ANSWER TO "AN OPEN LETTER"
By Elder Joe Wilson
WITH EDITORS RESPONSE
By Wayne Camp
(CONTINUED FROM LAST ISSUE)
In the last issue we published a portion of Bro. Joe Wilsons answer to my open letter which was in response to a letter he had written to me. I regret we were unable to publish the entire letter and response in the May issue but space did not permit. Here is the rest of it.
Bro. Joe Wrote:
Your second question. No, I cannot cite chapter and verse where any church mentioned in the New Testament ever voted to start a specific church at a specific place. Now, what does that prove? Does that prove that a church does not have to be started by the authority of another church? I think not. What do you think? What are you trying to prove ?
You say near the end of your article that you believe in church authority in starting churches. But it does seem to me that your questions are so many attempts to prove that such is not the case. I think that most people reading your open letter up to the part, "What I believe on the matter of starting churches" would have long since concluded that you were proving that church authority is not necessary. Your open letter has two parts: one disproving (attempting to) what I believe about church authority, the other saying you believe in something that you call church authoritywhat that something is I cannot find in your open letter.
A "church vote" you ask me. Well, how many church votes can you cite me chapter and verse for? When to have the Lord's Supper? To Baptize anyone? To receive a member? To call a pastor? I could go on and on. But these foolish questions do not prove or disprove anything. Did your church call you as pastor? Did you accept that call, and thus become their pastor? Give me chapter and verse where any New Testament ever did this. I believe churches of the New Testament did all these things. But, since you cannot cite a chapter and verse - do you believe they did them or not? Do you believe it is all right for a church to do something ( such as call you as pastor) when you cannot cite chapter and verse? Of course you do.
Bro. Camps Response:
Now we are getting somewhere. I asked, Can you cite chapter and verse where any church mentioned in the New Testament ever voted to start a specific church at a specific place at a specific time? You answered, "No, I cannot cite chapter and verse where any church mentioned in the New Testament ever voted to start a specific church at a specific place." You then asked, "Now what does that prove? The answer is simple. "It proves that you are teaching something as essential to the establishment of a true church for which you admit you have no Scripture." You insist that a church cannot be started without a "mother church" voting to start it. Yet, you candidly and honestly admit that you cannot cite chapter and verse where it was ever done in New Testament times. By what authority, then, do you charge with spiritual adultery any who start a church without the vote of a "mother church"?
The Spring Issue of The Historic Baptist has a very good article on Christian Behavior which was written by John Bunyan. In that article, the godly Bunyan wrote, "First, It must have the word for its authority. Zeal without knowledge is like a mettled horse without eyes, or like a sword in a madman's hand; and there is no knowledge where there is not the word: for if they reject the word of the Lord, and act not by that, "what wisdom is in them?" saith the prophet (Jer. 8:9; Isa. 8:2O). Wherefore see thou have the word for what thou dost.
"Second, As there must be the word for the authorising of what thou dost, so must be faith, from which it must flow, as I showed you before: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin; and "without faith it is impossible to please God." Now, I say, without the word there is no faith, (Rom. 10:17) as without faith there is no good, let men's presences be what they will. (Emphasis mine, RWC. P. 15, THB).
Bro. Joe, you tell us that it is spiritual adultery to start a church without a "mother church" voting to start that specific church. Yet, you cannot and did not cite a verse supporting that serious contention. When God gave the law to Israel, he placed a hedge around it saying "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32). If you, Bro. Joe, add requirements for starting a church to those found in Scripture, are you not guilty of adding to Gods word? You would do well if you would heed the word of John Bunyan. "Wherefore see thou have the word for what thou dost."
Incidentally, Bro. Joe, you asked several questions to which I am not responding. You (not I) classified them as foolish questions therefore I will obey the injunction of Scripture to avoid foolish and unlearned questions (II Tim. 2:23) and ignore them.
