
Thereís the rub. Not only teach all things: but observe all things He commanded. A missionary was reading the sermon on the Mount to a lot of new converts just barely escaped from the blindness and superstition of heathenism. He came to this passage: "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away" (Matthew 5:42). They had already borrowed everything out of his home that he could well spare. So he skipped that verse. Then the Spirit rebuked him for "shunning to declare the whole counsel of God." When the rebukes of the Spirit became unbearable, he came back to it one morning and read it. To his surprise, instead of wanting to borrow more, they began to return what they had borrowed. God is able to take care of His Word and of all who obey it. The word translated "observe" means to guard, to stand firmly in, to observe. It has all three of those ideas in it. Baptists are the guardians of the truth. Some Baptists sneer at the denominational watchdog. Yet that is the very first meaning of this word, to guard. We badly need more Baptist watchdogs today. That is a part of the Baptist commission. Then it also means to stand firmly in. That smites all Unionists, hip and thigh. All Unionists are cowards and traitors to the truth. And then this word also has the idea of observing or doing the thing commanded yourself. That has been the weakness of the denominational watchdog too often. They say and do not. They are strict on close communion and disobedient about tithing and missions. The Masterís orders to all His churches and servants are to observe to do all things He has commanded. And the emphasis is more on the doing, if possible, than on teaching others to do or guarding the commandments and ordinances. Obedience is one of the big words of Jesus to His children. Obedience is a lifetime job. The new birth is instantaneous. Baptism is done once for all. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" is what pastors and teachers were given to the churches for by the Master: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:11-16). Paul classes as crafty deceivers all Unionists and Modernists, who, instead of teaching all things commanded by Christ, are hucksters of the Word, trading the truth for popularity or pay.
IV. All Things Commanded You.
Put the emphasis on the you. He commanded you to observe all things He commanded. That commission was given to His churches and the "you" includes every member of every Baptist church in all the world. That "you" is individual as well as collective. The only limitations to the obedience enjoined therein are the limitations found in the infallible Word of God. Godís commands are His enablings. "All things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). "As much as in me is" was Paulís limit. For that reason, he could say: "I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10). "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor. 12:9), is the Masterís Word to each of us for any task He puts upon us. The all things He commanded include Baptist baptism as well as repentance and faith: for there was no other baptism but Baptist baptism, when this commission was given.
He not only commanded the Lordís Supper, but put it inside of and under the control of the local church and no one has a right to put on the outside what He put on the inside: "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). "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). It was His ordinance and He had the right to put it where He pleased and it pleased Him to put the Lordís table in the Lordís house, which is the local church, the pillar and ground of the truth: "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). He endorsed tithing. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matthew 23:23), but He never commanded it. He commanded men to sell all and follow Him. "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me" (Mark 10:21). He commanded men not to lay up treasures on earth, but to lay them up in heaven. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21). He commended three women who gave their all. "And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had" (Luke 21:2-4). He nowhere commended anybody for paying only the tithe. He both commanded and commended giving: "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38), "I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35); but no man has given anything until he has paid his tithe, which is a debt he owes God. When Jesus said: "Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you," He meant all things commanded His churches in New Testament days.
No command of His is antiquated or out of date. His words are as binding today as the day He spoke them. The truth changes not. "Forever O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven" (Ps. 119.89). God meant exactly what He said and there isnít a command in the Bible, that was intended for His children to obey, that is not easily understood, if we come to it with open mind and let it mean what it says. The little girl was right, who said: "If God did not mean what He said, why did He not say what He means?" There is lots of quibbling by the self willed and disobedient as to what God meant when the meaning is right on the face of the command, if they were but willing to obey. "If any man will to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself" (John 7:17), declared the Son of God Himself. Every man is without excuse for his disobedience, when he stands before God. One other fact from my second text.
V. Obedience the Test of Rewards.
The disappointments at the judgment will be humiliating and embarrassing. We speak now only of the saved. The test as to salvation will be whether they know Christ. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:12). Where you go at death depends wholly on just one thing, namely, whether you have Christ in you, the hope of glory. But the Master was not speaking to sinners when he said "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19). He was talking to His disciples. His words are very clear and simple and plain to them. If you disobey the commands of Godís Word and teach others, you will be the least in the kingdom of heaven: if you obey and teach them, you will be great in the heavenly kingdom. How ill will the W. M. U. and the B. Y. P. U. and the Seminaries and the Officialdom among Southern Baptists, will fare that day.
