This is a follow up to “why I am a Baptist.” Baptists come in a lot of different flavors. To some this denotes the weakness of our position. To us it is foundational to our position. Freedom of conscience is the liberty to discern God’s truth and then give account for our conclusions in the Day of Judgment. Accountability always accompanies liberty.
I am an Independent Baptist. This is in fact a redundant term. One of the tenants of Baptist doctrine is the independency of the churches. Of course this is applied in varying degrees. Consequently I would call myself an Independent Baptist denoting that we have no head except Christ, no headquarters except heaven, and no hierarchy except Pastors and Deacons. As an independent Baptist I believe that the churches are completely autonomous in every decision relating to their business, their beliefs, and their practices. Some scoff at such an arrangement but it is in fact the arrangement of the New Testament. Some fear the lack of accountability. A legitimate fear if one does not take their accountability to Christ seriously. A legitimate fear if one does not understand their subordinate role to the Word of God. Pastors are accountable to their churches and church members are to obey their Pastors. Church members are accountable to one another. As an Independent Baptist I believe this is the pattern set forth in the New Testament.
One of the reasons for believing this is because the New Testament only knows of one kind of church. The Protestant view, which many Baptist have embraced, is that there is a universal invisible church and a local church. The Catholic believes in a universal visible church. The Protestants changed it from visible to invisible in order to make a distinction between themselves and the Catholics. In doing so they embraced an even greater absurdity, an invisible church. There is no such thing as a universal church in the pages of the New Testament. The universal church concept is a product of Catholicism in order to support their growing hierarchy and the ultimate rule of the Pope over the universal church. I believe it was Augustine, who introduced this concept, or maybe it was Cyprian, I would have to look to be sure. There error is that they confused “basilica” (kingdom) with “ecclesia” (called out assembly).
The word “church” is used I believe 115 times in the New Testament and every time it is the word ecclesia. This was not a new word but a word with a well-established meaning in the Greek language. It always means a called out assembly. Where there is no assembly you cannot have an ecclesia. That would not be in keeping with the word. The universal church whether visible or invisible never assembles therefore it cannot be an ecclesia (church).
Jesus calling out his assembly is recorded in two places (Mark 3:13,14 and Luke 6:12,13). It is here where he called out twelve men to be with him. This meets the definition of ecclesia. For approximately three years these men assembled with Jesus. He trained them and equipped them. He commissioned them (Matthew 28:19,20). They were empowered on the day of Pentecost through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).
Through a series of events churches were started in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Then as far as Antioch from which Paul was sent as a missionary on three different journeys. As a result churches were established all across the Roman Empire. The epistles were written to specific congregations. The church at Corinth, the church at Ephesus, the church at Philippi, etc. . . Thus everything that is written in these epistles must be understood in the light of the local church for that was the context in which they were written.
Christ is the head over every New Testament church not some universal church that never assembles. People scoff and ask how can he be the head over thousands of churches the same way he can be head over thousands of men (1 Corinthians 11:3). I know there are several passages that people use to validate the concept of a universal church especially 1 Corinthians 12:13 and several verses in Ephesians. The fact is there are a few places where the word church is used in a generic sense, making reference to all churches in general but no church in particular. This in no way alters the definition of ecclesia. It would be the same as if I used the term the American family. No one would think for a minute that I am talking about some kind of universal visible or invisible family. I am speaking of all families in general and no family in particular. It is the same when the Scriptures says in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “the head of woman is man.” No one reads that and thinks he is speaking of a universal visible or invisible woman or man. They know he is making reference to women and men in general and no man or woman in particular. In this same way the word “church” is used in a few instances.
When one reads the book of Acts one thing is apparent. These churches all operated independently of one another. They did on occasion cooperate with one another but each church was the sole determiner of the level of their participation. They were independent churches, with their own pastors. There is no ecclesiastical hierarchy in the New Testament. The book of Acts gives us no pattern to that end and the epistles give us no instruction to that end.
