IS A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH A LEGISLATIVE BODY?
WHAT TANGLED WEBS MEN DO WEAVE!
By Wayne Camp
A legislative body has the duty and function to make laws. The churches of the Lord Jesus Christ have no legislative authority; they are therefore not charged with making rules and laws by which their members or others must abide. During my discussion with Bro. Joe Wilson on the matter one thing has become increasingly apparent. Many Landmark Baptists are concerned that some seem to want to add many regulations and requirements to what has been set forth in the word of God.
WE MUST NOT MAKE LAWS CONCERNING THE ORIGIN AND ORGANIZATION OF CHURCHES IN THE NAME OF CHURCH TRUTH
I am an old Landmarker, but I am amazed at what is sometimes advanced in the name of "church truth." Church truth and Biblical truth are not different. Church truth can always and will always be found in Scripture. If it is not found there it is a misnomer to call it "church truth." Therefore, anything not found in the Bible must not be proclaimed as "church truth."
I have heard that starting a church without the vote by a specific "mother" church to start a specific "daughter" church was spiritual adultery. I thought I had heard every possible tangle in the web of purported church truth, but that was a new one. I have heard from more moderate brethren that there must be such a vote when and where possible. But, I have heard that it is true that Paul and the church at Antioch did not do it that way. Nor is there any evidence that any church of New Testament times ever did it but one brother told me personally that it must be done that way today because of better communications. My question to that Brother was, "Do improved communications change the Word of God?" Do improved communications render invalid the Antiochian pattern of doing mission work? What other mandates and patterns are changed by improved communications or improved traveling abilities?
Does the fact that we do have vastly improved means of communication mandate our making new rules and regulations for the starting of churches? If a church wishes to vote on starting new churches, I do not argue that it is wrong to do so. My complaint is when said church and pastor decide that is a requirement for any and all other churches.
We need to be careful that we do not let some tradition we start become law. Then it becomes and encroachment upon Gods Holy Word much like the traditions of the elders of Israel. Matthew 15:2-3 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Matthew 15:6 Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
Only recently I have heard of something else that is new that was done under the guise of church truth. It is of such a nature that it literally boggled my mind when the details were brought to my attention. And, since these things that start out somewhat casually have a way of becoming law with some brethren, I think it well that I speak out early.
About three years ago a certain church called a certain brother as pastor. They were satisfied with and accepted his baptism and ordination which were administered by churches that are much older than the church which called him to pastor. Though he was hesitant to accept the church the brethren assured him that his baptism and ordination by these churches were no problem. After a reasonable amount of deliberation and prayer, he accepted the church and seemingly had a fruitful ministry with the church over approximately three years.
Recently, however, the church decided she would take a strong stand on chain-link succession holding that there must be a vote of a mother church to start each and every church. The church which baptized this brother and the one which ordained him were started by scripturally baptized believers under the leadership of an ordained minister but there is no record of a vote by a "mother church" to start either of these churches. Lacking the vote of the mother church meant not being a true New Testament church, according to the new position taken by the church. The pastor cautioned them that taking this stand would, in essence, disqualify him from being their pastor. When the body persisted in its move on this matter, the pastor resigned.
The church was then in a predicament. By going back on what they had originally affirmed and adopting this new position, they had said the pastor they had had for three years did not have scriptural baptism or scriptural ordination. Yet, they had knowingly received him with that baptism and ordination. He had even explained it to them, as mentioned before, but they had still received him, his wife, his son and his wife, into the membership with what they now consider spurious baptism.
Not wanting to grant these four people a letter while believing they had spurious baptism, and not having any grounds on which to exercise church discipline, and while admitting the folks were open and above board with them in the matter, they were in a quandary as to what they could do with them.
The church has been convinced by someone they were in "error" in receiving these members and this pastor. They wanted to clear their reputation and correct their error to save face with others who hold this extreme position. But, what could they do with these four members? They had committed no act for which they could be excluded, yet the church did not wish to grant them a letter. So, what do they do?
Someone came up with the unscriptural, unbaptistic, unorthodox, and parliamentarily incorrect idea of rescinding the vote to receive them as members. Now, keep in mind, they were not received one week and that act rescinded the next. They were received about three years ago and many things have transpired since then. They have just recently rescinded the act of receiving them.