Bro. Joe Wrote:
I know of no way a church can exercise its authority except by voting. Do you? Since I believe in church authority, I believe in the church exercising that authority by voting. I do not have to cite chapter and verse for the vote. I cite chapter and verse for the teaching of church authority. I believe the only way to exercise church authority is by the church voting. Therefore, any verse which teaches church authority teaches the church voting for the exercising of that authority. All these questions are good for professional and secular debaters; but they prove or disprove nothing at all as to the matter we are discussing.
Bro. Camps Response:
You say you know of no way that a church can exercise its authority without voting and ask if I do. Certainly! A church can exercise its authority by not voting. In a church I once pastored a man got up in business meeting and made a motion. No one made a second and, after pausing for several moments, I announced the motion had died for lack of a second. The man jumped back to his feet and demanded a vote. I assured him there would be a vote if someone seconded his motion. No one did! I then told him the church had spoken by no one seconding his motion and that his demand that we vote was thereby denied. That, my Brother, is just one example of church authority exercised without a vote.
Over nine years ago, when I came here to pastor PHBC, the church voted to assume ownership of and continue the publication of The GP&P. They never voted to buy a can of ink, a box of plates, a ream of paper, a pack of masking sheets, a box of negatives, a gallon of chemicals, or any of the other specific supplies we use in publishing the paper. I buy what is necessary and the treasurer pays the bills. In a few weeks I will purchase a new supply of paper at a cost of about $1200. The church will not vote on that. Why? Because inherent in the vote to continue the publication of the paper was authority to do all the other things necessary to that publication. When I buy that paper I will not be going against the church; I will acting according to church authority. No vote necessary.
When you preach a sermon, do you get the church to vote to let you preach it? If not, are you flaunting and violating church authority? Do you ask them to vote on the particular sermon you preach? The great commission includes the preaching of the gospel and thereby making disciples, as well as baptizing, and teaching those disciples in the churches constituted through this work. When Paul and Barnabas were sent forth by the Holy Ghost and by the brethren at Antioch with the agreement of that church, they were sent to do the work to which God had called them. Acts 13:1-3 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. They were gone at least nine months on their first trip. Then they returned "to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. 27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. (Acts 14:26-27). Now, Bro. Joe, I ask you, "Why was it necessary that they rehearse all that God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles, if the church at Antioch had been voting on their every baptism and the establishment of each church they established?"
Bro. Joe, if you dont answer another question I ask, please solve this puzzle for me. If you can show me where Antioch ever voted during this first missionary journey, or the second and third, on any person Paul and his co-workers baptized I will give it the most careful consideration. If you can show me where Antioch ever voted on starting even one of the churches Paul started, I will give your answer careful consideration. Of course, I know you cant show these things for you have already admitted you cannot cite Scripture for it.
Bro. Joe, I call to your attention and to the readers attention that you skipped from my question two to question eight. For the benefit of our readers I am going to give those questions.
QUESTION THREE: Can a living, conscious, healthy, intelligent "mother" give birth to a "daughter" or "daughters" without knowing it until someone tells her? You answered nothing.
QUESTION FOUR: Can a New Testament Church receive and dismiss members without knowing she has done so? You answered nothing. One of those whom you classify as "my kind" told me that Paul and Barnabas baptized folks into the church at Antioch who were then dismissed to unite with the churches they established. He admitted they did this without knowing it. I wanted to see if you held the same position. Therefore, I ask again, Can a New Testament Church receive and dismiss members without knowing she has done so?
QUESTION FIVE: Can you cite Scripture which proves unequivocally that Paul ever operated what is called a "mission" in any city where he established a church? You answered nothing.
QUESTION SIX: Can you cite Scripture which affirms that Paul and Barnabas always asked for and received a vote from the church at Antioch, or another New Testament Church, before organizing a church in each instance? If you cannot, would you then charge them with spiritual adultery in starting churches without the vote of a "mother" church? If not, why not? Unless you consider your answer to question two (No, I cannot cite chapter and verse where any church mentioned in the New Testament ever voted to start a specific church at a specific place.) to be the answer to this also, you did not answer this.
QUESTION SEVEN: Do improved communications increase requirements for starting churches properly? One of those whom you classify as "my kind" admitted to me that Paul and Barnabas did the work they did without the church at Antioch ever specifically voting on anyones baptism or the organization of any church they established. But, he argued that improved communications today make these votes necessary. If that be true, improved communications could and would change requirements for starting a church. You did not answer.
