"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." I Timothy 3:15
Independent? Bible? New Testament?
Norman H. Wells
From the book, The Church That Jesus Loved, 1973 (Chapter 3)
It has become increasingly apparent that the name Baptist has about lost any definite
meaning!! It is used by so many different folks and covers such a wide variety of
beliefs that it would be difficult to answer, What is a Baptist? The name Baptist
covers the area from the Hard-shell to the extreme Armenian, from the Modernist to
the Fundamentalist, from the Convention to the Independent, from Close Communion
to Open Communion, from Premillennialism to Post-millennialism, from the Universal
Church theory to the Local Church, from foot-washing to no foot-washing, from acceptance
of all immersion as Baptist to only an acceptance of Baptist baptism, from anti-missionary
to missionary, from Seventh-Day Baptists to Sunday Baptists, from anti-tithing to
tithing, etc. You name it, and somewhere, somebody called Baptists have it! Baptists
have developed into a Heinz 57 varieties!
Long ago these folks started trying to identify themselves as to what kind of Baptist
they were!! This necessitated adding to the name Baptist and thus we have American
Baptist, Southern Baptist, Christian Unity Baptist, Freewill Baptist, General Baptist,
Six-Principle Baptist, National Baptist Evangelical Life and Soul-Saving Assembly
of the USA, Primitive Baptist, Regular Baptist, General Association of Regular Baptist,
Seventh Day Baptist, Conservative Baptist, Two Seed in the Spirit Predestinarian
Baptist, United Baptist, World Baptist, Bible Baptist, Hardshell Baptist, Orthodox
This diversity of meaning concerning the name Baptist has created many difficulties
and much confusion!! There has to be a declaration as to what kind of Baptist. Throughout
the land those who were trying to maintain the distinctive principles and the historical
position of Baptists were being submerged in the conflicting claims of these numerous
kinds of Baptist! Conventions, association, fellowship, etc. that were trying to
hold these different kinds of Baptist in organizational ties had their difficulties.
Some began calling themselves Missionary Baptist to distinguish themselves from Hardshell
Others began to call themselves Independent Baptists in protest to conditions that
existed in the conventions and associations. Still others used the name fundamental
Baptist to show themselves opposed to modernism. The word Pre-millennial came into
great usage. It is not uncommon to see a Baptist church call itself an Independent,
fundamental, missionary, Pre-millennial, Baptist church. Great use was made of the
words Orthodox, Conservative, etc.
Missionary! Independent! Fundamental! Pre-millennial! Conservative! Orthodox! New
Testament! Bible! All these were used, and for a while these names usually designated
a sound Baptist church and in most cases still do, however, these names have also
been assumed by those who deny what they were originally intended to mean. The name
Missionary has been warped to designate a particular convention. Independent Baptists
have bound themselves together in the same kind of organizational ties that they
once so bitterly fought. New Testament and Bible Baptists find themselves involved
in compromises that destroy the meaning of these words!
The meaning of the word Fundamental has been drastically changed! In a general sense,
as applied to all Christianity, the word Fundamental means those who accept the literal,
verbal inspiration of the scriptures, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, vicarious
death, bodily resurrection, literal, visible, bodily, second coming and salvation
by grace through faith! There are Fundamentalists of this sort among practically
every denomination and we thank God I or them!! A preacher or church can be Fundamental
in this sense and still not be a fundamentalist as far as being a Baptist! If being
a Baptist means nothing more, then, why be one? If the truths Baptists have always
held are "not important and non-essential" why bother carrying the name?
If being a Baptist means nothing more than an acceptance of those things that all
Fundamentalists of all denominations are agreed upon, where is our purpose? What
is our reason for existence?
What identifies a Baptist? What particular distinction gives the right to a separate
identity from the rest of Christianity? It is not what we believe about the Bible,
God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Man, Sin, Heaven, Hell or the Second Coming. Most of
the folks in any denomination would be in agreement as to these things. Most fundamentalists
in all denominations will acknowledge salvation by grace through faith. Where, then,
is the difference? It narrows down to the fact that a Baptist exists to maintain
all the above-mentioned truths — PLUS, the completed truth concerning salvation,
the church and the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. If we deny these
last three things we have lost any reason for being Baptists! There no longer exists
Some would have us believe all fundamentalists are preaching the same way of salvation.
On the surface this may appear to be so, but as our gaze goes a little deeper we
see that what Baptists believe about salvation is a distinctive principle held by
them alone. Incidentally, who among us has been ordained of God to declare what is
non-essential and what is essential in God's Word? This sounds like a modernist wanting
to show us what is inspired and what is not.