Their actions were parliamentarily incorrect because it is against the rules of parliamentary law for deliberative bodies to rescind a vote if some subsequent action has occurred. To illustrate, if a church voted to buy a milk cow for the pastor to use, and the treasurer and pastor go to the sale, buy the milk cow and pay for her, then some member gets up and makes a motion to rescind the act of buying the milk cow, he is completely out of order. If the motion had been rescinded before the cow was bought, fine. But once the cow is bought, the motion to rescind the motion to buy her is absolutely out of order, as well as being absurd. The church could vote to sell the cow; but they could not vote to rescind the act of voting to buy her because she has already been bought.
Moreover, it is always out of order to rescind the act of receiving a member into any organization. If membership is renewed periodically, the organization can refuse to renew membership. Or, if there are grounds to revoke the membership effective when revoked, that is possible. But, to rescind the act of receiving a member into an organization of any kind is simply out of order.
The church under discussion received this pastor and the others into its membership and they have been there and participated in all the services of the church. The pastor has preached, baptized, administrated in the Lords Supper, and moderated the services of the church. Because there have been subsequent actions since receiving these folks into the membership of the church, it is totally irregular and absurd to rescind the act of voting to receive them. No deliberative body, church or otherwise, should do such a thing. It is totally out of order. Even if they were wrong in receiving them, they have compounded their error by rescinding the act of receiving them under the subsequent circumstances. It is contrary to any rules of order for deliberative bodies, even Baptist churches.
This action is unscriptural. Baptist churches are supposed to be governed by the Holy Word of God. When they are not, one error will lead to another. Democracy is no grounds for violating the word of God. In Scripture, there are only certain ways that members were removed from church membership. They might die and be no longer members but these four folks were alive and well when I saw them just recently. The church might exclude them if they had committed some act that is a biblical ground for exclusion, but these are godly people who are guilty of no private offense in which they refuse to be reconciled; they have not been guilty of public drunkenness, adultery, extortion, or any of the other public offences. Nor have they been charged with propagating any heresy for which they have been admonished two times but have continued to propagate. And, of course, a church may dismiss members who unite with another church of like faith and order. Yet, the church would not give them a letter to unite with another church. The church had backed themselves into a corner. So what did they do?
Someone came up with the nonsensical notion that they could simply rescind the act of receiving them and they would be free and clear in the matter. This they have done and they think they have purged themselves from their error. One of the problems they face is that there is no Scriptural precedent, example or instruction that authorizes rescinding the act of receiving members three years or three days after their reception. Someone might say, "There is no Scripture which this action contradicts." That argument will not stand in any thinking persons mind. Whoever came up with this unscriptural solution needs to read his Bible. Baptist churches are not a law unto themselves. They are not legislative bodies. They are not free to do that which may seem right at the moment, and in their own eyes, even if no scripture is contradicted.
The action of this church in rescinding the act of receiving these members was carried out without love for these brothers and sisters. They took them into the membership fully aware of the situation. They fellowshipped them as members in good standing for about three years. Now, they have rescinded the act of receiving them, essentially saying they were never there in the first place, and set them adrift on uncharted waters with apparently no regard for their welfare. There is no brotherly love in such disregard for the welfare of these four members. Self-righteous "orthodoxy" is no excuse for such callused, uncaring treatment of a pastor and his family.
This action of this church is unbaptistic. I have studied church history. I have taught church history. Over the years I believe I have read most of the handbooks and manuals written to help Baptists. I have six such manuals in my library that I bought just recently. Not one of them gives rescinding the act of receiving a person into the membership as a way of dismissing a member. I have never read in any other book the first word about rescinding the act of receiving members, especially after they have been members in good standing for any length of time. This appears to be something novel that is being foisted off as orthodox and Scriptural. I suppose this is a "new landmark" for old Landmarkers. It is being interpolated and superimposed upon the Word of God. If allowed to go unchallenged by other Baptist churches it will soon become common law and any who do not abide by this practice will be considered not a church and will be charged with spiritual adultery. If any person involved in this action cares to write and give us the chapter and verse for such action, I will be glad to print their statement with the Scripture that supports this action.