Bro. Joe Wrote:
Question eight. The Bible does give every thing necessary for the important matter of starting churches. It tells us plainly and clearly that there must be salvation, baptism and church authority. Now, before you ask a zillion irrelevant questions, remember that in the close of your open letter, you say practically the same thing. Look and see. Most of my kind have no trouble seeing in the Bible the things that are necessary for starting a Scriptural church, and they are the things I have said above.
Bro. Camps Response:
I asked, Since the Bible is an all-sufficient rule of faith and practice, will not every thing necessary for such an all-important matter as starting Scriptural churches be spelled out clearly in Scripture? You answered that the Bible does give everything necessary for starting Scriptural churches. You said, "It tells us plainly and clearly that there must be salvation, baptism and church authority." By church authority, I assume you mean it tells us there must be a vote of a "mother church" to start the specific church. You said there is no way church authority can be exercised without a vote of the church. Your exact words were, "I know of no way a church can exercise its authority except by voting." Yet, Bro. Joe, you admit you cannot cite a single verse of Scripture where such church authority was ever exercised in the starting of a specific church. If the only way a church can exercise its authority is by voting, then show us those Scriptures where church authority is "plainly and clearly" set forth. Is that too much to ask? Am I being unfairly abusive when I ask for Scripture which "plainly and clearly" sets forth something you say is "plainly and clearly" set forth in the Scriptures? In your first answer, you gave not one word from God. Not one single word. You said earlier, "I cite chapter and verse for the teaching of church authority." Yet, you cited not one Scripture. Do not jump on this and say, "Bro. Camp does not believe in church authority." That would be untrue.
Bro. Joe Wrote:
4. Question nine: You ask if I can show from Scripture where an actual church organizational service took place? No, I cannot. Can you show me in Scripture where an actual ordination service for a preacher took place? Please don't use Barnabas and Saul in Acts 13. They had both been preaching for several years before that. Surely, they had not done all they had previously done without ordination. Do you believe ordination services took place in New Testament times. If you think Acts 13 is one, leave that out, and tell if you believe others took place. Of course you believe they did, but you cannot cite chapter and verse for such. Brother Camp, why do you ask all these irrelevant, immaterial, unanswerable, and often absurd questions?
Bro. Camps Response:
I asked, Can you show from Scripture where an actual church organizational service took place? You admit that you cannot give a Scripture that shows such a service taking place. Then you side track onto the question of ordinations which is not the subject of this discussion. Again you charge me with asking "irrelevant, immaterial, unanswerable, and often absurd questions?" Bro. Joe, since our discussion concerns "The Scriptural Requirements For Starting A True Church," I was wondering if an organizational service was necessary to start a true church. You could have simply said, "No, I cannot." and left it there. Your answer shows that this question is very relevant to this discussion. There is no Scripture for an organizational service. At least, you dont know of one.
I was pleased that you finally made reference to a Scripture even if you did tell me I could not use it. You did not use it to prove anything, you just instructed me not to use it. I used it earlier to prove another matter. I will leave it alone here for it has nothing to do with this question.
I do appreciate your compliment. You admit that some of my questions are "unanswerable." Apparently most of them were for you skipped several. In fact, you answered less than 25% of my main questions. Before you take me to task, I admit I did not answer all your questions. Some of them you classified as "foolish" and they were avoided, as Scripture teaches us to do. You, as I did in my open letter, asked many questions (You asked at least 37 and in other places you substituted an entreaty for a question, i. e., "Please tell us what you believe perpetuity as to churches means and how it is accomplished."). I asked a number of questions that I was sure you would not answer. I did not expect an answer. I did think you would at least attempt to answer the main questions which I asked.
Bro. Joe Wrote:
5. Second paragraph under your heading, "What I believe On The Matter of Starting Churches." your belittling of "mother" and "daughter" churches is beneath a man of your ability. Of course there is Scripture for a true church starting another church by its authority. And that is all we mean by "mother" and "daughter" in this context - and you know that is all we mean. And a church that is not started by the authority of a true church is a false church, and this is spiritual adultery. Please, let us be fair and reasonable in this discussion.