The Bible commands women to keep silence in churches: "And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:32-37), "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (1 Tim. 2:8-15). The Bible says it is a shame for women to speak in the church. Women who thus disobey the Scriptures are honored in nearly all our Baptist assemblies now. But there is one place they will not be honored for their disobedience of Godís Word. That will be when they have to take a back seat before Judge Jesus. The only women who will be honored then, will be homebodies, who wore modest apparel, were submissive to their husbands and obeyed the Book. Blessings on them! There are far more than seven thousand of them: but they are a very small remnant among the women of the South.
Suppose that is the very least command in the Bible. I do not think it is. But just suppose it is. What did the Master say about the folks who broke the least command in His Word and taught others to break it? They shall be least in the heavenly kingdom. What humiliation, when practically all the leaders of Southern Baptists are asked to take a back seat and the more honorable, who obeyed the little commands of the Bible, are asked to come up and take a higher seat. Who said it would be that way? The Lord Jesus and He will be the Judge that day: "And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them. When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:7-11). There are no degrees in sonship in Godís family. There are no in laws and stepchildren. Every one who has received the Lord Jesus is a son and every son is an heir. But there is a vast difference between those who are least in the kingdom, and those who are great in the kingdom. That is where obedience and loyalty come in. The obedient child will be great: the disobedient child will be least. That is why it not only makes a difference, but makes a lot of difference as to what church you join. If you have been born again you are sure for heaven: but if you belong to a church that Jesus calls a synagogue of Satan or a harlot, all your works will be burned up and you will be saved so as by fire. Baptist churches are the only churches of Christ. There are no doubt great multitudes of saved people in the churches founded by Wesley, Calvin, Campbell, Luther, Daniel Parker, Henry the Eighth and others, but in the day of rewards they will be ashamed of all the works they did to build up their human institutions. The founders of these false churches can not reward them for building up what Jesus said He would uproot: and Jesus will not reward them for setting up rival churches to His own.
In the day of assizes (judgment) it will make lots of difference what church you joined. And the Master said that if you love father or mother or the family burying ground or any thing else, even life itself, more than you do Him, that you are not worthy of Him. "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" (Matthew 10:37). What a difference it will make at the judgment about the years of sinning wasted, when you lived at one place and kept your membership at another or in your trunk. "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every manís work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every manís work of what sort it is. If any manís work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any manís work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor. 3:12-15). Every believer will be rewarded for what he does for the Lord Jesus: but no man will be rewarded for his work in any church founded by a man. It will make lots of difference that day as to what church you joined.
And then one of the supreme tests of that day will be what you did for missions. Jesus was the founder of missions, as well as the founder of the Baptists. I doubt if any opposer of missions will get to heaven: for I seriously doubt the genuineness of his love for Christ. If any man does not love Christ he will be accursed when Jesus comes: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:22). Be that as it may, the man who piddles, about missions will want to hide out when he stands before Jesus. Missions are the very thing for which He died. Missions were His last command to His church. Missions are the business of His churches. He shows very clearly what His heart is interested in "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 hundred fold 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" (Mark 10:29-30).
No tither will get that blessing. That blessing is promised only to the man or woman who gives all to Christ and the gospel. Christ and the gospel are the very heart of missions. The lover of Jesus and His gospel to the point of distraction about missions, whose one obsession in life is missions, will be the great man in the heavenly kingdom. "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophetís reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous manís reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward" (Matthew 10:40-42).
No woman who dabbles in politics or social service or club life or who talks in public, will be great in the heavenly kingdom. What they do, they do for show. They have their reward. Jesus said "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matthew 6:1-7). The lodge and club man will fare just as badly in the day of rewards. Nothing to show for his lifeís work. Wonít it be awful that day? What humiliation and chagrin! But the woman who stays in her place as a worker at home, and in her church; who is given to hospitality and sacrificial giving, will be great in the kingdom. Here is what the Master said: "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophets reward" (Matthew 10:41). The only way a woman can get a preacherís reward is by entertaining him in her home and loyally supporting him in his work. The Master and His Bible were both very peculiar. Jesus did not promise a reward to any Dick, Tom or Harry, that gave a cup of cold water to some child or needy one. Far be it. What Jesus promised was that He would reward anyone who gave even a cup of cold water to one of His least ones, if it was done because they belonged to Him: "For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward" (Mark 9:41). The Red Cross and the "Good Fellows" and the clubs and the lodges and all the other worldly orders will look on in humility and shame that day, because they not only did not do their giving to those who belong to Jesus and because they were His, but they did it through organizations from which He received no glory. The Masterís program was that all the glory for all our gifts and loving service should either glorify or magnify His church.