The word “fundamental” is not a word I use very often, primarily because it means so many different things to different people. Depending on people’s experiences they will have differing impressions of the term and the people who claim it. I suppose that is true with any word but nevertheless I do not tend to use this word very much. When I do I use it in the sense that I am a Baptist that believes and practices the Bible. I embrace the fundamental truths contained therein. Again with that definition in mind the term “fundamental” is redundant.
PARA-CHURCH CONVENTIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
I believe I have addressed this issue in what I have written to this point. But so there is no mistaking my position. I do believe the Baptists that join together in Conventions and Associations are departing from the New Testament pattern and precept.
This error is most often seen in the area of sending missionaries. I am opposed to any mission agency outside the New Testament church. That is the only mission agency the New Testament knows anything about. There are Baptists who claim to be Independent but surrender a portion of their sovereignty in the area of mission leaving it to a board to determine who is fit to serve. This is a point that it not arguable. I have looked up the websites of all the major Baptist missionary boards and without an exception they play some part in determining who goes to the field and who does not. The level of involvement varies. Inevitable you end up with presidents, vice presidents, secretaries, a board for this, and a board for that. It has the smell of ecclesiastical lordship and I reject it.
The book of Acts lays down a clear pattern. I could go into great detail here and will if anyone has an interest but suffice it to say. The church at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to examine the works that were being started in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas “as far as” Antioch of Syria. There he confirmed the disciples and committed them to the Lord. Then in Acts 13 the Lord spoke to the church at Antioch to separate Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto he had called them. He did not speak to a mission board, a convention, or an association. He spoke to a local church. The church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to do the work the Lord had called them to. The result of their first journey was churches started in places like Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. Each of these congregations has Pastors set over them. At the conclusion they returned to Antioch of Syria and reported to their sending church. They did not report to a mission board, association, or convention. A short while later they sent Paul and Silas and they started churches and returned and reported to the church at Antioch. Paul was again sent out by the church at Antioch on a third missionary journey and was apprehended in Jerusalem before he could return to Antioch. That is a brief overview but I can provide chapter and verse for the whole chain of events.
At no time do we find them saying we really need to get together and form a board to send these missionaries. Every missionary we support is sent, serviced, and authorized by a church of like faith and practice. They do not use any kind of missionary board. This is in keeping with the New Testament pattern.
BAPTISTS AND PROTESTANTS
I am not a Protestant I am a Baptist. In fact my position is that Catholic churches are Baptist churches that fell into apostasy. Protestants want us to concede that point, because if we are right then that only adds to their illegitimacy. I know there are some who claim the name Baptist who embrace the designation Protestant. All I can say to that is they are Protestants and they would do well to take the name Baptist off their signs. They probably accept Protestant baptism, if so they are Protestants. This would be true of most Southern Baptist. It has not always been true of Southern Baptist. I have some older writings from Southern Baptists and they would agree with most of my positions out lined here. Of course they had their convention.
Protestants own the fact that they came about either during or since the Reformation. They own the fact that their roots are in Roman Catholicism. This is the very reason why so many of them bare such a remarkable resemblance. Baptizing babies. Sprinkling and pouring. Sacraments. Liturgy. Priesthood.
Jesus said he would build his church.
All of the protestant churches are too late and have the wrong founder to be the New Testament church. They concede Roman Catholic to be the oldest church but contend it has been corrupted. While we admit that the Roman Catholic Church is old it does not reach back to the pages of the New Testament. They claim Peter as the first Pope but that is a farce and any reasonable person knows it. Protestants are simply reformed Catholics in most cases. Unfortunately they did not reform enough for they still bare more likeness to the great harlot than they do the spotless bride.
I realize the nature of what I have presented can give rise to many questions. I will be more than happy to answer them as time allows. This has all been presented from memory so I reserve the right to correct small matters of detail. But, on the whole this is a faithful summary as to why I am an Independent Baptist.