Baptists believe in salvation by grace, plus nothing and minus nothing. This eliminates
all who would teach baptismal regeneration, that is, that an individual has to be
baptized in order to be saved. This eliminates baptism as being part of salvation
and necessary to salvation. The doctrine of the necessity of a good life in order
to obtain salvation is eliminated. The doctrine that would make church membership
necessary to salvation is eliminated. To hold out faithful in order to maintain salvation
is eliminated. Salvation is by grace! We have those who seemingly concur in this
doctrine as do the Baptists but when really held to their doctrine they add one or
more conditions. They will say a man is saved by grace, plus baptism. Saved by grace,
plus good works. Saved by grace, plus ability to hold out faithful. Away with this!
It is not Bible and it is not Baptist!
Baptists reject the universal, invisible church theory. Baptists believe that Jesus
Christ established the first church during His sojourn in the flesh and the work
of the construction was begun with the material prepared by John the Baptist. Baptists
believe that churches, after the order of the one Christ established, have existed
in every age and are in existence now! Baptist believe that a local, New Testament
Baptist Church bears all the marks and preaches the same doc trine as the one Christ
established. It also has the same responsibility and authority.
Certainly, all who repent and by faith accept Christ as Savior are redeemed whether
or not they ever hear of a Baptist Church, however, this does not change the truth
concerning the church.
To the local church God gave the great commission. The local church is God's way
of giving the gospel to this age. The New Testament pattern is simple. The only organization
mentioned, described, and sanctioned in the New Testament is a local church. The
local church sent out the missionaries. The local church taught and preached the
Word. The local church received the Lord's offering. The local church administered
discipline. The local church governed itself. The local church is a pure democracy,
complete in itself and therefore cannot join anything like or unlike itself. If it
did join anything, it would then, in the larger unit, be only a representative and
not a true democracy. The local church had the authority, given to them by God to
administer the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
This commission was given to the local church. If not, to whom was it given?
Baptists believe that Christian baptism is the immersion in water of a believer;
in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the authority
of the local church, to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem our faith in
the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, with its effect in our death to sin and
resurrection to a new life; that it is a prerequisite to the privilege of a church
relation and to the Lord's Supper, in which the members of the church, by the sacred
use of bread and wine are to commemorate the dying love of Christ, preceded always
by a solemn self-examination.
As B. H. Carroll has stated the church uses four ways to declare the gospel:
1. Proclaim it through its ministry.
2. Pictorially represent it in its ordinances.
3. Vindicate it in discipline.
4. Illustrate it in life.
The gospel we preach is pictured to the world in the ordinances of Baptism and the
Lord's Supper. In a true New Testament Church the ordinances will picture the gospel
that is preached. If the ordinances are wrong then the message is wrong. If we accept
alien immersion or baptism into our church we are guilty of presenting a false picture
of salvation to the world. May God help us! Open Communion and alien Baptism are
the two greatest forces on earth being used by Satan to destroy Baptists. These truths
must be maintained.
To compromise our position on Baptism and the Lord's Supper is to compromise our
position on salvation. The main distinction that identifies the Baptist with the
New Testament church is our Baptism. To falter here is to fail.
Thus we see that these truths concerning salvation, the church and the ordinances
are distinctive Baptist! To deny them is to destroy!! Why, oh why, will pastors and
churches deny these truths and yet still want to carry the name Baptist?
All of this has been written to bring us up to this one last fact. It has always
been the lot of genuine Baptists to identify themselves before the world by coming
out and being separate.
Sound Baptist churches and pastors are linked up in so-called Bible-believing Fellowships,
with those so-called Bible-believing fellowships, with those who deny the Baptist
truths concerning salvation, the church and the ordinances. The main churches and
supporters of some of these groups practice Open Communion and accept Alien Immersion.
It is just as much the duty of a Baptist pastor and church to separate themselves
from this kind of error and denounce it as it is to stand against worldliness, modernism,
false teachers, etc.
It stands to reason that colleges and seminaries that are maintained and supported
by these Baptists who practice Open Communion and accept Alien Baptism will turn
out preachers who will do the same!! To support such schools is to promote this kind
of grievous error.
We are living in perilous times! Never has it been so vital as it is now for Baptists
to stand forth and declare themselves! All over our land are thousands of Baptist
preachers and churches that still cling to the historic Baptist position. These churches
feel they have the truth that will set men free and that they are obligated before
God to declare this truth. The tragedy of this hour is that the voice of these pastors
and churches is being lost in the clamor of compromising Conventions, Associations,