6. Your belief in church authority in starting a church. What in the world is it? You certainly have not told us. You say that had I just asked my question without using the word "mother" you would have answered "yes." Well, brother Camp, let me kindly and plainly say that anyone reading you article on Chain Link Ecclesiology and the first part of this open letter would have never even imagined that you believed in church authority in starting churches. I would have been certain that you believed no such thing, and most readers (careful readers) would have gotten the same impression.
Now, you tell us that you do believe in church authority in starting a church. What a surprise. But also, what church authority do you believe in? How is that authority exercised? Please tell us plainly. You mention that when a church sends forth a missionary to do the work God calls him to; that church thereby authorizes him to make disciples, baptize them, and organize them into churches. Why do you just use the term "missionary"? Are you not really referring to the ordained preacher, whether missionary or not? Are you not saying that when a church ordains a preacher, that church gives the preacher authority to make disciples, baptize them, and organize churches. Do you believe in church authority or preacher authority: Or do you believe the church gives it authority to the preacher? A friend told me you believed you were given this authority when you were ordained Did you tell that? Do you believe that? If you believe that, we can discuss that. If you believe something else by church authority; please, please, please tell us how you believe church authority is exercised and involved in starting a church. You have hidden your answer under words and questions. What do you believe about church authority in starting churches? Please tell us plainly.
If you do believe that church ordination gave you church authority to do these things, do you practice this? Under what church's authority do you minister at your present church? Do you baptize people into your present church under the authority of the church that ordained you or under the authority of your present church? Enough of this. When you tell us plainly and clearly what you really do believe about church authority in these things will be time enough for us to discuss them.
Bro. Camps Response:
Bro. Joe, I believe in starting churches just as they were started under the Holy Spirits plan carried out by the church at Antioch through Paul and his co-workers. Paul and his co-workers were sent forth to do the work to which God had called them and they went forth and did it. At the end of their journey, they came back and reported to Antioch what the Lord had done with them. I can cite scripture for that. Acts 13:1-4 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. Acts 14:27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
Now, Bro. Joe, can you cite Scripture that lays out the way you believe things should be done. As you said, "Please, let us be fair and reasonable in this discussion." I have given Scripture for the way I believe mission work is to be done. Now, to be fair and reasonable, give us some Scripture for the way you believe it is to be done. That would require you to:
A. Give Scripture for a mother church.
B. Give Scripture showing where a specific mother church voted to start a specific daughter church in a specific place.
I believe that is fair and reasonable. Do you? I give Scripture for what I believe. You give Scripture for what you believe. That is fair and reasonable.
I believe I have already covered the other things in these paragraphs which pertain to our discussion so will, for the sake of space make no further response at this time.
Bro. Joe Wrote:
7. Now, I've got you cornered. You say you believe in church authority in starting churches. You do not plainly tell us how that is exercised. I suspect it is by the ordained preacher. If I am wrong, correct me. But, anyway, you say a church must be started by the authority of a true church. If this is true, then that church must have been started by the authority of another true church, and that likewise; and so on all the way back to the church Jesus started in His earthly ministry.
Brother Camp, you can't have it both ways. You can't have church authority and deny Link Chain succession. From what you said - finally - near the end of your open letter -our difference is not about link chain succession. We both believe that - that is, if you truly believe a church must be started by the authority of another church. Our difference, according to your statement on church authority is about how church authority is exercised.
If you really believe a church must be started by another true church, really and truly believe that; then I welcome you into the camp of Link Chain Succession. You can't have both. You can't have belief in church authority as essential to organizing a true church, and oppose Link Chain Succession. The two go together. They are joined by God, and man cannot put them asunder.