This action of this church is very misguided. They have been convinced by someone they could rescind this act and, by doing so, they could clear themselves of error. But, how will committing another error clear them of what they believe was an error three years ago? Two or ten wrongs do not make a right.
They have rescinded the act of receiving these members. How can they rescind the act of the brother being their pastor for three years? How can they rescind the act of his preaching for them for three years? How can they rescind the act of his moderating their Bible conference(s) during this time? How can they rescind the act of his conducting radio broadcasts for them during this three years? Maybe they will vote to go on the radio and demand that all the listeners rescind the act of listening to this brother. That would make as much sense as what has been done already. How can they rescind the act of his administrating the Lords Supper during those three years? Since they have rescinded the act of these four people being members, will they also rescind the act of receiving the tithes and offerings these members gave during that time and return them to them? Since they are taking back the three years they were members; they ought to give back the tithes and offerings they gave during those years so they could give them where they can be members.
In rescinding the act of receiving him and the others as members; they have made themselves guilty of practicing open communion for the last three years. Yes, if you rescind the act of receiving them as members, they were never members, and you knowingly allowed them to participate in the observance of the Lords Supper. That is open communion. According to their new position this pastor is not baptized Scripturally. And by their recent action, they convict themselves of having authorized an "unbaptized" man to administrate the Lords Supper. They have been a party to people whom they now consider unbaptized partaking of the Lords Supper. By their own actions and position they have outdone a lot of Protestants in practicing open communion. They have indeed practiced open communion if these folks were not members during this time.
In rescinding the act of receiving these folks, they have made themselves guilty of authorizing an unbaptized person to administer baptism for them, something no true church of the Lord Jesus Christ would ever do. Will they also rescind the baptisms which the brother administered for them? By simply erasing his three years of membership, they also erase his three years of pastoral work and everything that he did while there.
I have before me copies of the letters sent to these folks and they present another problem for this church. They wrote, ". . . the church voted to rescind the motion where we approved your memberships here. So, your names (names of members) were dropped from the roll of ________________Baptist Church of __________ on August 3, 1997." The church rescinded the motion where they approved their memberships saying, in essence, they were never members. Yet, they only dropped them from the roll as of August 3, 1997. They were never members, yet, they were not dropped from the roll till August 3, 1997.
The letter also reads, "Circumstances change things sometimes and we have to do hard things on the flesh. But we must strive to consider the Lord and do what He would have us to do. To follow him is the hard, long road sometimes. That is why we had to do what we did."
How could these folks possibly think they were following the Lord in rescinding the membership of four people? Where did he ever command such a thing? Where did he or any of his churches named in the New Testament every take such action? Where is such action ever sanctioned, exemplified, or commanded in the New Testament? Following the Lord means following his word. Jesus said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31). One of the letters said, "We must contend for the faith and serve the Lord according to the Scriptures." But, what they did is in no way taught in the Scriptures. You cannot follow the Scriptures by doing what is not taught in Scripture. Again, I wish someone would give me chapter and verse for rescinding the act of receiving members three years after they are received.
What have they wrought? What a tangled web they have woven. What errors they have involved themselves in by this one act of rescinding the membership of these four children of God.
Whoever came up with this illogical idea of rescinding the act of receiving these dear folks ought to repent in sackcloth and ashes. This church needs to try to disembarrass itself and disentangle itself from this tangled web it has woven, if that is possible. They may have dug themselves in so deep they cannot get out and will have to suffer the frown of God for a long time in the future. They may need a pillar of cloud and fire to lead them out of the wilderness web which they have woven.
This newest act in the name of "Landmarkism" says, "If you have a member you want to get rid of without giving him a letter but you have no grounds for excluding him, just rescind the motion to receive him, and you are as pure as the driven snow and have restored church order." It is no wonder that many who proudly identified themselves as "Landmark Baptists" a few years ago, are no longer identifying themselves as such. WHAT TANGLED WEBS SOME MEN AND SOME CHURCHES DO WEAVE!
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Last updated on Friday, March 04, 2011