I call on you, brother Camp, to take your position. Will you give up church authority? I hope not. I hope you sill stand like a rock on this. Of course, I hope you will change on how it is exercised. But, I ask again: will you give up church authority, or will you give up your opposition to Link Chain Succession? You must give up one or the other. The two cannot be married. If church authority is true as to organizing churches, then Link Chain Succession is absolutely the truth of God. I do not have to trace it link by link back to Christ (whoever said we did? Please stop using that scarecrow) I just have to show Scripture for church authority. For Link Chain Succession follows Church Authority as surely as day follows night. Both are ordained and connected by God. May the Lord bless you and your readers.
Your fellow servant and brother in Christ,
Bro. Camps Response:
I will leave it to the readers to decide if I am cornered. Since we are considering the SCRIPTURAL REQUIREMENTS for starting a true church, it is just logical it would take Scripture to corner me. Since you gave no Scripture to support your position nor to refute what I have set forth, I fail to find the corner.
Moreover, I am not in this discussion to corner anybody. My interest is in the truth of Gods word, not cornering you, Bro. Joe. If you are right, then there are few if any Sovereign Grace Landmark Baptist Churches in the world that are true churches. In the early history of our own country, pioneers would start out west. Their churches would grant them a letter to take with them. When a village was established the Baptists in the area would come together, usually led by a preacher that was among them, and band themselves together into a New Testament Church. Read about Shubal Stearns and the founding of the Sandy Creek Baptist Church, Sandy Creek, North Carolina. I will give a very brief quote that will show what I have said to be true. "Mr. Stearns rested for a short time at Cacapon, near Winchester, but anticipating greater success in his ministry than he enjoyed in that place, he removed, with his relatives, to Sandy Creek, NC. There, as soon as he arrived, he constituted a Baptist church of sixteen persons . . . ." There follows a list of the names of these sixteen members. Bro. Joe, I can name at least two churches who trace their history through the Sandy Creek Church and it was constituted in the very way I contend Paul and Barnabas led churches to be constituted. (The Baptist Encyclopedia, William Cathcart, Pp. 1098-1099). Read also of the founding of the early Baptist churches in Kentucky. Consider this, "The Baptists were the pioneers of Kentucky . . . The first Baptist church formed in Kentucky, or in the great Mississippi Valley, was constituted of 18 members by Joseph Barnett and John Garrard, on the present site of Elizabethtown, forty miles south of Louisville, June 18, 1781. It still bears its ancient name, Severns Valley. The second church was constituted by the same ministers, July 4, 1781. It is called Cedar Creek, and is located forty miles southeast from Louisville" (Ibid. Pp. 650-651). If you unchurch all those churches, Bro. Joe, you are apt to unchurch yourself for your chain will probably run through one of them, or another that was constituted in the same manner.
Bro. Joe, if you are wrong, then you and others whom you classify as "my kind" will have to answer to the head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, for all the divisions you have caused. Your position is very divisive, if wrong, it is very destructive. You will have to answer for any churches you have unchurched by disbanding them, and then reorganizing them. You will have to answer for all the folks baptism you have impugned. To call that unclean which God sees as clean is serious business. To insist upon something being spiritual adultery while admitting you cannot cite a Scripture which sustains your position is adding to the word of God.
I do not enjoy this. I doubt that Paul enjoyed it when he had to withstand Peter on a matter on which he was wrong. Galatians 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. I doubt that Paul and Barnabas enjoyed their dispute with those certain men who taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:1-2).
But, as Paul said, "I am set for the defence of the gospel" (Philippians 1:17). I will earnestly contend for the mission methods found in the book of Acts, especially from chapter 13 on.
I close with these questions:
Can you, Bro. Joe, show from Scripture where Paul and Barnabas corresponded with the church at Antioch having them to vote on the baptisms they administered and the churches they organized?
Can you explain why it was necessary that Paul and Barnabas tell the church what had happened on their first journey, if the church had been voting on their baptisms and church organizations?
Can you explain why the church did not know the Lord had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles if the church had been voting on their baptisms and church organizations?
Acts 14:26-27 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
Bro. Joe, I look forward to hearing from you further on this matter. And, I do trust you will supply us with some Scriptures which teach what you insist is essential.
I remain your Brother in Christ by Grace,
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Last updated on Friday, March 04, 2011